What’s the Big Deal about Electricity?

Sometimes, we don’t recognize a gift when we receive it.

My husband has been ill.  It’s canning season.  I’m managing to get the essential things done, but there’s no down time and little writing time. I’m not getting enough sleep.

Today, I received a gift. The electricity went out about 6:00 this morning.  I couldn’t make hot coffee.  But I did scrabble together a pretty good breakfast of cottage cheese and my freshly-canned peaches.  It’s cooler than it has been, so I didn’t miss the air conditioning too much.

Then, the gift! The skylight near my rocking chair lets in enough light for me to sit and read.  No television.  No background music.  Just me and a book.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham is a brilliantly-simple graphic novel about young Shannon’s elementary school days and her struggle to fit in and find friends.  Shannon’s story is honest, and the art and color strike just the right tone.

I finished the book about 11:00 with a sense of accomplishment and a satisfied sigh. Still, no electricity.  By this time, my husband had moved a chair beneath the skylight to read.  I interrupted his reading to say, “This book belongs in every school library.”

“Get it there,” he said.

“We all struggle to fit in, to find friends.”

He looks up from his book and nods.  We’re both artists.  We know the struggle.

“I’m taking it to the school library,” I said, “as soon as I write a review.”

Read this book, please. Think about that kid who struggles most to fit in.  Chances are he or she is witty, perceptive, creative, and unsure.  Give them this book.  They deserve real friends.  They are not alone.

Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, like Eve Bunting, does not need my recommendations.  I give them, anyway.  I have never read anything by either of these authors that didn’t set my mind to spinning.

Finding Baba Yaga is pure poetry.  That’s not a metaphor.  It is a novella in verse with lines that soar: “The hallelujah chorus of birds,” and “Living well lasts longer than love.”  As lovely as the writing is, read it for the story. Storytelling is what makes Yolen exceptional.

Finding Baba Yaga  follows a runaway into the woods.  It’s about  questioned beliefs and finding ones own way.  You’ll probably want to read it in one sitting.  I did.  This update of an old Russian fairy tale might also make you want to go back and revisit the original tales.