The most popular books published in 1967 list included a French children’s book, Frédéric, by Leo Lionni. It won the Caldecott Honor award, and Lionni was awarded the Graphic Arts Gold Medal in 1984. It is about a little mouse who is repeatedly reprimanded for not contributing to the work of gathering food for the winter, but holds his ground with retorts such as, “I gather colors, for winter is grey.” Despite all of their work, the food eventually depletes and in their cold and despair, Frederick paints word pictures – poetry – that ultimately gives them hope. In essence, he gives of his supply, “now I send you the rays of the sun . . . do you feel how their golden glow . . .” and, slowly, they do.
The number one bestselling book published in 1997 was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling. It’s about . . . well, I imagine nearly everyone knows what the book is about. For the alien that does not, the book centers on an orphaned boy abused and neglected by his aunt and uncle, and sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The seven-book series sees Harry and his friends come of age, discover whom they are, their purpose, and that ultimately to successfully live out this reality, they must do it together.
So far, the most popular book published in 2017 is Leading Together: Mindfulness and the . . . just kidding! That one ranked #145,222 April 1st. . . Rather, the bestseller – and on the Notable Children’s Books 2017 list – Pax, by Sarah Pennypacker is a book about a boy and his fox. A war separates them for a time, but Pax is home for Peter. And while they are each changed during the separation, the sense they must be together remains. I love what one character tells Peter, “I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.”
A consistent element in books we love the last (nearly) 50 years is a character that doesn’t belong—is different, misunderstood—and judged. They don’t go-with-the-flow, but stick to (or try) who they are, and in it, (eventually) find peace. The cover image above is a picture I took at the Singapore Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Garden because the featured tree reminded me of a screaming Mandrake from Harry Potter. The quote is good, but I might add: and how (or whether) we choose to use our abilities.
It can feel very lonely when I feel as if no one understands me. I am grateful to authors who employ their imaginations and expert use of words to help me share in worlds in which someone else is much like me—and makes magic by just being herself. The prophet Deborah, Mary Magdalene, Hermione, and Chrisjen Avasarala (from The Expanse, for those who don’t know), encourage and inspire, along with the countless others who choose to make me their home (God bless Howie – who reminds me of Frédéric 🙂 a little bit)
My prayer is that my words, with Albus Dumbledore make the kind of magic that is a remedy:
“Words are our most
Inexhaustible source of magic,
Capable of both inflicting injury
And remedying it.”