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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scent of a Book

A new fabulous library volunteer started at school today. As I read aloud to the fourth graders, she was shelving nonfiction. My sense that she was listening to the book was confirmed when, after the students departed, she said, "What book were your reading? I couldn't help but listen." I showed her Sterling North's Rascal. Taking the book from me, she said, "I knew it was an old one." She opened the book to its center and sniffed deeply. "I love this scent," she uttered with a sigh.

The students love the book. When I began reading it on the first day of school (to all six sections of information literacy students), I was not certain it was the right choice. Set in 1918, it definitely offers a glimpse into a slower pace of life...without television and computers. Yet after a few pages, the students were hooked, begging for me to read beyond May, the first chapter. Almost palpable tension swirled as Sterling and his friend Oscar attempted to trap a mother raccoon and her four babies. Sterling's drawing of the short straw, bringing him to the branch of an oak tree where that mother screeched, made them cringe in anticipation of what she might do. But when Oscar's mother showed Sterling how to feed the raccoon warm milk through a wheat straw, many nodded in understanding. 

In June, they love how Rascal, at two months old, learns instinctively how to wash a minnow caught in Sterling's bait pond, how to better hold a crayfish in order not to be pinched, how to open the screen door to get to his companion's human bed, and how to hold a bottle of strawberry pop to get the last drops. They also love how Rascal learns quickly not to wash his sugar lump as he would wash a minnow! I love how this gentle story captivates readers almost a hundred years after the events occurred. It was an excellent choice.

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