Where do your stories come to life? (by Malu Sciamarelli)

A book is like a garden carried in your pocket.

(Chinese Proverb)

January in Brazil means lots of rain and children on vacation fretting about not being able to play outside. At least, when I was a child that’s the way it was. I remember imaginative stories told to keep me entertained, such as the sky being washed and all the water cascading down as the rain.

But the fondest memory was when my father used to tell me: “look at the rain falling…now look closely to all the beautiful flowers and plants in the garden…be very quiet and listen to them. They’re all happy, smiling and singing songs thanking the rain – it gives them life and makes them more beautiful than they already are. Now, get yourself a book and just like the rain, give the stories life and listen to all the beautiful sounds. Then come and tell me all about it!”

So, there I was in the garden trying to make the stories come alive with my imagination. Reading out loud, talking to flowers and birds. Not only that, but as I read, I used to add notes in the margins, writing other stories or messages in loose papers, placing them in the middle of the books. Then, returning to my father, telling him the new stories – the books I gave life to with my imagination and my contributions. My books were alive!


NotesMany times after my Dad passed away, I used to return to those books, trying to find the magic he taught me: watch and listen to all the images and sounds of the world. To my surprise, not only all the memories came back, but the notes too! What a joy to see what I wrote as a child so many years ago. I can say all my books have life – even the ones I bought later in my life, the ones I still buy today. I give them life!


Learning to see all the beauties of life, making stories come alive, sharing with others and adding your precious part is something I always bring to my classes. My students are all the living things in the garden waiting to be watered, so that they can come alive, blossom and write their own stories in their own way. So, as we start a new year, give some time and interest as fertilizer and sprinkle it among your students. Their stories will come to life and flourish.

Where do your stories come to life?



P.S.: I’m writing this story in a lovely warm summer afternoon in January in Brazil, sitting on a swing in the porch, facing my Dad’s inspirational garden…and I still can see all the stories gently nestling and growing.


Note: This article by Malu Sciamarelli originally appeared as a guest post on Teaching Village and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.


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7 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    What a great gift your father gave you, Malu! I love the way you interacted with stories as a child, and created your own. A great reminder that reading is an active verb, not a passive activity. I’m going to encourage my students to talk to our books, too 🙂

    I’ve been trying to think about where my stories come to life. I guess these days, they come to life when I’m out on a walk. I don’t listen to music or audio books when I am walking — it’s my time to think. Sometimes, the thinking is problem solving, but sometimes there are some pretty good stories!

    Thank you for starting my day with a smile and some good memories.

  2. Lara Novais Cremonesi says:

    Oh Malu! Thank you for sharing this lovely text with me! So emotional and so alive! How much sweet memories you have of your childhood! And I loved the idea of writing in pieces of paper…I’ll do that! And I’ll teach my students too! Books are very important to me, they keep my faith, my sweet dreams, my hope in better days, mostly in difficult times…I’m wondering my books doing the same as in the book store in the video…OMG!!! They truly have life!
    Thank you so much for sharing this text…And thank you for your frindship!


  3. Rose Bard says:

    Such a warm and heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing Malu.

    I guess my stories come to life when they reach my heart. 🙂 Although I try to look into reality more objectively, I cannot leave out the affective aspect of life that follows us every where we go.


  4. Bianca says:

    I love to read stories of how people felt in love with books and how books became special for them.
    Malu, your story is lovely, and I think it is those sweet moments and memories that make who we are. I can’t say anything else. It is lovely, it is sweet and I undestand and feel every word you wrote there. Thank you for sharing your story. I collect stories like that and keep them in my heart. ^^

    And since you shared your book story, I will share one of my book stories.
    This one is when I felt in love with books. And also why Shakespeare is so special to me – it is not just business!

    I am sorry if it is too long!

    “Some shall be pardoned, and some punished.
    For never was a story of more woe
    Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

    I did not know at the time, but these final words of “Romeo and Juliet” would change my whole life. I was ten. I had already read lots of books before – my mom always says that since I was a “little me”, even without knowing how to read properly, I always preferred to enter a bookstore than anything. But it was when I had the “Romeo and Juliet” in my hands for the first time that I really felt the passion that books could bring us. I have established a book ritual since I started to read: every time I get a book, the first thing I do is to go to the last page and read the last paragraph. So my first Shakespearean words were the last ones from “Romeo and Juliet”. It was an original Shakespeare, not an adaptation. It was an original Shakespeare in English. I was ten. I think I had just started to learn English language. I had just learned “good morning” and the name of the colours in English. What I remember is that I did not understand anything. I just imagined there was a beautiful story with Juliet and her Romeo. It took me one week to discover the meaning of those three verses. Every day I looked up words – in English and then in Portuguese. And once I discovered a little about the meaning of the bard words, I could not wait to read what happened in that story. My mom, watching my efforts and my desire to read that Shakespeare (and my suffering with those difficult words), gave me an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” for kids. So I finally read the story. Once, twice… Between original, adaptation, English, Portuguese and French versions, twelve years later, I think I have already read “Romeo and Juliet” 32 times. It was with those three verses which I could barely understand that not only did I start to love books, but I also felt in love with words, with poetry.
    At age of 22 and after a graduation in Literature, people tend to ask me why I love Shakespeare, why I chose to study his work. So I answer: “Have you ever read Shakespeare? If you read, you will know”. If I only like Shakespeare? No. He showed me the possibilities and the extension of literature. I love a bunch of others authors. If he is my favourite? No. I do not have favourite writers or even favourite books. I do not have the ‘my life’s book’, that one that people are used to say that they love more than all the rest. Oh, no. I do not have this. It is impossible to choose a book in a life made of books. Every moment, every feeling of my life has a book to inspire, to support, to give sense to being. Books with all their stories, characters, worlds and poetries are my Pandora box. They contain all the pain and all the joy of the universe, and, at the moment one of them is opened, I can feel the limit of destruction and hope. A book can bring me exactly everything I am able to imagine – sometimes, it is able to bring me what I need when I do not even know what it is. Books know what I need. They always know. And I am aware there are a tremendous number of books, but defying the time, I read all of them that whisper my name. Maybe, it would be enough to completely change my entire life – not once, but every time. Who am I now? Who would I be then?
    I thank the books I have read. With their words, I have been building my world, who I really am, not who people think I supposed to be. And I thank Shakespeare for making me discover another life: a life made of books.

    Thank you for reading! ^^

  5. Juan Uribe says:

    Dear Malu,

    What a treat it is to start my day reading this lovely memory.
    In your narrative you reveal what relationships are all about and how these moments of intimate communion bring meaning to life. Caring, imagining, and sharing are all interwoven in the your words and thoughts.

    I read once that if a good book is the one you can’t put down, a great book is the one you have to put down to make sense of what you are reading. Your post is certainly one to put down and savour.

    Thank you for this precious gift!



  1. February 13, 2013
  2. May 9, 2013

    […] February, Malu wrote “Where do your stories come to life?” for Teaching Village. I’m thrilled that she has followed it up with an original story. Barb […]