As an educator for many years, not a school year goes by that I don’t have at least one ‘free spirit’ in my classroom. That challenging, exhausting, question-my-every-move, cannot-stop-talking, inquisitive beautiful, creative child that I embrace wholeheartedly. Not only do I have experience teaching children such as that, but raising them as well. However, the proverbial apple really doesn’t fall far from our family tree, as I was that same ‘free spirit’ growing up too. I think that’s why those particular children, whose individually shines through their confidence of being their own person, of not wanting to follow the crowd, beating to their own drum, marching in their own parade, performing on their own stage (you get the picture), are the students who are near and dear to my heart. They need to be heard. They need to know that it’s ok to ask a million questions, to color outside of the lines, to mix things up, to question everything.
So when I read Woolbur, 2009-2010 South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee, written by Leslie Helakowski and illustrated by Lee Harper, I was instantly drawn to this little amazing sheep. Not only did he not follow what the other sheep were expected to do, he stayed true to what felt good to him, even if his parents were worried. He wasn’t afraid to be different, and taught others that same message. Why are we so quick to put children in the same mold? That if one tries to break that mold, anxiety steps in? Children show us that being unique makes them happy, and we can learn from their happiness. It’s only when differences are pointed out, that one questions their individuality. If you have any ‘free spirits’ in your life, embrace them and learn from them. But don’t forget to buckle your seat belt, you’re in for an exhausting and inspiring, one-of-a-kind ride!
Review by Linda Burton