As you know, I’m not taking on anything new for Linda’s Book Bag for a while, but when Jonathan Bryan got in touch to ask me if I would be part of a blog tour for his book Eye Can Write, with proceeds from the book going to Jonathan’s charity Teach Us Too, I simply couldn’t refuse. I think when you find out a bit more about Eye Can Write you’ll understand why and I am delighted to have an extract to share with you today.
I have found the story behind Jonathan’s writing truly inspirational and am genuinely honoured to be part of this blog tour.
Published by Lagom, an imprint of Bonnier’s Blink Publishing, Eye Can Write is available for purchase here.
Eye Can Write
Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate?
The silence, the loneliness, the pain.
But, inside you disappear to magical places, and even meet your best friend there.
However, most of the time you remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping.
Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin.
Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky.
A voice for the voiceless.
An Extract from Eye Can Write
Song of Voice
As adept fingers point
My silent soul emerges,
Like the dawn blackbird’s song
Suddenly breaking the black.
Music buried in the mind
Sings melodies divine,
Of ancient tales yet untold
Unfurled to men astound.
Whose beauty hears my voice?
What depths saddened my pathway?
Soaring eagles spread wings
I fly to my destiny.
Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. Inside you disappear to magical places, but most of the time remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless.
This is me, and this is my story.
For as long as I could remember, Mummy had read to me: Bible stories, funny stories, short stories, The Chronicles of Narnia. For days, weeks and months we had curled up in a hospital bed together and plunged ourselves into a novel. Immersing myself in a story is the most enjoyable, wonderful escapism; books have nourished my mind and prevented mental decay during my years of silence.Trapped in cerebral palsy I run within the pages:skipping, laughing, exploring. Plunging myself into the adventure of new tales, I have inhabited the scenes of authors’ pictures and woven them with my imagination. Words have been my portal to another world. And now the mantle was passing on to me.
During the nine years of being effectively locked in by my severe cerebral palsy, words and phrases had been banked while my mother read to me. Unable to develop the physical skills of my peers, maybe my mind had more room for academic learning.
Picking up the spelling board, Sarah’s finger pointed to where my eyes were looking. Sitting on Mummy’s lap, our bodies remained still as Sarah’s finger danced to the rhythm of my eyes.Following my lead, we slow-waltzed around the board, synchronised to the music of the word in my head. At first we were like clumsy teenagers trying to learn – stumbling, slow and stilted.
‘Jonathan, today you’ve written: “Tired from slaying the ships enemies they towed” – what do you want to write next?’ Mummy enquired. She had already been surprised by the word ‘slaying’,as it wasn’t even an option in the verb section of the big black folder.
As the duet continued I spelt out an ‘m’then a ‘y’. Because the process was so exacting and tiring, and because I wanted to draw out the suspense, I closed my eyes. After the usual cajoling to open them, I started to enjoy the ensuing conversation:
‘Did he put a space after the “y”?’ Mummy needed to know, as she was also typing what I wrote into the computer.
‘He hasn’t yet, but I expect he will when he opens up again. I can’t think what else he would want to write beginning “my”.’ Sarah obviously had no idea of the word I was crafting. Before they started chatting again about the fate of the near obsolete folder that brimmed with many hours of their dedicated input, I opened up –ready for play to recommence.
‘My… “r”… “i”… “a”… “d”… “s”.’ Mummy articulated each letter of the word rally, but Sarah was so engrossed in mirroring my eyes with her finger she had lost the word.‘Myriads.’ Mummy looked at Sarah, who stared back at her, stunned.
Their silence heralded the beginning of the end of mine.
It took Mummy one more day to realise that now I could spell everything I wanted to write, I could also spell everything I wanted to say.
Now it was my turn to be the custodian of the power of words. My challenge to capture delicately the image and bequeath it words that let it breathe. Like a bird let out of its cage, the picture that words can generate was free to fly in my reader’s mind and assume a new life of its own.
We are not capable of learning
So do not tell me
There’s something going on behind the
Treated as useless handicaps
Minds with nothing in there, tragically
Stuck in a wheelchair,
Disabilities visibly crippling –
Just incontinent and dribbling,
We are not
You should make our minds
Stagnate in special education!
Learn to read,
Learn to spell,
Learn to write,
Instead let us
Be constrained by a sensory curriculum.
It is not acceptable to say
We have the capacity to learn.
School should occupy us, entertain us; but
never teach us
You are deluded to believe that
Our education can be looked at another way!
NOW READ IT AGAIN BACKWARDS
Thank you, Jonathan, for sharing this extract from Eye Can Write with us. I found reading PMLD backwards quite tricky and understand your message that just because I couldn’t do it instantly, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid! (Blog readers can see the reverse poem here.)
I’ve found your story and your writing to be truly inspirational. Good luck with Teach Us Too and all your writing.
I know you’ve been influenced by Michael Murpurgo so could you tell us why you think children are so captivated by Michael Morpurgo’s writing?
When Michael writes he uses words like an artist, painting images and scenes on the mind of his reader. As we read he moves the scene at just the right pace so that we remain immersed in the landscape as he introduces us to his very believable characters. Getting the balance right between description and action is an art all writers aspire to. Every story Michael has written leaves an indelible mark on the imaginations of the children who read them.
How has Michael Morpurgo influenced you as an author?
When I wrote Michael a fan letter a few years ago, I wasn’t sure I would get a reply, yet alone meet him, thanks to the Make a Wish charity. Since then our friendship has continued to grow and his influence on me as a writer has grown with it. Most recently Michael asked to check a short thought I was to share at a carol service – thankfully he told me not to change it, as his feedback arrived the morning after the event!
As a writer he is everything I aspire to be, and as a person he is the most genuine, kind man with whom I share thoughts on writing and banter in equal measure.
I imagine Michael would be delighted that you aspire to be like him Jonathan. I find you totally inspirational and am honoured to have been part of your Eye Can Write blog tour.
About Jonathan Bryan
Jonathan Bryan is the twelve-year-old author of Eye Can Write and founder of the charity, Teach Us Too (who are receiving all his proceeds from the book). Faith, family and friends sum up all that is important to him. He also passionately campaigns for all children to be taught to read and write regardless of their educational label, for which he has been awarded a Diana Legacy Award and a Pearson Young Person of the Year Award.
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