Books of Hope and Resilience

“Hope” is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.                                                                                                                                    Emily Dickinson

The natural disasters caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma challenged local residents and people across the nation to respond quickly and compassionately.  As a librarian who finds inspiration and hope in stories, here are reflections on recent events in Houston and suggestions of 3 book themes that illustrate hope and resilience.

Theme 1: Problem Solving Keeps Hope Afloat
Nationwide people responded quickly to solve logistics of supplying help and aid.  The parent organization at my Houston school, Annunciation Orthodox School, set up a SignupGenius to send email alerts for a particular family’s needs, such as cleanup, making meals, picking up laundry, etc.  Most requests were filled within the hour of the email alert, and individual volunteers managed their own signup duty.

Book Suggestions:
What Do You Do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
Picture book shows a young child buffeted by the storms of a problem.The child changes the perspective of fear to one of determination, facing the problem as an opportunity to make a difference.

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
A grandmother helps a young girl overcome her fear of a looming thunderstorm by involving her in assembling the ingredients for a “thunder cake.”  In this shared creative activity, the granddaughter’s fears are calmed.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
“I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.”  In the midst of poverty and famine, William
sees the problems of Malawi and invents a solution: a windmill to generate electricity and pump water. Using pictures of a windmill from a donated school textbook (Using Energy) and inventively assembling discarded scraps and a bicycle dynamo generator, William successfully creates the windmill.  Read more on his blog.

Theme 2: Helping Provides Healing
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, huge garbage trucks rolled in from San Antonio and Austin to pick up flood debris; volunteers provided meals, clothing, and shelter; and crews from Louisiana’s Cajun Navy and Tennessee’s first responder teams joined local emergency crews and local residents with boats to rescue stranded flood victims. Images, videos, and shared stories of these amazing efforts inspired us.

Book Suggestions:
The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearshall
“Some angels are like peacocks. Others are less flashy. Like city pigeons. It all depends on the wings.” An angry and emotionally distraught teen, Arthur T. Owens, is assigned to community service with a trash picker, James Hampton. As Arthur helps James assemble this trash into a beautiful artwork, the teen finds hope and healing in his own life and discovers that beauty and angels of hope can be found in unlikely places. (Based on the life of outsider artist James Hampton.)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
“Perhaps the seeds of redemption lay not just in perseverance, hard work, and rugged individualism. Perhaps they lay in something more fundamental—the simple notion of everyone pitching in and pulling together.” The American Olympic rowing team, competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, discover the importance of “the boat,” the joined efforts and shared love that can overcome impossible odds.

Theme 3: Creating Places of Hope and Refuge
Important to easing distress and fears is the creation of places of hope and refuge. The Houston Convention Center, church halls, family homes, and our schools were just some of the places transformed into shelters for flood victims and families. These temporary havens of safety allowed victims time to rest as they rebuilt their lives.

Book Suggestions:
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack
In the segregated South of the 1950s, a young girl looks forward to a trip to go “Someplace Special.”  Passing benches marked “Whites Only” and riding in the back of a segregated bus, the young Tricia Ann arrives at her “special” place, the Nashville Public Library that bears the sign “All are Welcome.”

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
In 1911, a fourteen-year-old girl, Joan, flees from her cruel father and the bleak future of farm life. Seeking a new life in Baltimore, Joan is stranded on the streets of a strange city until a kind man invites Joan to work for his Jewish family as a hired girl.  What follows is a series of funny and charming misadventures as Joan, with her Catholic upbringing, blends her life and future goals with this compassionate Jewish family.

Please share your favorite books of hope and resilience. Thank you for using stories to lift spirits of those in distress.