More Than Anything Else
"Before light--while the stars still twinkle--Papa, my brother John,
and I leave our cabin and take the main road out of town, headed to
The road hugs the ridge between the Kanawha River and the mountain.
We travel it by lantern. My stomach rumbles, for we had no morning
meal. But it isn't really a meal I want, though I would not turn one
More than anything else, I want to learn to read."
In today's society we're swamped with reading matter. Apart
from the obvious books, magazines, and newspapers, there are fliers in
our mailboxes, the computer pop up ads many of us are vexed by, and
more advertising on anything from the sides of buses to sports score
boards. Most of us have achieved at least a fourth grade level of
literacy. Can you imagine what it would be like to not even recognize
your own name in print?
Marie Bradby's More Than Anything Else can give kids, parents,
and teachers a good idea of what this would feel like. Young Booker
works long days shoveling salt into barrels. The abrasive crystals
cut his exposed skin including the soles of his feet. His muscles
ache from heavy lifting.
Booker has one thing to take his mind off the pain. He has seen
people read. He knows those books contain a secret--one he's
determined to discover. One day he sees a man as brown as him reading
"I see myself the man. And as I watch his eyes move across the paper,
it is as if I know what the black marks mean, as if I am reading. As
if everyone is listening to me. And I hold that thought in my hands."
Chris Soentpiet's illustrations capture the poignant and
powerful narrative perfectly: the glaring shine of the endless salt
heaps, the exhaustion on the faces of homeward bound workers, the
warmth and love in the fireplace lit cabin...and the joy and pride in
Booker's grin when he finally recognizes his name.
More Than Anything Else is sadly very relevant today when there
are still too many people around the world, especially girls, who are
denied the fundamentals of literacy. Many families can't afford
school fees. If there is not enough money for all the children in a
family to attend school usually the boys will be educated while the
girls work. Slavery and child marriage are other cruel ways in which
girls are cheated out of learning. I think it's time for us to be
grateful for this privilege we have and work to extend it to others.
On a personal note, we had a special craft at Wilson Center. We made
Pysanky eggs. Those are the eggs that use layers of dyes and wax.
They come out so pretty!!! Such fun craft companionship and
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated.
Sent from my iPod