“Back-Pocket Stories” by Patrick Andrus
A special character will remain your friend.
A special place will reside in your memory.
A special story will stay in your heart.
If you are lucky enough to get all three; then you have a book that will forever be in your back pocket.
When asked to do my second RETRO book review (I know can you believe it) I knew just the story I wanted to share with my fellow Nerdy Book Club members.
I’m definitely not known as the Book Whisperer, but around my school, community, and friends; I am known as the “book guy”. There are certain books that are always in my back pocket to recommend as the “go-to” suggestion. One of these stories is Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall.
Years ago I was taking a class from the incredible and educated Patti Green; who is a local guru in the area of reading and writing. At the end of her presentation, she shared with us some of her favorite recent reads. Patti threw out this title and expressed how she couldn’t get over the power of the story.
On my way home, I stopped by the bookstore and purchased the book. Thank goodness they had it or I would have been the disappointed child who didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. When I got home, I sat down and opened up to the first page. A few hours later, as I wiped away the tears that were streaming down my face; I closed the book and knew I had found a special story that would stay with me for years to come.
Being that it was summer, I put the book at the top of my read-aloud pile of books I would be sharing with my students once school started. Larger Than Life Lara was the first book I read to my students that fall and I can still remember the complete silence during certain scenes in the story. It was the ending of the book that brought back the watery eyes (of the teacher), the gasps from students, and the utter silence as I finished the final page.
With the success of that first year, this little gem of a story became a standard read-a-loud of mine for many years to come. You know you have found the perfect and special book when you get the same reaction year after year after year. I couldn’t keep the book to myself and shared with colleagues who also read it to their students with the same success as I had found.
A few years ago, for whatever reason, I made the personal goal of not sharing the same book from year to year. There are certain titles I miss, but overall I am satisfied and pleased that each year I share new titles with my class. Of course this book (and many others) is “book talked” and becomes a favorite to my readers.
I suppose I should tell a little bit about the story. That is all you are going to get because I don’t want to give too much away. Lara is the type of story you have to experience for yourself without knowing too much.
The main character Lara is starting a new school (again). Lara is a LARGE girl who stands out among her classmates. Not only does she stand out because of her weight, more importantly she stands out because of her incredibly unique and special personality. It just makes me smile now as I think of Lara.
Her experiences in school haven’t been easy and this new start is no exception. The kids in her class have it out for her; because as we all know students “peg” the new kid and especially the new kid who doesn’t fit the “mold” of the other students. The school is putting on a play and all students will have a role or job. A group of kids decide this is the perfect opportunity to “WELCOME” Lara to school and let her know what they think of her.
I’ve said too much. Just know that this is one of those stories that will become for you what it became for me.
A book that will give you…
*A special character named Lara.
*The special place of an elementary building.
*The story of Lara and her experience that will…
FOREVER remain in your heart and in your back pocket!
Patrick Andrus is a fourth grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He has had twenty-three years of wonderfully liberating experiences teaching young children. The biggest gift he gives his students is the gift of words, stories, and incredible characters like Lara. It was about a year and a half ago that he took the risk to enter the world of Twitter, his own blog, and connecting with the incredible members of this book club. You can follow him on Twitter @patrickontwit and his blog http://readwonder.blogspot.com/.