I hesitated to write about this beautiful book because it is out of print like my previous recommendation. However it might be wasting away on a library shelf somewhere and fully deserves to be brought to light.
And light is the perfect symbol for this book. Telling a story of an ‘enlightening’ candle by that candle’s own light, it was the illustrations, reminiscent of Rembrandt, that first drew me to this book. Painter Jacob Collins is described on his website as, “…a leading figure in the contemporary revival of classical painting”.
Luminous and rich, the paintings demanded a story with equal depth, and Richard Paul Evans was equal to the task. This is a story of the awakening of empathy, told without reference to any deity and thus open to any receptive listener.
I wanted my students to get the full impact of the images, which I believe have the potential to open the heart in ways that words might not. Although I knew it would compromise the quality, I scanned the images and showed them on the Smart Board while I read the story to the Grades 4 & 5. I turned off some of the lights so the paintings would show up better and read by the scant light emanating from the board itself. If I dared, I would read this by candlelight.
The students were completely absorbed throughout the story and were highly appreciative of the message and of the art. I expect to have a chance to show this to Grades 6-9 before Christmas and although I expect the junior high students to demonstrate the obligatory ennui, I have confidence that it will touch them all and perhaps light a little candle of empathy within many of them.