Giving Back

December 7, 2008

Cynthia Rylant weaves words in such creative ways that require me to read and reread for deeper understanding.  I can just imagine her words are like clay in an artist’s hands.  Cynthia shares stories from her home – the Appalachian the bring you to the people she knows.  This book, Silver Packages:  An Appalachian Christmas Story, makes an excellent read aloud, as well as teaching writerly craft.

In her author’s note in the front, she states:   “This story was inspired by a real train, the ‘Santa Train,’ which rolls through the Appalachian Mountains each Christmas season….since 1943.”

Frankie waits beside the train for a present.  He wishes for a doctor’s kit.  A silver package is thrown to him by the man from the train.  He’s excited by waits until Christmas morning to open his only gift.  Disappointment mingles with his gratefulness, as he receives socks and another toy.  Cynthia Rylant creates such a sense of longing from the character year after year waiting by the train.  As the reader, I’m drawn in;  I watch to see what each silver package will bring Frankie.  Then, the story flashes forward to a young man who is a doctor, thinking of his family in the Appalachians.  He remembers the gifts that came at just the right time.  “And Frankie remembers something about owing a debt.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Silver Packages:

  • Flash-forward beginning – the history of the Christmas train
  • One line sentence for emphasis – “So the train is awfully important.”
  • Repeating line – a doctor’s kit
  • Foreshadowing – “icy feet aching” and he gets socks as a present that year
  • Not this, but that – Okay, I’m not sure what to call this craft, but I’m intrigued by the way Cynthia Rylant creates the text.  In the beginning, three times she says a similar phrase, “…but why isn’t importan.  What matters is what happened.”  “But who came aalong isn’t important either.” It’s almost like she’s summarizing and making the reader stay focused on the important part, not the side story.  Read it for yourself and let me know your thoughts!!