By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans stared at Joseph. “Why not?” she asked. “Why don’t you want to join a book club? It sounds like fun! I would love to join a book club! I like reading books! I like giving book reports! And I like listening to other people’s book reports too!”
Joseph frowned. “I like reading books too. If they’re good like this one,” he added. “But I don’t want to give book reports in front of perfect strangers!”
Mac thought for a minute. “Well, they won’t be perfect strangers for very long,” she said.
Joseph choked back a laugh. “You sound just like G.M! That’s exactly what she said! You’ll probably grow up to be just like her! You’ll probably grow up and have a grandchild and make him go to a book club whether he wants to or not!”
Mac giggled. “When I have grandchildren, they are not going to be afraid of giving book reports in front of strangers!” she said.
Joseph looked at her. “How come you’re not afraid?” he asked.
Mac shrugged. “I don’t know,” she answered. “I guess I was just born that way!” She stood up. “I have to go back home and do my chores,” she said. “I just came over to see if you want to go ice skating this afternoon. My dad said he’d take us.”
“Sure,” Joseph said. “I’ll ask G.M.”
“We’re going to leave at 2:30,” Mac said as she whisked out the door. “And don’t forget I want to borrow that book!” she called over her shoulder.
Joseph sat very still at the kitchen table, thinking. Did a person have to be born brave to be brave?
That night when Joseph climbed the stairs to bed, he carried Owls in the Family up with him. He fluffed his pillow, turned on his bedside lamp, and settled in to read about Wol. That was what Billy had named the third owlet when he took him home. By the end of chapter four, Billy had two owls! Joseph sighed with envy.
Joseph carried the book downstairs under his arm in the morning. He flopped into a chair and opened it on the kitchen table.
“I see you like the book,” G.M. commented as she peeled a juicy peach over the sink.
“I do!” Joseph answered, not looking up. “I think it’s just about my favorite!”
G.M.’s eyes twinkled. “Then you shouldn’t have a very hard time giving a book report on it,” she said.
Joseph hunched over his book and pretended to ignore her.
Later, after breakfast, Joseph wandered out into the warm sunshine. He sat down on the edge of the porch and let his feet dangle. There was a thought coming into his brain that needed thinking about. Would it do any good to pray about not being afraid to give a book report in front of strangers? he wondered. Could God really make him unafraid? Joseph took a deep breath. It couldn’t hurt to ask, he figured. He bowed his head and closed his eyes.
It took only one more day to finish reading Owls in the Family. “What part should I tell about in my book report?” Joseph asked G.M. “There are so many good parts, I can’t decide! And I’m afraid if I tell one of the really funny parts, I’ll laugh too much and not be able to talk at all.”
Finally Joseph decided he would tell about when Billy, Bruce, and Murray entered the pet parade. He practiced and practiced his report. He even practiced in front of the bathroom mirror. And each time he practiced, he asked God to make him unafraid to give his book report in front of strangers.
Finally book-club day came. G.M. drove Joseph to Mrs. Gardener’s house.
Mrs. Gardener greeted them with a warm smile. “I’m so glad you could join us!” she said. She showed them into the living room where about seven other children and their mothers sat, some on the couch and some on the floor. G.M. found a place on the loveseat, and Joseph sank down, cross-legged, by her feet.
Joseph looked around. Sure enough! Everyone there was a perfect stranger, except for Mrs. Gardener and her son Matt. Joseph shut his eyes for a moment. He wondered when the butterflies would fill his stomach and he would start feeling nervous.
Joseph enjoyed Mrs. Gardener’s introduction to the group. He enjoyed listening to the first book report. He glanced up at G.M. with his eyebrows raised. It meant, I’ve got to get that book from the library and read it! Then he actually found himself raising his hand, volunteering to give the next report.
Joseph stood up. He took a deep breath. When was he going to get scared?
When book club was over, all the snacks eaten, and everyone tired from playing kickball in Mrs. Gardener’s backyard, Joseph flung himself into G.M.’s truck and pounded the seat with his fist. “I wasn’t afraid!” he shouted to G.M. “I wasn’t afraid at all when I gave my book report! I wasn’t just pretending not to be afraid! I really, truly wasn’t afraid!”
G.M. looked at him. “Why not?” she asked.
“I prayed!” Joseph said. “I prayed a lot! I prayed every time I practiced my report. Jesus really answered my prayer! I can’t wait to tell Mac about it! And Pastor Chuck! And all the kids in my class at church.”