A small group discussion arose at the recent book festival about the appropriateness for young children of the darkness in the Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book winner, The Stamp Collector. The next week followed with the Boston bombings. Many of us would like for children to live carefree lives that end in “happily ever after.” In this world, that is not a possibility. So what are we to do?
Allan Stratton suggests in the forward to The Stamp Collector that stories light up our hearts and imaginations and show the light that continues to shine in the darkness. Jennifer Lanthier with her beautiful words and Francois Thisdale with his illustrations that interpret those words shine that light in a book that ends in a courageous hope more realistic than “happily ever after.”
In her acceptance speech, delivered before and after a trip by the 400 + attendees to the stairwell during a tornado warning, Jennifer said her goal in writing the book was to show the hope and power of words. The relationship between the boy who loved the words and became imprisoned as a man for his writing and the boy who loved the stamps and turned out to be his prison guard shines a light in that dark world.
To return to the original question of appropriateness for young children, you will probably not be surprised that I have an opinion. Knowing that we cannot shield our children from all the darkness in this world, I see this as a perfect book to be read together – adult [teacher, parent, grandparent, favorite aunt or uncle, etc.] and child or children interwoven or followed by a discussion of how to find light in darkness. It will be particularly appropriate on a week such as this one when the heroism stories followed horror so quickly
The Stamp Collector will find a place with my favorites – those books that draw me back for repeated readings to savor the beauty of the language and illustrations – especially when I need to find the hope and power in words.