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Readers Reflect: Celebrations

October 4, 2010

“Readers Reflect,” is a weekly post by a guest blogger reflecting on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at Today we welcome author Alyssa Satin Capucilli author of such beloved children’s books as “Biscuit” and “Katy Duck”.

It’s time for celebrations.  The new school year has begun and as those of us who work with children know, filling a child’s world with celebrations is what we strive to accomplish every day, sometimes, despite the odds. We celebrate the first day of school, the first loose tooth, the first time we watch in wonder as a butterfly hatches from its chrysalis.  We celebrate the change of seasons, holidays and life events. And when we celebrate the power a child feels when they learn to read all by themselves, what a magical and magnificent celebration that is indeed. How privileged and humbled I am to be a small part of that celebration.  But truthfully, it is Biscuit,  who deserves the kudos here!

When I was younger, I was an avid reader and an animal lover. Growing up in a small apartment in Brooklyn, no amount of pleading or dramatics could convince my parents to get a dog. So when the librarian pressed a copy of Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary into my hands, it was cause for celebration, indeed. I felt as if I had met my soul mate in Henry, a boy who yearned for a dog just as much as I did. And when Henry carried Ribsy home in the cardboard box that said “Don’t let ‘em call you Baldy,”   I shared in Henry’s victory, albeit vicariously.  Literature transcended the covers of the book, and kept this reader’s dreams alive. Who knew that some thirty years later, that moment, that seed of shared glory with a beloved character, would fuel my life as a writer and the world of Biscuit?

Biscuit was born one evening when my daughter Laura was dog sitting for our neighbor’s huge golden retriever. She spent hours trying to convince that dog to sleep in her bedroom by bringing him snacks, her favorite blanket, her dearest doll.  Watching Laura, ever gentle and patient in her dialogue with the dog, I was suddenly whisked back to my own childhood room, with Henry and Ribsy safely in hand.  I could even smell the dusky pages.   I sat down to write the first story about Biscuit, a small yellow puppy and an omniscient child who understands his every woof, his every need.  As Biscuit approaches his fifteenth “birthday” celebration, over fifteen million emergent readers have celebrated learning to read independently with this puppy. From sharing a hot dog in the big city, to welcoming a new baby, from losing a beloved bear, to grocery shopping with grandpa, I attempt to celebrate these moments with a heartfelt “Woof, woof!” and a  joyful wag of a tail.  Who knows when the book pressed into a young reader’s hand may be the very one to nourish, nurture and even sustain a dream?  In essence, literature serves us a sliver of the world.  We may learn love and loss, courage and compassion, patience, perseverance, faith and hope. Reading empowers us;  characters, inspire us.  Now that is something to celebrate.

For the record, I did eventually get a dog. And I must admit that I am elated each time Huckleberry follows me about! I imagine it’s just how Henry felt with Ribsy at his heels.  I imagine it’s just how Laura felt when our neighbor’s dog finally settled down by her bed.  I imagine it’s just how the little girl feels when Biscuit needs one more hug, and one more kiss.

Woof, woof!  Wherever they are found, may your celebrations be many!

See more of Alyssa’s work here. Thank you Alyssa!

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