Guest Blogger Terry Lindberg, Children’s Reading Place Reader In Residence
As a young boy, I dreamed of living inside a tree. One of my favourite books at the time was My Side of the Mountain by Jean George.
The book’s protagonist, Sam Gribley, age 15, leaves his parents cramped, New York apartment to live out of a hollowed-out hemlock tree on his Great-Grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. He learns to survive in the wilds, trains a peregrine falcon named Frightful, befriends a weasel called Baron and a mischievous raccoon named Jessie C. James.
A “nature boy” at heart, this book captured my imagination and inspired many of my waking and sleeping dreams! I bought an injured screech owl for a wooden nickel from a prospector and nursed it back to health, filled a household aquarium with pond-water and hatched a batch of mosquitoes that ravaged my family members, raised gerbils, kittens, dogs, garter snakes, and even a queen bee. Although I never did manage to inhabit a tree trunk, I lived out of tents, lean-to shelters, snow caves and a VW “hippy” van!
What got me thinking of My Side of the Mountain was our recent move into the Children’s Reading Place as “Readers in Residence”. Tucked into the upper floor dormer of this beautiful character house, listening to the cacophony of migratory seagulls, looking out across the treetops to the river, and lying on my back watching the clouds scudding across the skylight, has been a magical experience; not unlike a hollowed-out tree for playful grownups!
Imagine, a house full of books where children and families arrive with great anticipation and cry out in joyful delight to discover a whale in the bathtub, a private reading nook in the wall, a living room transformed into the Secret Garden, and a hallway Where the Wild Things Are! Sometimes I lie awake at night and imagine the books surrounding us coming to life; characters stepping out of the pages for a “wild rumpus”! Max and the Wild Things thundering down the stairs. Rosie Revere Engineer hammering away in the Maker’s Space, building a fireproof castle for the Paper Bag Princess and Captain Underpants swinging on the porch protecting the house from intruders.
Image courtesy of Shannon Yau Photography
Where would we be without our imagination? It has been inspiring to witness firsthand the magic of the Children’s Reading Place as it transforms children and their families. After the initial excitement and race to discover special books and reading spaces, families settle into the Sunflower Room to quietly read or wide-eyed children grab a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt’s hand and lead them urgently to some secret reading nook.
I watched as a young girl tenaciously clung to a book and took it everywhere in the house with her…like a prized teddy-bear or Linus’s blanket. Hearing that she could leave the house with a free book, she was determined to keep this book nearby! Another child sheepishly asked me if she could come back to the Children’s Reading Place again. When I told her “Of course!”, she raced around the corner and enthusiastically announced to her family that they could return!
Christine and I feel very blessed to have been introduced to the pleasure of reading as small children. It is now such a gift to be given the opportunity to live in a magical book house and to work alongside dedicated staff and volunteers to help foster children and families’ love of reading.
With much appreciation,
Terry (and Christine) Lindberg