That night Mama told Imani about Anansi, the small spider who captured a snake to gain a name for himself.
“Mama, do you believe that a spider, so small and weak, could really capture a snake, so long and quick?” Imani asked.
“I do,” answered Mama.
“Even if no one else believes it?” Imani asked.
“A challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it,” Mama said. “Imani, it is only you who must believe.”
from: Imani’s Moon
by JaNay Brown-Wood
illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
When I heard that Stephen Hawking died, I found myself asking myself What is the difference between courage and bravery?
Where does a belief in yourself come from? Probably some combination of confidence, courage and a keen sense of humor. Dr. Hawking said of himself in a 2013 documentary, “I am probably better known for my appearances on ‘The Simpsons’ and on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ than I am for my scientific discoveries.” Part of that is because he knew his work as a theoretical physicist is difficult for most of us to understand. Part of it is because he understood our popular culture and chose be part of it. Mostly, though, it was his sense of humor. He delighted in the tricks of the universe. (I’ll tackle the difference between intelligence and wisdom another time. Dr. Hawking had those, too.)
Courage is different than bravery. It is more thoughtful, longer lasting, more deliberate. Conquering fear is part of it, but action comes after much thought. Action despite knowing the consequences. Like choosing to live with the knowledge that a progressive debilitating disease will kill you and not ignore it, but accommodate to it. Like using a wheelchair to get to work. Like talking with computer assistance. Like continuing to search for an elusive theory that will explain the universe.
My working definition of bravery goes something like this: I’m afraid of getting hurt, physically or emotionally, but this situation demands action. Plow ahead and get it done, anyway. Not as much thought goes into the decision making. Mostly it is a reaction. Like performing at my piano recital. There was real emotional danger in making a mistake. I could embarrass myself and maybe my teacher and maybe even my parents. I could look foolish; but it was my turn and I took a deep breath and went on. All turned out fine. After all, I was eight or nine or ten. All the parents and grandparents were polite, proud, enchanted enough to clap when a child performed.
Dr. Hawking was brave in the face of real danger. He presented revolutionary ideas that sometimes were controversial. He dared to explain the complexities of the universe in ways that even I could understand. He showed us all how to laugh in spite of finding ourselves in awful circumstances.
But he had the courage to live with ALS every day. Because he was interested in our world. Because he cared about sharing his knowledge. And because he loved life.
Thank you, Dr. Stephen Hawking. The universe is better off for having had you in it.
FORBES: It was a registered gun. Our records show that Mr. Nesbitt applied for a license to have a gun on the premises in August of 1989. That permit was still in effect. The gun was licensed to him from that time.
by Walter Dean Myers
Harper Teen, 1999
Printz Award winner
National Book Award Finalist
Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Marjory was a humanitarian, a suffragist, an environmentalist. She was an activist before the word was even invented.
Serendipity worked in Marjory’s life, just as it does in so many of our lives. Even though her father was not part of her life as she was growing up, they ended up in the same place at the same time. Marjory completed her studies in journalism and looked for a career as Frank Stoneman, her father, acquired ownership of the Miami Herald through a serendipitous route of his own.
A great movement was underway to drain the swamp (The Everglades) to make room for more development and more people. Frank saw how wrongheaded the plans were and editorialized about them.
Marjory learned the science of how the Everglades works to provide fresh water for all of South Florida. She wrote of it, too. A best-seller called Everglades: River of Grass. And she spoke of it to anyone who would listen long after the book was published.
Marjory’s activism stopped great harm. Although the Everglades continues to fight for its life against pollution and over-development, Marjory led a movement to call attention to a problem and mobilized friends and acquaintances to save a whole ecosystem.
She would be proud of the student activists at her High School. Armed with hashtags, forward thinking, and determination, they have begun a national, even international, movement.
People are talking about guns. People are asking hard questions.
People (and companies) are beginning to stand up to the NRA.
So maybe even a killer, full of fear and hate and intent on doing harm, can be the impetus for great good.
There’s fabulous irony in that. Irony not lost on the great kids, teachers, administrators, and alumnae of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, activists all.
--stay curious (and involved!)
Mrs. Reegs just smiles. . . . She always says I’m the only person she knows who can walk and read at the same time without ever bumping into anything. When I asked if this meant I was a weirdo, she said no. It meant that even when I wasn’t looking, I had something inside me that just knew the way to go.
. . .
So there is no choice for me but to go in. Having no idea what will come out.
from: The Way To Bea
written by Kat Yeh
Little, Brown and Company, 2017
It took me a long time to find my career. After several false-starts, I settled into librarianship, a perfect fit.
But, first I had to find my way out of high school. I graduated with mediocrity. High school was not fun for me. It didn’t seem to prepare me for my future. Elementary school was way more fun. Maybe I could be a teacher and teach little kids.
Like Mrs. Zimmerman, who still holds a warm place in my heart.
But that was not in my stars.
I loved words and writing. I wrote many bad short stories while I was in high school and college and much more bad and angsty poetry. Maybe English would be a good subject for me to teach. But, shortly into it, I realized that I got along much better with the characters in the novels I taught than I did with most of my students.
So that was not to be either.
Then I discovered that although librarians are among the smartest people in our society and among the most organized, and although I was really neither very much of those things, I found my way into and out of library school. I gained a greater appreciation for organization. I found ways to answer questions, both serious and quirky. Before Google. And I could spend my days with books and smart people. And lots of kids who loved books and stories. Ahhh! a wonderful home away from home.
And here I am—still trying my hand at poetry. Still trying my hand at writing. Still collecting rejections. But, still curious, still seeking answers (with and without Google), still interested in the world.
And a little more satisfied with letting things happen as they will. More satisfied with observing the world work the way it works.
And still trying to make my little piece of the world a little kinder.
I'm a children's writer and poet intent on observing the world and nurturing those I find in my small space .