Wednesday, September 7, 2016
THIS PLACE I KNOW: a book recommendation
Georgia Heard, Candlewick Press: 2002, 2006, $17.
One of the darkest things a school principal must confront is the death of a student or the death of a student’s parent. You can’t shake the fact that such tragedies put all that we do on a daily basis into a painful perspective. Our education, our training – and almost always our words – fail us.
Shortly after the events of September 11th, 2001, Georgia Heard collected a dozen and a half children’s poems and worked with a similar number of children’s book illustrators to create a delightfully moving little collection called This Place I Know. Her intent was to provide words of comfort to the children who lost so much on that tragic day.
I somehow stumbled across the book and purchased a personal copy. Shortly thereafter, I received a call through my superintendent that the father of one of my students needed to see him for an important matter. Could it wait until recess? No. It seems his mother was on a cruise ship vacation and, with handbag or purse missing, her body was found at the foot of a flight of stairs. Dad needed to deliver the news. He did so in the parking lot about fifty feet from my office door. The boy crumpled as I watched helplessly.
That evening, I went home and reread my favorite poem from This Place I Know. Then I read them all. Within the week, I dropped by the student’s house and gave him the book.
Over the course of several years, I found myself giving copies to many kids, and in the case of students taken from us, to many classroom libraries.
I’ve been out of the business for six years now, but the import of that tiny volume lingers.
A couple of weeks ago, the headline in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat screamed: “Two children die after truck plunges into river.” The elder child had just started second grade at a small, coastal school housing about 100 students K through 8. It's nearby.
I thought of the family, the teacher and the school principal and sought my volume of This Place I Know. I needed to pass it forward.
Church of the Open Road Press