The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
“In Brooklyn / in the summer / not so long ago” is the phrase that opens and echoes throughout Jacqueline Woodson’s newest picture book. The World Belonged to Us is a celebration of summer vacation, of creative play and friends and community. The illustrations have a seventies vibe, and there’s nostalgia galore (at least for this reader) about carefree childhood days making cardboard forts, jumping rope, chasing down ice cream trucks, scraping knees, playing baseball, and staying out until called home for dinner. “Our block was the whole wide world / and the world belonged to us,” the text says, and it’s an invitation to revel in the independence and simple pleasures of childhood.
Read it with your kids as summer begins!
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
This book opens with an Emily Dickinson quote I keep on my desk: “I dwell in possibility.” Still I almost gave up on it a few pages in because it sounded like work and effort would be required — precisely the things I didn’t feel like giving at that moment. I’m glad I ended up giving the book a chance.
Authors Rosamund (a therapist and executive coach) and Ben (a conductor and teacher) walk readers through concepts that sound like a lot of things you’ve heard before: growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, looking for abundance rather than scarcity, and the like. What I liked was the lens they used to talk about these ideas — the classroom and the orchestra. We walk through life taking measurements of ourselves and others, ranking our position and talents. What better place to show this than these two settings? One concept “giving an A,” tells the story of the time Ben gave all of his students an A at the outset of class and how asking them to write a letter as their future selves explaining how they earned that grade freed them to do their best creative work.
As a writer, I felt especially encouraged by the idea of being a contributor. (More on this next week.) Publishing can feel pretty cut throat and competitive and rank-y. When I focus on the contribution I’m making, though, that changes everything. That’s what’s important.
This is what I like to call a “generosity of spirit” book, one that invites us to treat others and ourselves kindly. Lots of good food for thought.
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
Here’s another mindset book that is a complete 180 from the one above. I’d call this one a mind over matter, tough love self talk memoir. Last Christmas, my son Caleb was listening to Can’t Hurt Me and recommended it to me. He said the author was kind of intense and I didn’t have to buy into everything he said, but it was a really incredible story. David Goggins is intense, like (spoiler) THE TIME HE TAPED UP HIS BROKEN LEGS TO CONTINUE WITH NAVY SEAL TRAINING! If you’re looking for an underdog story of a man who grew up with the cards stacked against him and nevertheless went on to do some incredible things, this is worth a read. It’s a reminder, too, of how limiting our minds can be (but still…broken bone running sounds like a bad idea). Caleb recommended the audiobook and I do, too, as the author and narrator discuss various concepts between the chapters. As of this writing, the audiobook is ranked #6 on Amazon. A heads up: this book is pretty swear-y.
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