Writing Into Wonderland

One of the best parts of being an author is receiving handcrafted stories from the youngest Otis Goes to School fans, learning to fashion their very own tales.  As a mother, it’s that much more special to hold my very own children’s crumpled up, notebook-papered accounts of vacations and childhood shenanigans, and interpretations of “what if?” The subject of creative writing has, thus, become a platform for me as I visit schools and spend time with young folks, and it is my hope to nurture their love for literature and its composition, in honoring the ones who did so for me.  To that end, I share with you my thoughts on writing with our own children: 

“Mommy, I see a puppy! He has a ball! Oh, wait… now he’s a sailboat! And there’s a train! Do you see it? Mommy, look! It’s a window! Do you think the train is gonna choo-choo through the window? I do, and… oh! Look at that castle! I’d like to see that castle up close. I wonder if I look small from there. Do you see, Mommy? What do you see…?”

Have you heard your little one rambling in such a fashion? Did you slam on the brakes for the puppy that was not, in fact, chasing a ball down the road? A sailboat and a train? No, we are not at the beach, and nowhere near the tracks. Yes the car has windows, and what castle? Ahhh… it’s the view from Wonderland–the world where children don’t need glasses and near-sightedness often blurs the reasonable, busily practical adult’s vision.

IMG_8841

Children do have their heads in the clouds. At least, that’s where they start. That’s the leaping point… the endless possibilities of soaring have everything to do with seeds of encouragement and droplets of inspiration (or the lack thereof), and then the patience of time in all its unfolding, surprising power.

And as adorable, cloud-gazing moments march further into the realm of smile-worthy old memories, words and phrases that could only have come from the mouths of your own babes will fade, and we will not recall the specifics. Of course, you’ll likely have old photographs that cover your walls, fill your albums, decorate your desks and dressers and deplete the memory space available on your phones and tablets and computers, and without a doubt, they are to be ever cherished.

What, though, of the fleeting words that go with them? What of the uncatchable moment that passed from the back seat of silly cumulus concoctions? What of the rip-roaring playground adventures of braving a tightrope walk above the lava, from swing to swing, without daring to touch a toe to the ground of sure doom? What of the cops-and-robbers escapade that played out in the backyard while you cooked supper? What of the Matchbox car chase through Barbie’s Dreamhouse and My Little Pony’s stables? Their preservation is, no doubt, in your smile, your laugh lines, yours happy dreams, the locked vaults of your heart… and theirs.

If I said there is a way to harness a just a bit of those effervescent clouds, that disappearing castle, the childish adventures and observations that we chalk up to the earliest parts of all our lives… if you knew that the passion for avoiding the dangerous playground lava and always catching the bad guy could be lassoed and bottled… if you could see that puppy chase the ball right into a sailboat transformation from your child’s perspective, would you lean in? How about if you knew that such a capturing could spark your child’s interest in reading, give them a foundation of confidence in schoolwork challenges, hone fine motor skills, provide an outlet for emotion and creativity, and a hobby that requires no plugs, wires, or noise?

You’ll need a pencil and paper. Actually, your child will.

It is not humanly possible to hook the whole view from Wonderland, so there is no need for mommy-guilt, kid comparisons or one more line item to add to your super-mom CV. Your maternal role, in this opportunity, is quite simple after securing the pencil and paper: to encourage, and to give your child the time and wiggle-room to do the rest… on their own personal level.

Let them write. Tell them to write. Believe that they can. Forget proper spelling, punctuation and capitalization for the moment. This is not about syntax and grammar. This is about that leaping point, from the edge of that crazy-shaped cloud they think looks like a butterfly with tennis shoes and a unicorn’s horn… write that down, child.

Is the sky blue? What kind of blue? Like an island’s ocean? Your sister’s eyes? Your favorite crayon? Put it into your beautifully childish words and sound them out right onto the paper waiting to come alive by the shape of your squarely printed letters, your curly-q swirls, and the meaning and sentiments behind it all.

What is that tickle in your mind? That’s the birth of your imagination. And just where did that butterfly go? The tug from the tip of that pencil will take you there.

My daughter's journal collection... she started with pretending to write words, and now she fills the pages with "...the breathings of her heart."  William Wordsworth would be so proud.

Our daughter’s journal collection… she started with pretending to write words when she could first hold a pen, and now she fills the pages with “…the breathings of her heart.” William Wordsworth would be so proud. Thank you for letting mommy share your thoughts, dear girl!

“Mommy, what should I write? What should I say?” This is where you give them encouragement and time to let them do the exploring. Sometimes it’s hard to allow our children time to figure things out on their own. It’s easy to assist in the story, to give them the words, to entertain them so they are comfortable, to then cross that activity off the list and move on to a movie or video game, something to keep them occupied while you fold laundry in peace (or grab a precious minute or two to catch a well-deserved breath)!

Stretching muscles doesn’t always begin with ease. But let them get bored… it’s their imagination’s cue. Nourishing a child’s independent vision does take patience and inspiration, but once their wheels begin turning, once they see clearly that they are quite able to work out an original thought and transpose it to something on paper, your role slowly changes from “Mommy, Keeper of the Bottomless Activity Grab-Bag,” to “Reader of all things Wonderland-born.” Your child naturally becomes “Preserver of Fairytales and Memories.” And after some time, the words—especially the phonetically (mis)spelled ones–will be treasures that have magically captured those vanishing moments in the ever-evolving experience of parenthood.

Moms always love a sword with double edges… not the kind with a win-lose slicing pattern. No, this saber carves with love and purpose, both ways. Wield the power of writing and imagination, don it like knighthood on the shoulders of those tied to your apron strings, and watch them grow in a developing love for books and reading, with the added bonus of tuning the little muscles in their hands that move the pencil on the paper. While they begin to craft the butterfly’s flight path over the playground lava and through the window of the highest tower of the cloud castle, they are flexing far more than the glorious muscle of imagination.Ella writing.2

Lipscomb Academy Reading Specialist, Suzanne Howell, says “A child’s literacy development will flourish when their reading and writing instruction is woven together. Research shows a natural connection between the two subjects.  The relationship is reciprocal… [like] the chicken and the egg. One cannot exist without the other.  The act of writing words… expands the child’s ability to read.”

And if they really take to writing like a hobby, put a journal in their hands. Let them carry it everywhere they go, and encourage them to stop right in the middle of their hippity-hopping tracks and jot down whatever it is that has made an impression on their hearts. Let them add their own doodles and illustrations if they feel so inclined (ok, so pencil and paper, plus crayons or paints or stickers, etcetera… for the ankle-biters who really run with the opportunity).

Our oldest son's journals, full of his remembrances of family times, hopes and dreams.  Thank you for letting me share, sweet son!

Our oldest son’s journals, full of his remembrances of family times, hopes and dreams. Thank you for letting me share, sweet son!

Writing certainly won’t be every child’s favorite pastime. But think of it this way… every single child has a story to tell, and every single one of those stories is magnificently worthwhile and wonderfully different.  As an author, I’ve visited many schools and classrooms to encourage reading and writing, and I can tell you firsthand… the stories your children can weave are truly moving, drawn from the wells of youth and its endless supply of creativity.

I encourage you to put the pencil between their fingers, guide it to the paper, and prepare to be impressed. Be it about the weekend football game, the tree house stunt, the neighborhood dog who barks every time a car drives by, the lunchroom rumpus, the fairy who flutters in the garden, the Olympic gymnast and her lucky, pink and purple leotard, Bob the frog who lives in the creek or the time spent with Grandma counting cars going by from the front porch swing… there is a story that only your child can tell.

From the leaping point, give them the chance to soar beyond the puppy dog clouds, and bless them with the time to do it. You’ll find yourself inspired with your own imagination’s answer when they ask you, “Mommy, what do you see?”

I see no limits, sweet child. And the view from Wonderland, through your imagination-painted glasses, is quite spectacular.

Does your child enjoy writing?  If you are a teacher (and thank you for what you do!), do your students enjoy writing?  Share your children’s wordly creations with me, and I’d love to post them on the Otis blog, along with your child’s (or your class) picture!  Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com.

Happy wordsmithing!

 

 

It’s a Weekend for the DOGS…

…at the 25th Annual Dog Days celebration, benefitting the Nashville Humane Association!  It’s all happening THIS Saturday, September 20, 10am-4pm, at Centennial Park.  Otis will be right in the middle of the action in the Kid Zone (and there will be lots to do there… Otis will watch you bungee jump!).  He will be ready to receive all the petting you can share, and we’ll gather ’round for storytime in between all the exciting doggie events on the schedule.  We’ll have our books for sale, as well as special edition bookmarks (see below), and we’ll be proudly donating to the NHA.  Join us, in honor of your favorite canine companion!

And bring Fido!  You two can start the day off with some exercise as proud participants in the fabulous Mutt Strutt. And Fido is a sure candidate for the cutest dog contests, or perhaps the best trick contest, or maybe best pet costume is up your alley… and you definitely need to plan to have your puppy’s portrait made for a keepsake.  Join the Paws Parade at Noon, and have your fill of food truck delights while you enjoy live music and shop all the doggie-necessity vendors who will be there.  After you admire the amazing K-9 unit demonstrations, it may very well be time to head over to the adoption area and add the perfect family member to your arms.

If you love dogs, then Centennial Park is the place for you to be this Saturday.  Otis gives two ears up to the NHA!

 

 

OGTS DogDays 2014 bookmark

I love Otis.3

Original OGTS bookmark with online tags

Read much? Love dogs?

Then you need a placeholder between your pages that makes you smile!

Please consider giving $1 or more for this bookmark–any donation amount that makes you feel involved–and 100% of the profits will go straight to the Nashville Humane Association, benefitting dogs just like our beloved Otis (and lots of other animals, too!).  How many bookmarks do you need?  Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know… today!

And then come meet us at the 25th Anniversary Dog Days Celebration in Nashville (benefitting the NHA), on September 20, 2014, and Otis will thank you in person… or in canine!

Pass the word… post it on Facebook… retweet on Twitter… call you animal-loving friends and send them my way.  Thank you, in advance, for your help!

Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know how many bookmarks you would like to purchase!

Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know how many bookmarks you would like to purchase!

Noisy Vocabulary

For those of you who enjoy words of the day… here’s a fun one!

CACOPHONY

School age kids love Chapter 14 of Otis Goes to School.  Midway through the chapter, Otis follows his expert olfactory tracker along the trail of the alluring scent of chicken nuggets and fresh baked cornbread.  Throwing all concerns of remaining undiscovered on his Schooldays investigations, he gobbles up tasty morsels of carelessly dropped lunch crumbs and blows his own cover, much to the glorious shock of a lunchroom full of chatty children:

“The news of a dog in School had spread to the other tables, and the cafeteria cacophony had become an uproarious frenzy.”

Much of the fun of Otis Goes to School is inseparably and entertainingly mingled with the introduction of new words to young readers… exciting words, silly words, fun-to-say words, imagination-stretching words.  To tell a story is one thing, but to tell it with words that catch the reader by surprise and invite them to know more–that is literature.

It is my hope that Otis Goes to School will become a part of the beautiful scores of children’s literature that seamlessly blend reading into the fabric of their personalities, and make them reach for more.

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Otis the Mustang – Part TWO

Following our fine experiences as Chapel guests of the Lipscomb Academy pre-K/K and third grade Book Day readers (click here for Otis the Mustang, Part ONE), we found ourselves welcomed with a perfect poster and sweeping seas of smiles by the seriously sensational second graders (Don’t you love alliteration?  I do, dearly, for double the delight and dazzle… click here for more Vocabulary of Otis.).

Welcome, Otis!

Welcome, Otis!

The absolutely fantastic Mrs. Lankford of second grade made us feel quite at home… and a homecoming, indeed, it was, as our oldest is a graduate of her class.  If every elementary ankle-biter could experience a Mrs. Lankford, somewhere along the way of their schooling, well… this world would just be a finer place all together!  She inspired Chapter 16, near the end of the book, because my oldest was wrapping up his second grade year with her when I completed the manuscript for Otis Goes to School.

All four classes of second grade, and all their amazing teachers, filed into our hostess’s classroom.  They spotted the star–Otis, of course–and there was immediate mutual love between these children and this canine.  After a little background about creative writing, book planning and production, and the sentimental history of Otis, we dove into two of the chapters between the front and back covers of Otis Goes to School.

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

I chose Chapter 13, “Pond-Dog,” for this bunch.  There is a particular water feature around which the happenings of this chapter take place, and it sits just behind the second grade classrooms, so I knew Otis’s discoveries thereabout would prove extra special, and would ring that bell of familiarity with ease and recognizable description.

And just as I suspected, they did not disappoint.  They recognized the pond immediately, and that perfect likeness to Otis therein, as well.

Otis sat, and then stood, and then sat and stood again, and Pond-Dog did the same. Otis panted and sneeze-barked, and snorted a friendly hello, and Pond-Dog did the same. A lovely water-butterfly danced in the air just above Pond-Dog’s ears, and much to his surprise when he looked up, there was a Monarch dancing above his own ears! Otis watched his cotton-ball clouds float to the east, and noticed the pond-clouds did the same. He wondered if they eventually met somewhere far away on the horizon, wherever it is that clouds go.

“…wherever it is that clouds go.” Ahhh, these little ones, they went right along with us, searching our imaginations for those very clouds.  We deeply enjoyed all the interest and intensity these second graders exuded.  For the Lipscomb set, they might just take the cake for “most into-the-story!”

Of course, we topped it off with Chapter 14, “Lunch.”  And good timing, because that’s just what they were ready for!

Distracted from his stealthy-ness by his newfound buffet line, Otis brushed against the legs of the cornbread girl, and his soft fur tickled her knees. She lowered her head and peered under the table, still laughing along with her friends, and spotted Otis, who paused with a deer-in-the-headlight expression.

“A dog!” the girl called loudly to her friend. “Y’all look at the dog under the table!”

And they all swiveled and twisted on their stools to crouch down for a better look, raising the noise-level all the while.

“Oh my, it IS a dog!” one girl exclaimed.

“He’s cute!” another declared. Well that was surely a nice thing to say.

“Dude, that’s awesome–a dog in School. Hey, feed him my carrots!” a goofy boy insisted, holding down a bright orange carrot between his finger and thumb.

“Hey, that’s that dog that hangs out the window every afternoon in the pick-up line!”

“Naw, can’t be, somebody tell the teachers…”

“Here boy, have a nugget!”

Otis grabbed the carrot and the nugget and kept moving forward under the table. Yep, he had been discovered, but it was worth it. Lunch had been spectacular. Students petted him and scratched his ears as he stepped over feet and lunchboxes. The commotion had drawn the attention of the teachers at this point, but it was nearly impossible to contain the excitement of children who had just found a big black dog under their lunch table.

There were squeals and hollering and he knew he heard his name several times. More food appeared under the table, served in the palms of chuckling children. “That’s Otis!” someone insisted…

See you in the pick-up line, second-grade.  You are always the BEST at waving to Otis in the afternoons.  He’s extra happy and shows off that polka-dotted pant in a large way when you greet him coming around that curve.

Mrs. Lankford's 2014 second graders!

Mrs. Lankford’s 2014 second graders!

Otis enjoyed every second of the second grade’s petting.

To the First Grade!

And less than 24 hours later, we were welcomed into the first grade classrooms, and into the extra huggable arms of these bright and dear young ones.  You do know, first grade is training ground for the best huggers of the future.  I don’t remember when I’ve received better hugs than in first grade classrooms.  These students are still the age of love in its most pure, childlike form, and they give it freely to those who look upon them with likewise admiration and appreciation (…and they do admire alliteration!).

Perhaps all the hugs are why these teachers smile so easily, so readily, even (perhaps, especially) upon the little learners who might challenge the very patience of Job with their wiggly-ness and unable-to-stop-talking-for-one-blessed-moment-ness.  There are first graders who follow the playbook as though life depends upon successful tippy-toeing between the clearly explained bylaws of first grade.  And then… and then… they are those who run haphazardly through the bylaws, past all the exceptions and clear into the unchartered territory of the first grader’s inquisitively insistent, “…but why?” (Thank you to my children’s Uncle LaGard Smith, for that succinct yet ridiculously accurate two-word summation of the ever wondering six-year-old’s favorite question.)

How do I know, you ask?  Let’s just say, the blessing of raising three children (three vastly different little Bramletts, who artfully resemble each other in looks, yet somehow encompass the full spectrum of personality possibilities within this gene pool) comes with the revelation that truly, no two children are alike, nor should they be.  They definitely approach the playbook from all angles.  And first-grade-caliber hugs help smooth those angles, no doubt here.

How else do I know?  It might be duly noted that Yours Truly, when in first grade, loved school deeply, and was often ready with some profound (wink) answer and exuberantly raised hand… it is possible that said hand might have been waving rapidly back and forth with ferocious first-grade fervor, and that the thumb and tall-man finger may have been snapped a time or two (or three) to grab my dear Mrs. Snellgrove’s attention, so that the enlightened answer/revelation/story might gush forth from the two little pink inward-squeezed lips of this overly excited only-child who scoffed at by-laws and exceptions where spotlight was available.  But I gave great hugs, and Mrs. Snellgrove was always smiling!  

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

(Thank you for your patience, Mrs. Snellgrove!)

First graders are exceedingly different and beautiful, but they all hug with wild abandon, with tremendous gusto… and with some pretty strong muscles, too, I might add!  These first graders lived up to their high heights of huggability, and ended our 2014 Lipscomb Academy visits with love to last us through the summer.

We were hosted by the very sweet, very gentle and dear Mrs. Woodard, who blessed our oldest two children with her knack for encouraging young readers, her soft voice, and her ever-caring gaze upon the lot of those under her tutelage.  Her wonderful, fellow hugged-to-the-max teachers and all the first graders joined us for a reading of the Spring volume of Ella and the Little Red Wagon (quite special, since this was a visit to our very own Ella’s classroom and grade) and Chapter 12, of Otis Goes to School: “The Spelling Test.”

This chapter is based on Mrs. Woodard and her classroom specifically, so these darlings followed right along with all the rituals of the spelling test described… all the knee-bouncing, eraser-to-the-forehead thinking, the clock ticking, the bottom-lip-biting and uplifting teacher-given winks of encouragement.  They were right there with me, right there with Otis as he reassures Chapter 12’s first-grader in his spelling of the last word of the test… “DOG.”

Otis was glad the word had not been CAT, as he would have been no help there.

The first graders!

The first graders!

I was so happy to know that just about all these students were ready to get to work on their own stories, their own written adventures of imagination.  They also shared much with us about their own dogs and other pets who resemble Otis.  And the beauty in that strong compulsion to share the first thought that comes along is the innocent and immediate reminder that children of this age have their worlds before them.  They are sitting at start, fumbling for their own sets of keys to the ignition of imagination, and all their engines are Formula-One-worthy.  Their potential is boundless, untold and yet-to-be.

That’s why they hug with all their might… because they don’t know “can’t.”

It’s a great thing not to know the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Personally, and in my house, it’s the equivalent of a forbidden four-letter word.  “Can’t,” just provokes me, really, and I’m sure my patient husband–who would make Job proud–would agree wholeheartedly.  To me, “can’t,” evokes the opposing response of, “wanna bet?”

Actually, the more typical response of this author to the atrocious contraction, “can’t,” is more along the lines of a raised right eyebrow, an ever-so-slight smile with a set jaw and hidden, clenched teeth, nose flared in the fashion of family decent, eyes flashing and scarcely squinted, excessively focused and bluer than before the inherent challenge.  I think my husband concurrently shows both eyebrows raised high to wrinkle his concerned forehead, a gritted smile in the oh-boy-here-it-comes fashion, and a tense oh-man-what-path-are-we-about-to-embark-upon sensation.  It always works out swimmingly, though, because “can’t,” just won’t do.

These first graders have the right idea.  Keep hugging with all your heart and might.

Keep answering that call to tell your own tale, and tell it well (don’t forget your adjectives!).

Never learn the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Step right over it, because you can.

Otis time is special time.

Otis time is special time.

I look forward to keeping up with all the Mustangs.  And I can hardly wait to see how you’ve all grown by next year.  It’s summertime, so I’m hoping your adventures are laying ground to stories you’ll share with me, upon our next gathering together.

To all of the Lipscomb Academy teachers who invited me, my husband, our dog, family and book into your classrooms, bless you and thank you.  Thank you all for what you do everyday, for showing up with excitement, for inspiring our children, for being everything that you are to your own families and then pulling even more from your hearts to share with your students and all their families.  Our experiences with your students shall be forever treasured, keeping our hearts full with happy thoughts.

And selfishly, we can’t help but hope for more of the same.

God bless you Mustangs, as you have all greatly blessed us.  Have a summerload of fun!

 

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

 

For more excerpts from Otis Goes to School, click here!

To find out how/where you can purchase a book or schedule an appearance, click here!

UPDATE: Here’s a couple of treasures given to me by students after our first grade visit… I love the artwork, and the thought behind the stories!  Thank you to Scout and Esme for sharing your talents with me!  I’ll treasure them always.

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

 

Great story, Scout!  I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school.  I know you have fun!

Great story, Scout! I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school. I know you have fun!

 

The Jewels of Haywood Elementary School — Part I

Otis has been around the world today!

Better stated… today, Otis was loved and hugged and smooched and squeezed by children from all over this planet, right here in the heart of Nashville.  Today, we visited Haywood Elementary School, for the second time in two weeks (Click here for the Part II recap).

On both trips, we were met with such love, such excitement and interest.

On both trips, we made beautiful new friends.

On both trips, we were blessed.

For a mere peek into the remarkable wonders of Haywood, read forth…

Our first visit to Haywood Elementary School, visiting with Miss Jan Crowder's 1st and 2nd graders, for whom English is a second language.  What precious children, and what a loving teacher!

Our first visit to Haywood Elementary School, visiting with Miss Jan Crowder’s 1st and 2nd graders, for whom English is a second language. What precious children, and what a loving teacher!

The photograph above includes children from Egypt, Burma, Somalia, Iraq and Uzbekistan! (The country of Jordan is also represented, but the student from Jordan was home sick on this day.  She is in Part II of this story though, back and well for our second visit!)

Miss Jan Crowder and her class greeted us with graceful manners, helpful hands, and promising imaginations.  We gathered in the cozy library, and read aloud the Spelling Test chapter, together.

They sat close… some close enough to reach a fingertip to pet Otis while they listened.

They scooted closer… close enough to share impromptu hugs with me, and exuberant smiles certainly drawn by the unparalleled hands of God above.

They looked right into my eyes, because they are so curious, so ready for knowledge, so honest and innocent to worldly concerns, even though they represent just that: the world.

One smiling boy touched Otis, and jumped back, testing and conquering his own apprehension.

One brown-eyed fellow beamed joy and happiness with a darling grin that I won’t forget.

One studious chap followed along, word-for-word, showing his skill in mastering English.

One pretty, smart girl bounced around me with delight and zest for life.

One precious child kept a distance from Otis, his fear of dogs shown on his face. (Remember this boy… I’ll return to him momentarily.)

Such patience and interest in these darlings!

Such patience and interest in these darlings!

Eyes-to-eyes and heart-to-heart.

Eyes-to-eyes and heart-to-heart.

We talked about our imaginations and our own stories.  We talked about adjectives and the power of descriptive words.  We celebrated the fact that all of our stories are different, and all worth telling with the most beautiful words we can muster.

Lunchtime scents finally found their ways into the halls, signaling the end of our time together.  After all the hugs we could fit into our affectionate goodbyes, we parted ways for the day, their promises of telling their own unique stories, echoing in my mind.

Otis was happy with all the loving of the morning, and I was touched by the connection Miss Crowder had with this class that she so expertly fashioned into a family.  She found herself at the beginning of the school year with the world’s children at her feet, and six different language barriers between them.  Such hurdles are no match for Miss Crowder’s dedication, devotion and true love for these youngsters.

And now… these students and their teacher–this family–moves as one unit, with respect and patience and order, with manners and politeness, with concern and time for each other… all with beautiful English and ambition for excellence!  Like polished jewels of the earth, these students reflect the care Miss Crowder brings from her heart, every single day, and I could see that they were all blessings to each other.  To be included in the morning’s study with this class was a gift, for Otis and for me.

Only a few days later, Miss Crowder hand-delivered those promised stories to me.  I was speechless, holding true treasures in my hands.

"I love you Otis."

“I love you Otis.”

"I like Otis. I like Mrs. Ashley."

“I like Otis.
I like Mrs. Ashley.”

"Otis is smart. Otis is good smell."

“Otis is smart.
Otis is good smell.”

"Otis is smart. He can hear you. He is good dog. Otis is best dog."

“Otis is smart. He can hear you. He is good dog. Otis is best dog.”

And from the little fellow who was afraid… he rose above that fear, just as the twinkle in his eye promised he would.  Fear, to anyone, is a hindrance.  But to a child, an 8-year old, in a faraway country, nowhere near his Somalian home, communicating in his second language, already overcoming so much… a fear could be paralyzing.  This boy paused before his fear, calculated his own source of courage, and waited patiently while it swelled within his lion’s heart.

Though he did not need to apologize for his apprehension around dogs, he did, within his handwritten story (below).  I smiled with a furrowed brow when I read his words.  If I could just reach through his sentiments with a hug and assurance that I understood, and to tell him not to fret…

I would get that chance, in fact.

"I love Otis so much. I want to be friends Otis. I want to say I'm sorry because I was afraid."

“I love Otis so much.
I want to be friends Otis.
I want to say I’m sorry because I was afraid.”

Needless to say, Otis and I could hardly wait to return to Haywood Elementary.

Click here to read further about the Jewels of Haywood Elementary School — Part II200 1st graders and no fears in sight!

Otis the Cover-Dog

COVER from BH Mag April 2014Check out that polka-dotted smile on the cover of April’s Berry Hill Life Magazine in Nashville, TN. Those blue eyes peeking over belong to my little girl, Ella.  Click the link below for the full article… zoom in on your screen display for an easy-on-the-eyes trick.

Berry Hill Magazine Cover Story . April 2014

We are gearing up for the Alabama Book Festival next month with lots of school appearances and readings around the Music City.  Let me know if you’d like Otis to visit your school, library or bookstore, and we’ll do our best to make it happen!

Woof-cerely yours,

Ashley, ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com