Sunday, November 30, 2014

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Each November, on the last day before Thanksgiving break, my school holds our annual Thanksgiving Assembly. Students, faculty, and administrators in grades K-12 gather together to share in some of our community's favorite holiday traditions, a highlight of which is the kindergartners singing "The Turkey Song," replete with turkey costumes. A student from each division is chosen to share a reading with the community, and for the past few years I have been responsible for picking both the student and the text for my division. While choosing one middle school student to represent us at the assembly is always a daunting task, I have found it considerably easier to pick the words she will read.

In November is a gorgeous picture book written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner. Rylant's writing is simple, poetic, and deliciously vivid, which has made this book a favored read-aloud during my 5th Grade memoir writing project. When I was first asked to help with our Thanksgiving Assembly, my mind immediately rushed to Rylant's lovely lines, which are imbued with a sense of peace and calm and love. I have yet to come across a more beautiful reading for this time of year.

In November
Cynthia Rylant 

In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets.

In November the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.

In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes. The birds that are leaving look very serious. No silly spring chirping now. They have long journeys and must watch where they are going.

The staying birds are serious too, for cold times lie ahead. Hard times. All berries will be treasures. In November, animals sleep more. The air is chilly and they shiver. Cats pile up in the corners of barns. Mice pile up under logs. Bees pile up in deep, earthy holes. And dogs lie before the fire.

In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog. Food is better in November than any other time of year.

In November, people are good to each other. They carry pies to each other’s homes and talk by crackling woodstoves, sipping mellow cider.  They travel very far on a special November day just to share a meal with one another and to give thanks for their many blessings – for the food on their tables and the babies in their arms. And then they travel home.


In November, at winter’s gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometime friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.

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