My favorite teacher ever was Mr. Moreno. He taught 6th grade. I was one of those kids who went to at least one different school every year and the worst years were when I had to change schools mid year. It was hard enough to meet a bunch a new people when everyone was in a new situation, but to come in the middle when the dust had already settled was terrifying. Mr. Moreno’s class was one of those for me. The transition into his class was harder than most. I seemed to have nothing in common with the other students in the class, in fact, they seemed to speak a whole other language made up of perfectly normal English words with radically different meanings. I was, and am, painfully shy and the first week was always hard. I was so sure that this time I might actually die.
For Mr. Moreno being a teacher wasn’t what he did. Being a teacher was who he was. He had that innate understanding of how to reach a child’s mind and inspire the heart. He understood that school wasn’t about memorizing facts but rather learning how much there is out there to learn. He couldn’t make my transition easy -nothing could rescue me there. He did manage to make it easier. He recognized a kindred spirit. Over the years of meeting new teachers, both mine and my son’s, I have seen some great class libraries. A wonderful shelf filled with wonderful books. A reason to finish early or do well, in hopes of spending a few minutes in another world. Mr. Moreno didn’t just have a shelf or a couple of shelves. He had two eight foot units back to back in the middle of the room. They were four shelves high and stuffed with the best books any sixth grader could hope for. Smart guy that he was, within two days of my being in his class, he moved my desk right next to that oasis. It was my salvation. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t seem to make any friends (I did eventually ) or find my way around (I could navigate the place blindfolded now) or manage to get through an entire day without falling flat on my face (I still do that pretty much). I went to school every day because there was a book on the shelf I hadn’t yet read or a book on my desk I hadn’t yet finished.
One day mid year when I was fed up with how hard everything still was, Mr. Moreno winked and told me to hang in there. He had a project coming up that I really didn’t want to miss. Boy was he right. We were going to write and illustrate our very own books for open house. He spent a week on lessons about how to publish a book and then set us loose with our endless imaginations, a sheaf of blank white papers, a few pencils and a tub of colored pencils and crayons. The books could be as long or short as we liked. We folded the papers in half, drew in title/author pages and page by page we wrote the Great American Novel. Okay, more like the great sixth grade short story, but at the end we sewed the pages together and glued on cardboard covers and they were as close to real published books as most of us would ever get. My story was of course ridiculous, a creation myth about cottontail bunnies, tall ladders and clouds -I am sure you get the idea. My mom couldn’t have been more proud.
I tell you, I wish for it to still be that easy to fill a blank white space when I am sitting here staring at a blank white computer screen that I need to fill with content, any content.
Mr. Moreno, sadly didn’t live too many years after I left his class. An undetected tumor took a brilliant educator away from his students far too soon. He made school fun. He taught me that it didn’t matter that I didn’t always do well as long as I did my best.
I found myself thinking about him recently when my son brought home a 6th grade class project. His teacher had arranged for something fun. His class was to write and illustrate their own books. Then the books would actually be published. My son slaved over his book. Writing in pencil until it was perfect, going over it pen to make it pop. The illustrations were first drawn out on tracing paper then painstakingly transferred to the pages, drawn in and colored. In the end the books were sent out for binding and a beautiful hardbound book made its way into my hands. Knowing the love/hate relationship my boy has with books just made this volume all the more special.
I truly enjoyed this book. The story is engaging and the drawings are enchanting. Beyond the Snow Globe is a story about John Smith a hapless man who, for some reason, falls asleep in his own bed and wakes up in a snow covered forest inhabited by seemingly evil snowmen and a besieged village. He must weigh his own conscience and the possibility of returning to his world with the need to help the helpless. It ends with a bit of a twist, but you won’t find any spoilers here. (Leave a comment and I will send you a link to the video Author Reading of this adorable book)
As a mom, I find this book is wonderful and delightful and couldn’t be better. As a reader there needs to be more, more, more. The story stands on its own but would benefit from more details about John and the world he now inhabits. I still wonder at the whys and hows, there is just enough to tantalize, to offer a glimpse at tremendous potential. I will beg for a sequel because a story like this can never be fully told.
Next review for me will be the the YA novel The Contaminants By Devin K. Smyth