This poetry anthology is all about the many ways individuals, including children, have changed the world. Some have been in little ways, others in big ways, courageous ways, such as the way Sylvia Mendez, when only ten years old, dared to enter an all White school. It was 1946 and in California, Hispanics were restricted to “Mexican schools”. Sylvia’s parents filed suit and won. But it was Sylvia who dared to step into a classroom where she met a wall of ice-pick hate. Her story is told in “The Child” by J. Patrick Lewis:
“…Eyes sharp as icepicks pierced
the windowpanes as if seeing
a Mexican for the first time.
Every door was locked with a
Secret combination of frowns.
How can anyone ever get in?
Sylvia asked. Someone must know
who has the right key…
She looked up at her mother.
This month with school starting, new students arriving, we think again about diversity and celebrating differences, rather than shunning or excluding. These poems nudge us to reflect and ask tough questions such as: Was there one white girl who motioned to Sylvia and whispered, “Sit next to me”?
Jane Yolen and David Harrison have each written poems to give voice to another type of courage, one fueled by first “not looking away,” and then by acting (penny by penny) with compassion, not judgment. David Harrison writes in “Nicholas Cobb”:
“Four-year-old Nicholas Cobb
saw people living under
a bridge, asked
Nicholas asked friends to give,
left jars in barbershops,
made a website – Comfort and Joy…
Ten years from the bridge,
Eagle Scout Cobb,
doing what he could,
bought fifty-four coats
By learning what it means
to ask not why
Jane Yolen’s poem “Under the Bridge” challenges our myths about homeless people:
“Once trolls lived under the bridge,
so we thought…
Mean and green billy-goat eaters…
Once hobos lived under the bridge,
dark and dangerous…
But families under the bridge?…”
What a beautiful collection of poems which inspire and challenge. We all have prejudices and we all have felt discrimination. Who has not been bullied, left out, not chosen to be on either side’s team? Who has not turned away from someone who talks weird, in “broken-English,” and might be “dangerous?”
In this collection, each poem and brief explanatory narration could become a poem-a-day to read together, reflect, discuss, and write one’s own thoughts about one way to dare to dream and change one’s classroom, one’s community, or the world.
“…to ask not why, but how…”
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s poem titled “Grace” reminds us of the little ways that we each can dare to dream…and change our own world:
“It’s wiggling the hook out
of the fish’s mouth…
It’s a back turning
a head shaking
a refusal to hear
an ugly rumor,
a compromising joke,
It’s this hand,
reaching out to yours.” (emphasis added)
For information on the 2nd Annual DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD writing contest for students in grades 3 through 8, check out the DARE TO DREAM site.