Monday, June 22, 2020

Hard Times Come: What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia McKissack

It was a rough few months for Mama and me. We were already poor, but we got poorer last April when Daddy went to sleep on the porch and never woke up. Come June, we lost the farm and moved to a run-down shotgun house in the Bottoms.

On Friday the 13th, everything flooded and Smitty, my dog, disappeared. "Misery loves company," said Mama, as she swept water out the front door. She shook her head. "Long as we got our health and strength, we are blessed, James Otis," she said.

Christmas came and there was one small gift for James Otis, but in February the Reverend Dennis told the congregation they were going to give love boxes, especially to Irene Temple and her little daughter Sarah, who had lost everything when their house burned down. James wondered what he could give that a little girl would want, but Mama tells him...
"What is given from the heart, reaches the heart."

James Otis looked through his stuff. His sparkly rock was, after all, just a rock. His crayons were broken and worn down, and two were missing. Then he notices Mama, sewing Mrs. Temple an apron out of her best tablecloth. James Otis gets busy with his crayons.

And on Love Box Sunday, James puts his gift in the Temple's box.
"A book about ME?" asked little Sarah. She giggled. "I want to read it myself!"

And there's a love box on his own porch when James Otis gets home, in Patricia McKissack's last story for children, What Is Given from the Heart (Schwartz and Wade, 2019), a posthumous gift to young readers, joining her Caldecott Medal book, Mirandy and Brother Wind and Newbery book, The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural from the many in her long career. "A treasure from a marvelous storyteller," writes School Library Journal's starred review, and Booklist adds "... a moving story that attests to life's most important values."

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