Flat Stanley is a unique book character created by author Jeff Brown nearly fifty years ago. When a bulletin board over his bed falls from the wall and smashes Stanley flat, a world of new adventures open to him. The Flat Stanley Project encourages pen pal-type relationships to develop through Stanley as he is mailed around the world.
Annette Lyon--author, wife, mother, editor, mentor--provided me with a new opportunity last week. Her daughter was involved in a Flat Stanley project, and she asked me to participate. A dear friend and I carried Stanley to Washington on a very windy day, to photograph him at some of the Capital's most interesting sights. We nearly lost the paper guy in gusts of fifty-mile-per-hour winds over the Potomac, so much of our tour had to be conducted from within a car, but we had a blast. (No pun intended.)
The timing of Stanley's arrival coincided with an invitation I had received to visit a third-grade class on "Read Across America" day. I packed Stanley up and carried him to Winfield Elementary School here in Maryland, to meet Mrs. Cage's class. Her students are roughly the age of my Stanley's creator--Annette's daughter--and they were very familiar with Stanley.
We talked about books and about writing. I brought along some of my favorite children's books including my ultimate favorite, "The Velveteen Rabbit," and a few others I thought would be interesting, like my husband's "Roy Rogers" Golden Book from 1948, and an old book we inherited titled, "Prairie Boys" that bears an inscription on the cover that reads, "Christmas 1900."
I read a few paragraphs from "Prairie Boys," and noted how different the language and topics of children's literature was a century ago, then I read them my children's favorite storybook, "Leo the Lop." Though my children are grown, and the world has changed considerably from the one they grew up in, the story of accepting oneself and others was perhaps more relevant than ever to these sweet-eyed students.
Stanley took center stage next as I showed them some images of his visit to D.C. The students were probably most impressed by a bit of dazzling trivia--that the Library of Congress contains 530 miles of bookshelves! I have to admit, that little factoid boggles my own mind.
All in all, it was a therapeutic afternoon to be back in a classroom with children. I suppose the truth of it is, I miss the recentering that comes from being with children on a daily basis. I had spent the early morning listening to reports of Charlie Sheen's meltdowns, and news of Libya's civil unrest, the DOW's plunge and rising oil prices. After all that, it was revitalizing to spend a few hours with lovable children as we read about bunnies and cowboys, and allowed our imaginations to run wild. This is the stuff that matters.