The best book I ever read was The Visitor by Gene Smith and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Sadly, it’s out of print. My copy was a little paperback I’d gotten from the Scholastic Book Club. I believe it has a gold colored frame around a painting of an Irish Setter. The story was about an Irish setter named Sassafras who is put in a kennel while his family goes on a short vacation they never return from.
As the weeks stretch into months, Sassafras learns that his family has had a car accident on the trip and the father was killed. Sassafras will never be going home. He feels sorry for himself until he realizes that ever dog in the kennel is scared, sad and lonely too. With the knowledge that he wasn’t alone, he spends the rest of his days at the kennels comforting other dogs until the last paragraph. I cried countless tears over this book.
Why was this book so important to me? It taught me that everything and everyone experiences loneliness, sorrow and pain at some pain in their life—wherever we are, we aren’t alone. The book doesn’t have a happy ending, but Sassafras copes and has a decent life. It wasn’t the life he planned for or wanted, but he made due with what he got. It was a deep message for a first grader, but one I still think about.
This book is out of print, but I just found a used copy. Published by Cowles Book Company, now out of business, I would love to see this book available again. Maybe I will try to find the rights to it and bring it back myself.
But that’s the most important book I’ve ever read. How about you?