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March 7, 2010

'The Gift of Hope'

Special thanks to Veronica Walsh for this week's illustration. To see more of her work, visit veronicawalsh.net.

March 07, 2010|By Joshua Dyer

There once was a young girl who lived in a box. Well, it was more of a shack than a box. Her family had lost their home, their money, their jobs -- everything. She was about to encounter something that would change her life forever.

Hope, her parents and her younger brother had just had one of the most difficult holidays that they could remember. Hope was used to getting new dolls, clothes, and candies -- but this year all her parents could give was an old snow globe that her father had found in a nearby dumpster. Their holiday feast had been good. They all shared warm food and company with hundreds of others at the local shelter.

"We should be thankful for all that we have," her father said, "and not focus on what we've lost."

Hope lay on her mattress on the floor of the old shack -- staring into her snow globe. She found comfort in its snowy depths. She loved to shake the globe and watch the flakes dance about the little cottage that sat at its center. Hope studied every detail of the scene. She wondered what animals found shelter under the pines -- or who kept the warm glow in the window of the house going. She wanted to go into this little world, and repeated her wish as she closed her eyes.

Hope found herself standing in a whirlwind of drifting snow with snowflakes dancing lazily around her. She walked along a cobblestone road toward a yellow light.

"Could it be?" she asked.

Hope tried to gaze through to the other side of the falling snow, but couldn't. The snow seemed to just go on forever.

"Well," Hope thought, "I'd better see if I can get into that house. At least I'll be out of the cold."

With that the little girl wandered down the stone path and up to the small wooden door of the cottage. Hope knocked and waited, but no one came. She knocked once more and peered into the front window. A small orange fire crackled in a massive stone hearth. Above this, a small iron pot steamed and cast out small tendrils of its aromas. When she got back to the door, an old woman had opened it just a crack. The woman glared at Hope with one weathered blue eye.

"What in the world is a little girl like you doing out in weather like this?" the woman croaked.

"Well, I don't rightly kn -- " Hope began, but was interrupted.

"Well, come in, come in," the woman said, swinging the door with a loud creak.

"Don't get many visitors," the lady continued. "Unless they come looking for something."

The whole cottage was filled with the smell of hot cocoa. The old lady ladled some into a large wooden cup and sat it on the round table in front of Hope. She had never tasted a drink as sweet and filling as this.

"So, what are you looking for, girl?" the woman asked.

"I just wanted to see -- " Hope began. "I -- I mean my family -- "

"You've had it tough -- have you, child?"

The girl nodded and sipped her cocoa.

"So, what is it Agatha can do for you?" the woman asked. "A pony -- or perhaps a palace?"

"No," Hope said. "I just wish that my dad could have a nice job again. Then maybe we could at least stay warm."

"Rest your head, dear," the woman said. "All will be better after a short rest."

When Hope awoke, she found herself on a soft white couch -- in a very large room. The front door swished open as she raced toward it.

"Honey, I'm home!" her father shouted.

"Daddy, why are you in that suit?" she asked, grabbing his legs.

"I always wear a suit to the office, dear," he said. "What in the world has come over you?"

"Nothing," she said as she hugged him as hard as she could.

Special thanks to Veronica Walsh for this week's illustration. To see more of her work, visit veronicawalsh.net.

For more Kids' Reading Roo visit latimes.com/kids.

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