being brought into being (The Free Dictionary)
When you think of an author laboring for years to write a book, getting it published and into readers hands, it's an act of creation, a true labor of love. Every time the cover is opened, the pages turned, the words read, the book comes to life. It becomes animated in our minds.
The beginning, whether it's the jacket, cover, title page, dedication, preface, first words, sentences, paragraphs or pages, beckons to readers. For me the jacket of Patricia MacLachlan's The Truth of Me (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) captures my attention; a boy, a dog, and deer surrounding a person nearby. Who is this person? Why is the dog sitting there so
This is a true story. The truest story ever.
You may not believe it. Your loss.
But it's true.
I have a witness.
With these six sentences I am committed to this book. I need to read this story. For me this tale is already becoming a part of my story.
Robert, an only child, is the latest in a long line of Roberts. His parents are deeply committed to their passion, their professional music careers; Robert thinks they like music more than they like him. To his parents credit they brought a rescue dog, a brown hound mix, Eleanor or Ellie for short, into their home for Robert.
For two months this summer Robert and Ellie will be staying with Maddy, his grandmother, his mother's mom. His parents are going on an international musical tour with their group, the Allegro Quartet. Robbie (as his grandmother calls him) loves spending time with Maddy for her stories, her ability to get close to wild animals in the nearby woods, but most of all because she, like him, make his parents nervous.
Maddy's doctor, Henry, lives four doors down from her cottage style home. Robbie knows he is more than Maddy's doctor; he's a fantastic cook and has dinner with them nearly every night. While Henry likes everything about Maddy he's not quite sure about the truth of her stories either. In a conversation with Kiddo (his name for Robert) Henry says:
"We all have our truths, Kiddo," says Henry. "Some are big truths. Most times they're small truths. But those stories are Maddy's truths. Your parents have different ones of their own."
For some reason, it's particularly important to Maddy this summer, for Ellie to be able to remain calm around all wild creatures. Robert is confident she can be except for squirrels. Imagine his surprise to see Ellie calmly sitting among squirrels next to Maddy one morning. So begins Robbie's training with Ellie.
Weeks go by, walks are taken off-leash every day from Maddy's house to Henry's house; both Robbie and Ellie are learning. One day upon their return home, Maddy has a surprise. They are going overnight camping, up the hill and into the woods.
In the morning after their first night there, Maddy's truth becomes a truth for Robbie, too. When they return the next night an unplanned event tips the scales into the danger zone. Little by little other truths emerge; gifts, fears, and the healing power of love.
Reading a book written by Patricia MacLachlan is like eating your favorite comfort food. Her written words surround you with their calm, their realistic portrayal of family dynamics. In this title one generation provides the bridge for another.
In choosing what words to use in conversations and in Robbie thoughts, we have clear pictures of each of the characters' personalities, even Ellie. Patricia MacLachlan knows people, she knows dogs, she has a keen sense of the natural world and she blends all this together with seamless beauty. When she writes, she invites; invites her readers to examine, wonder and appreciate the wonders of the human heart. Here's a sample passage.
"You'll see," says Maddy mysteriously. "Now who's cooking tonight?"
"What do you have in the pantry?" asks Henry.
"Cold cereal," says Maddy.
"Oh, good grief," says Henry. "I made spaghetti sauce this morning. I'll get it."
Henry goes out the door.
"Did you make meatballs, too?" calls Maddy.
"Yes, yes yes!" Henry calls back.
"You have chicken in the refrigerator," I say.
"I know," says Maddy, laughing. "I love Henry's spaghetti and meatballs."
The Truth of Me written by Patricia MacLachlan is one of those books you will read over and over. The strength of this tale does not diminish with subsequent readings but grows. That's the power of storytelling from a master. While this book can surely be enjoyed by an individual, as a read aloud it's a winner from the beginning to the final sentence.
To read the first twenty-seven pages of the book, follow this link to the publisher website.