In­spi­ra­tion!

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - -Shanna Bernier

It’s hard to get in­spired some­times. Life is hard. The world is scary and weird and can some­times feel hope­less. I find my­self strug­gling with the theme I chose for this col­umn de­spite nor­mally be­ing a hope-filled, gen­er­ally in­spired in­di­vid­ual. Some­times we need a re­set. It can be over­whelm­ing for any­one, of any age, to hear about the world and all the bad stuff in it. Es­cap­ing to a good book with an in­spi­ra­tional pro­tag­o­nist can help re­set your mind­set and fa­cil­i­tate your own in­spi­ra­tion. Kids and teenagers, just like fully grown adults, have mo­ments of dis­cour­age­ment and slumps in cre­ativ­ity. Some­times I need a hero/hero­ine to re­mind me about the joys of dis­cov­er­ing pas­sion, over­com­ing op­pres­sion or res­cu­ing their peo­ple. Harry Pot­ter and Kat­niss Everdeen might be fic­tional char­ac­ters, but the emo­tions they evoke in read­ers are real.

I asked my friends on­line to tell me about books they read as teens which gave them in­spi­ra­tion. There were lots of re­sponses and a wide va­ri­ety of books with many themes. Some­thing that shone through as a com­mon in­spi­ra­tion was a strong pro­tag­o­nist. Some of the books were set in fan­tasy land­scapes, while oth­ers were set in real places and times. Re­gard­less of the set­ting, most of the time the book was about self-dis­cov­ery or over­com­ing ad­ver­sity. When I re­flect upon the books I read as a teen that made me feel em­pow­ered and in­spired lots of pop­u­lar YA ti­tles come to mind. The Golden Compass books by Philip Pull­man, The Hunger Games series, Harry Pot­ter. I think I am in­spired by the un­likely hero. I am in­spired by the small and down­trod­den ris­ing up to pro­mote the power of good in the world.

For very young read­ers who might need some in­spi­ra­tion in times of chal­lenge, or who do not feel they are up for a cre­ative chal­lenge, I rec­om­mend the books The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. (Both avail­able in the Len­noxville Li­brary.)

The Dot tells the story of young girl, Vashti, who sits in her Art class dis­cour­aged and feel­ing like she is not able to make any­thing wor­thy of the ti­tle Art. Her teacher tells her to just make a mark. She de­fi­antly makes a small dot on the page, and then her teacher in­structs her to sign it. The next day she comes in to find the pic­ture framed in the class­room. Vashti is in­spired to cre­ate many more dot pic­tures be­cause her teacher be­lieved in her and al­lowed her def­i­ni­tion of art ex­pand.

The book Ish has a sim­i­lar theme. Draw­ing is what Ra­mon does to make him­self happy. But a rude re­mark by Ra­mon's older brother, Leon, turns Ra­mon's care­free sketches into joy­less work when he be­comes con­vinced his pic­tures are not ac­cu­rate, and there­fore not good enough. His lit­tle sis­ter later finds all his re­jected pic­tures and hangs them up in homage. He learns this and re­al­izes his nar­row def­i­ni­tion of ‘good’, or ‘re­al­is­tic’ is lim­it­ing his en­joy­ment and cre­ativ­ity. He learns that a house in a draw­ing can be ‘house-ish’ and that per­fec­tion is not nec­es­sary for art to be good. Kids of­ten feel a lot of pres­sure to make some­thing per­fect or cor­rect at school or even in their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar lives. This book ex­plores let­ting our­selves re­lax to let cre­ativ­ity flow and feel in­spired by what we cre­ate, and not need­ing to meet the rigid stan­dards oth­ers set out for us.

I think what I find more in­spir­ing about books as an ed­u­ca­tor and par­ent is how many beau­ti­ful books ex­ist to lift up im­por­tant mes­sages of kind­ness and hope. We live in a world which is scary and un­cer­tain. I feel lifted up by the gor­geous work that con­tem­po­rary chil­dren's lit­er­a­ture is gen­er­at­ing. We are so blessed to have so many ex­cel­lent and in­spir­ing sto­ries to share with our fam­i­lies. Stop by your lo­cal li­brary soon to pick up some­thing to warm your heart and make you feel in­spired.

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