“Liberating” Stories by Patrick Andrus
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through life without any fears? This premise isn’t realistic, but sure is “liberating” to think about. The idea that I’m writing this blog post for the Nerdy Book Club is completely liberating to this forty-five year old fourth grade teacher.
Before I share an all-time favorite book with the illustrious members of this book club, I feel the need to open up and share a bit of my story. I must confess that this kind of sharing would be high on my list of fears similar to the lists Gabriel and Frita created in the book The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going.
As I child and young adult I lived with many fears of my own; the fear of not being great at sports, the fear of standing out, the fear of not fitting in, the fear of the neighborhood kid down the street, the fear of heights, and on and on. It took me a long time becoming comfortable in my own skin and to accept myself for who I was and who I was becoming. It isn’t an easy thing to admit, but if we are going to face our fears, we need to take a risk, be honest, and share our story.
After graduating from college and becoming an elementary school teacher I began to fall in love with books, the stories with amazing characters, and all they had to offer. The list of my favorite books is endless but one favorite touched me in a way that I will never forget.
The Liberation of Gabriel King is one book that I hold close to my heart. Gabe is living life in 1976 while his fourth grade year is coming to an end. He is worried (and fearful) about starting fifth grade with the two biggest bullies in school. These would be the top three on his list of fears. When I was starting fifth grade, these same three fears would have also been on my list had I created one at the time. Isn’t it amazing how stories can imitate life?
Gabe’s best friend, Frita, is a black girl with a spit-fire personality and doesn’t back down to anyone; including the two bullies Frankie and Duke. I wish I would have had a friend like this back in 1978 when I was starting fifth grade. She decides it is time to put these fears of Gabriel’s behind him so he can start a liberating life. During the summer of 1976 while the country is celebrating the bicentennial, Frita helps Gabe tackle the lists of fears one by one. Gabe isn’t sure how this will help him start fifth grade, but he goes along for the ride. Once Frita sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her.
They start small with his fear of spiders and before he knows it, Gabe has a pet spider that he even is required to name. During the journey of facing his fears, Gabriel learns that Frita also has a list of fears that she is working on liberating. These two amazing young people have an incredible summer full of experiences; some positive and some not so much. The biggest surprise comes when Gabriel learns Frita’s number one fear and realizes he needs to help her face it in the same way she helped him.
The first time I read this book, it took me to places I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes this was painful, but more often it was liberating to me to know that I wasn’t the only young boy that had a long list of fears. There are times when characters come alive, leave the page, and sit beside you while you take in the story. This happened to me as I came to know Gabe and Frita.
We all find ways to face our fears in life, take risks, and liberate ourselves to live a more enriched and authentic life. One of the biggest influences for me in my own life has been books; both children’s and adult. As I look back at all the stories I’ve encountered in my lifetime, it is truly mind boggling at how each and every character and their story has helped me to liberate and free myself of fears that I have likely been holding onto since my own childhood.
Give yourself the gift of The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going. This novel is truly a gift and one that I know you will keep close on your reading shelf and more importantly your heart.
Patrick Andrus is a fourth grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He has had twenty-two years of wonderfully liberating experiences teaching young children. The biggest gift he gives his students is the gift of words, stories, and incredible characters like Gabriel and Frita. It was about a year ago that he took the risk to enter the world of Twitter, his own blog, and connecting with the incredible members of this book club. You can follow him on Twitter @patrickontwit and his blog http://readwonder.blogspot.com/.