It’s been a little while since my last post. I wanted to take some time to reflect last week, and I’ve been mulling around ideas of what book to feature next. It’s almost like the world, in all of its chaos and craziness, demanded some sort of response, and I am just at a loss. Safety pins and symbolic gestures don’t seem enough, though I loved the beautiful responses in that vein that I saw pop up on twitter and instagram from some of our favorite writers and illustrators. I know that books are part of the answer, so onward.
I believe that books find you at just the right time. As I’ve been diving in to children’s literature with my girls, I am lately drawn back to books I loved as a girl – books that I put away on my shelf in exchange for “real books” sometime around high school. I’m not much of a re-reader, but maybe it’s also true that books find you again at just the right time. Traveling back into these stories is like following my own footprints – still there, but only barely – into a wood that feels immediately familiar, but still holds the spark of mystery and unknown I felt all those years ago as a child reader. Now I add my grown-up layers to these old texts – my experiences, my library of “real books” – is this baggage? Maybe. I feel sort of like an intruder, but returning is stirring something inside me. I’m noticing all the ways these old friends acted as bridges to understanding, and how they overlap and illuminate my adulthood love of literature.
I finished Madeline L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time just a few weeks ago, and it felt timely – confirming the power of goodness and love, particularly the goodness of children empowered by Love, to overcome darkness. L’Engle believed in children, I think, in a way that makes her writing powerful and timeless. From a speech given to the Library of Congress she says:
“The writer whose words are going to be read by children has a heavy responsibility. And yet, despite the undeniable fact that the children’s minds are tender, they are also far more tough than many people realize, and they have an openness and an ability to grapple with difficult concepts which many adults have lost. Writers of children’s literature are set apart by their willingness to confront difficult questions.”
I know so many of us are grappling with the hows of confronting the difficult questions with our kids. My best friend teaches in a classroom in which the majority of her students have parents who are illegal immigrants. What do you say? and how? The world is divided and dark. I feel we are drowning in a sea of loud voices, and we have lost the ability to listen. But children are listening. I’ve seen the call to artists and creatives, reminding them of the importance of their responsibilities as culture makers, and I want to echo it too, make love the loudest voice.
Blogging for Books recently sent me this new edition of L’Engle’s non-fiction book, Walking on Water that was released in October. It was striking paired with revisiting A Wrinkle in Time. In it, L’Engle explores the artist’s calling and reflects on the relationship between faith and art. For her, as it is for me, there is no “Christian” and secular dichotomy when it comes to art. Art is a conversation, and creativity is a provision from God, intrinsic to us, the created.
I loved most her call again and again to listen. She writes,
“The artist, if he is not to forget how to listen, must retain the vision which includes angels and dragons and unicorns, and all the lovely creatures which our world would put in a box marked, ‘Children Only.’”
I think when we open that box, when we listen, we find love.
L’Engle believed that artists live into the vulnerability of the incarnation – the God who would risk love to make the world whole. Now especially, I would recommend this book to artists, writers, musicians (even those of different faiths), but even if you don’t fall into one of those categories, I want to remind you that you are creative. From the books you decide to read your children before bed, to the conversations you may have with your students or grand kids, you are participating in art, in this conversation, and in this calling to make the world whole again with love.
Thanks for indulging me in this departure from picture books. I have plans to share some great reads for the holidays in the coming posts, but this was what was on my heart this week. I will leave you with this poem by L’Engle and a few little extras I’ve found around the web.
The Risk of Birth
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed & pride the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
To read more about L’Engle and how she transformed science fiction, check out this article.