Once Upon a Time a Sparrow is an autobiographically inspired novel about a woman’s journey toward accepting a less than perfect past. Structurally the story is told through the narrative voices of forty-seven-year-old Mary Madelyn Meyers (spring of ’05) and nine-year-old “Maddie” (spring of ’67). Though thirty-eight years separate these two points in time, a child’s old coat with an acorn in the pocket reunites Mary with the long-forgotten Maddie.
Mary’s mother has died unexpectedly. When Mary opens the Lane hope chest at the foot of her mother’s bed, she makes a surprising discovery: her mother kept the black hooded coat she herself had worn every day in third grade, regardless of the weather. This reunion sets in motion a stream of memories that demand Mary’s attention. When she returns to her job as a school psychologist, Mary can no longer maintain her usual dispassionate manner while addressing the needs of children with learning challenges.
Rural Minnesota in 1967 had no understanding of dyslexia, a disorder that makes reading an unfathomable skill for nine-year-old Maddie. After praying to St. Rita, patron saint of lost causes, every night for a year, Maddie decides in third grade that reading really is a lost cause. But when her teacher reads a captivating story about a fairy who helps a boy her age overcome his limitations, Maddie jeopardizes her plan to be a nun and steals the book for herself. Her first discovery: Fairy Yram’s name is her own first name, Mary, spelled backwards. Armed with this revelation, Maddie uses her limited reading skills and her expansive imagination to unlock the true meaning this story holds for her own life. Maddie transforms despite the adults in her world who can see only her disability.
Having overcompensated for her early struggles with learning to read, Dr. Mary Meyers had effectively sealed off all memory of where she came from. In the spring of ’05, she learns that the only way to move forward with her life is through complete acceptance of herself, past and present.
|Publisher:||Open Wings Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
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Reviewed by Gaynor Lincoln for Readers' Favorite Once Upon A Time, a Sparrow by Mary Kabrich is the poignant story of a successful school psychologist who discovers her Grade 3 coat in the bottom of her deceased mother’s hope chest. The coat brings back long buried and disturbing memories of that particular year in her childhood. These memories affect her relationship with her professional peers and drive Dr Mary to a therapist. Chapters alternate between the young Mary (Madelyn as she was then), and the adult Dr Mary. Madelyn's parents and teachers talk of her repeating Third Grade, and Madelyn is terrified she will have to leave her friends behind. The changing point for Madelyn, who had been classed as special needs because she had great difficulty learning to read, is when her teacher reads 'The Angel Fairy’s Gift' to the class. This is a magical tale full of encouragement, age old truths, and wisdom. Madelyn was so taken with this story that she passionately wanted to learn to read. It also caught her imagination and developed her storytelling skills. But reading is hard and Madelyn finds challenges and roadblocks along the way. I loved the multiple layers of this book, the third layer being 'The Angel Fairy's Gift'. The author creates convincing characters in Madelyn, her classmates, and the members of her family. Just as Madelyn’s younger brother, Danny, became hooked on 'The Angel Fairy’s Gift', so did I. I even searched to see if I could purchase a copy online – no luck. It must be a creation of the author's imagination. The novel is skillfully written and quickly draws the reader into both Dr Mary's and Madelyn’s worlds. Being a teacher, I find the story vividly realistic and wonder if there is a measure of biography in this touching novel.
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (01/18) “Once Upon a Time a Sparrow” by Mary Avery Kabrich is an inspirational heartfelt story about growing up with a learning disability and using those experiences to help others. After her mother passes away, school psychologist Dr. Mary Meyers, returns home to sort through and clear up her possessions. While she is going through a trunk, she finds a tattered old black coat that she wore as a child. The coat throws Mary back into memories of her past where she was Maddie, a nine-year-old, struggling with dyslexia. Reliving these memories brings up a lot of anger for Mary, and presents itself at school, where she has to deal with teachers who do not understand the full scope of what it is like to be a child with a learning disability. At first Mary is too ashamed to admit that she was also one of these children. These painful emotions push her to go into therapy, and she must decide whether or not she will be able to use her experiences as an example to inspire her students and their parents. “Once Upon a Time a Sparrow” is written in fictional format, yet it is based on the author’s personal experiences of being a child with dyslexia. Having worked with individuals with learning disabilities for over 25 years, I found this story to be inspirational for students with learning differences, their parents, and the professionals who work with them. In addition to receiving help from a professional who knew how to work with her, Maddie also uses her imagination to teach herself how to overcome her limitations. The imaginative part of this story makes it fun for all fans of fictional stories. Maddie had a book that allowed her to take her imagination into the world of fairies. Thinking back to special books that were in my childhood, I suspect that most of us can relate to this. As I was reading “Once Upon a Time a Sparrow” several of my talented, intelligent, community college students with dyslexia came to mind; two in particular. Both of these young ladies graduated with honors, yet felt hindered by their dreams of teaching. One of them recently decided to pursue it anyway. I called the other one to tell her about this book, because after all, it is based upon the real experiences of the author. This young lady, who is now at a university, was considering child psychology, however, shortly after we talked she sent me this message, “LOL, it’s funny because I never saw myself as a teacher. I always steered clear of that path because I was afraid of my disability affecting my job. But it turns out that that’s something I’m just more familiar with – kids and education.” She is now going to pursue elementary teacher education! For this reason, and for pure enjoyment, I highly recommend reading, “Once Upon a Time a Sparrow” by Mary Avery Kabrich.