We all mourn heroes passing. For me the saddest ones are storytellers. The genius of their skills being silenced always gets to me. The most recent one was the passing of Eric Carle. Author of the beloved The Very Hungry Caterpillar which was a mainstay of my children's reading time.
We bought our copy at The Linden Tree in Los Altos, California. If you are ever near Los Altos, it is worth the stop. It is the best mecca for children's literature. Today, our copy of the delightful caterpillar book is carefully stored away with the other favorite books we are keeping for generations to come.
I never calculated the times we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Nor did I think to calculate the readings of Stella Luna or Where the Wild Things Are or Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book. Yet every one of these stories carried us away to worlds unknown. Their impact would shape our daily lives. For years as I drove my daughters home from school they would shriek and point out the woolly caterpillars crossing the blacktop. Each shriek was a reminder for me not to hit them. Lest we kill a very hungry caterpillar.
YA Books & Stories
Like Puff the Magic Dragon, childhood books gave way to deeper books and stories. In our home that transition exploded with nightly family reading. We ploughed through multiple series, as well as a few stand alones. Many of our favorites were British authors, Lewis, Tolkien and Rowling. The spellbinding skill of each held us tightly as we progressed with our daily lives. We would quote, compare, dream and hope with their words. So binding were these books in my girls' lives, that as adults they traveled to England in early 2020 to celebrate Valentine's Day by visiting touchstones of stories and authors they loved.
However, British authors weren't our only favorites. My son and I became deeply attached to stories of Richard Peck. Mr. Peck's works came into our lives as a suggestion from my brother. To whet our appetite he borrowed an audio version of On The Wings of Heroes from his library. We were hooked. Over the summer we amassed every Richard Peck book we could find. Every day at lunch, my son and I would read a chapter so that we could escape our world and spend our days in Decatur, Illinois. There was no one better than Grandma Dowdel to bring delight and adventure to a middle school autistic boy. On the day Richard Peck passed, our hearts were broken. Never again would we hear from Grandma Dowdel.
Forever With Us
I find though, that the hole in our hearts for our favorite authors' passings can be assuaged through reading. Unlike athletes or national figures, authors' stories live on. Day after day you can curl up in a soft corner, pull out a book, flip it open to any page and spend the day or week with your storytelling hero. Do we wish for more books from them? Yes. There is nothing more exciting than a discovered manuscript that had been hidden in a drawer. Just ask Harper Lee fans. However, we don't have to wait. We can enjoy any of their works for the rest of our days. Thank you Eric Carle and everyone for leaving us eternal joy through your stories.