Making Books Come Alive! Have You Heard a Good Book Lately?

Guest Post by Jim McKenna, “The Story Reader”

Jim McKenna is a retired speech therapist who has devoted his life to helping children improve their language skills. His goal is to make children want to read for themselves, and he does it by combining many years of teaching experience with a lifetime of work in community theater. Now he’s devoting his time to helping teachers and parents do the same.

I wish I had your job! I hear that line, usually from teachers, whenever I give school presentations. My response is always, “Take my job please!” I just want all teachers to have the same fulfillment I have every day. I have been enjoying this job for over 40 years, and I know there are not enough story readers. We all should be story readers, to help make books come alive for children.

My goal as a speech therapist was to help kids with their speech and language. I thought the way to do this was to let them hear speech and language daily, so I started to read to them. I soon realized I did not have any good books, so I went to my school librarian and explained what I wanted to do. She introduced me to some new children’s picture books. Eventually she told me about some great chapter books that had just arrived. I took a lot of them home and started reading. I fell in love immediately with children’s books.

Everyone can make books come alive. When you pick up a good book and read it silently, and suddenly realize that the writing is special, you then concentrate on the mood or emotion the author is trying to convey. You then discover that the way you read changes. You realize the author is talking through you. That is when the book starts to come alive. You are telling the story. You are the voice in the book. We all can make books come alive. It just takes practice.

So take my job. Teachers, find some great books that you love, and practice, by reading it aloud to your class. Pile your favorites into a big bag and ask your librarian if you could read to a class. I think every teacher should be a daily story reader. Think of one of your favorite teachers who read to you and how inspired you were with the story and the way the teacher read it—how they made it come alive for you.

There is a right way and a wrong way to read to a child.

Take your time when reading to children. Read with expression. Try to capture the emotions of the story. The author uses certain words, and we should honor the fact that a great deal of thought went into the creation of the story.  The reader must be the voice of the author as well as the characters in the story. I always try to envision how the author wants it read. Make sure that your diction and articulation are precise and clear. Pauses are particularly important when used to set up a great moment or surprise. If we read slowly, pauses come quite naturally in conversations.

When I started to read to kids in my speech classes, I thought of my mother and how proud she would have been. I even wrote a poem, “When my mother reads to me,” and used it when talking to parent-teacher groups. When I started to read the books that I loved, I found myself reading better, and the children were responding with laughter and applause. The librarian told me that there was always a demand for the books that I was reading! I was not only helping them with speech and language; I was inspiring them to want to read.

As parents and educators, our goal should be to inspire kids to want to read. Unfortunately, many children have just not found the right book for them. When they do find that special book, it becomes the book they cannot put down. On one occasion after I had begun reading to children in schools, I read a chapter or two of “Saving Winslow” by Sharon Creech to a third-grade class, and at the end of the day the teacher came into the media center where I was presenting. She said there was a boy in her class who never finished any book that he brought home from the library. She said that after my presentation the boy had “Saving Winslow” on his desk, and the bookmark was in the middle of the book! He had discovered a book that he could not put down. That is a life-changing moment in a young person’s life! That also shows the power of reading aloud.

My reading changed after hearing different authors talk about the art of writing, and the time and passionate approach that all these authors put into their writings impressed me. I saw them and heard them and respected them differently. I realized these artists cared about children and the art of reading. The way a certain word sounded on a page was not only important, but crucial to the story. I honestly think the children’s authors of today are writing better books and challenging all of us to become better.

When choosing a book to read to a group of kids, make sure that you like the book. I tell kids I like books that make me feel something. I think readers should read the book they are planning to use a number of times before actually reading it aloud to a group. They must know the story almost as if they had memorized it. They should know where the story is going. They know they must save the best part for last and build the story toward that point. That is where pacing is important.

“When (children) do find that special book, it becomes the book they cannot put down…That is a life-changing moment in a young person’s life!”

When you find your book, read it slowly and thoroughly. Now read it again with the thoughts of how to read this aloud. Who is talking? What does the voice sound like?  What does the author want this voice to sound like? Are there other voices? And what can I do to make them real? What emotions are there in this chapter, and what can I do as a reader to make it more real? The more times you reread, the more you learn about the book and that will help you do a better job of reading it aloud. Feel comfortable that you have read enough to know how you’re going to read it.

Find a comfortable stool that is high enough, so your audience can see the illustrations. If it’s a picture book, hold the book in one hand and even switch hands when the picture is on the opposite side of the book.  If you are reading a selection from a chapter book, the children should be able to see your facial expressions or body language as you “act out” the scene. Read slowly and keep in mind this will be their first time hearing these words. Slow down!! Wait for laughs; wait for dramatic moments. Enjoy the book the way you did when you first read it.  Now watch their faces as they become mesmerized by the words and phrases that tell the story. Enjoy that. It will help you read slower. Hold the book as if you are holding a treasure that you cannot give up. That is exactly what it is. They will notice this. That is what a really good book does to a reader, and that is what it also does for the listener.

Have you heard a good book lately?

Origami How-To: 3 Videos to Get Started

By Kat Kan, MLS

Many people are going stir-crazy these days, so I thought now was a good time to share a few of my origami videos. Feel free to share these tutorials far and wide—and don’t forget to try some origami, yourself!

I have been folding origami since I was like eight years old. I started with origami paper, and when we moved back from Japan to the United States, I actually started using notebook paper from school. You can easily adapt notebook paper, wrapping paper, and others to make origami paper squares, even if you don’t have any at home.

No scissors? No problem! Just fold a piece of paper back and forth along the same edge until the paper weakens. Then, carefully tear in a straight line (It’s easier than it sounds!).

In the first video, I’ll show you how to build three things out of the same piece of paper: a house, a piano, and a fox. Let’s get started.


The traditional paper crane is called the orizuru. This was the very first thing I ever folded. I’m amazed that I did it! But I loved it so much that, of all the different origami that my grandmother taught me, this is still my favorite one. We’ll also be making a flapping bird toy.

In Japan, in the Shinto religion, each time you fold a paper crane, you’re praying. The idea is that if you can succeed in folding 1,000 cranes, your prayer will come true. I also share the true story of a little girl named Sadako Sasaki and the legacy she inspired. Do you have your paper ready?


“Trash Origami” is a really fun book with a lot of different kinds of ideas. We’re going to look at how to make two things from this book: a Jumping Frog and the Crown & Towers Game. That way once you’ve made your frog and your crowns, you can play a fun game with them.


Videos originally posted by Northwest Regional Library System, Florida.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

Beloved Comics Characters: Looking Back at 60 Years of Reading Comics

By Kat Kan, MLS

Recently, a friend on Facebook challenged me to post images of 10 comics characters that had an impact on me. Since I started reading comics with newspaper comic strips when I was in Kindergarten, I realized that I have been reading comics, in one form or another, for 60 years. I used that Facebook challenge to think back over the decades.

I remember watching lots of cartoons on television when I was between four and five years old: mostly Popeye, Mighty Mouse, Yogi Bear, and all the various Hanna-Barbera cartoons that were on back then. We had just moved to San Francisco from Hawaii in 1959. The newspaper’s comics page had strips like Peanuts, Blondie, Little Orphan Annie, and Steve Canyon, but I paid more attention to the humorous strips. I thought I was pretty grown up while “reading” the newspaper every day, although I always went straight to the “funnies.”

PopeyePopeye was one of my favorite cartoons. I could sing along with his “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” theme song, and I decided to eat lots of spinach in the hope I could grow to be as strong as he was (as I’m sure a lot of other kids did, too). Bugs Bunny was another favorite character, and my mother could get us kids to eat whole carrots as a treat. She let us strut around the house saying “What’s up, Doc?” while eating carrots like they were candy. Hmm, my Japanese mother was pretty smart, using cartoon characters to “trick” us into eating healthy…

When my Air Force Sergeant dad was transferred to Japan in late summer 1961, I was ready to start first grade. He and my mother started taking us kids with them to the Base Exchange (BX) every Saturday—think of it as WalMart or Target for military families. The BX had a magazine rack, and the bottom rack was filled with “funny books,” otherwise known as comic books. Until then I really had no idea that such things existed. My parents allowed us to choose one comic book each week (they had to approve our choice), which we three kids had to share. As the oldest, and the one who was actually reading, I tended to choose the comics. Over the course of every week, I’d read and reread the books until they fell apart.

Little LuluSome of my early favorites include Little Lulu, Nancy and Sluggo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, Dennis the Menace (yes, there were comic books, not just the newspaper comic strips), and Richie Rich. Of these titles, my absolute favorite is Little Lulu. She was such a sassy girl, easily able to handle all the boys, especially Tubby. I loved that she wore dresses, but that it didn’t stop her from doing all kinds of fun, physical things. She also believed that she and other girls were just as good as boys, and she acted on that. Decades later, Dark Horse Comics published collections of John Stanley’s Little Lulu comics, and my younger son, then about eight years old, would sit in a chair in my study and read them, giggling most of the time. One day he looked up and told me, “This comic is for girls.” I asked him, “You’re reading the book, do you like it?” “Yeah.” “So, if you like the comic, that means it’s not only for girls, right?” He thought for a moment, then said, “Yes!” And now, present day, Drawn & Quarterly is doing its own reprinting of Little Lulu comics. That girl has had lasting power… and I love it!

When I was in third grade, we Air Force families were moved from the Washington Heights housing in central Tokyo (near Ueno Park) out to newly built housing (called Kanto Mura) nearly an hour away from the city. The housing was set up in quadrangles of four-unit buildings. We had new neighbors, and all of us kids played with each other and went to each other’s homes all the time. The moms all helped each other keep track of us. Our house became the place where a bunch of the boys would come with their stacks of comics; I was the only girl in the group. We’d sit on the living room floor in kind of a circle, put all the comics in the middle, and just read one comic book after another. My parents still only let me buy the funny comics, but some of the boys brought really cool superhero comics. That was my introduction to Batman, The Phantom, Superman, and The Spirit. I really liked those heroes. I loved the adventures, and they just seemed to go better with the books I was reading: mythology, adventures, and mysteries.

Green LanternIn 1964 we moved back to the U.S., and within a few months my parents decided to buy a house. It was just a couple of blocks from a drugstore that had a comic book rack. By this time, I was getting a weekly allowance of a whopping 25 cents! I used part of that allowance once a month or so to buy comics. But now, with my own money, I was buying superhero and adventure comics. I really loved The Green Lantern then; Hal Jordan was my favorite superhero. I think I liked that he was pretty much a regular guy who got his powers from his ring, which in turn was powered by the lantern. It seemed to be more straight science fiction, which I was reading in books.

I also bought Tarzan comics (published by Gold Key). I was already reading the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, borrowed from my local public library. Back then, starting at age 10, I didn’t have to have a parent with me to go to the library and check out books. I read a lot, close to a book a day. When my mother ordered me to go outside, I’d often take a book or some comics and sit outside on the front steps from the sidewalk up to our lawn and read, until she’d order me to either pull weeds or go ride my bike.

By 1967 I would also pick up random comics that tied in to shows I watched on television: The Green Hornet, Star Trek, The Rat Patrol…I reread those comics a lot. I would also borrow comics from our neighbors. I remember reading a big stack of Metal Men comics and some Batman Family comics. I loved Batgirl on the Batman TV show, but the Batgirl in the comics wasn’t like Yvonne Craig’s portrayal, so I didn’t seek out Batman comics on the store racks. I had a nice little stack of comics that I kept reading. I also bought the occasional issue of “Mad,” especially if the issue included a parody of a TV show or movie I liked. In addition, I bought a number of mass market paperback collections of Peanuts comics, which I also read to pieces—literally.

My dad had been deployed to Vietnam the summer of 1967. When he returned home in 1968, he had orders to move across the country to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. As an enlisted man, he didn’t have a generous weight allowance for household goods to be shipped to his new assignment, so he ordered us kids to get rid of a lot of our stuff, especially books and comics. I snuck a few of them into one of my boxes, but I had to give up most of them.

For a couple of years, I just kept rereading those few comics I saved, especially Star Trek and Green Hornet, since I no longer had easy access to stores. We spent one year in Georgia, before my dad was reassigned to Hawaii. While we lived in Kailua that first year there, I found a stack of Classics Illustrated comics at a neighborhood garage sale and bought them. I read lots of classic literature already, but the comics were so much fun! When we finally got base housing at Hickam Air Force Base, where my dad was assigned, I started high school and met a girl who loved science fiction and comics as much as I did. Ruth introduced me to Marvel Comics. In the mid-1960s I had watched the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoons on TV, but I was a DC superhero comics fan. I spent a lot of time at Ruth’s house, where we would read through her X-Men comics.

Fast-forward to the mid-1970s. I was attending University of Hawaii and living at home, while working part-time at the local WaldenBooks. The store carried trade paperback collections of Heavy Metal comics translated from the French: I remember “Lone Sloan: Delirius.” And Simon & Schuster published trade paperback collections of Marvel Comics in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” “Bring On the Bad Guys,” “The Superhero Women,” and others. I found the trade paperback of “God Loves, Man Kills”—a classic X-Men story—and lots more. I went on a buying and reading spree. “Elfquest” by Wendy and Richard Pini came out in trade paperbacks in the late 1970s, along with comic book adaptations of Robert Asprin’s “Myth Adventures” fantasy novels, and I bought and read all of those.

MaiI focused my buying and reading on the trade collections of comics, because I bought them from bookstores. By this time, most supermarkets and drugstores carried very little in the way of magazines or comics. They had done away with the spinner racks, and just displayed a few magazines and maybe some Archie comics digests at the checkout counters. WaldenBooks didn’t carry them, but Honolulu Bookstore carried English translations of Japanese comics, starting in the mid-1980s. When we lived in Japan, I used to “read” the comics in my mother’s Japanese magazines, so when I saw some manga, I picked them up. One of my earliest purchases was “Mai, the Psychic Girl” by Kazuya Koda and Ryoichi Ikegami.

Ronin RabbitI also finally ventured into a couple of specialty comics shops. From that time, I started buying comics issues of some Marvel and DC series, then branched out to Eclipse Comics, Valiant, and several other publishers. Fantagraphics had been publishing “Usagi Yojimbo” comics, and I bought the trade paperback collections. I have kept up with “Usagi Yojimbo” through several decades now; Stan Sakai combines Japanese history, folklore, and cultural traditions to tell compelling stories featuring his ronin rabbit. As a mixed Japanese-White person (in Hawaii we’re called Hapa), I really appreciate seeing my Japanese culture represented in comics. I also bought the original black and white “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trades.

These days, I enjoy manga for the time the creators take to tell the stories, and for telling stories in many different genres—from crime drama to fantasy, to wacky humor, to serious science fiction, to historical fiction, to stories focusing on food, to creepy horror. I like the black and white art, which helps me read horror. I don’t like full-color gore that so many American horror comics depict. I also get a kick out of the fact that several publishers are reprinting or publishing new comics featuring some of the comics characters I read when I was young. And I love seeing prose writers getting into comics: people like Joe Hill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and others. I jumped up and down in my chair and screamed with joy at my computer screen when I saw that Jerry Craft’s graphic novel “The New Kid” had won the 2020 Newbery Award.

I read comics for all different age levels now, including mainstream superhero and independent comics, in almost every genre. I have supported Kickstarter and Patreon projects for a lot of new comics creators. I’m now 65 years old, and I love comics even more than I did at five. I don’t plan to stop reading comics until I can’t read any more at all. I love the incredible diversity of creators, styles, and genres that people can read. They exist in print and online. Some are available for free. Many libraries carry at least a few graphic novels that people can borrow. And I really love that my work at Brodart focuses on helping librarians find good graphic novels for their collections.

I never would have believed, even when I was in library school, that I could use my love for comics in my job. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ll continue on it as long as I can.

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Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

 

Beyond the Clouds: What Ever Happened to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?

By Travis Corter, Copywriter

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“All men have the stars…but they are not the same things for different people…You—you alone—will have the stars as no one else has them…” — “Wind, Sand and Stars,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

Copyright Domaine de Saint-Exupery

Photo © Domain de Saint- Exupéry

What is it about unsolved mysteries that keeps our minds churning into the late hours of the night? Is it the compulsion to solve a puzzle no one else has, to be the first to see things clearly? Or maybe it’s the compulsion to understand what happened to a fellow traveler in life, especially one who fell earlier than expected.

The addictive rush of flying and a conviction to serve his own fellow travelers is what propelled author and avid aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of “The Little Prince,” through nearly every phase of his life before his disappearance in the summer of 1944. But the circumstances surrounding his disappearance aren’t the only mysterious aspects of his short life. Debate continues over whether the man was a supremely skilled or reckless pilot, whether he used his friends for gain or genuinely cared for them.

Let’s start with some of the basics to get a better understanding of the famous pilot and revered writer.

  • Born June 29, 1900, in Lyon, France.
  • Became a part-time mail pilot in 1924.
  • In October 1926, Saint-Exupéry flew mail to northern Africa, France, and Spain.
  • Published “The Aviator,” his first short story, in a literary magazine in 1926—the same year his oldest sister died of tuberculosis.
  • Saint-Exupéry’s first novel, “Night Mail,” was published in 1929.
  • Married Consuelo Suncin, a widowed Salvadoran writer/artist, in 1931.
  • During a 1935 Paris-to-Saïgon air race, Saint-Exupéry and André Prévot, his navigator, crashed in the Sahara desert. The two suffered mirages and fought dehydration and starvation for days—until a caravan of Bedouin found and helped them. This experience would years later become the key catalyst for “The Little Prince.” It was also detailed in Saint-Exupéry’s memoir “Wind, Sand and Stars.”
  • Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s most popular literary work, “The Little Prince,” was published in French and English in 1943. First published in the United States due to the ongoing war, which prevented Saint-Exupéry from publishing in France, the book was published in France in 1946.
  • On July 31, 1944, Saint-Exupéry embarked on an approved mission after eating with friends at a restaurant and cheerfully “performing card tricks and telling funny stories.” He was never seen again.

The Young Man

One of five children born into an aristocratic family, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was still a boy when his father, the Viscount Jean de Saint-Exupéry, died of a stroke. Antoine regarded his mother, Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger de Saint-Exupéry as “a beautiful, intelligent, and caring woman.” She and the five children moved to her aunt’s castle (yes, a real castle) in the northeast. Antoine’s dear brother, François, died from rheumatic fever at age 15, another reminder that loss is too often at the doorstep.

But Marie took Antoine for his first airplane ride when he was 12, and something new was born. So began an all-consuming love for flight. After failing to enter the French Naval Academy in 1918 and subsequently studying architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, Saint-Exupéry earned his military pilot’s license in December 1921.

There was, however, more to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry than this passion for flight. Despite a shortened lifetime, he played many roles and left a lasting impact.

The Aviator

Narrow In PlaneActing as a mail pilot early in his career, Saint-Exupéry once fractured his skull in a plane crash. The accident dissuaded his fiancée at the time from further pursing their relationship due to the danger he constantly faced while flying. He also regularly rescued downed pilots. Some individuals claim they found balled-up pieces of paper in his planes and said the man would often keep flying until he completed the novel he was reading. This speaks to how his vocation and literary aspirations were closely intertwined.

When World War II descended, Saint-Exupéry flew reconnaissance missions for the French Air Force. As German Forces seized control of Paris in May 1940, Saint-Exupéry fled the country for New York. He would return to France in 1943 and promptly return to his squadron. Pilots 30 and over were not allowed to fly the P-38 Lightning, but then-42-year-old Saint-Exupéry convinced officials to make an exception for him. He once wrote in the “Paris-Soir” newspaper: “Don’t you understand that self-sacrifice, risk, loyalty unto death, these are behaviors that have contributed greatly to establishing man’s nobility?” He also confessed, “I feel like I am watching the war from a theatre seat.” He was also grounded, however, after crashing several planes.

The Lover

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Saint-Exupéry married Consuelo Carillo shortly after meeting her. Photo source: Historiahoy.com.ar

He married Salvadoran widow Consuelo Carrillo, an artist/writer, shortly after meeting her in 1931. Consuelo says in her memoir, “The Tale of the Rose,” that Antoine Saint-Exupéry gave her a puma in France after she fled his proposal on the very night they met, in Argentina. The two shared a passionate, if terribly strained, marriage.

The Writer

Saint-Exupéry was known to start each writing day at 11:00 p.m. and wrote until dawn. He often called his friends after midnight to read bits of what he’d written aloud. His second novel, “Night Flight,” was published in 1931 and won France’s esteemed “Prix Femina” literary prize. In 1932, after an English-language translation of “Night Flight” was released, the book was adapted for the silver screen, starring John Barrymore.

Wind Sand and StarsSaint-Exupéry published “Land of Men,” which recounted his flights over South America and North Africa, in 1939. The memoir won the 1939 “Grand Prix du Roman” and was released in the U.S. under the title “Wind, Sand and Stars,” in which Saint-Exupéry also describes the 1935 crash that would go on to inspire “The Little Prince.” “Wind, Sand and Stars” received the Grand Prize for Fiction from the French Academy, along with the United States National Book Award for best nonfiction book, a testament to the blurred lines Saint-Exupéry’s writing navigated.

Saint-Exupéry’s memoir “Flight to Arras,” detailing his reconnaissance flights in France, was published in the United States in 1942.

Little Prince Cover“The Little Prince,” first published in the U.S. during World War II and published three years later (1946) in France, is the author’s best-known work. The story takes its inspiration from a 1935 plane crash that stranded Saint-Exupéry and his navigator in the Sahara desert with no food or water for several days. “The Little Prince” is a fable for both children and adults. In it, a prince, who hails from Asteroid B 612, gains wisdom by traveling throughout the universe. When he lands on Planet Earth, he meets a downed pilot in the desert. The themes reflect the author’s views on friendship, death, childhood, and more.

The book has sold nearly 200 million copies and been translated into over 300 languages. Saint-Exupéry handed his good friend, Silvia Hamilton, a paper bag with his illustrations and “The Little Prince” manuscript tucked inside, with this apology: “I’d like to give you something splendid…but this is all I have.” The book was illustrated by the author himself, who gave the publisher strict guidelines regarding illustration placement and the captions to be included, among other parameters.

“The Little Prince” boasts adaptations including movies, ballet, opera, anime, live theatre, games, and even the world of music.  France even opened a Little Prince theme park, Le Parc du Petit Prince, in 2014. The park boasts several attractions and exhibits, including a roller coaster called The Snake. In 2013, a signed first edition of the title was estimated to be worth $25,000-$35,000.

The Myth

No one had the slightest clue what became of the revered aviator and author. Some suspected an accident, or that he was shot down. Others thought the pessimism of his later years might have driven the pilot to suicide. Then, in September 1998, fisherman Jean-Claude Bianco found an engraved bracelet caught in his trawling net—a bracelet belonging to none other than Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Hoping to keep the man’s status as a revered war hero of almost mythical proportions, the surviving Saint-Exupéry family opposed efforts to investigate the source of a landing gear found by scuba diver Luc Vanrell in May 2000. Major pieces of Saint-Exupéry’s downed aircraft, a P-38, was found and brought to the ocean’s surface in 2003. A serial number confirmed this craft belonged to Antoine Saint-Exupéry, though the lack of bullet holes and combat damage keep the aviator author’s true fate hidden behind a shroud of secrecy.

The Legacy

A three-foot-tall bronze likeness of the titular character of “The Little Prince” stands outside the Northport-East Northport Public Library in Long Island, NY, the result of a joint effort between the Saint-Exupéry estate and French expatriate Yvette Cariou O’Brien. Museum exhibitions and a foundation launched by his surviving family continue to advance some of the causes Saint-Exupéry valued.

The Friend

There is one more role Saint-Exupéry played that had a large impact on himself and everyone around him: Friend.

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Léon Werth, friend to Saint-Exupéry, told of his WWII ordeal in “33 Days,” though the memoir was not published until 1992. Photo source: Alchetron.com

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dedicated “The Little Prince” to his close friend, Léon Werth, noting, “(H)e lives in France, where he is hungry and cold. He needs to be comforted.” Werth was a reputable Jewish critic and writer who could no longer publish once Germany occupied France. He would go on to survive World War II. Saint-Exupéry felt such a strong kinship with Werth that he smuggled Werth’s manuscript, a memoir recounting Werth’s ongoing ordeal and escape from a Paris ruled by wartime Germany, out of the Nazi-occupied country and brought it to New York.

Saint-Exupéry’s attempts to get his friend’s work published failed, but Saint-Exupéry did write an introduction to the memoir, which eventually be published in 1992. He wanted to convince the United States to enter World War II…and he longed to see his friend and compatriots set free of the fear that had made France inhospitable.

In the introduction to Léon Werth’s memoir, “33 Days,” Saint-Exupéry lamented one of several friends he’d lost in life. “Guillaumet, the last friend I lost, who was shot down flying mail service into Syria, I count him as dead, by God. He’ll never change. He’ll never be here again, but he’ll never be absent either.” Friendship and death seemed long intertwined throughout Saint-Exupéry’s life. He also noted in his “33 Days” introduction that “(t)he presence of someone apparently far away can become more substantial than before they left.” Meaning that absence truly does make the heart grow ever fonder.

Regarding the ache that comes from a cherished acquaintance being plucked out of one’s life, Saint-Exupéry wrote: “Bit by bit… it comes over us that we shall never again hear the laughter of our friend, that this one garden is forever locked against us. And at that moment begins our true mourning, which, though it may not be rending, is yet a little bitter. For nothing, in truth, can replace that companion…One by one, our comrades slip away, deprive us of their shade.” –Excerpt from “Wind, Sand and Stars.”

In “The Little Prince,” however, Saint-Exupéry assures readers that no one is ever truly gone: “In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…”

Saint-Exupéry’s love of people drove him skyward time and again as a mail pilot. It was his love of people, not just country, that drove him to fight for France and join his comrades in the clouds during some of the most harrowing times the world has seen. He wasn’t perfect, not one of us is, but he was a fierce friend. And though his later writings may have seemed melancholy, Saint-Exupéry stood firm in the assertion that the darkest night is always lit by those we love, if only we look up.

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September is Literacy Month

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By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

As librarians, literacy is something close to our hearts. We are readers, searchers, and devourers of facts. As information becomes easier to access but more complicated to manage, there are now many different kinds of literacy we can help our patrons navigate.

Early Literacy is a topic we know a lot about. Library storytimes, summer reading programs, and board book collections for babies all support early literacy. As a nation, Early Literacy with Wordswe have recognized the importance of getting children ready to read and love books by 3rd grade. Some libraries deliver books to new mothers in hospital. Most libraries develop programming to model early literacy support skills to parents, using the Every Child Ready to Read practices of Read, Write, Talk, Sing, and Play. Many librarians travel to rural areas on bookmobiles, read to children in community centers and laundromats, and even bring library card sign-ups to the entire school district. (Remember: September is Library Card Sign-Up Month too, hooray!)

This month, encourage parents to check out extra books and take extra time to read with their children. Modeling reading and having conversations about what we’ve read together is the very best way to build a foundation for lifelong literacy.

shutterstock_1470820073While librarians spend a lot time and resources developing programs for children, literacy is also about struggling adult readers whom we help at the reference desk with reading maps and forms, and filling out resumes and government applications. One in five adult Americans have low literacy skills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This includes adults who are unable to compare and contrast information, paraphrase, or make low-level inferences from reading, in addition to those who are completely or functionally illiterate. Low literacy affects the ability to read medical instructions and prescriptions, help children with homework, evaluate news sources, and especially navigate the internet. Does your library have a collection for low-level adult readers?

Did you know that since 1967, UNESCO has honored September 8 as International Literacy Day? The goal is to remind world leaders and influencers that literacy is an integral element in eradicating injustice and poverty.

While learning the basics of reading is the foundation of literacy, librarians and the community have increasingly been talking about other kinds of literacy, as well.

shutterstock_730277116Food Literacy is all about understanding the impact of your food choices on your health, your environment, and the economy. With wider conversations about organics, GMOs, and sustainable farming practices, people are becoming more engaged with learning about where their food comes from. It was all over the news last month that United Nations scientists recommend switching to a plant-based diet to fight climate change, but how can we do that? Fad diets and news about the “microbiome” spur research to compare and contrast different ways of eating. Families getting by on small budgets and government assistance need help finding the best ways to eat healthfully on a budget. All of these issues, plus the bare basics of how to cook, are parts of food literacy that our library collections and programs can address. (September is Food Literacy Month, too!)

The Free Library of Philadelphia supports an amazing Culinary Literacy Center, offering collections and classes to share food literacy with its patrons, young and old. Many public libraries are offering programs on square-foot gardening, cooking with the Instapot, international foods, and even cookbook reading groups. Cooking and eating crosses divides and has been a way to bring diverse communities together, even in the library. For more information about food literacy, and to access a Food Literacy Month toolkit, check out the Food Literacy Center, supported by UC Davis, California.

shutterstock_783381802Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Health literacy is much more difficult to attain, including complex words and concepts, in addition to numerical data and manipulation. Only 12% of American adults have proficient health literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While it is mainly up to health professionals and organizations to utilize plain language in their materials and translations, libraries can help in some ways. In addition to promoting books and pamphlets about health topics, librarians can keep web bookmarks handy and create links on the library website. Many public libraries offer health programs and speakers. (October is Health Literacy Month.)

The Public Library Association has launched an initiative with the website “Healthy Community Tools for Public Libraries,” with a lot of helpful information for libraries to implement. There is also free, archived access to the recent excellent webinar, “Health Literacy Begins at Your Library,” from Web Junction, which showcases experiences from Oklahoma libraries.

What other literacy competencies are you talking about and implementing in your library collections and programs? Digital literacy? Media literacy? Tell us about it!

 

Sources:

When a Laundromat Becomes a Library, PBS News Hour, April 2, 2019.

Every Child Ready to Read, a joint project by the Public Library Association and the Association of Library Service to Children

National Assessment of Adult Literacy

UNESCO International Literacy Day

Plant-Based Diet Can Fight Climate Change – UN,” BBC News, August 8, 2019.

 

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.