2020 was a very dark year.
For me, the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine created a beam of light at the end of a very long tunnel. I finally found hope. And what a boost it gave my soul!
This glow of light helped me navigate a busy holiday season diminished by the incomplete traditions of extended family gatherings filled with unmasked laughter, giant bear hugs, and white elephant gift chenangs.
I felt that I could breathe a little more easily. My chest literally widened deeper with each breath, and when I woke up at night my mind was not always filled with anxious thoughts about my dearest ones.
I started looking forward. One day I started thinking about traveling again (not too early, but one day maybe closer than it will ever happen again). I dreamed of the simple act of meeting friends for lunch, filming with my husband and hugging dad.
While January was still winter in my part of the world, we crossed the Winter Solstice and the days are moving towards the longer daylight hours of summer. I feel the same in my mind and heart, literally and figuratively.
This glimmer of hope has changed something profound in me.
I looked for books that nurtured that emotion as it was and that sparked that spark.
Literature has such power. Words in particular, with the ability to put words together into strong sentences, strong phrases to parts that can’t wait to turn the page and look forward to his return. page sections turn into ingeniously woven novels that bring together all the right pieces to bring joy and glory and authentic deep feelings to the reader.
Literature has the power to help us see things from a new angle, revealing ideas and emotions that we have never thought or felt before. Of course, every reader brings their own life experience to the interpretation of words, and in this sense each person gets something a little different, but I believe a talented writer uses words to evoke the universal human connection.
I present this list of books that foster my belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity as we go through the pandemic measures stored for winter in our northern hemisphere homes for the next few months. Some made me cry, some made me laugh. But it was all good for my soul.
If you’re looking for some real inspiration, this is the non-fiction picture book that will get you there. Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848, released at 15, married and a 20-year-old mother, and learned to read at 116.
Hope message: It’s never too late to learn something new.
This stunningly illustrated and beautifully told story of how a little boy’s big idea changed the landscape of the neighborhood when we can feel lonely and lonely reminds us that there is great strength in the community and a lot to be grateful for.
Hope message: Getting together has the potential to open our eyes to the wide variety of communities around us, and by working together we can create amazing things.
Do you need a giggle, giggle or belly laugh? Dog Man is just the ticket. In my first library, I couldn’t keep them on the shelf, so while Winter Break was on us and taking home a stack of mandatory books, I picked up someone who had just gotten out of quarantine and threw them into my bag. Layered with humor that delights everyone from sophomore to adults, this is guaranteed to release those endorphins!
Hope message: Laughter is good for the soul.
“White Bird” by RJ Palacio
A graphic novel supplement to the stories of “Wonder” that tells the powerful story of how Julian’s Grandmère hid from the Nazis during World War II in occupied France. Throughout the story, unexpected favors give Sara a chance to live, and Palacio unravels the story of the strong friendship between Sara and Julien, who was once the target of bullies but was her best friend during Sara’s hiding years.
Hope message: “Goodness would be a miracle. That light in the dark becomes… the essence of our humanity. It is hope. “The White Bird, p. 186
I love a great fantasy story, but I find myself drawn even deeper into these worlds when the underlying theme is filled with justice and the power to come together to correct mistakes. A Wish in the Dark offers all of this while following the story of Pong who escaped from prison and Nok, the headmaster’s daughter, who is determined to catch him. Magical and captivating in its layout and story, this will allow you to find the right one until the very end.
Hope message: Our light can push the dark back.
“Ghost Boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This young adult novel is another great read with the central theme of fighting for justice. When Jerome is shot by a police officer, he becomes a ghost who can witness his family’s grief and unrest in his community. He soon connects with another ghost – Emmett Till, who helps Jerome to understand the deep roots of racism. Jerome also engages with Sarah, the very lively daughter of the police officer who shot Jerome, who was trying to keep his family and society busy in order to make the world a better place.
Hope Message: “Only those who live can make the world better. Live and do better.”
Let’s make 2021 a year of hope, optimism, and positive change driven by powerful readings that inspire young people (and ourselves).
I’m in. Can I trust you?