Recently, my sister and I have collaborated on a family history book, a labor of love that stirs up memories of childhood. In one conversation we talked about a pivotal point in our lives, crucial in our development as life-time readers. We grew up in a Boston suburb complete with sidewalks lined by elm trees. Atlantic Street was a busy road where trucks rumbled by and drivers had to watch for kids playing catch in the street. One fine day, my mother gave me permission to cross the street. It was an historic moment. Now I could walk to the library all by myself. Thus began my enchantment with literature and in particular, children’s literature.
This endearment to children’s books was fired anew as I had the great joy of reading to my three children and now my grandchildren. On this sultry summer day in Maine, I think of one of my favorite picture books, Time of Wonder, winner of the 1958 Caldecott Award, written by Robert McCloskey.
If art is meant to evoke emotions, then Time of Wonder is art at a high level. Through text and paintings, McCloskey makes us feel like we are standing on the shore on a foggy morning “on the edge of nowhere”. We see clouds darkening the Camden Hills, the bay spotted with boats, and the happy noise of children diving off rocks into a sparkling sea.
Summer passes. Days grow shorter and shorter. An unusual sky appears over Eggemoggin Reach. Lobstermen study the sky.
“We’re gonna have some weather.”
“It’s a comin’.”
“She’s gonna blow.”
All living things wait for a hurricane to pound the seaside villages. After the storm, children explore the woods and beaches and see a hummingbird buzz overhead. The story winds down as the family begins to pack and leave the Maine Island. “A little bit sad about the place they were leaving, a little glad about the place they were going.”
I do bet that my adult children know the last line of this classic story. We read it every summer. “Where do hummingbirds go in a hurricane?”