Friday, July 31, 2015

at the very top



We've reached it, almost:  that time of year so precisely and richly described by Natalie Babbitt that it changed me as a reader and a writer. 



The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
-- Prologue from Tuck Everlasting, 1975

This beginning to a book caught me like hands holding my 10-year-old head on both sides, looking me urgently in the eyes and saying, "Of words we can make art, art as true as a photograph layered with brushes of color, with sound and rhythm of blues symphony, full of the woven textures of weariness, curiousness, motion and suspense.  Writing can do it all."

What about you, poetry friends?  What piece of literature brought you to see writing as art, made you want to live in and even make this kind of art?


Keri has the round-up today at Keri Recommends.  Happy Almost August.

7 comments:

  1. As a child, Natalie Babbitt was one of my favorite authors, and that was one of my favorite books. She is amazing. (Lightning that quivers all alone -- ah!) Thanks.

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  2. Oh my goodness. I have absolutely no idea. I don't think there was a single piece of writing that hit me with that a-ha--and I didn't ever think of being a writer until I was in college. OK, I'm going to have to think about this. I know I had some little a-ha moments when I first started reading children's poetry as an adult writer--poetry by Barbara Juster Esbensen, Joyce Sidman, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, in particular. But to pick one piece? Not even possible! Thanks for giving me something to think about, though!

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  3. It has been a favorite of mine for a long while, Heidi, & I've had the pleasure of reading it with my students more than once. What they loved doing was choosing some of their favorite passages and then drawing what they thought she saw. This was one more than one chose every time. As a child I lived with grandparents who read a lot of older poems to me, but the best was reading the OZ books-still love them.

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  4. Oh, Heidi, I do love Babbit's Prologue also. I didn't discover Tuck until I worked with a fourth grade teacher whose class read it every year. For me, Katherine Paterson's books were inspirational - Jacob Have I Loved, especially, and Madeleine L'Engle's books, too.

    Didn't you love settling down on a Greek island? Our traditional Greek motor-sailer brought us to islands in the Aegean and we loved our 4 day stay on Crete. Your poems will come! Thanks for bringing us back to the top of August!

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  5. Tuck Everlasting is a wonder in that it can speak to a multitude of people of different ages. The Search for Delicious by Babbitt is good, too, and very discussable. Two books stand out for me, and they're also children's books: 1. Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri. It's my all-time favorite book! 2. The Fledgling by Jane Langton. I haven't read it in a long time, so I wonder if it would have the same effect on me today, but, at the time it hit me like a ton of bricks.

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  6. Love this passage about August. I was born in August, and I've never liked that fact. August oppresses me like no other month. I love the way she says it is curiously silent with blank white dawns and glaring noons...you can feel the heat of it.

    I discovered a love of reading with Judy Blume. My inrtoduction to the art was in my children's literature class in college. There I discovered Madeline L'Engle and Sharon Creech. My favorite to read aloud to students is Cynthia Rylant. Her book, The Islander, is a beautiful treasure of a book and is not often mentioned.

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  7. How lovely, Heidi, to have something this concrete and stunning for your a-ha moment! Like Laura, I will have to ponder. I love many books but wonder if the character of Anne Shirley might have been a key source of inspiration for me, with all that redheaded stubborn pride!

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