Monday, July 24, 2017

Gathering Places

Picture Book: Out of the Woods: A True Story of an                                                    Unforgettable Event
Author & Illustrator: Rebecca Bond
Summary: The author's grandfather, Antonio Willie Giroux, loved to tell this amazing story:
In 1914 when he was almost 5, Antonio lived in a lodge near the edge of Lake Gowganda in Ontario. 
He lived with his mother who ran a 3-story hotel, a primitive lodge. 
Antonio often interacted with the lodgers. They included lumber jacks, those who worked at the lodge, trappers, sportsmen, and travelers. 
Antonio especially loved the gathering places. On the first floor was the large dining room. Antonio's room was in a little alcove.  
The second floor consisted of bunks where the travelers and sportsmen would stay briefly. He was fascinated by their equipment. 
The third floor was Antonio's favorite. This was another open space that housed the trappers, lumberjacks, and silver miners who stayed for months at a time. They played cards, told stories, and made music. 
Antonio liked to wander in the woods too, but the animals were well-hidden, too many trappers around. 
One day in the midst of a very dry summer, someone on the third floor spotted smoke. 
Quickly, all were warned of the very real danger and headed for the only place where they might be safe 
Lake Gowganda. All the people stood in knee deep water hoping the fire would turn.
It was another sort of gathering place where everyone waited and hoped to be spared while they stared at the flames. 
Remarkably, they were soon joined by the forest animals that had steered clear from them before. 
The threat of fire was bringing all sorts together. Another kind of fear, a common fear was taking over.
Enemies were side by side! Trappers stood with deer and moose. Foxes were beside rabbits. 
They were close enough to touch. The sky was black, the air was gray, and the living inhabitants of Gowganda were determined to survive beside one another through the fire.  
When it was safe to leave the lake, the animals of all kinds did just that. 
The lodge had been spared. The humans went back to their usual routines and Antonio too. 
He lived at the Lodge for several more years and never forgot the fire that created such an unusual gathering place at Gowganda Lake. This story of distances disappearing between humans and animals was his favorite story to tell his grandchildren. 
Hanna’s Comments: Right now many people are struggling with wild fires in Canada and here in the US. Australians had similar challenges during their last summer so this is a picture book that is evocative and relatable to many. People all over the world have stories of gathering places during disasters. Such events tend to bring out the best of humanity and apparently non-humans too. Connecting this powerful story to biblical images of diversity brought together in community would offer meaningful conversations about how fear and empathy change us and connect us. In the back of the book, you'll find an Author's Note and a photo of Antonio made about the time of this story. 
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up 
Formats other than Book: Digital
Scripture Connections: The Lord is good to all; the Lord’s mercy is over all that God has made (Psalm 145:9); Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 65:25); All flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)
Idea(s) for Application: People of all ages would find this story enjoyable and compelling. Encourage them to connect this story to images from the scriptures like Peaceable Kingdom, Holy Communion, and Pentecost to name a few.