On September 11th, eight years ago, I was preparing for the first day of school: setting up the classroom, meeting students, calling parents…
At the time I was teaching during the week and bookselling on weekends. The school opted to postpone the first day until the following week to allow families time together and to allow the staff time to develop strategies to address the questions and comments our preschool students would surely have. Similarly, the bookstore instituted additional storytimes—a place to allow families to gather and relax, for parents to search for titles that might help them talk to their children, and for kids to be in a familiar place outside of their home.
The store compiled a list of titles to read and to suggest to families, but of course the booksellers added additional books which had personal meaning or which gave us comfort. There were a lot of titles about love and forgiveness, about families and home, about peace and understanding. Terrific titles, meaningful and important books all.
But it surprised me to find that the title which gave me the most comfort during this time was one I added to our suggested titles list — Dav Pilkey’s GOD BLESS THE GARGOYLES. Yes, that Dav Pilkey. Dav Pilkey the creator of Captain Underpants and The Dumb Bunnies.
GOD BLESS THE GARGOYLES tells the tale of how and why gargoyles perch on churches and cathedrals— that they were placed there to look over and protect us, to scare evil away. Yet over the centuries, our relationship with them changed, and people began to worry over these creatures, concerned that their frightening appearance reflected an unsavory soul. The gargoyles took this to heart and were devastated. Soon angels heard their crying and flew down to comfort them and to work with them to watch over mankind. To this day, whether we know it or not, accept it or not, they still look over us.
I first encountered the book when it was released in 1996 and it quickly became a favorite. But it was never an easy book to handsell. My passion for it worked during the Halloween season, but it’s not a book that is an easy one to suggest for birthdays or bookreports. It is not a book likely to become an obvious favorite.
After the events of 9/11, I realized what an important book this had become to me. Now it is among the first I turn to when I need comfort. It makes me weep and it brings me peace. And now that it is the reason I suggest it to others.
God bless the hearts and the souls who are grieving:
For those who have left, and for those who are leaving.
God bless each perishing body and mind
God bless all creatures remaining behind.