Chart Number 195

By Ekta R. Garg

November 27, 2015

Because this is the day after the day of giving thanks—and the day for thinking of giving to others—I thought I’d share a small incident that happened that’s related to the concept of receiving.

Our local library holds an annual raffle to encourage kids to read. From August to December kids get charts from the library and keep track of how many days in the month they read for at least 20 minutes or more. When the chart gets full, kids can drop it into a raffle at the library. Every month the librarians draw names, and the winner gets to go to the library and pick a book out of a display case holding the prizes.

Given that both Nine and Seven enjoy reading, they really enjoyed completing the challenge for the raffle last year. When Seven won a book, the entire idea of the raffle held more appeal for her. So this year when the library began the raffle again, they decided to participate again. This time, ironically or not, I got an email that Nine won a book.

When I told the girls, Seven was clearly not happy. She couldn’t really complain much, though, considering that she won a book last year and her sister didn’t. After making a face about it for a few minutes, she gave up the fight. That left Nine to dance around the kitchen with abandon. On Tuesday morning when I told her we would go to the library after school to pick her book, though, she had a drastically different reaction.

A couple of weeks before we found out about Nine winning the raffle for this month, we’d gone to the library to check out a few books for a school project of hers. On the way past the children’s librarians’ desk to the front of the library to check out our books, Nine must have taken a quick look through the prize case. The book she’d hoped to win was no longer in the case.

I didn’t know any of this when I woke her up on Tuesday morning and tried to coax her out of bed with the promise to go to the library after school. I even challenged her to get out of her bed in under sixty seconds (after I’d spent about five minutes trying to get her up.) Get out of bed in sixty seconds or less, I told her and I would definitely take her to the library.

Her position in bed didn’t change and she kept her eyes closed, but I still saw melancholy muddle her expression. I kept entreating her to get up, but the sixty seconds came and went and Nine stayed put. I knew something was wrong if the promise of a new book didn’t get out of bed, but after asking her several times what had happened she stayed close-lipped. So I just told her she had to get up and decided to ask her in the car.

Both kids went through their morning routines: brushing, shower, get dressed, and head down for breakfast. As the girls came with their empty cereal bowls into the kitchen, Nine said, “Fine, I’ll go to the library after school.”

I still wanted to know what had happened. “We’ll talk about it,” I said.

“What, so just because I didn’t get out of bed in sixty seconds I don’t get to go to the library?”

“We’ll talk about it,” I repeated.

I resisted the urge to press her for details until we’d dropped Seven at school and were on our way to Nine’s school. Keeping my voice neutral, I asked her what had happened.

“Do you remember when we went to the library to get my books on weather?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, not really sure where this was going.

“Well, I looked in the case and the Thea Stilton book was gone.”

Oh. So that’s the book she’d wanted for herself, and she couldn’t go back and get it. I explained that I understood how disappointed she was.

“I know it sounds silly,” she went on, “especially saying it out loud, but I really wanted that book.”

“I completely understand,” I said again. “I love books too, so I would never tell you it’s silly to look forward to getting a book and then not be able to get it later. I know how important and special books are. So if you can’t find something else that you like, what do you think is a good solution?”

“Get the book that [Seven] wants,” she said with reluctance.

I reassured her that no matter what happened, she should be happy about winning the raffle and getting the chance to pick a prize. She should appreciate, I told her, the opportunity to get a book. With that I dropped her at school and crossed my fingers that she’d have a good day. I hoped that a whole day of school would distract her from the whole book issue and restore her good mood.

Fortunately Nine had a good day, and when she got into the car after school she’d returned to her normal sunny self. We drove to the library and chatted about her day, about her homework, and everything else. I admit, I held my breath when we approached the book prize case. I didn’t want Nine’s disappointment to come back.

It didn’t; instead she found two other books that caught her attention and stood for about five or six minutes considering both. The librarian on duty stepped away and let Nine take her time deciding. She read the back covers of both and thought about it, and once again I resisted the urge to jump in with an opinion. I wanted her to enjoy this entire experience without any input or leading suggestions from me.

In the end she chose The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and she held it with that possessive grip that only a book lover understands. Later that afternoon when Seven came home after chorus rehearsal, we showed the book to her and our resident animal lover’s eyes lit up. A book about animals? Yes, please!

Nine has a few other books on her “to read” list before she gets to The One and Only Ivan, but now she’s really looking forward to it. Seven, in a show of good sportsmanship, has agreed to let her sister read the book first. And now both of them can enjoy what truly is a special gift: books, as someone said once, are the books that keep giving.