Tuesday, October 13, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Ninjas and Flying by Lois Brandt

Lois Brandt is the author of Maddi's Fridge, Winner of the 2015 International Literacy Association Primary Fiction Award. I've lately had the privilege of getting to know her as a friend and colleague and am pleased to share this wonderful guest post. Get ready to fly!


On a school visit last year I read to a group of about thirty kindergarteners. As I was answering questions, a little boy in a black t-shirt raised his hand high in the air. He had pulled the neck of his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. I thought he was just being shy, so when I called on him I asked him to pull his t-shirt off of his face so I could hear him clearly.

Instead, he raised himself high on his knees, fixed his eyes on mine, and shouted “I AM A NINJA!”

The school librarian was mortified and aides rushed in to have a little chat with our friend. I couldn’t bodily throw myself between the disciplinarians and the ninja, but I thought about it.

I loved that little ninja. I love that ability in kids to ignore reality – no, not ignore it – to change reality. Young children inhabit a space where the imagination rules and the laws of physics don’t apply.

When I was about the same age as the ninja, I flew down our town’s Main Street with a group of my friends. It was lovely. We stuck our arms out wide and whoosh! The four of us soared above the rooftops with a warm breeze in our faces.

The next day at school I eagerly spoke to my friends about our flying adventure. To my huge disappointment all three of them told me that we had not gone flying and I had been dreaming.

I wasn’t convinced. For the next few days, when my mom wasn’t looking, I launched myself off the arm of our couch. After the first splat I put pillows down on the floor, but I still believed. I knew that if I just held my arms in the right position I would fly. Then I would zoom around my house once to show my brothers, who were at this point teasing me mercilessly about my ‘dream,’ how wrong they were. After that I’d soar out of the house, free to fly anywhere in the world.

When my mother caught me jumping off the couch, arms spread-eagle, she calmly sat me down and tried to explain, once again, that flying down Main Street had only been a dream.

There is no “only” in dreams.

It’s been a long time since I flew down Main Street, but the memory of flying under my own power has informed some of the best decisions of my life. Those decisions range from joining the Peace Corps, to learning to kayak, to becoming a writer. (Writing, by the way, is a great way to fly.)

And when adult worries begin to drag me down to earth, what keeps me going, what makes the bells ring for me, is the living example of dreaming big that I see during every school visit. Children, especially kindergarteners, remind me that the only limits in my life are the ones I have built myself.

Long live the ninjas!

Years ago, Lois Brandt peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk; her friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge, Lois’ first picture book, is the result of that moment. Maddi’s Fridge is the recipient of a 2014 Christopher Award and the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Primary Book Award, among other honors. You can read more about Lois Brandt and Maddi’s Fridge at LoisBrandt.com


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.

2 comments:

  1. Great post, Lois! No matter how old we get, everyone needs to soar (p.s. if you'll take me flying I'll let you try on my magical invisibility boots - I've had them since I was a kid, but they always fit).

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  2. Oh yes! The magical thinking of childhood is, well, magical. That's why I love writing for kids.

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