The Story of AND

I’ve always loved picture books, and I read them to anyone from visiting preschoolers to graduate students. I also love folk music and, in particular, the Midwest’s own Carrie Newcomer. This week I had the chance to enjoy both, in Sandy Eisenberg Sasso’s The Story of AND: The Little Word That Changed the World, with its associated song (scroll down to find it).

The Story of AND is an ode to an underappreciated conjunction, the heroine of the story, the word “and.” The story itself is a simple one, describing various shapes who snipe and criticize around their differences, the rectangle calling the triangle a “silly almost trapezoid” and the triangle claiming the rectangle has a useless side. But the refrain, each time, is “But over the hill came the small word AND, so simple and sure, saying, “Yes, we can!” And each time the word AND finds a way to combine the feuding shapes into something better, the triangle and rectangle into a seesaw, and then a playground, the triangle and square into a house, then a neighborhood. It reminds me of the improv technique, “Yes, and. …” in which actors accept the premise presented by one actor and build on it, always moving forward because of the “and.”

The book can be a discussion starter for readers of all ages. Young children can experiment with making new images by combining shapes, perhaps creating new pages for the book. Or, as I did with a young friend, they can cut out the shapes from the book and re-enact the story using a headband costume for the character “AND.” For older students, it could be fascinating to discuss what kinds of conflicts might have caused the author to write the book, or to identify groups of people who might think they have little in common and brainstorm the possible “and” solutions. For example, young adults and older adults might think they have little in common, but inter generational housing can help with a myriad of problems. Thinking about social groups in a high school, and the “and” options that might help them come together is an issue requiring everyone’s best thinking.

The Story of AND is both simple and profound, simple enough for preschoolers and yet powerful enough to keep adults pondering. Take a look and see where you think an AND might be just the thing we need.

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