Sunday, October 18, 2009

Little Boxes

Over this past summer, I learned to say yes. Rather than allowing my usual pragmatic (and let's face it, antisocial) side reign, I decided to embrace experiences that challenged me or pushed my limits. I encountered my fair share of awkward moments and newbie naivete, but once I started embracing the possibilities, I found that the box I created for myself started to crumble like wet cardboard. I felt a new sense of freedom that could only be defined by Rollo May. He wrote,
"Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves." And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold, winner of the 1954 Newbery Medal, and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham, winner of the 1956 Newbery Medal, both exemplify true stories of personal growth.

And Now Miguel tells the story of Miguel Chavez, who "has a secret wish to travel with the men of his family to the Sangre de Cristo mountains," where they bring their flock of sheep to graze for the summer. As the middle child, he is constantly overlooked and longs to become as important as his older brother, Gabriel. Whenever the opportunity arises, he does anything he can to show that he is ready to go to the mountain and become a man. Miguel makes a special wish to San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, to help him, but it's Miguel, through his hard work and perseverance, that changes his fate. In the process of learning about caring for the sheep, Miguel learns more about himself and the journey of life, as his father says, "when we need a good man, we don't depend on luck. We raise them" (150).

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch tells the story of Nat Bowditch, who grows up during the American revolution. At a young age, Nat is apprenticed to learn the trade of Ship Chandlery (a sort of Walmart for ships), and must forgo his dreams of studying at Harvard. However, Nat does not buckle under his new lot, but decides to work around it. While learning the ins and outs of ropes, anchors, and barrels, he uses his free time to learn navigation, mathematics, and Latin. In true sailor fashion, he "sails by the ash breeze," a term for towing ships by a boat in front of it. In the process of gaining this knowledge, he surpasses the experts of his day. His persistence to become a Harvard man without attending Harvard saves numerous lives, resulting in his book, The American Practical Navigator, a book still used today.

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