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The Power of Story
by Joan Wink
Published by Libraries Unlimited/ABCLIO
Copyright © 2018 by Joan Wink

It started slowly, gained momentum, and then consumed the room. The panel of children’s authors had finished sharing their new books, and the assembled listeners were preparing to leave the room, when a final question from one of the panelists asked a great question.

“What are your personal memories of books from your childhood?” The atmosphere in the room changed perceptively. A peaceful reflective mood took over the room. “Narnia.” We all sighed and envisioned the book icon and the stories.

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” The little train engine popped into our minds.

“Secret Garden.” We saw the vine-covered secret entry.

As each favorite memory was shared, emotions of childhood literacy experiences started creeping out of long-term storage for each of us.

Suddenly, one of the authors on the panel stood tall to speak for Gary was, indeed, a tall man with an even larger personality. He reflected his native rural Montana roots. He wore jeans, cowboy boots, a western belt with buckle, and a big cowboy hat with whiffs of long gray hair sticking out on the sides and back.

“When I was a child,” he began, “my parents used to take me with them when they went to the home of some friends, whose own children had already grown and left home. It was always the four adults at the table and me. When dinner was over, the adults went to the living room, and I would immediately steal away to the basement, which had only one room. One huge room. Each of the 4 walls, floor to ceiling was lined with books. In the middle of this large room, there was one light and one chair. I would happily read the night away. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, my favorite series, would be piled around me in the chair, when my parents came down to get me.”

“Years later when I was an adult and off on my own, the man who owned the house died, and I received a phone call from his lawyer. I was invited to go to the reading of the will and pick up something the family friend had left for me.”

“I remember thinking, why me? He had his own children, but when I went to the lawyer’s office and saw The Wizard of Oz series piled on the conference table, the stories came flooding back to me.”

When Gary finished his story, there was not a dry eye in the room. Not even on the face of that big cowboy.