Let Us Pray

h1 May 12th, 2009 by jules

You guys! Do you know that there is a newly-illustrated version of Daniel Pennac’s perfectly perfect book, The Rights of the Reader? I originally read this text of Pennac’s, first published in France as Comme un roman in 1992, as Better Than Life, published by Stenhouse Publishers in 1999, I believe it was. Yes, you school librarians and teachers probably know this text well. And, if you don’t, you likely are familiar with—or have at least heard of—Pennac’s beloved Reader’s Bill of Rights. Perhaps, it just occurred to me, it’s even one of those love-it or hate-it-type books, as what Pennac is suggesting for education is quite radical, going against the grain of the way reading is generally taught in schools today. But put me squarely in the love-it camp. And, as I’m having a busier-than-normal week, I can’t go into all the reasons why, my Ode to This Book, so to speak. But consider this my brief barbaric yawp on the 7-Imp roof-top about Pennac’s book.

Most importantly, I haven’t even said yet: This new edition—released by Candlewick at the end of last year, I believe it was—is illustrated by Quentin Blake. Be still my heart. I guess I was slow in getting to it, but I’m happy I eventually found it. And it has been translated fearlessly by Sarah Adams.

What I do have time to share is this wonderful excerpt, which has an all-new meaning to me, now that I’m a parent:

“…{T}he ritual of reading every evening at the end of the bed when they were little—set time, set gestures—was like a prayer. A sudden truce after the battle of the day, a reunion lifted out of the ordinary. We savored the brief moment of silence before the storytelling began, then our voice, sounding like itself again, the liturgy of chapters. . . . Yes, reading a story every evening fulfilled the most beautiful, least selfish, and least speculative function of prayer: that of having our sins forgiven. We didn’t confess, we weren’t looking for a piece of eternity, but it was a moment of communion between us, of textual absolution, a return to the only paradise that matters: intimacy. Without realizing it, we were discovering one of the crucial functions of storytelling and, more broadly speaking, of art in general, which is to offer a respite from human struggle.

Love wore a new skin.

And it was free.

Ah. Beautiful. Enough said.


14 comments to “Let Us Pray”

  1. That quote is so beautiful!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. I will always treasure the times my mother and/or father read or told stories to me every night until I was 11. What a blessed time it was.

  3. OK. You should warn us about a quote like that. Grab the tissues or somethin’. Sheesh. He pretty much sums up the whole point of everything right there, doesn’t he???

    “…a return to the only paradise that matters: intimacy…”


  4. I’m so glad you found the new edition. I recently discovered this book and that was the quote I posted on my blog! I’m in the love-it camp. How can you not love a book that explains the joys of reading? It makes you want to go out and buy everyone you know a copy.

  5. Waaaaah! Sniffle.

    That’s great.

  6. *book want*

  7. I found it last year and I agree it’s wonderful. The Blake illustrations are perfect for it too.

  8. Prayer comes in many beautiful forms. Thanks for sharing this!

  9. “Yes, reading a story every evening fulfilled the most beautiful, least selfish, and least speculative function of prayer: that of having our sins forgiven.”

    Amen. Thanks for this Jules.

  10. Boy, that really is beautiful. D. reads me to sleep every night, and while it’s not at all the same, I like the idea of putting aside grudges — of a child against a parent, one would assume spouses could figure that out before bed — and settling into the peaceful flow of a story that was before you were and that will be long after you are away to another book. Continuity is a beautiful thing.

  11. Oh, this made me smil.e

  12. i love illustrated books…line drawings are so full of personality

  13. Oh, I missed this too. Must get.

  14. Not only did I buy a first edition and not only have I read it over and over again, but I’ve even used it in class with high school students. Love it, love it, love it. But . . . I had no idea an illustrated edition had been published. I can’t wait to read it, too! Thanks!

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