Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moonwalking: Martin On The Moon by Martine Audet

... Today is the first day of school.
No walking on the moon today.

I concentrate really hard, but the blackboard is still empty.
The teacher is waving her hands around, talking with her hands.

She looks like one of the seagulls that flies along the riverbanks.
I miss those times.
I miss the waves and the wind.
I even miss the rain.

It's Martin's first day of school. He knows he's there to learn--the alphabet, what to do with numbers--but everything is strange and he is already homesick for the summer and the good times that filled it. He misses his mother's wide smile, and their walks along the river, the sand, the pebbles he collected, the smell of the wind, his gray cat Happy. He sits at his desk like the others. He can't see their faces, only the backs of their heads, as they listen to the teacher.

The river is so far away, so beautiful.
It's not like the empty blackboard behind the teacher.

Martin sits still in his little chair, but his mind flows back over happy memories of home, his drawing of a thunderstorm, his Mum Mum's poems.

Mum Mum explained that poems help you put things into words that are painful or wonderful or that you just don't understand.

Martin's thoughts fly far away, like summer butterflies, above and beyond the children at their desks whose names he does not know, and far, far way from the teacher who does not smile.

"Where are you, Martin? On the moon?" asks the teacher.
"Who are you blowing kisses to?"

Suddenly Martin notices that all the children have turned around to look at him. His fingers find the pebble from the riverbank that he keeps in his pocket

And then the teacher smiles, as wide as the river, and Martin is not on the moon: he is with his class and his teacher is smiling, and he knows he has something to show and tell already, his own poem from summer:

Tiny pebble
In my hand,

From the beach,
From the sand.

The first day of school is many things, but one of the most poignant is the painful longing for the freedom of the days just past, and in Martine Audet's forthcoming Martin on the Moon (Owlkids Books, 2012) we feel that twinge of nostalgia for times past as well as the promise of good days ahead. Martin's teacher knows how to use the teachable moment, how to take Martin's daydream kisses and turn them into the inspiration for the class' first alphabet assignment as everyone learns to write their own kisses, rows of perfectly formed X X X Xs on their papers, and how to add their names and post them on that blackboard, now no longer empty.

It's the first day of school, and Martin has stepped into a new river, one which will take him far.

"... creativity and inspired teaching in full bloom." says Kirkus Reviews in its starred review.

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