It takes courage to follow your own path and ignore those who try to dissuade you from pursuing your dreams.
This thought really hit home last week when I was listening to CBC reporters recalling their favourite moments from the Olympic Games in Rio.
Paul Hunter was describing the impact of swimmer Kylie Moss' (bronze medal winner) comments about wanting to inspire other young Canadians to follow their dreams, to ignore those who say you can't win an Olympic medal. That really resonated with him. That’s when it struck me about how much gumption it takes to just keep on going when you’ve taken on such a huge challenge. That takes a lot of courage, in my opinion.
So here are a few recommendations of books with characters (real and otherwise) who do have the courage to achieve their dreams:
TheAbsolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Junior is an American Indian growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. With encouragement from one of his teachers he decides to go to an all-white school off of the rez. This takes tremendous courage as he receives little support from those on the reservation who see him as a traitor nor those at the school in town who see him as if he was “Bigfoot or a UFO”. This is an opportunity to make a better life for himself but it isn’t easy. Recommended for grades 9 and up.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
A little girl who loves to act is excited to take on the role of Peter Pan in a school play. But she’s told that because she’s a girl she can’t be Peter Pan. Then she’s told that because she’s black she can’t be Peter Pan. But with some help from her Nana she puts her mind to doing the best she can in auditions and is given the part. Recommended for grades 1 to 3.
Echo by Pam Munzo Ryan
I so enjoyed this book of three different characters in three different places from slightly different but contiguous time periods. Each of the children in these stories have musical ability with ‘potential’ to be great. But their circumstances (wartime Germany, homeless orphans in America, and migrant workers in California) don’t easily allow them to pursue them. However, due to their own tenacious characters (plus some lucky breaks) their futures do result in opportunities allowing them to live their passion. Recommended for middle grades.
Firebird by Misty Copeland
A young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and Misty Copeland, a real-life African-America ballerina encourages her to follow her heart and shows that hard work and determination can make it happen. Recommended for grades 1-4.
For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George
Malala Yousafzai is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Her persistent canvasing for the rights of children, especially girls, to education put her life in great danger. Despite being shot by Taliban supporters because she refused to quit school and spoke out against the Taliban, she continues endorsing and fighting for children to go to school. Recommended for grades 3 to 6.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
This graphic novel is about a wanna-be super hero. Well, he’s a reluctant wanna-be at best as it’s his mother who really pushes him to step up to the plate. But eventually Hank grows in to the role of “The Golden Man of Bravery”. This one really connects persistence, ability and courage with pursuing your dreams. Lots of wry humour, too. Recommended for grades 7 and up.