Maddie Finds Her Book

On our first day of summer vacation, I took the girls to the public library in our new town to borrow some books and to sign up for the Summer Reading Program.  The library is just beautiful.  The children’s section is settled in the back of the library.  There are computers, tiny reading tables, blocks, knee-high carts filled with board books, a picturesque little room for story time, and countless rows of picture books.  An enormous tree stands in the middle of the children’s section and from its branches hang stuffed animal monkeys, koala bears, and birds.  A sign asks the children to please not climb the tree, but they are free to nestle into its trunk and enjoy a book.

With the summer reading sheets tucked in my purse, we carried our bag full of picture books to the front desk to check them out for a few weeks.  We had to pass through the adolescent section, and a book caught four-year-old Maddie’s eye.  “Mommy!  Mommy!  Can I please get this book?” Maddie asked as she stood on her tippy toes grabbing a chapter book.  It was the classic edition of the Wizard of Oz.  The original, written by L. Frank Baum.  It was thick.  I fanned the pages.  Twenty-two chapters.

Now, I am a teacher and a literacy coach.  I know that we don’t limit kids’ book choices.  I know that there is more to readability than just a level.   There is motivation and background knowledge and all that jazz.  I know that a child’s listening comprehension usually far outweighs their oral reading comprehension.  I know that telling a kid no, you can’t read that could crush their little reader spirit and turn them off reading forever.  So, I was as surprised as you when I said…

“No, Maddie, that book is too hard for you.  That book is for older kids.”  I looked down and saw the saddest look of disappointment on her little face.  I reconsidered.  “Ok, Maddie, ok.  You can get that book, too.”

Well, Maddie hugged that book all the way to the front desk.  She carried it on her lap the whole ride home, thumbing through the pages, looking at the black and white illustrations.  The minute we got home, she plopped next to me on the couch, and I started reading.

Night after night, her and I have cuddled in her bed and read The Wizard of Oz.  She asks questions, she laughs, she leans in a little closer to me when the Wicked Witch appears.  She hasn’t missed a word.  A few evenings ago, we finished the book.  With Dorothy safely back in Aunt Em’s arms, I closed the book.  Maddie reached over and hugged me, as though she knew we had shared something special together.  “Mommy, can I keep this book?” she asked.  The next evening when it was time to choose our bedtime stories, guess which book Maddie chose?  Yep, back to chapter one and the cyclone (which Maddie will tell you is a terrible storm that can whoosh your house away).

I don’t know what it was that caught Maddie’s eye that day in the library, and I will never understand why I told her no.

What I do know is that Maddie just found her book.  You know, that book.  That book we remember reading as a child.  That book that makes our heart skip a beat when we come across it in our adult life.  That book that we always associate with love.  That book that holds not only a story, but memories of our childhood.   That book that turned us into a forever reader.  This is Maddie’s book.

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14 thoughts on “Maddie Finds Her Book

  1. This is a wonderful story, Dana. I loved The Wizard of Oz stories when I was young, so am delighted to hear that someone else is still loving them. I am glad you captured this for Maddie, for her reading years to come.

  2. This is great reminder that we do NOT read by levels or genre but rather by something inside of us that connects to some part of THAT book. For my daughter, as a wee one, it was Winnie the Pooh. Again and again we read that classic. The stories were ours until she moved onto the Babysitter Club and Stephen King. What a mix I reflect now!

  3. Oh, how precious! I loved every moment of your “capture”. I can imagine saying” no” and then slapping myself! Glad you changed your mind, and I am so delighted that she found her book.

  4. Yea for Maddie finding a book that feels just right to her. And yea for you letting her borrow it!

    Your library sounds beautiful. I’d love to see a pic of your girls nestled in the trunk reading their favorite books.

  5. Right books are not always so obvious. You reminded me about the summer when my daughter and I were reading Sound of Music (not sure if that is the actual title) together. Thick book. Great memories.

  6. Love this post! My parents read to me so much that I can’t even pick just ONE “my book” — Make Way for Ducklings, The Velveteen Rabbit, Bill & Pete… I hope it will be that way for Maddie too. Glad this is the first! (My husband still talks about his mom reading The Wizard of Oz to him and his sister!)

  7. This was such an amazingly touching slice that I cried through most of it and still can’t quite stop. It is exactly as you wrote – the memory of a book that we associate with love. That is my next slice. I have the exact book. Thank you for bringing back those wonderful memories!

  8. Dana, this is beautiful! I’m so happy for her and you both to have that! The Wizard of Oz, really? I loved that book when I was like 10? Crazy. Amazing. I can totally see her stubbornly holding onto the book and you softening into reading it with her. Very nicely written!

  9. Oh my gosh. What a wonderful experience for Maddie and you. This will be a life-long treasured memory.

    On another note… I thought of Donalyn’s wise words about how to keep your library relevant as I went through those books. She is so smart and right. I still couldn’t do it. Crazy me.

  10. Wow! I love your description of your town’s library, Dana! And, your little one reminds me of my four-year young son 🙂 He, too, loves to listen to me read YA or adult literature! I was teared up when you told her no, but felt her elation when you reconsidered. I like to believe that the book might have actually found her 🙂

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