Friday, June 21, 2019

In Hope and Story


We continue to look at books who inspire us. These past few years have been defined by an anger born of despair, and by a loss of kindness born from want of hope. 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.

Stories 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 am reminded of some favorite stories of hope, written by the master storyteller Monica Kulling. I've talked about Monica's grand books before. Her stories demonstrate what can happen when the best of humanity comes together. She is the master of biography. Her poetic narrative – a hallmark of all her books – breathes life to her characters as she explores the thematic values of determination and persistence.

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.


Monica excels at taking a moment in history, oftentimes a forgotten moment, and fashioning a story that is both compelling and informative. Her Great Idea Series, published by Tundra Books, is one of my favorite nonfiction series for young readers. The books showcase inventors and how they were inspired to create their inventions that, in many ways, changed the course of history. Monica’s fascination with the late 19th and early 20th centuries confined her research to that particular period. Monica researches extensively, using online and in print sources.

Inventors are clever, says Monica, and they are ingenious in finding ways to realize their dreams. She focuses on that ‘a-ha’ moment, when a great idea clicks in your brain and has you racing off in pursuit. These books include Going Up: Elisha Otis’s Trip to the Top (2012), illustrated by David Parkins, the story of the founding of the elevator, allowing skyscrapers to literally touch the sky. And one of my favorites, the award-winning In the Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up (2011), also illustrated by David Parkins, tells the story about the young inventor of the folded paper bag who eventually owned over twenty patents.

That a-ha moment is hopeful, full of promise. Such moments show us the way to be more than what we are now. 

Wishing you many a-ha moments.

--Bobbi Miller

2 comments:

Carmela Martino said...

IN THE BAG is one of my favorite biographies for young readers. So glad you mentioned it! I'll have to check out GRANT AND TILLIE GO WALKING.

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Thank you, Bobbi! I too get much inspiration from the true stories of others. I need to check out these Monica Kuling books.