|Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry|
Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry gives the reader one of those moments. In the story, fourth grader Shelby Summers, a fairly well adjusted child, is on vacation. She spends a lot of her time at Tom and Kim Tucker's home while her parents are at work. They watch over her and the families become quite close. As an only child of two working parents, she considers Mr. and Mrs. T her pseudo grandparents. It's a clear introduction to the adage, "it takes a village to raise a child".
"Shelby hopped off her stool and gave him a big hug. She and Mr. T were nearly inseparable, and they'd seen each other almost every single day for the last ten years."
At first glance, it seems as if Shelby is going through the motions of an overly sappy young girl. But as the book progresses, some pertinent issues come to light. And it becomes apparent that there is an underlying depth of reliance and motivation that tightly bonds the characters. Mr. T represents absolute faith within his young protege, when he includes her in a secret project, ostensibly giving credence to Shelby's own development.
"...'That is dedication and commitment, two great qualities you have, Shelby.' ... Shelby swelled up with pride and had a huge smile on her face as they headed up to the checkout counter to pay for their materials."
I found myself feeling a bit sorry for Shelby's character. Though she's positive and helpful, she witnesses the experience of Mr. and Mrs. T's struggle with Mr. T's cancer. Aside from school, she does not generally have much exposure to other children her age. She seems so much more responsible and adult-like because of the circumstances within her environment.
All in all, Shelby is a wonderful culmination of the dedicated adults who surround her and take their time to impart wisdom and love.
Spry portrays a simple story of diligence, perseverance, and "paying it forward", that lures the reader to subtly experience a more complex and valuable sense of poignancy. There is something jaded and, oftentimes, arrogant in the adult human psyche. It is inevitable that children grow up. But certain principles should remain intact. For the betterment of society, for the betterment of the individual.
Michele Spry is a Partner in Education with Midway Heights Elementary School in Columbia, MO. She wrote this book while on vacation in Montrose, Colorado.
Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry, illustrated by Peggy A. Guest, 2013 ISBN 978-0-9887782-3-8