My favorite part of summer is the time I am able to spend reading. I love reading as soon as I wake up even more than reading right before I fall asleep. Summer affords me the time to do so. However, floating on a raft in the lake is by far the best place for summer reading.
Today I am reading The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney. As an 8th grade language arts teacher, I am often focused on reading the latest teen titles. Over the past few years, I feel like they have gotten edgier and edgier. It is so difficult to find books for 8th graders that contain appropriate content and still push my students’ thinking forward. I have grown tired of spending money on books only to find I can’t justify placing them on my classroom library shelves. So, this summer, I decided to take a break from the edgy and dig for gold amongst books that may seem “young” for my students, but just may be thought provoking enough to be worthwhile.
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs is not disappointing me. It is a quaint reminder that everyone has a story; there are stories hiding all over the place just waiting to be uncovered.
Needless to say, the book got me to thinking…
Here I am at my father’s house on Bass Lake in Knox, Indiana, a small town filled with characters like those of Betty G. Birney’s Sassafras Springs, Missouri. In fact, I am even in the same house as some potential characters. What stories do the people around me have to tell?
Well for starters, the true life story of Jane, my dad’s life partner, is a story just itching to be written. She was sent on a plane to the United States from Cuba to escape the rule of Fidel Castro. Her mom was given the opportunity to send her to freedom, and she risked it. She was told that she could put her daughter on one of two airplanes. One airplane would end up in the United States, and one would end up in Russia. However, she wouldn’t know which was which. She took the risk to do what she thought was best for her daughter, and Jane ended up living in an orphanage run by nuns for several years in the United States. Eventually, she was reunited with her mother.
My father is also filled with stories. As a young boy, he was locked in the closet when he misbehaved. When I first heard this, I was shocked at the cruelty of my grandmother. However, I had to giggle when my dad explained that he finally learned to hide toys in the back of the closet to keep him entertained, and ultimately to foil my grandmother’s plans of punishment.
Everywhere I look in my dad’s house I find objects that take me back to my own childhood. I guess that is an advantage of having a father who just can’t get rid of things: there is always something to trigger a memory.
I am thinking that The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs is likely to inspire many readers to search for stories in their own worlds. Now I just have to learn to be okay with the collecting of stories like these and to be patient about allowing them to sit as dormant seed ideas until I am ready to make one bloom.