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Finding Strength in Stories

Finding Strength in Stories

Alexia, words-001


Have you ever read a book that resonated with you so deeply you couldn’t get it out of your head? I’ve had that experience several times over the years, but I have never felt that a book was written with MY FAMILY’S STORY as the guiding force. On the flight out to California in December I read a tiny blurb about a new children’s book by LeVar Burton (of “Reading Rainbow” and “Roots” fame), poet Susan Schaefer Bernardo and illustrator Courteney Fletcher. I was intrigued by its title and an accompanying illustration: “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm.” Curious, I put a hold on the book at the library and it was waiting for me when I returned to Cincinnati. Without even opening the cover, I felt an incredible energy pouring out of the book and I was excited to read it.

“A children’s book?” you might be wondering. Yes, a children’s book.

I didn’t even wait to get home to read the book. I sat in the car and turned from one page to the next, fully engrossed in the story that was unfolding in my lap. With tears streaming down my face, I understood why I had to read this book and why it meant so much to me.

As I mentioned before, this book could have been written about my family and our circumstances! What the authors and illustrator have done is to show that no matter what tragedies befall us, there is a circle of support and love to keep us going strong.

In the opening, Mica Mouse is being comforted by her Papa during a booming storm. To distract her, he starts reading her a book about a rhinoceros who mentally and physically stumbles following a tragedy and, with the help of friends, makes his way back up.

With lines like: “His world was delightful and chock full of magic—until out of the blue, the magic turned tragic.” Rhino—who previously lived a wonderful life—experiences a catastrophic event, as has Ethan and our family.

Later in the story, Rhino is uplifted by a variety of friends and learns: “It doesn’t much matter if you’re fast or you’re slow, if you want to move forward, just trust and let go.” There have been countless times we have had to trust and allow others to do for us.

At the end of the story, Papa explains to Mica, “You’re never really alone when bad things happen. There are family and friends, even people we don’t know, who are always there to help us through tough times.”

Family and friends… It’s still mind-boggling to realize how much help we have received from our family and friends. We lean on them for pretty much everything and they are often ahead of us in knowing what we need and then taking care of things.

Even people we don’t know… I am reminded of this each time I see our Join Team Ethan Facebook page or website and see how many “Likes” to the page we have (4,300+), or comments to our posts from people I’ve never met, and coming to us from places I’ve never been to.

I believe this is a story that will continue to guide me through the years and challenges ahead. I am grateful to the authors and illustrator of this beautiful and uplifting book. I hope you will have an opportunity to enjoy “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm” and glean your own inspiration from its allegorical prose.

Shabbat Shalom,

Alexia and Scott


Alexia, LeVar  7-30-2015 6-21-24 PM Alexia, LeVar Burton, Julia, Jen  IMG_8658





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6 Comments on "Finding Strength in Stories"

  • Miriam Karp says

    As a teacher of three year olds, the  magic of some "just" little kids' books is amazing. Sounds like you "happened " upon a special one. continued strength and everything good!  

  • Sally says

    How beautiful and powerful the stories — yours and the rhino's — and how they draw us into what really matters in life. Love and prayers from Wisconsin. Sally

  • Susan B says

    Ethan's story – and the story of all that your family has experienced with such grace and courage – and the story of how your friends and community have showered you with love – THAT is truly inspiring and shines such light into this world.  Much love to you all!!!  xoxo

  • Adele Goldfinger Black says

    Thank you for this most touching post.  I just ordered “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm” from Amazon and it will arrive on Sunday. I can't wait to read it. I believe it will take a very special place on my bookshelf right alongside "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."

    With love and prayers from NJ for Ethan (and your family).

    No matter what tragedies befall us, there is a circle of support and love to keep us going strong. – See more at:

  • D+G+G+B says

    Much Admiration, Much Love

  • Adrienne Davidson says

    Divine intervention?  I mean… how often are we so powerfully drawn toward something!  …and a children's book at that!  


    I'll definitely check it out sometime.  :-)

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