Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, May 30, 2011


Memorial Day is more than just getting a long weekend or heralding the unofficial first day of summer.  Tradionally honoring those soliders who died in service of these United States, its origins can be traced back to the Civil War.  Today while remembering those brave men and women of the military many are also thinking of treasured and loved family and friends they have lost.

It seems fitting The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman and illustrated by Rob Shepperson should be the book highlighted in my post today.  Carolyn Coman is the recipient of the Newbery Honor award for What Jamie Saw and a Michael Printz Honor winner for Many Stones.  Both of these titles were finalists for the National Book Award.  The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have published illustrations by Shepperson.  He has collaborated with Coman on other titles, The Big House, and its sequel, Sneaking Suspicions.

As the reader turns the first several pages black and white pen, ink and pencil graphics show a sleeping child which becomes two young girls awakening and getting dressed.  The older of the two reminds the younger not to forget to wear her whistle; a whistle to be blown if she needs help from her sister.  This daily reminder of Hope to Honey, is representative of the deep and binding love between the siblings.  This closeness is ever so necessary in light of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Scroggins.  The two could be on a poster advertising cold, unloving, selfish and downright evil. 

For the simple act of laughter, Honey is abandoned along the road waving in a swirl of dust as the car speeds away.  Hope's pleas for her parents to turn around and get her sister fall on deaf ears.  She is told to forget Honey.

All signs of her are removed from their home.  Hope is sent to live and sleep in the garage.  She gives in to despair finding refuge in continuous sleep so she can dream of Honey.

Imagine her surprise when a large, jolly, kind man, Obleratta, interrupts her dreams standing in the garage one morning.  He is a pick-up and delivery specialist working for the WWMB, the World Wide Memory Bank.  It appears that her account is unbalanced with insufficient memory deposits; the result of too much dreaming.

To her wonder Hope is now an invited guest in this amazing world of  memory and dreams.  A host of colorful, imaginative characters greet her every exploration:  Sterling Prion, overseer and man in charge of all memories in the bank, Violette Mumm, guardian of the Dream Vault, Helen, caretaker of first memories, memies and Ute and Franka, Sorters of lobeglobes, marble-like memories traveling down the gigantic Receptor from each and every living soul. 

Continually astonished by the charitable words and actions of all, but most notably by the conversations she has with Violette Mumm,  Hope begins to believe that she may one day see Honey again.
  "Such a dedicated dreamer!  You're trying to find your way back to her!"  Hope's eyes got bigger.  "I am?"  She straightened up.  "Is there a way?  Back to her?"  Her heart galloping in her chest.  "Oh, my dear, of that there is no doubt," Violette answered.  "And your dreams are leading the way."  "They are?"  Hope said daring to hope.

And what has happened to Honey?  Readers are treated to the soft, inviting wordless visuals of Shepperson which are carefully placed between each written chapter telling a story of their own.  A truckload of happy, laughing, lollipop-sucking children have picked her up.  Honey has become a member of the Clean Slate Gang whose only purpose is to war against the WWMB by exploding broken memories in the Dump and gumming-up the inter-workings of this institution with sticky lollipops.  Why they are doing this is for the reader to discover.  The story ends as it began with no text but with a series of picture-perfect pages.

Carolyn Coman remains a storyteller of extraordinary talent.  Rob Shepperson is the ideal match with illustrations that lend themselves to an inventive parallel word.  While this is a first rate fantasy it also touches on childhood fears and the power of memory and dreams to provide hope and extend the boundaries of love.

This post is in memory of my father, a veteran of World War II serving in the Aleutian Islands for a year and for inspiring me to be open to the endless possibilities afforded by reading as much as possible whenever possible.  Thank you, Dad, for expanding my mind and my world.

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