Moving — and the Therapeutic Benefit of Children’s Literature

Moving. For most people, the topic does not conjure up positive images.

I’m a planner, so I spent the better part of a year preparing for “the big move” from St. Louis to Chicago. I purged, planned, and prepared. I think this approach made the experience more organized but also more all-encompassing and exhausting.

I’m also a reader, so, when I’m working through a challenging patch, I sometimes go looking for a book. Au contraire, it is not a self-help book I seek, exactly, but a children’s literature selection that might fit the bill. This is how I happened upon Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst.

I had fond memories of a book with a similar title, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, in which — my readers may know — our protagonist repeats, throughout a series of mishaps and discomforts throughout the day, “I think I’ll move to Australia.” I invoke this as a silent mantra myself every now and then, which tells you just how much Viorst’s original 1972 Alexander book stuck with me. So, you can imagine my delight in finding …Not…Going to Move.

My new read did not disappoint. And what an interesting pair of books! Taken as a set, through the author’s gifts for humor, repetition, and cadence, we explore both the lure and dread of change.  Thanks, Judith Viorst.

 

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Alone Together

Alone TogetherAfter a full career as teacher, independent school leader, and consultant, Edes Gilbert recently returned to St. Louis. And there, thanks to mutual colleagues, I have had the privilege of beginning to get to know her.

It was in this context that Edes presented me with a copy of Alone Together, a memoir of her early life. As the story of her experiences as a child and adolescent in the 1930’s and ’40’s unfolds, we are given a window into family life of the time. Among the interesting themes is the mid-twentieth century view of the needs of children and the role of their parents, a stunning contrast to today. Parents, educators, and the children in their care will find the book thought-provoking and rich material for discussion.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

Crossroads College Preparatory School lost a member of the Class of 2013 to cancer this school year. Meredith’s death has been felt deeply in this school community, as you might guess. As adults, we do our best to support her schoolmates dealing with this loss, we are struck with both profound empathy and admiration as we watch her parents and siblings carry on, and, of course, we wrestle with our own existential questions. Premature death rattles our sense of fairness, stirs up our anxieties about loss of our own loved ones, and reminds us of our mortality.

fault 2I learned recently that a member of Meredith’s class and her mother were enjoying an audio book version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a young-adult novel about the relationship between two teens with cancer diagnoses. Curious, given genre and themes, and eager to digest the book before the soon-to-be-released movie opens, I got a copy. I read it in nearly one sitting.

Hazel, our protagonist, is bright, verbal, acerbic, scrappy, and very much a teen. Think Juno meets cancer. She quickly captured my interest and heart. Her love-interest, Augustus, and the supporting characters are sufficiently complex to seem real. And, while there were moments when I was annoyed with Green for seeming to too intentionally play with our emotions, overall, I think the plot works. The reason to read The Fault in Our Stars, however, is its deft touch with those existential questions.

Quick, pick up a copy before the movies comes out.