Gratitude: A Story of Books and Friendship


This blog is about children’s literature–the reading of it, the teaching of it, the writing of it, and the ways in which it intersects with other aspects of my life, professional and personal. I generally don’t get personal here (I have other blogs for that), but today, I am driven to the personal by a staggering gift and my desire to express my gratitude to the dear friend behind the gift.

In January, while living an ocean away from home, I was diagnosed with a serious illness. My good friend Jordan Sonnenblick asked my husband what would help me at this difficult time, and the answer, as always in difficult times, was books, in particular kids’ books. Jordan took action. He sent out a clarion call, as he put it, to many of his writer friends, and the response was an entire library of signed books.

A big box of books is always a thoughtful gift, but a big box of signed books, shipped across an ocean is especially welcome. The books themselves will entertain, comfort, invigorate, and inspire me. The time taken by the authors to respond to Jordan’s call and to sign their books makes each book more special. And the stack of them–two stacks actually–sits by me now, a wall of words and creativity and warmth, lending strength.

But the story is not so simple, as none of the authors involved would expect it to be. A few short days after assuring Jordan that it would be safe to send this wonderful gift to us abroad, my husband and I made the heartbreaking decision that we needed to return to the US for me to get the best care. We abruptly abandoned friends, family, school, and really, really good food, and in the eight hours of a transatlantic flight found ourselves back in the US.

By this time, I had been told about the box of books, which perhaps passed east over the ocean as we traveled west. I left instructions with friends to receive the package and send it onward to me. There would be a delay, but the books would make there way to my side in good time. The packagage did not arrive. Time passed. Finally, we meet a form in triplicate and our antagonist: a nefarious, mustached bureacrat personifying Spanish Customs.

More forms. E-mails. All in Spanish. Time continues to pass. I have given up hope. I am grateful for the thought, which is what really counts. I tell myself that somewhere the children of Spanish Customs’ officers have lucked into a great library of wonderful books. Perhaps good will come of this.

Finally, we get word that the package has been returned to the sender. I laugh. I do not imagine that the books will ever return to the US, but, miracle of miracles, Jordan calls to tell me the box has returned. He sends it onward. A few days later it arrives, intact, brimming with wonderful, wonderful books. Sr. Spanish Customs was defeated, or perhaps he wasn’t so bad after all.

And now I sit with two stacks of books at my side, and I offer this post as a gesture of gratitude to Jordan and to all his writer friends for their generosity and for the resilience of their words, which have traveled the world and will guide me through my own journey of healing. Thank you.

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