Tag Archives: redemption

Day 181 – Sam and the Firefly

fireflyToday we read a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking a joke just a little too far. First published in 1958, “Sam and the Firefly” by P.D. Eastman is ultimately an engaging story about friendship and redemption – with a side of drama!

Sam is an owl who wakes at night to find everyone else asleep. He cannot find anyone to play with but a firefly named Gus. At first they have fun with the discovery that Gus can use his tail light to write words in the sky; Gus proves a prolific sky-writer. He writes “Gus and Sam”…”Fish” and “Wish”…”House” and “a Mouse”…”Yes”…”No”…even “Kangaroo” and “Thermometer!”

Gus is excited with his new-found skill, but it soon becomes clear that things are getting out of hand. When Gus jets off to an intersection and begins scrawling competing instructions in the sky, he causes a big car crash. Then he gets airplanes all crossed up by doing the same thing high in the sky – all the time pursued by an increasingly dismayed Sam.

After causing a stampede at the movie theater by scrawling “Come in! Free show” in bright lights above the marquee, Gus finally pushes his luck too far.  He changes “Hot Dogs” to “Cold Dogs” on a hot dog vendor’s stand – and the vendor manages to catch him and put him in a jar! Sam desperately wants to free his friend, but does not know how. As the man drives Gus back out into the country, the man’s car gets stuck on some train tracks…and a train is coming! In the nick of time, Sam fetches the jar, frees Gus, and has him write “Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop” in front of the train. The train stops, and the car is saved! Gus has learned an important lesson, and he and Sam continue to be friends…playing every night, but no more bad tricks.

“Sam and the Firefly” has some outstanding illustrations – simple but with a charming, vintage feel. There is just enough danger to keep little listeners engaged, and some repetition and rhyming that might be nice for beginning readers. Overall, an excellent choice for read aloud…it has been read many times in our house.


Day 102 – The Library Lion

In honor of National Library Week, this evening we read a book that made us all want to ROAR: The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes. It is an uplifting and charming story about an unlikely friendship and the importance of playing by the rules, which reminds us that sometimes there may still be a very good reason for breaking them.library lion

Rules are important to Ms. Merriwether, the librarian. She has some simple but important rules for anyone wishing to enjoy the library – be quiet and don’t run. There are no rules barring lions, however, and that is why Ms. Merriweather is unperturbed when a lion wanders into the library one day, despite the protestations of a vexed Mr. McBee.  The lion nearly loses his library privileges when he ROARs in protest at the end of storytime, but Ms. Merriweather gives him a second chance, and she is not disappointed. Once he has learned to control his temper, the lion – who originally seemed so out of place – is strangely at home quietly strolling the aisles on his padded paws and serving as a comfy backrest at storytime. He is also a tremendous help to Ms. Merriweather.

Then one afternoon Ms. Merriweather falls from a stool while reaching for a high shelf and breaks her arm. She asks the lion to fetch Mr. McBee, but the assistant librarian, who never wanted the friendly feline in the library in the first place, chooses to ignore the lion’s silent entreaties. Desperate to get help for his fallen friend, the lion uses the only other tactic he can think of – he ROARS! right in Mr. McBee’s face. The ploy works to perfection – Mr. McBee races down the hall to Ms. Merriweather’s office to report on this blatant disregard for rules and finds her lying on the floor waiting for help. Meanwhile, the lion trudges slowly out the door of the building. He has broken the rules, and he knows what that means.

For days and days thereafter, library visitors look up from their books expecting to see the lion arrive at any moment, but he is nowhere to be found. Ms. Merriweather in particular is saddened by the lion’s absence, speaking to Mr. McBee in a voice that is quiet “even for the library.” Seeking to cheer up his friend, and perhaps a bit regretful himself, Mr. McBee ventures out alone on a rainy evening and finds the lion, soaking wet, staring in the glass doors of the library. “There’s a new rule in the library,” Mr. McBee tells the lion, “No roaring allowed, unless you have a very good reason – say, if you’re trying to help a friend who’s been hurt, for example.” The next day, the lion returns to a joyful welcome. “No running!” calls Mr. McBee as Ms. Merriweather rushes down the hall to greet her long-lost friend – but she doesn’t listen, because “sometimes there (is) a good reason to break the rules, even in the library.”

“Library Lion” is a heartwarming and engaging book, and it has been a favorite of our youngest ever since we checked it out. It made us literally ROAR out loud when reading the text – and then made our hearts ROAR to see the picture of Ms. Merriweather and the lion embracing on the final page.It is also beautifully and playfully illustrated. I particularly enjoyed the variety of expressions so well captured on the faces of the people (and the lion!) in Mr. Hawkes’ drawings – expressions of curiosity, contrition, concern, melancholy and joy which added valuable color to the story.  I appreciated the way in which “Library Lion” so effectively conveys the allure of the library – we don’t know where the lion came from, but why wouldn’t he walk into a place as great as the library? We certainly love to spend time there!