“Whisper My Story” by Sarah Shelton
Hello, Nerdy Book Club. I am going to keep my wrap-around comments brief on this post so that I can share with you one of the personal narratives that came in earlier in the school year from a student who took in the assignment, processed what the assignment was asking, and then approached the teacher’s desk at the end of the block.
“I know what we are supposed to write, but I am wondering if I can try something different. Would it be okay if I tried something different?”
Here is that “different” personal narrative. . .
“Whisper My Story” by Sarah Shelton
Personal Narrative for AP English Language and Composition 2013-2014
All at once, the suppressive darkness that was my life disappeared with a single, quick jerk. The sudden light was a shock, and I had no idea how to respond. Slowly, blurry outlines replaced the stark white world; the lines bled into colors, and cognitive objects began to form. Fear, the slow, terrorizing panic of the unknown, started to creep up my spine, until suddenly a shrill voice pierced the silence.
“This one, Mommy!”
“Alright, Sarah. Tonight we’ll read…Goodnight Moon.” A joy-filled squeal pierced the air, as a small girl, of maybe three, clambered into the lap of the other voice. The high-pitched small one must be Sarah, which meant that other voice would be Mommy. Suddenly, a feeling of weightless freedom entered my small frame. Why was I flying through the air?
“Honey, don’t wave it around like that, you might pull out a page!”
The lady did not know how spot-on she was. A painful throbbing was developing deep in the heart of my binding.
“Okay, give Mommy the book. Thank you, now we can read your bedtime story.” The woman took hold of me, and I was able to get a clear view of both of their faces. Blonde hair sprouted out of both of their heads, but the little one’s was much wilder, the strands sticking out in every direction. There was a definite relation between the two, though I was not sure quite what it was. I am only a book, after all, and my small world simply consists of same, sequel, and different. Sequels, I decided firmly, looking once more at their blonde hair.
Suddenly, the strangest of all sensations took over my covers.
“Mommy, why’d it make the noise? Is it broke?”
“No, sweetie, the book is new. Sometimes, when a book is hard-back, like this one,” she said, knocking her knuckles on the book, not an unpleasant sensation, but a different, unclassifiable one, “it makes a noise. It’s nothing to worry about. Now, can I read the story?”
The little girl nodded her head slowly.
The woman once more opened the book.
The pieces of the puzzle all fell into place. The light bulb went off; the world was at peace. For the first time in my short life, I felt as if my purpose had been discovered. I had a role to fulfill, other than occupying some space in the darkness.
“In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of—
“Okay, sweetie, turn the page.” Sarah used her chubby fingers to turn the page, almost pulling too hard, but letting go at just the right moment, putting to ease my growing fear that she would rip the beautiful story from my pages. She leaned into her mother’s shoulder, seeming to situate herself in her small, twin-sized bed.
“The cow jumping over the moon
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs,”
Sarah lunged across Mommy’s lap to turn my page.
“Careful, sweetheart. Why don’t you let Mommy do the page turning now?”
The little girl nodded, leaning back once more, and pulled the blankets up over her shoulders.
“And two little kittens
And a pair of mittens
And a little toyhouse
And a young mouse
“Do you see the mouse, Sarah?”
The girl nodded, and pointed to the small grey mouse on one of my colored pages, “There!” Mommy smiled, and turning yet another page, continued to read,
“And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush
And a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’,”
A wave of happiness and joy washed through my whole being at hearing the lady tell this story out loud. To know I was useful, and to see the child’s innocent face beaming down at my pictures, gave me a wave of fulfillment like nothing else before.
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon”
and the red balloon
At this point, the woman glanced at the child, who was now snoring slightly. Sighing, she stood up and tucked her in, closing me and flipping off the light in the process. My world was engulfed in a bizarre, almost-darkness.
Wait! I tried to scream at her, the story isn’t over! My time is not over; please do not put me back yet!
Just as I began to lose all hope, I faintly saw a small smile graced the woman’s face.
Softly, as to not wake the sleeping child, she started to whisper the rest of my story with a fond, gentle tone.
and goodnight mittens
and goodnight socks
Goodnight little house
and goodnight mouse
and goodnight brush
and goodnight mush
and goodnight to the old lady whispering ‘hush’
Goodnight noises everywhere”
Sighing once more, and stroking my green and orange cover with her fingers softly, the women placed me back onto the shelf. Shock zinged through my pages as I realized what had happened.
Mommy had it all memorized—my story forever in her heart. And she was happy about it! The joy and happiness once again tore through me, the ink on my words almost glimmering, and had I been able to, the smile to grace my features would have reached from spine to pages.
One last thought flashed through my bookish mind as I fell into the dreamlike state of a book not being read,
“And goodnight, Sarah.
See you soon.”
Here is an example of the personal narrative that truly becomes personal. Personal in its reflective entry into the piece, personal in its execution, and personal in the way that it becomes not only a tribute to the book but to the person who shared that book.
Oh, Sarah. You had me “Can I do something different?” I may have to rethink that whole 4 Page (Dabble Onto 5) Times New Roman 12 Double-Spaced invitation. Especially when it might have or could potentially stood—or stand—in the way of this. . .“something different.”
Good reading, Nerdy Book Club Friends.
He was so excited to have Sarah share her personal narrative here that Paul W. Hankins forgot to write a bio for this post. He would like you to know that Sarah is a super student in Room 407 who has attended each of the Books and Bagels sessions this year. Sarah has recently been seen carrying a copy of Andrew Smith’s GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE. Paul W. Hankins gets to be Sarah’s teacher this year. While you cannot be his student this year (the year is late and we are going on spring break after today), you can follow him at @PaulWHankins.
Excerpts taken from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947).