Noggin is not happily ever after, either, but we have the feeling Travis will find his way. A truly gifted writer (Whaley certainly is one) resonates with lots of people in different ways. The most emotional scene for me in Noggin was when Travis held the hand of the little sister whose brother’s body was now Travis’s (you’ll have to read the book to understand what this is all about):
I looked over at her and I swear I felt something I’ve never felt before. I felt like I knew this little kid, like I’d heard her voice before and felt her little hand in mine and seen her smile in the sunlight like that. It was so familiar to me, and despite being completely absurd and illogical, I knew in that moment that I was not just Travis Coates who died and came back from the dead. I was the older brother who she lost. (p.332)
I experienced something mystical like this years ago when one of my daughter’s classmates lost her mother. One day at the high school parking lot while waiting to pick up my daughter, I saw this girl walking with her friends, and for a few moments I suddenly felt as if I was watching her through the eyes of her mother, as if her mother had taken over my eyesight to simply see her daughter being okay, being able to talk with friends, being able to laugh again. I could not turn away from watching this girl through the sensation of her mother’s eyes, and just as I was wondering if I should get out of the car and follow the girl, a feeling of relief came over me, of the mother letting go.
Author Kate DiCamillo, in her 2014 Newbery medal acceptance speech, told of how, "[i]n the week after my mother died, I heard her say my name. It was just once, and I was asleep. The sound of her calling for me woke me up. Her voice was younger, impatient, certain, hopeful. It was the sound of her standing on the front porch steps, calling for me at dusk."
Mystical experiences like these, our most real moments of life, are never forgotten. Artist Wanda Collins Johnson says, “Art is my way of keeping a record of the mystery of life…” In his book, Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime, Roger Housden says, "Moments like these pass, but they leave a trace on the air we breathe. I do not believe we are ever quite the same again, however transitory their visitations, however completely the everyday world seems to reassert itself (36)."
John Corey Whaley. Thank you for keeping a record of the mystery of life. I hope you’re busy writing another book…