A few weeks ago I did a post about existential picture books over at Cozy Owl. The theme of which was that children come up with some really big questions for us—usually when we’re very sleepy—and that there are some beautiful, lyrical picture books to help us address some of the unanswerable ones. Light Up the Night was really the seed of that post.
I acquired Jean Reidy’s picture book while I was an editor at Disney Hyperion. What appealed to me about it was the way it captured the very phenomenon I’m describing. Kids are perpetually looking into the night sky and wondering why the moon follows them or what makes the stars look like that and how far away they really are. Meanwhile, they aren’t yet even ready to grasp the difference between a week from now and five minutes from now. So in those moments when they are just beginning to get a glimpse of some of these overwhelming concepts, it’s essential that they have something familiar and comfortable to return to, in other words, to know that they have their own “little piece of the universe” (which is the refrain of this book, if you haven’t read it).
What I didn’t realize at the time was how big and difficult a question Jean was answering. Because my son and his friends and really all the children I know, do have a comfortable place to return to. Many other children, of course, do not. And those are the ones for whom Jean wrote Light Up the Night.
In Jean’s words:
“My own four kids also cherished their special spaces and beloved security items. Corners and closets were much preferred to full blown playrooms. Tents were better than bedrooms. Beds were better bunked. And when we moved into a new home, my kids’ biggest concern was that their blankets and their “guys” (stuffed animals) moved with us. Security and a sense of place seem essential to childhood.
But unfortunately, as we know, not all children enjoy that security and sense of place. Over the past six years my family has developed strong connections to the country of Uganda and its people. And with that came my understanding of the plight of Uganda’s children. HIV/AIDS robs these kids of family and health. Past civil war threatened their security as many were kidnapped out of their beds to be child soldiers. And the warehouses and refugee camps where they currently seek security and safety are unimaginably inhumane.
So it was with both an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what we have and a deep sense of responsibility for those who have not, that I wrote LIGHT UP THE NIGHT.”
Thankfully, Jean discovered an organization that is working hard to create a place for some of those children in Uganda–The Musana Children’s Home in Iganga. Musana provides a home and schooling to 80 children and education to an additional 120 day students. In addition to dormitories and classrooms, the school has a small library badly in need of books. On November 7-18, Jean will be holding an online auction called Light Up the Library which, in coordination with Books for Africa, will provide funding for thousands of books for Musana’s library.
You can participate in this auction by visiting http://lightupthelibrary.blogspot.com/ from November 7-18.
You can learn more about Jean, Light Up the Night and her other picture books by visiting www.jeanreidy.com
And be sure to follow the rest of the Light Up the Night tour:
October 10 – 14 (THE WHOLE WEEK) – Picture This! http://robsanderswrites.blogspot.com/
October 11 – Sharing Our Notebooks http://www.sharingournotebooks.amylv.com/
October 13 – Literary Friendships http://literaryfriendships.wordpress.com/
October 14 – Write Up My Life http://writeupmylife.com/
November 4 – Writing for Kids While Raising Them http://taralazar.wordpress.com/