Children’s Literature Conclusion of Book 1

Buses… everywhere in Costa Rica there are buses. Buses to the cities, buses to the mountains, buses to the beaches, and to the rain forest tours. Waiting for a bus could be a little uncomfortable, but once we were on the bus, there were plenty of nice people to share conversation with. Nobody minded speaking Enlgish to us, nor did they mind our muy poquito Espanol.

One bus ride seemed almost magical. We left the beaches of Cahuita and  Puerto Viejo to go up into the mountains. We were on our way to visit an American missionary family. Norte Americano, that is– from Los Etados Unidos like us. They came to help people and had adopted many orphan children from Costa Rica. They had plans to take us to see the volcano, Mt Irazu.

The trip lasted several hours. At one point the bus driver let us get out to use the restrooms and buy bananas at a farm stand. As we rode through little villages early in the evening, everyone was outside. children were kicking balls, grown-ups walking dogs, fathers playing with their children while mothers cooked a meal. The missionaries informed us that almost everyone had a T.V. even in a poor country. Yet they didn’t seem to be occupied with t.v. They were all having fun outside!

We passed a banana field and a man boarded the bus and sat near us. He couldn’t speak English but he kept talking to us with his hands. He kept saying, “Bonita Senorita Sophia! Sophia Laurie!” “Like Sofia Loren?” “Si! Sofia Loren!” he exclaimed!This man only thought of nice things to say. “She is part Italian, and very beautiful,” Daddy said. The man was beaming and trying to tell us about his own beautiful children. I couldn’t help thinking how rough his hands were and how hard he had worked all day– even late into the evening– to take care of his own family. He must have children and grandchildren that live close by. How often do we see someone beaming from ear to ear after working so hard! And talking to complete strangers like us after being out in the fields all day!

Soon we arrived in the city. It had really gotten cooler outside. The bus stopped outside the ruins of a beautiful old cathedral that was all lit up with colorful lights.That is where we met our friends. They took us to dinner that night and to see Mount Irazu the next day.

“Mama, was Costa Rica your favorite place that we traveled to?” “So far, yes.” “Why Mama? Because it was so beautiful? Or because the people were so friendly?”

“Both,” Mama said. “Is Italy like that too?” Asked Sophia. “I think so. People like to talk. And they like to be outside going places– busy late into the evening.” “That’s how Giovina is,” Sophia said. “I think Daddy and I will paint Costa Rica first!”

Children’s literature: Mom and Daughter Relive Costa Rica via Scrapbook

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“Mom, we have to find a picture for Daddy to paint– somewhere cool that I’ve been to!” Sophia exclaimed, the next morning.

Sophia’s little brother was still sleeping, so mom and daughter sat on the couch to look at the family scrapbooks.

Sophia goes through her baby pictures. “Am I still that cute, Mama?” she asks. “You are even more beautiful now.” her mama says.

Sophia reads a caption on the page: “I never tried to squeeze my baby’s feet into shoes before– her feet get stronger without them. But now that she’s walking outdoors, I emptied the bag of hand- me- down baby shoes that Karla gave us, and found two pairs that fit her. Here’s Sophia in her first shoes!

“Wait, Mama!” Sophia said. Karla gave us used baby shoes?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked Mama.

“Karla the airline stewardess?! I got my shoes from someone who had traveled all over the world? No wonder I’ve been to so many places already– I’m wearing someone else’s shoes! I bet her daughter traveled with her in these shoes, and now I am traveling! See Mama, shoes do take you places!”

Mama just smiled. “Let’s look at your pictures in Costa Rica. You were only 1 and 1/2 years old then. Your first trip overseas.”

Turning the page, Sophia saw that Mama had embellished it with detailed journal entries. Now that she was old enough to read, Sophia found herself delighted at what she was learning!

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Here’s Sophia at 4:00 a.m. ready and waiting to go to Chicago O’Hare airport. minus 13 degrees outside– January in Chicago! Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane!  It’s winter here, but Costa Rica will still be having their summer. Wonder how hot it will be and how many bugs? Part of our time we’ll be up in the mountains, so we’ll keep some sweaters and rain jackets, but leave most of this winter clothing behind once we get to the airport. Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane! Costa Rica, here we come!

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When we first arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blustery. We were told that the wind gusts were unusual and had to to with Mount Turrialba volcano having erupted on January 5, 2010– one week earlier. Vocanoes can send ash far up into the stratosphere and this can continue affecting weather for quite a while. High winds and even rain and thunder in the sky can result from a volcanic eruption. No one was hurt in the volcano that year, but everyone felt the high winds were very unusual for such a mild climate.

Our trip started and ended with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. San Jose is packed with cars. Only ten years ago, people mostly took buses or rode bicycles. But then people started being able to afford cars. There are so many cars that the city of San Jose made a law that people can only drive their car one day a week, and on the weekend. Some people may drive on Mondays, other people on Tuesdays, etc! So people still have to take buses or share their car with someone else. It did take us incredibly long to get to our hotel!

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In Costa Rica, coffee beans grow. They have the best tasting coffee in the world! And guess what? Mommy never cared for coffee before– until she had to start chasing little Sophia around! Yep, we had to put you on a little harness sometimes!

You ran all over in those little sandals. We put them on you in San Jose and you wore them the entire trip, until we returned to San Jose, and you lost one of them at a concert and cried for two days. We never found the missing sandal. It seems that it wanted to stay in Costa Rica. Funny to think of it, we got those sandals and summer clothes from a friend who had taken her kids to Puerto Rico. Her little girl is only a little older than you and they are part Peurto Rican– like you and Daddy. I think that sandal wanted to stay near the Carribean. I can’t blame it– sandals don’t like Chicago winters!

Children’s Literature: an aside for the reader:

A brief note to blog followers: I recently started training for a new position and am traveling all over for training. My family and I have been adjusting to the new routines, and additionally, we lost a very dear family friend to cancer last week. I intend to keep going with my blog plan and children’s story, but I apologize for the inconsistency these last couple weeks!

I need to backtrack in my story a little bit. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that its a rough draft– but if you’re new to this blog  you may want to take note: the story will come together and make sense in the end! Its about a little girl that wants to write her travel memoirs, and turn them into a story so she can win a writing contest and use the prize money to go to Italy. Her parents teach her to be grateful for all the places she has been already and to use those places as inspiration. Each post is a vignette for the book, and being a picture book it will have to be simplified into shorter, less descriptive stories put together as a series. Each book in the series will end with the girl having learned not only new facts about the places she’s been, but having a fuller understanding of the creative process of making a story, and lastly, each book will end with her family being inspired by her and drawing closer together.

Having said that, I now go back to a couple posts ago when I mentioned mother and daughter looking at the family scrapbook together. Mother has written vignettes, or memoirs about the places underneath the photos. The first place they look at is Costa Rica– having been the girl’s first trip outside the U.S. As a writer, I wrestled with moving forward with the plot, versus spending time on detail. I now see that this will work itself out if I end the first book with the girl reading her mother’s descriptions in the scrapbook, comprehending the definition of “Memoirs” and desiring to write her own memoirs. In this way, the first book encompasses the desire to go to Italy, introduces the challenge into the plot, requires a change in the main character’s perspective, brings her closer to her mom through the scrapbook, gives her a clue about the role her shoes played in this adventure, and deepens her mental image through both facts and feelings of a place she has been: Costa Rica.

Children’s Literature, Picture Book Chapter 3: Scrapbook of Travel Adventures

Sophia and her Momma spent the next morning looking at their scrapbooks while Sophia’s little brother is slept.

“So this was my baby shower!” Sophia exclaimed. I thought you had baby showers before the baby came out?”

“All through my pregnancy, we were trying to sell our home,” said Momma. “It was very important, and very stressful on me. So we waited till you came into the world. That way all our friends and family would get to meet you!”

“How old was I then?” Sophia asked.

“You were only a month old in those pictures,” Momma said.

“What was my favorite present?” Sophia asked.”Did I get any shoes?”

“Well, yes. As a matter of fact, our friend gave you the little pair of white bunny slippers.”

“I remember those,” Sophia said. “I wore them in Idaho.”

“Yes,” Momma said. “You cried every time you lost the ‘girl bunny’ or the ‘boy bunny! I’m not sure how you told them apart,” Momma smiled, “but when you asked where they were, I always told you ‘they went down the rabbit hole’ and then you’d find them under your sheets. But one time, you dropped the ‘girl bunny’ outside in the snow after preschool, and cried for three days till we found it! It was good that the snow in Idaho doesn’t stay all winter like it does here in Chicago!”

Sophia laughed. “I sure loved those bunny slippers. We still have them, right?”

(Painting of Momma and Sophia sitting together holding the scrapbook. Next to them are the tattered pair of bunny slippers.)

Did I get any other shoes?” asked Sophia.

Momma said, ” you did get a bag of shoes from Karla, the airline stewardess. They were her daughter’s old shoes.”

“Really,” Sophia said excitedly. “That means that those shoes came from someone who traveled! Karla traveled to different countries, right?”

“Yes,” Momma said, “She worked for an international company and went all over the world.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Sophia. “Are there any pictures of me in those shoes?”

“Those were the first shoes you wore outside. Here’s a picture of you in them at grandma and grandpa’s house.”

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“That must have been fun. But what about travel pictures, Mom?”

“Well, here is your first big trip. We went to Costa Rica with our friends.

(Art: next two pages show scrapbook up close with pictures of Costa Rica and captions of what was happening, ending with a little notation about how Sophia lost her sandal there at a church and cried.)