Friday, September 17, 2010

The Day of the Pelican: Dive Right In

As a transplanted coastal person, my affection for pelicans goes 'way back. I worried about their survival in the 1960s, when they were on the Endangered Species list. I rejoiced at the regeneration of their numbers when I visited the Oregon Coast last year and saw them flocked in the hundreds everywhere we went.

I've spent many happy hours watching pelicans dive; their dive is the oddest combination of clumsiness and grace. You can't feel bad when you are watching pelicans dive.

I know that Katherine Paterson's Day of the Pelican is more about refugees than birds, but I can't help but take pleasure in the title. It's my read for this weekend, and perhaps it's yours, too. In the last week 75 copies have flown out of here, all for free, all simply taken rather than checked out, with the understanding that they might well find their way into many homes rather than simply one, as the community reads this novel as a shared experience.

It's pretty common knowledge hereabouts that Katherine Paterson is a Vermont author, a Barre resident. She also is a wonderful storyteller. 

Long ago and in another country I watched groups of otherwise well mannered elementary teachers come almost to blows as they sparred to add her Bridge to Terabithia to a district's core reading list. Would it be assigned to grade 4, grade 5, or grade 6? I listened to teacher after teacher argue for its placement in her grade, her classroom, so passionate was each to have the pleasure of sharing Paterson's little masterpiece with her students.

And so it's off I go to my weekend encounter with another Paterson gift. If you should have one of the Pelicans, I urge you to enjoy, then to pass on to a friend, neighbor, or family member. If you haven't gotten a copy and a neighbor has, ask to be next on the list. 

Let's send these books throughout the delightful community that is Norwich, and then, when the frost is on the pumpkin, let's get together and share our impressions. Beth Reynolds will be gathering with our kids, and Stephanie Smith will be conducting a discussion with adults, sometime around or just after Halloween. 

No tricks; just treats.

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