As I was unlocking my office door in the middle of the day, I discovered a rumpled sheet of notebook paper sticking out of the disused mailbox next to the door. Curious, I unfolded it.
We have an important question for you. Can we come down?
M & A
Hmm. These girls meant business, they’d come armed with paper and pencil, not to be deterred. I remembered one of the 5th grade teachers saying this morning that two girls had come by my office while I was out and about the building. This must be their note. In my head, I flipped through the possibilities of what they might need to ask me.
I decided the best solution was to investigate. So I trekked to the 5th grade hall at the far end of the building. I set my mug of tea down on the table outside 5B and tried to open the door as unobtrusively as possible.
I could see the teacher, crouched down on the rug with a book club. He looked up and quickly sussed out why I was there. Standing, he called the two girls. At opposite corners of the room they untangled themselves from the pages of their books. I sat on the corner of a table and smiled at them as they approached.
“Hi girls. I saw your note.”
“Oh, good.” Missy* continued, but at first what she was saying didn’t make sense to me.
Then Amy* chimed in, “We know you love this book too, so when we got to this confusing part we thought you could help us figure it out.” She held up One for the Murphys.
I melted right there on the corner of the table. Hands clasped to my chest and head tilted I fangirled. A gushy, “Awwww,” escaped me and the girls responded with looks of “We know!” “I love that book!” I remembered telling Amy a few days before when she told me she was going to start the book how Mrs. Murphy was the best book-mom I’d ever read. But I was also melting that they’d thought of me. They are mine only in the sense that we are all three readers. Every reader in the building is ‘mine’ though from afar.
“Ok, show me the tricky part.”
They closed ranks on me, and head together, shoulder to shoulder we shared the book. Missy opened to a page completely in italics.
“Oh, right. One thing that makes this book complex is that the author uses flashbacks where Carley is remembering something that already happened.”
“I think this is one of those parts,” Missy said, “but look. What does it mean here when it says ‘she held her down.’?”
My eyes flew quickly across that section of the page, recalling this very dramatic scene, in one way the crux of the story.
Their eyes looked pained and confused.
We had an impromptu book club right there in the corner of the room. We gushed over the book, lamented the shocking revelation they’d just encountered, tried to compare it to our own experiences and found it alien. Then we marvelled at Carley and some of her reactions to things came into better focus. Ahh, this was why…
I left them with a tip to keep thinking about why Carley’s actions and reactions to things seemed to contrast and contradict what we would expect, and to think back to this moment in the book when that happened. I invited them to call on me anytime as they’re reading.
These girls are real readers. Wild readers sometimes can’t help it; they have to seek out others who will understand their strong reactions to a particular book. And sometimes it has to happen–right at that moment. I can recall a few of those missions myself: walking into a colleague’s classroom while she was teaching, tears streaming down my face, eyes puffy and still sniffling because I’d just finished our book club book during my prep. Two of the girls from our book club happened to be in that class, and when they saw me barge in with that ugly cry look on my face and the book cradled to my chest, they smiled big. Our reactions are sometimes more delicious when we share them.
I wish you all moments like these with readers you know (tears optional!).
And if you haven’t read One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, it really does have the best fiction-mom ever. You will probably cry, but Carley and Mrs. Murphy will make you smile, too.
*Not their actual names.