Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank You, Sarah

I went to the doctor on Monday night. I've been battling this cold/cough combo of fun for two weeks and just wanted to ensure it was nothing more. My fabulous doc suggested cough syrup with codeine and a day of vocal rest on Tuesday. I laughed and reminded her I needed to teach. She suggested letting the kids read on their own. When I explained that I was beginning the day reading a picture book to 78 children in my room, she looked at me with a skeptical glance. A picture book? Don't you still teach fifth graders? Aren't they too old for picture books?

If my students had been there, the gasp from the audience would have been audible. If my students had been there, they would have taken a collective step back. Instead, I took a breath (and had a few coughs) and went on to explain why a picture book is the perfect text for people of any age. I went on to explain how much you can learn from picture books. I could see that she (and her med student) were still skeptical, so I shared the book I was planning to read to my students on Tuesday.

I first read Thank You, Sarah (written by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner) about four years ago. I was aghast to find that this was an entire story I did not know about my favorite holiday. 

If you haven't read it, this is the story of Sarah Hale. She was an amazing woman in the middle to late 1800s. A magazine editor, poet, activist. She wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb, raised several children, wrote stories. She also recognized the importance of a simple holiday where we gather together to give thanks. And so began her campaign to get Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

I admire her persistence. She wrote letters to presidents for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years. There was a time that I was thirty-eight years old when I was reading this aloud. I remember pondering that fact with my students. That she would have been writing those letters for my entire life so far. Wow. Such determination. So impressive.

I love that she changes the world with her mighty sword, a pen. Such a powerful message for my young friends to see.

And I am absolutely over the moon for so many of Anderson's lines - especially this one:

Did that stop Sarah?
No way! Nothing stopped Sarah!
Superheroes work the hardest 
when things get tough. 

Every year I read that. Every year I pause, look at the kids, and reread it. Such wisdom in so few words.

Thank You, Sarah is simply the perfect book. It educates the students on an important part of the history. The writing is sublime. The illustrations, fascinating. I could study each one - so many metaphors contained in these beautiful drawings - for hours. 

After professing my love for this book, sharing the message, my doctor and the med student looked at me in a bit of awe. My doc, such a wise woman herself, slowly nodded her head and said maybe she hadn't realized the power of picture books. She also thanked me for the lesson on Sarah Hale and wrote down the title to purchase herself. A prescription for cough syrup with codeine and a converted picture book enthusiast? A perfect visit indeed. 

And a quick message from my students...
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