Literature as a Key to Possibility
In this issue, reviewers considered the theme of how literature has the power to unlock potential, open possibilities, discover knowledge, and set one free, as well as to close doors. The twelve books reviewed in this issue address those capacities in both the characters in the books and the readers who enter the world of the narratives. Sometimes, when dealing with loss a door is closed but possibilities for new beginnings emerge. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson, and Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit, are engaging narratives that address loss and possibility, perhaps even the potential of becoming free. Then there are those books where possibilities are manifest in the actions of advocates for freedom, such as The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith. The Book Itch is an account of the life of Lewis Michaux and the Harlem bookstore he established that sold only books by African Americans. My Brother’s Secret gives readers a narrative that piques their curiosity about the Edelweiss Pirates of WWII.
The books in this issue also give readers the opportunity to discover knowledge, often right along with the characters within the books. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Trouble the Water by Frances O’ Roark Dowell, and Carlos and the Cornfield/Carlos y la milpa de maiz by Jan Romero Stevens present young protagonists who are learning about the world and themselves. The War that Saved My Life portrays a young girl transplanted to the “country” from London during WWII, and learns about the world, including words and feelings that sometimes overwhelm her during this relocation, while Carlos and the Cornfield helps readers come to know that doing a job well develops one’s integrity and self-esteem. Trouble the Water takes readers back to the 1960s where closed doors were opened through knowledge and appreciation of the other. In addition to knowledge, readers can also discover new ways of thinking about the world. In The Girl who Saved Yesterday by Julius Lester, there is the unlocking of our connections to the living and the dead, while in J.J. Austrian’s Worm Loves Worm, readers explore the idea that our connections to each other do not need to fit into a tidy predetermined box. Readers can also discover the potential of ideas in Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do with an Idea?
And finally, there is Little Tree by Loren Long, a picturebook that presents a metaphor of letting go of fear and accepting change. By doing so, we have the potential to unlock closed doors, pursue knowledge, and embrace the possibility of greater life discoveries. This is a wonderful set of books. Enjoy!
The deadline for submissions for Volume IX, Issue 1 is August 1, 2016. This is an open-themed issue, so share your summer reading with the Worlds of Words community!
Holly Johnson, Editor