Yesterday I faced my fears. I stood at the edge of my future and decided to jump. As my friend Simone advised, I embraced the free fall and pushed myself beyond my comfort level. It wasn't easy and my heart beat like a hummingbird's wings on Speed, but in the end, I felt triumphant for discovering a new part of myself. And I know the next time I have to confront my fears, I will have this experience as a reminder that I'm awesome and can do anything. Naturally, the Newbery medal and honor books I read this week are both about discovering the strength within to do as we dream.
The Wheel on the School, winner of the 1955 Newbery Medal, is by Meindert DeJong and illustrated by a young Maurice Sendak before his Wild Things fame. (Extensive coverage of the film will be coming soon.) This charming tale takes place in the Dutch village of Shora, which storks always overlook as a possible nesting space. Lina and her classmates decide to do something about the lack of storks, which their teacher is more than willing to encourage. (Take a note out of his book, teachers who promote Discovery learning. How do you learn about storks? Find a way to have one nest on top of your school! I must confess I have a soft spot for teachers who make the impossible possible.) In the process of finding a wheel for the future storks, the children meet many colorful characters from their community, each with an important perspective and story to tell. As they learn about the people around them, they discover more about themselves and their ability to overcome any obstacle. Like the storks, the children transform an ordinary experience and make it beautiful.
Sarah Noble, the protagonist of The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh, winner of the Newbery Honor award, may appear to have an ordinary experience when she volunteers to accompany her father to the wild frontier of Connecticut, but inside, she is changed from a fearful child to a strong young woman. When she is afraid, she tells herself, "Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble!" and somehow this mantra brings out depths of bravery. She overcomes her fears of unfriendly people, nighttime creatures, and unknown Indians. At the end of the novel, the cloak that she had clung to as her security blanket against the cold world becomes unnecessary. The resilience that she cultivated will protect her.
Like the children of Shora and Sarah Noble, I am trying to embrace the process of change. The exciting thing is that once you start trying new things, your thirst for exploration only grows stronger. Like the individual steps of a complex dance, each movement becomes part of a harmonious whole. I am now looking towards the abyss not with trepidation, but with wonder; I am ready to start bravedancing.