Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When the world is too much with us

Some weeks it just seems like "the world is too much with us," as Wordsworth said, not with the getting and spending necessarily, but with the unbearable sadness of one who made us laugh, the suffering on an Iraq mountaintop, in hospitals and huts in Africa, in Gaza and Israel, the outrage in St. Louis. It seems almost frivolous to be thinking of making books for children.

But the world will keep tumbling along--and the children will keep coming and growing and needing and waiting for our best books. So it was especially heartening to me to read this morning this wonderful book by Jamaican poet Olive Senior--Anna Carries Water (Tradewind, 2013).

The book is the story of Anna, the smallest in her family, who wants more than anything "to carry water on her head."  We don't all carry water, but we do all want something more than anything, especially the smallest of us want to do something that means we are not quite so small.

Olive Senior gives us a character all children can relate to and I'm glad that my grandchildren, who only have to climb on a stool to turn a tap, can read and care about this girl who carries water with her other family members. Carries, "Water for cooking and drinking./Water for washing dishes./Washing faces./Cleaning teeth./And for washing dirty feet at night before putting them into clean beds."

I love that washing dirty feet detail. It speaks of love and care and tucking in at night. Tucking in at night crosses borders.

Read this story and see for yourself how Olive Senior makes a neighbor of Anna and the illustrator, Laura James, gives us vibrant colors and almost-magical birds. Any book that gives us more neighbors, gives us a friend in a faraway place who has wants and spills and triumphs is fun but not frivolous.

Also not frivolous are these portulacas, who (sorry for the personal pronoun but I do think of them as friends) just volunteered in a little corner of our yard.

And these Swiss Chard, most generous of vegetables.

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