Friday, December 17, 2010

Stories without words, without borders

My friend is drawn to a book that has many words, which, by the way, he has absolutely no idea what the words, and sentences mean. He is three and a half. Anyway, he reads (rather he gazes at the pictures), so focused. I guess he is under the spell of the illustrations as he turns the pages, and unwritten stories unfold. I don’t dare interrupt him, but wonder what he is thinking, what he perceives, what he imagines. I should ask him what the story is about. Then he would tell me the story, the story only he can tell... Children enter the world of literature (or simply stories), not just by words, but also pictures that hold their eyes, and enchant them.

In Giora Carmi’s
A Circle of Friends, a boy goes to a bakery and gets a muffin for a treat. On his way back home, the boy sees a homeless man sleeping on a bench. He looks at his muffin, having taken only a few bites...hesitates, then leaves his muffin for the homeless man. The man wakes up, surprised, and happily eats the muffin. The man sees birds in a nest, and leaves some crumbs for them. The story goes on, the boy’s kindness brings unexpected, yet, joyful moments to the boy. The story is told in wordless pages, only through illustrations.

This wordless story can travel to any corner of the globe, beyond borders, beyond languages, as does kindness. Kindness, Giora Carmi whispers, goes beyond borders, whether between strangers or between people and animals. Then as the title says, we are all in a circle of friends, where miracles of kindness happen (or the law of kindness is discovered). The quiet kindness and sharing are the spirit of the holiday seasons that we remember most, and have our children grow with.

p.s. For little children, telling a story of a wordless picture book may not be an easy task at first. They need our interaction, and theatrical(?) help. Becoming a storyteller from a listener, I guess, is unknown to them, yet, an exciting experience for them. As it often happens with children who have imaginary friends, this experience will expand their vocabulary, and ability to form a narrative. I wonder how would the same wordless book be rendered in different cultures, let’s say, by a boy in New York or by a girl in Peru or in China? But all stories will be unique in their own way, the story that only the child can tell. Monroe County Public Library (Indiana) has compiled a list of the books without words.

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