2020 was such a dark year.
For me, the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine created a light pin at the end of a very long tunnel. Finally I found hope. And what a boost it gave my soul!
That glimmer of light helped me navigate a heavy holiday season that was diminished by the lack of traditions of large extended family gatherings filled with unmasked laughter, giant bear hugs, and white elephant gifts that gave shine.
I felt like I could breathe a little easier. My chest literally got deeper with each breath and at night when I woke up, my mind was not always filled with anxious thoughts about those I love the most.
I started to look forward. I started thinking about traveling again one day (not too soon, but one day is closer than maybe never again). I imagined the simple act of meeting friends for lunch, taking a movie with my husband and hugging my dad.
While January is still winter in my part of the world, we have passed winter solstice and the days are approaching the longer summer time. Literally and figuratively, I feel the same in my mind and heart.
That glimmer of hope moved something deep inside me.
As it did, I searched for books to read that nurtured that feeling and ignited that spark.
Literature has such power. Especially when the words are crafted by writers with a gift to tighten words together into powerful sentences, powerful sentences in can not wait-to-turn-side-chapters and can not wait to turn-aside chapters in deftly woven novels that pull all the right pieces together to bring the reader joy and triumph and authentic deep feelings.
Literature has the power to help us see things in a new light, to reveal ideas and emotions that we may have never considered or felt before. Of course, each reader brings their own life experiences to the interpretation of the words, and in that sense, each person takes something a little different away, but I think a talented writer uses words to evoke universal human connection.
As we push through the next few months of pandemic precautions gathered in our homes in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter, I offer this list of books that nurtured my belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. Some brought me to tears, others made me laugh. But all were good for my soul.
If you’re looking for some real inspiration, this is the non-fiction picture book that will take you there. Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848, was released when she was 15, married and a mother at the age of 20, and she learned to read when she was 116.
Message of hope: It’s never too late to learn something new.
At times when we may feel isolated and alone, this amazingly illustrated and beautifully told story of how a little boy’s great idea changed his neighborhood landscape reminds us that there is great power in society and plenty to be thankful for.
Message of hope: Getting together has the potential to open the eyes of the beautifully diverse society that surrounds us and that by working together we can create amazing things.
Need a laugh, a giggle or an all-out belly laugh? However, Man is only the ticket. In my basic library, I can not store these on the shelf, so when Winter Break was upon us and I took home a stack of must-readings, I grabbed one that had just come out of quarantine and threw it in my bag. Layered with humor that delights everyone from second class to adults, this one is guaranteed to release these endorphins!
Message of hope: Laughter is good for the soul.
“White bird”By RJ Palacio
A graphic novel addition to the “Wonder” stories that tells the powerful tale of how Julian’s Grandmère hid from the Nazis during World War II in occupied France. Throughout the story, unexpected friendships give Sara the chance to live, and Palacio packs the story of the powerful friendship between Sara and Julien, the boy who was once a target for bullies but became Sara’s best friend in his hidden years.
Message of hope: “Kindness becomes a miracle. It becomes the light of darkness … the very essence of our humanity. It’s hope. “White Bird, p.186
I love a great fantasy story, but I get drawn into these worlds even deeper when the underlying theme is imbued with justice and the power of coming together to correct the wrong ones. A Wish in the Dark delivers all of this as it follows the story of Pong, a prison refugee, and Nok, the set-up girl’s daughter who is determined to capture him. Magical and captivating in its setting and story, this one makes you root for what goes through all the way to the end.
Message of hope: Our light can push the darkness back.
“Ghost boysBy Jewell Parker Rhodes
This young adult novel is yet another fabulous read with a basic theme of fighting for justice. When Jerome is shot by a police officer, he becomes a ghost capable of witnessing his family’s grief and the unrest in his community. He soon connects with another ghost – Emmett Till, who helps Jerome begin to understand the deep roots of racism. And Jerome also engages with Sarah, the very living daughter of the police officer who shot Jerome, who works to engage her family and community to make the world a better place.
Message of Hope: “Only the living can make the world a better place. Live and do better. “
Let’s make 2021 a year of hope, optimism and positive change driven by powerful readings to inspire young people (and ourselves).
I am in. Can I trust you?