Dear Aunt Debbie,
We opened Isabel's birthday box on Thursday night, as you'd surmised, and have been happily reading and re-reading the new books since then. One in particular was a happy surprise to me, due both to its subject matter and its authorship.
Gotta Go! Gotta Go! is not at all a bathroom-related book, but the story of a "creepy-crawly bug" who hatches from her egg with an immediate purpose:
The creepy-crawly bug held up her head, looked out at the beautiful meadow, and said, "I don't know much, but I know what I know. I gotta go! I gotta go! I gotta go to Mexico!"
She eats and crawls her way across the meadow of her birth, encountering other small creatures who are curious about her destination:
"Mexico?" said the grasshopper. "What on earth is Mexico?"
"I have no idea," said the creepy-crawly bug. "But if Mexico is where I'm going, and it is, then Mexico will be wherever I get."
And she creepy-crawled away just as fast as she could go.
You have to admire this bug's self-assurance.
After some time, a shedding of skin, and a very long nap, she emerges again as "a creepy-crawly bug with wings," a.k.a. a monarch butterfly, as is clear from Sue Riddle's illustrations. The journey toward Mexico continues, now slightly less improbable, though still insanely long. There is resting and dancing with other butterflies, and then the journey back, and a lovely ending which mirrors the first page of the book, implying a repeating cycle.
Because, of course, this is the story of the migration of the monarch butterfly (the second monarch migration story we've received, and loved, for Isabel's birthday). While Bird, Butterfly, Eel tells it at a more poetic remove, Gotta Go! Gotta Go!, like its title, moves forward at a pleasing pace. It's fun to read, and inspires chanting. Of course, we may need to visit Mexico sometime soon because of it.
The author is Sam Swope, who I know personally through two great organizations. I met Sam through the New York City Public Library's Cullman Center, which runs a series of workshops for teachers which are among the best professional development I've ever taken part in.
Sam's new brainchild is a terrific organization called the Academy for Teachers, which aims to bring together great teachers from New York City public schools (and someday, schools around the country) in seminars with great public figures (Gloria Steinem is holding one in February) at cultural institutions throughout the city. I've known for years that Sam was a tremendous organizer and intellectual, as well as a tremendously charming man; I didn't realize that he was a terrific children's book author as well. This may be one I'll need to get autographed someday soon.