The Children's Book Quote of the Day

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A plan for when you’re losing height September 13, 2013

Filed under: Chapter Books,Young Adult — Kristi @ 10:32 pm
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Most of the quotes I chose for this blog are pretty obvious and make sense without needing context to support them. I’m going to veer away from that today a little bit and I’ll need to set up the context for you in case you haven’t read the book. Last night, my husband was listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale, the audio book is not to be missed) and I walked into the room in time to hear the quote I am using today:

There was a deafening bang and the sidecar broke away from the bike completely: Harry sped forward, propelled by the impetus of the bike’s flight, then the sidecar began to lose height–

In desperation Harry pointed his wand at the sidecar and shouted,Wingardium Leviosa!”

(from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

What struck me when I heard this small portion of the final Harry Potter book, is that in a moment of desperation, when losing height and on the brink of death, Harry doesn’t use one of the more sophisticated or advanced things he learned in six years of wizarding education. Instead, he uses one of the very first (maybe the first?) charm he was ever taught.

I think this is why the early lessons we teach our children are important. This is what sinks in. If they learn this now, it could be the thing that makes them soar when they would otherwise fall to the unforgiving ground. What are the first lessons we learn? Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Listen before you talk. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Tell the truth. Be brave. Be kind. Forgive. Love one another. When we start to lose altitude, these are the lessons that can bring us back up. These first lessons are the ones we know so deep that we can call them forth in a moment of desperation without thinking. They can become like instinct, that thing that stops you from saying the horrible thing on the tip of your tongue that can never be taken back. These are the lessons that can save your marriage,  your job, your friendships, your life.

What you learn as a young child you will use until the very end of your story. I hope I can teach these lessons very well.


Now and then November 23, 2011

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics,Young Adult — Kristi @ 3:01 pm
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One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live for ever and ever and ever. (from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

When my son is snuggled up with his soft, blonde head on my chest, breathing in and out in that deep infant-like sleep, I am quite sure.

When I can rest my head on the strong shoulder of my husband at the end of a difficult day and know that he knows me, that he knows where the knots in my back are to massage away, which kind of humor will cheer me, where to get the right french fries, I am quite sure.

When I walk outside and hear the fall leaves rustle across the lawn, still green beneath their golden hues, and feel the fresh air on my face and breathe in the scent of dozens of homes preparing for a holiday feast, i am quite sure.

When I think of the baby growing in my womb, the miracle that is the formation of fingerprints and eyelids and organs that will serve him all his life, and when I consider the wonder that I was formed the same way, I am quite sure.

One of the strange things about living in the world is that one sees so many temporal things. All things within my vision will change. It is hard to often remember that I will outlive it all. I believe the world in its glory will pass away like a season, and yet I shall live for ever and ever and ever.


Just one kind August 11, 2011

Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. (from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

Have you ever seen something ugly in someone else only to realize you have a whole huge dose of that same ugliness in yourself? That’s what happened to me today.

I have this horrible, ugly tendency to be judgmental. Motherhood has cured a lot of this as I’ve been humbled over and over again to do the things I swore I would never do. But some of it still remains. A lot of it, to tell the truth. Today I was surprised and saddened to realize how much I still need to work on myself in this area. Before I was a mom, I used to shamelessly judge women who were mothers–in the grocery store, at the school where I worked, and so forth. I have come a long way since then. I’ve learned to look on other mothers with compassion because it is, as we like to say in Texas, dang hard. It’s dang hard to raise kids whether you’re bottle feeding or breastfeeding, co-sleeping or scheduling, working or staying home. One of the greatest gifts of motherhood to me is the increase in empathy and compassion it has afforded me.

I am a member of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and a part of the leadership team of my local group. MOPS is really big on reaching out to moms of all kinds to make sure that no woman has to do this hard job without the support of friends. It has encouraged me to get to know women who are drastically different from me to see what we have in common–our insane, out of this world love for our kids. And I’ve come to realize that almost every mom is just doing the very best she can with the resources she has. I want to learn from and help these women.

The ugly I saw today was on facebook. Several mothers (not MOPS moms, though!) were grumbling about having seen a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. I know. It’s an awful thing for her to do. But my growth in empathy and compassion for mothers allows me to look beyond the obvious mothering sin of smoking while pregnant and see the humanity of the woman who was doing it. I can think of a hundred possibilities. Maybe she’s been addicted since birth herself. Maybe she has so much extra stress in her life she cannot take on one more thing, such as the gargantuan task of quitting a lifelong habit as much as she may wish to. Maybe she honestly doesn’t know any better. Maybe the man in her life is horrible. I just think maybe she’s in a situation where it would have been easier for her to choose not to give life to this baby, but instead she decided to do the hard thing. To have the baby. Maybe she’s doing that hard thing alone. I know you probably think I’m horrible for even defending her, stranger though she may be, but I just wish I could give her a hug and invite her to MOPS. Maybe she has never had the resources to help her do the best thing for herself or for her baby. I mean, it was easy for me not to smoke while I was pregnant because I’ve never been a smoker. And I’ve known women who quit smoking because they were pregnant and it was hard, but they did it because they knew it was best. But they admit it was hard. And in the exhaustion and stress of new motherhood, a lot of them returned to the habit. These are women who have emotional, spiritual, and physical resources to help them and they still found it difficult. Imagine if you had none of those resources. How hard would it be?

I was moved with compassion for this unknown woman and others like her, wanting to give her the support and resources to help her do the very best for her baby and for herself. I know that when she comes face to face with that child she will be overcome by an unimaginable love. I also know that she will be faced with an unimaginable burden of responsibility. I hope she finds some kindness and some help along the way. I hope every other woman she meets doesn’t just look on her with anger and judgment, unable to see past the cigarette in her hand.

And yet, in all my compassion for this woman, I was brought to the painful realization that I very recently passed just so harsh a judgment on several people at a bluegrass festival. I am actually pretty sensitive to cigarette smoke and it gives me a powerful headache, sometimes resulting in not the most pleasant of moods. I got so irritated at the people smoking right in front of me and I kept making comments about it to my husband and my friend. I know I said that I couldn’t think of a more inconsiderate people as a whole than smokers. It pains me to even recall that I said that, but I did. And it was truly very recent–just this past May. My friend, a physician in residency, has had the opportunity to meet and work with lots of different people. When she saw these smokers, she felt compassion for them and saw their physical ailments made worse by the addictions they would be hard-pressed to lay off. I just saw how they made me uncomfortable. Shame on me.

I hated to see my friends on facebook judging another mama but I hated even more to realize how quick I am to judge anyone who makes me uncomfortable. I hope I can grow more and more in compassion and decrease my tendency to judge others harshly. I hope I can do like Atticus Finch suggests and walk around in someone else’s skin long enough to realize, as Scout did, that there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.


A Merrier World November 6, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books,Young Adult — Shanna @ 3:45 pm

There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. (from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien)


The Hearth, revisited October 17, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books,Young Adult — Shanna @ 7:30 pm

“Because Hope survives best at the hearth,”  I said.  “Guard it for me and I won’t be tempted to give up again.” (from Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan)

Okay, so this is a re-posted quote (here’s the original).  But I’m not cheating because I have new thoughts about it.

More adventures in Irish language class:  this week I learned that the Irish word for family is teaghlach (which also means household), and the Irish word for hearth is teallach.  Even though these two words may look to your untrained eyes as very different, they are actually pronounced almost the same (think of the subtle difference between pen and pin in English–the difference between these two words is similarly subtle).  My professor explained that the words are etymologically connected.

See, this is why I love studying language.  This is why it is so important for me to learn the Irish language even if I end up studying mostly Irish literature written in English.  Because language reveals so much about the values and perceptions of the culture in which it developed.

And this equation between family and household and hearth seems somehow profoundly beautiful.  When I used this quote the first time, I wrote about the things that the hearth signifies.  Essentially, it is life-sustaining, and it typically symbolizes family and community as well.  In the Irish language, all of those meanings of the hearth are quite literally invoked by the word for family.  Isn’t that lovely?


I Knew What to Do September 18, 2010

Filed under: Young Adult — Shanna @ 3:49 pm

“You see,” he said to the two creatures, who pressed confidingly against him.  “When the time came for me to do something, I knew what to do, and I did it.” (from Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle)

For those of you who follow my personal blog, I’m going to retell a story I wrote about yesterday.  But this will be different, I promise.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store.  If you’ve ever had the experience of moving and setting up a kitchen pretty much from scratch, you know that you are always needing something from the grocery store until you accumulate all of the spices, frozen and canned goods, baking goods and such that you use regularly.  That’s been my experience, except that I kept putting off going to the grocery store for various reasons, most of them involving 5:00 traffic and the mass exodus of people heading out of Boston proper to their homes west of the city.  But I finally went yesterday afternoon and got a ton of stuff.  Okay, it wasn’t really that much by Texas standards (where I don’t have to carry bags up any stairs), but it was a pretty full cart.  And I was feeling really pleased with myself for finally getting that chore done, and for not purchasing everything I wanted to.

However, when I got back out to my car, I was considerably less pleased with myself because my car key was sitting on the seat inside the locked car.  I won’t lie; I came pretty close to totally panicking.  Here was one of my biggest fears about moving so far away–what happens if I lock myself out of my car?  Or my apartment? I certainly couldn’t call my parents, which is what I would have done at home.  So I stood there for a few seconds totally dumbfounded and thinking something really useful, like, “What do I do now?” But rationality and intelligent thought prevailed when I remembered that I had my house keys in my pocket, and that I had two spare car keys at home.

So I gathered up my gumption and kicked my pride to the curb and walked my cart full of groceries back into the store.  I asked an employee if I could possibly leave my stuff while I went to get a spare car key, and he kindly said yes and acted like I wasn’t a total idiot, which increased my feelings of loyalty toward the store.  And then I set out, glad to be wearing a comfortable pair of boots, to walk the mile or so back to my apartment, laughing a little (on the inside).

As I reflected on this little adventure later, I thought about this quote from Many Waters.  How many times had I brushed off fears about all the what-ifs that might occur after I moved by telling myself, “You’ll figure it out.  You’ll take care of it.  You’ll know what to do”?  And here I found myself in the middle of one of the big what-ifs and I really did know what to do, and I did it.


Never Entirely Separate August 29, 2010

Filed under: Young Adult — Shanna @ 11:11 pm

And because we have known each other, we can never be entirely separated. (from Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle)

I can’t add anything to this quote today that won’t be a little on the blubbery side (I actually started my journey to Boston today).  So I’m just going to let it speak for itself.  But, you know.