Each month, the Chancellor selects a children’s book that she feels is inspirational and informative for the students, parents, and staff members who make up the City’s public schools. For past book selections, review the “Book of the Month” category right here on The Morning Bell.

The Tin Forest
By Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson
(Puffin Books, 2003)

An old man lives in a small house with small windows that overlook other people’s garbage and bad weather. He spends his days trying to clear out the junk and his nights dreaming of a forest full of colorful birds, exotic flowers, tropical trees, and wild animals.

9977949_origOne day, he decides to gather up scraps of tin and build a forest. When he is done, he consoles himself with the thought that, while it is not the forest of his dreams, it is a forest nonetheless. Then, something amazing happens. The man wakes to the song of birds. Soon, the forest is alive with the buzzing of insects, the rustle of leaves, and the sounds of large and small creatures.

This beautifully illustrated book tells a multi-layered story about adaptability, reinvention, and the power of dreams to change the world. The old man who dared to dream big could represent any of us who strive to better our lives, who despite adversity see the glass as half-full, not half-empty. It also makes a statement about our relationship to the environment.

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with our families and friends, let us appreciate what is beautiful in our lives and remind ourselves what we are grateful for. I am not saying that we should ignore what is unacceptable. Rather, I believe that, like the old man of this story, we must push ourselves to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Every day, our educators and parents try to make the world better for children. We look to the future and search for ways to improve our lives, and the lives of the children in our care. The Tin Forest encourages us to make the best of what we have while holding fast to our dreams.

During this month of gratitude, let us all be thankful for the pleasures—and challenges—life has thrown our way. Let us believe that we can create a world “filled with all the things that everyone” wants. Let us resolve to be like the old man in the tin y house “who never stopped dreaming.” The stakes are high, but we should not rest until all of our students are on their path to success.

Posted by Carmen Fariña

Former Chancellor of NYC Schools, lifelong educator, native Brooklynite, and proud abuela.