Books of Power

Dear Children,

One night, while eating dinner, we had a conversation about Books of Power. I don’t know how the subject came up, or why. And it was a strange conversation, because at first you and I had different ideas about what it meant. I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I do believe some things are magical. I had to walk a fine line, because you are still young enough to believe in objects that will literally give you supernatural power, and those things do not exist. I didn’t want to deceive you, and I certainly didn’t want you getting your heads twisted around the wrong way.

So the conversation become sort of metaphorical, but at its heart was a simple and rational idea: any book that teaches us something is arguably a Book of Power. I believed this so strongly that I allowed you to turn the conversation into a game of “Find the Books of Power!” You raided my office for books first. I guess you assumed that if we owned any really powerful books, they’d be in my office! I told you that you can’t know it’s a Book of Power until you’ve read it. However, I did agree to confirm for you (after you read it) whether or not it was one.

One of the books you chose was “What Do You Do With an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada. It came from my library, so you knew it had some special importance to me. It was an interesting choice because, like our conversation, it was a metaphor. It compared an idea to a funny-looking object that grows bigger and better as its fed. When Marshall finished reading the book aloud, both of you looked at me with shining eyes and asked, “Is this a Book of Power?”

I had to tell you that it was! I mean, knowing what to do with an idea is an incredibly powerful piece of knowledge. You could accomplish a lot in this world just knowing that one thing.

Next, Livia chose “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown, and Marshall read it to us. Livia thought the message was that you should never run away. I suggested that it was about the strength of a mother’s love. When you asked if it was a Book of Power, I had to say that it was. There are some things you cannot run away from. A mother’s love is very strong, and you should never underestimate it.

While I was typing this story, you both came into the room with big smiles on your faces, having just read “The Angry Moon” by William Sleator. Livia said the “power” was about being brave. Marshall thought it was about not being mean (the Moon only got angry because its feelings had been hurt). You were both right. We must be brave when someone we love is in danger. It is best to be nice, and we can avoid a lot of trouble in life by not angering others unnecessarily.

Then you brought “The Whisper” (by Pamela Zagarenski) to me and happily announced that it was about Imagination. I asked you if that was a power, and you said, “Yes!” Livia explained how important imagination was in the story, and Marshall explained how important it is in Minecraft. You will find imagination helpful in many other ways over the years, I’m sure.

It was impressive how well you understood the themes in these books. And it was also impressive how you abandoned the idea of supernatural magic in favor of real learning. I believe these Books of Power are working on you right now, and that you are becoming more and more powerful with every word you read.

Someday, when you read this letter, maybe you will remember a sense of wonder at the very thought of a Book of Power. I want you to know that I feel it, too. A famous author once said that books are a kind of magic. It might have been Neil Gaiman, or Stephen King, or Jasper Fforde, or Carl Sagan, or more likely all of them, and many others beside. I hope you will always believe in the power of books.



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