Hope comes from many places: your family, your friends, your heart, your faith. Where I find hope is in stories. Every writer and poet, every teacher and parent – everyone who has lived a life – knows that life isn’t always easy. Life isn’t without its fears and despairs. In fact, dare I say, it is impossible to experience life without experiencing pain. Complete freedom from pain, says Daniel Taylor (The Healing Power of Stories, 1996), means separating yourself from life.
Stories remind us what it means to be human. Not perfect, by any means. But certainly Human.
As Taylor suggests, we are the product of all the stories we have heard and lived. Our stories are interwoven, and we cannot live our stories separate from each other because we are characters in each other’s story.
Stories fill us with the courage to face life’s possibilities. They show us the way to be more than what we are now. They remind us of what we are capable of doing, if only we work together.
While there were many great and inspiring stories published, I offer the following stories -- and by coincidence, all animal stories -- that reminded me of this hope, demonstrating what can happen when the best of humanity comes together.
And they make me smile.
Grant and Tillie Go Walking, by Monica Kulling (July 2015), is a gently wise picturebook on the power of friendship. Grant Wood struggles to find his artistic voice and runs off to Paris to find himself. However, he soon discovers there is no place like home. He learns to be true to himself by painting what makes his heart sing. And in this case, it's beautiful and peaceful Tillie.
Call Me Amy, by Marcia Strykowski (May, 2013), is a wonderful coming-of-age tale about friendship, teamwork and community responsibility. The three protagonists – shy Amy, quirky Miss Cogshell, and the mysterious Craig – come together to save a stranded, injured seal pup.
And speaking of animal rescues, what a powerful story of human achievement and connection is Robert Burleigh’s Trapped! A Whale Rescue, illustrated by the incomparable Wendell Minor (April, 2015). Burleigh tells the true story of an adult female humpback whale tangled in fishermen’s nets. Despite the dangers, a team of rescuers and divers fight the odds to save her life. At first, the terrified whale struggles against her rescuers. But in the end, as she is freed from her prison, she circles the divers in recognition and appreciation before she returns to the sea.
And finally, Lee Wardlaw offers a charming tale told in haiku, Won Ton and Chopsticks (March, 2015). Irascible cat Won Ton needs to learn how to get along with the new “baby”, Chopstick the puppy. It’s a struggle, to be sure, but finally the two discover they have more in common than not, and finally make peace. Isn’t that the story of the day?
What are your stories of hope?
Don't forget to check out the other Teaching Authors' series of unforgettable books. JoAnn adds her favorites, with some wonderful reads. Esther highlighted one that carried her heart in its heart. April offered her poetry favorite of the year and Mary Ann listed three memorable YA novels.