What is greatness?
It comes in many ways.
Gertie wants to be the greatest fifth grader... in her classroom... in the world... in the universe! What a goal! But why does she want to be the greatest? Because she needs to convince her estranged mother, who lives in the same town but has no contact with Gertie, to not move far away. To stay and realize that it's Gertie she wants to be with.
Right from the start, I knew I wanted Gertie to be great.
It helps that Gertie's Leap to Greatness has one of the best beginning lines....
"The Bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect."
interior art by Jillian Tamaki
I knew Gertie was going to be great from there. In order to be the greatest fifth grader, Gertie brings in said half dead bullfrog to show that she resuscitated the frog and brought it back to life. Surefire, right? And thus begins Gertie's problems. Between the thunder-grabber Mary Sue Spivey and other friendship woes, Gertie's plans don't go the way she had hoped.
From the start, Gertie had my heart. Her love for her family and desire to be loved in return made me root for her all the way. I loved her intentions because they were born from the heart, whether or not they were always carried out the way she intended is another thing!
Gertie wanted to be great. But her reasons were true. And she went about it in her own world. Which makes me ask the question, what is greatness?
Is it something big?
Does it reach many people?
How do you measure it?
I see greatness throughout my day. It's not through grandiose measures. It's not unreachable.
My daughter is great. She goes through amazing surgeries that are hard and tough, and she comes out stronger in the end. She works hard at what she does and doesn't complain about the challenges she has. She shows me that greatness is found in those that are strong.
The students I work with are great. They have unique talents. They struggle with something that has always come easy to me, yet they try harder. Every day, effort is shown and steps are made. They show me that greatness is found in those that work hard.
But today I am going to celebrate my colleague, Laura. She collaborates with me everyday. She pushes me to think harder, to think in new ways, to think about how others learn. Every time I listen to her work with children, I learn something new. I think about my own practices and what I could do better. I love that she embraces children's literature and she shares that love with our students. She is professional and fun. She is articulate and humorous. She finds the greatness in what we do and the students we work with. She makes the place we work great. She shows me that greatness is found by enjoying what you do - it rubs off on others!
To help celebrate being great, the kind folks at Macmillan, will be sending Laura a copy of Gertie's Leap to Greatness on Gertie's book birthday, this Tuesday - October 4th.
I hope you'll be leaping over to your closest bookstore or library on Tuesday to find a copy of Gertie. On Tuesday, search #leapwithGertie to find pictures of other readers leaping with Gertie! I promise it will make you think of greatness and ways to find it in your own life.
Cassie and Kate Beasley