#54 Like the tiny tug freeing the 220,000 ton cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal, my “little” book could dislodge our buddy’s gigantic problem.
The container ship wedged in the Suez Canal got freed thanks to divers, tugboats, dredgers, backhoes—like the mouse who gnawed the lion free from his rope trap. Our first grade buddy’s mutism is due to a gigantic ship of a problem and I’m betting it will be one of us little players, including our buddy, who dislodge it.
Arturo’s teacher said that Expert Books might inspire him to switch from signals to speech. So, using a little book, I demonstrate.
Arturo, I peer under the desk at him as I re-crease the folds so I can sketch more easily, I’m going to write about how I’m an expert at patting Zia’s sheep.
Page One: First, get the sheep’s attention (not hard, if they are itchy and see you coming). The sheep will come to you. I draw a sheep and a stick figure waving.
Wide-eyed and all-ears, Arturo scrambles out from under and wriggles onto his chair.
Page Two: Put your fingers all the way in the fleece, as deep as you can. Rub your fingers back and forth vigorously I quick-sketch my stick figure with her stick hands buried in the sheep’s fleece. The sheep is grinning.
Page Three: Go from one end of the sheep to the other (it doesn’t matter which end you start with). If the sheep wants you to scratch both sides it will turn. My sheep turns around. I use arrows to show this.
Page Four: If you do it right, the sheep will wag its tail (if it has one). I make wag marks on either side of a stubby tail.
When I’m done, Oliver asks Arturo, Did you like the book?
He nods YES!
Want to write one, too? An Expert Book?
He nods YES! again.
Oliver says, What are you an expert at, Arturo?
He sighs. (His first noise!) Then he takes the pencil from Oliver and starts to draw.
And he is a good artist.
He sketches a little kid–curly hair, giant eyelashes, and the one eyebrow–who pulls a book from a bookshelf and carries it to his dad. The dad is at a table with his head in his hands. The little kid leads his dad by the hand to the couch where the dad reads the book, and at the end, the dad is smiling, and the kid is talking. We know he’s talking because Arturo draws a speech bubble and writes a string of random letters and little squiggles in it.
And while he draws? He TALKS! (Funnily enough, his pictures are so good we don’t really NEED words, but, hey, who’s complaining.) He narrates his story. Out loud!
We go ballistic. We show the book around to the class. Arturo “reads” it aloud, adding more details with this second edition—like his Papa sits with his head in his hands every day. After a few minutes of celebrating, Oliver says, This is a really good book, Arturo. They fist bump.
He says, Thanks, Oliver.
I tease him and say, Hey, Arturo, I said it was great, too. Aren’t you going to say thanks to me?
Arturo looks at me with what might be the sweetest smile ever. Thanks, Isabel. We do a finger-pinky pull.
–Isabel Scheherazade, expert at expert books
PS. This seems like such a normal topic, even though Arturo’s situation is, well, DIRE. But it feels good to worry about a little kid with a sort of little kid problem (selective mutism). Um, on second thought, his is NOT a regular, little problem, but it IS a change from Court Capers, lying, cheating, and trust issues. (Pop just read this over my shoulder and patted me on the back.)