Under the Big Sky

Apparently I’m drawn to morbid and depressing children’s books.  Save a sweep of the memoir section on our walk in, the children’s section is the only one I get a chance to truly explore while at the library.  So perhaps it is some deep-seated need for adult content even if it must come in child format.

Ironically, I try to keep my ‘child’ selections from my own children, keeping them with my books rather than their stack of picture books.  But if they look like ducks . . . my kids expect them to waddle like ducks and inevitably find them.

One such duck is Under the Big Sky by Trevor Romain.  The main character is sent on a journey by his grandfather, approaching the end of his years, to discover the secret of life.  If he does so, the boy will receive all of his grandfather’s riches.  Not a bad carrot to waddle after, and so, the boy sets off, querying objects, animals, and people as he goes.  The answers he collects are rich examples of metaphors, which present wonderfully teachable moments for young readers in trying to suss out both their literal and figurative meanings.

Understandably, there is no one easy or straightforward answer.  Expecting that there was one, the boy becomes discouraged.  He finally crosses the world and many years, searching.  Upon his return to his grandfather (who, honestly, I was surprised had not died by this point), he reports that he has not found the secret of life.

“But you did find it,” said his grandfather.  “Your journey itself was the secret of life.  And along the way you have learned everything you will need to enjoy a full and rich life.”

And so the boy does attain his grandfather’s riches; in fact, he had them all along.  As do all of us on this journey of life. Apparently it takes an adult reading of a child’s book to remember this.  Who knows?  Perhaps if children do read books like this, they will discover the secret sooner.

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