Lennox Library, I read on the metallic plaque outside the building. The uppercase letters were bold and big. The coldness of the metal resembled the weather; it was windy and arid. It was was the first time I was visiting this library. All the libraries that I had previously visited had a twenty-first century modern style. This one could not have been more different. The white pillars in front emanated an appearance of high intellect that greatly contrasted with the old-fashioned red brick walls.
I had the impression that when I entered the door, I would interrupt an eighteenth-century political debate, that I would find myself among men with wigs dressed in fancy aristocratic suits. The little garden up front gave me a sense of comfort. There was a small tree surrounded by grass. It was located exactly in the middle, making the scenery completely symmetrical. The small leaves of the young tree were disturbed by the wind, but each little leaf held tightly to the tree, not wanting to let go.
Not being dressed for the occasion compounded my aversion to the weather outside. The change of temperature was abnormal. Los Angeles is known for its warm weather and its beautiful beaches. With only a pair of jeans and a shirt, I swiftly made it through the door. Once I entered, I was overcome with great warmth, and I never wanted to leave the library’s cozy embrace. It was like waking up on a cold, rainy day and not wanting to leave the cocoon of your bed, made warm by a full night’s rest. It wasn’t just a change that made the library feel so much warmer than the world outside; the books radiated the warmth that I felt. I found myself in a different environment, a world in which books are the common heaters that families use during winter days.
The people inside transmitted their contagious desire to grab a book and devour every single page of it. They were all comfortably sitting down on couches all across the library, deeply focused on their selections. It was as if everyone was on the same page, like the members of an orchestra playing on of Chopin’s best symphonies, everyone flipping their sheet music to the next part of the song, making a determined and unified approach to the piano solo that everyone is anxiously waiting. A silent orchestra.
Similar to the facade, the inside of Lennox Library was like nothing I’d ever seen. The ocean blue carpet made the building seem like an immense sea of knowledge. The lime green walls reminded me of some kind of alien, as though it belonged to another galaxy. Lennox Library didn’t just warm my body; it teased me with the possibility of traveling to far off locations. I see a library like an airport, with each person traveling their own great distance—if only in the confines of their own mind. Here, books are my means of transportation, and it was only a matter of deciding where I wanted to go.
I had been two years since my last major journey, when I’d taken an airplane all across Mexico to move to the United States. That airplane transported me to a new country in which things were very different. The language barrier greatly impacted my efforts in school, but I took the challenge head on. I moved after finishing middle school and started as a freshman in high school. It was in this American high school that I discovered the power of books, a power that wasn’t made apparent at my schools in Mexico. Even though I attended a private school, supposedly to obtain a better education, I did not relate to books. The school failed to establish an intimate relationship between students and their books — the education system in Mexico did not encourage children to become avid readers, and there not many libraries in my neighborhood to fill in the gaps. And so, it was not until I came to the United States that I discovered the incredible dimensions to which I could be transported simply by reading a book.
My older brother, however, had made that discovery. Oscar was the only person from my family to have a strong connection with books. He had visited these fascinating dimensions decades before I had. He used books to venture into some distant land, becoming one of Harry’s closest friends at Hogwarts. Meanwhile, I was visiting Florence, Italy as one of the most dangerous assassins in history. My Xbox was my mode of transportation to the Renaissance, where I was Ezio Auditore, using the Animus to time travel and visit famous characters such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli. My parents could not see the virtue of my virtual travels. They believed it was a waste of my time and energy to play video games and did not fully appreciate the beauty of them. Their wishes came true when I was not able to bring with me my video game consoles to the United States. Dismayed by my sudden lack of imaginative transport, I was desperate to find another way to discover new worlds, and books delivered sweet relief.
I rapidly discovered the power of books and the infinite possibilities of each one, and I wondered why I hadn’t read more books in the past. My brother certainly knew about their secret function as function as a means to travel to incredibly places. But, why then? Why would he not take me as his companion on such marvelous adventures? Thinking on it now, I am certain my brother did not wish to interfere in my venture toward enlightenment and discovery, because he knew that this was an unaccompanied journey. I’ve now ventured to these dimensions, each one with something different to learn. I see now that works of literature are open to interpretation, and my brother did not want to spoil any of the stories by clouding my mind with his own opinions, opinions that I would accept as truths. I need to discover these stories and think critically about them for myself, and so I did.
I recently traveled back to Mexico to visit my family for the holidays. Oscar is married now. Although it would seem that our relationship would decay over years of living so far from one another, we were really thrilled to see each other again. Over our first dinner together, I told him about the books I’d encountered, and how I at one point felt disappointed that he hadn’t shared their magic with me but now understood that I had to make that discovery for myself. A smirk crawled across his face, as if to say I was finally ready, ready to join an ancient secret club to which he had long belonged, and finally he would welcomed his younger brother in as well. Of course, there was no actual club initiation, no secret handshake exchanged, no sacred wine sipped. But we continued to discuss some books that we read, and it felt amazing. I pictured myself as one of those small leaves on the tree in front of Lennox library, holding on tight to that moment and never wanting to let go.
I felt like the conversation could go on forever between my brother and me, not only sharing with each other the dimensions we’d visited in our readings, but also getting to know each other even more. My brother’s face was overcome with excitement when I mentioned that I was soon going to be an actual author myself, and that a story written by me, as well as stories written by my friends, would be published and distributed to hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the United States. And just as I’d discovered that every book in the Lennox Library had the power to transport me to another world, you will now discover the world that this book can transport you to — the world of the Ánimo Venice Students.
Each Little Leaf, by the students of Ánimo Venice Charter High School with a foreword by Dolores Huerta, is a collection of stories about the smallest moments that end up changing our lives. It is a book about the consequences of the seemingly inconsequential, the inescapable impact of a single moment—of decision, laughter, or even the impact of individual reactions on our realities. An 826LA Young Authors' Book Project.
by Navayah, 826 MSP
Through redefining a label, a student reclaims a piece of their identity.
by Andy, 826CHI
In this memoir, a few friends bond over a rare Pokémon Go catch.
by David & Daniel, 826CHI
In this heartfelt exchange of letters, two students bond over food, videos games, and some scary adventures.
by Sian Laing
When Instagram becomes an unsightly battlefield.
by Jeff, 826CHI
In this piece, a student describes Christmas as a holiday best spent together.
by Dayana Alvarado, 826CHI
A student shares finding home in two places: Mexico and Chicago.
by Victor, 826CHI
An epic memoir about an epic volleyball match! Who will win: the teachers or the students?
by Jin, 826LA
This student says thank you to her Mom, her hero, for a life full love and beef noodles!
by Iliana, 826CHI
A student searches for answers in their community.
by Fahima Dahir, 826 MSP
A poem about the strength and limitations of language and shared culture.
by Lesly, 826 Valencia
A sports poem about the losing blues.
by Marco, 826LA
A screenplay about a plane crash and an epic journey to Mexico, with a twist!
by Duanté, 826 Valencia
A personal narrative about race and identity.
by Calvin, 826michigan
A laugh-out-loud personal narrative about a crush. Has your heart ever beat so fast it might get a speeding ticket and a $500 fine?
by Sabrin, Grade 9, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, 9th grader Sabrin discusses how she feels both happy and sad, and thanks nurses nationwide for bringing her peace through their work.
by Diego, 826CHI
On the funniest day of this student’s life…
by Jonas K., 826 National
A student explores the paradox of how technology is used amongst teenagers.
by Kalyn Jackson, 826 New Orleans
Through this short story, Kalyn explores ideas of home and change in an altered world.
by Khloe Fewster, 826 Valencia
This poem uses repetition to give advice for when you're feeling unsure of yourself.
by Gabriela T., 826 Valencia
In this resolution inspired by the "Include Someone" lesson and Cartoon Network storyboard, we learn that inclusive leaders take action—they don't wait for others to make a difference.
by Steysi Hailee, 826LA
A student reflects on a small moment and single sacrifice that transformed her outlook on giving.
by Eva, 826 Valencia
A student celebrates the journey of discovering whom to love.
by Rafael, 826CHI
A student remembers an afternoon adventure around town and explores what Chicago and community mean to him.
by Alondra, 826CHI
An epic story of a princess who seeks acceptance among the stars.
by Reuben & Giselle, 826CHI
Two students write to each other about where they came from, what they love, and a few mishaps along the way in an exchange of letters.
by Charles, 826 MSP
A student reflects on his life, stemming from the life of his father.
by Jabari, Grade 8, 826 Valencia
A poem about wanting more from life.
by Djeneba, 826michigan
A student’s manifesto!
by Itzel Medina Luna, 826 Valencia
In this poem from the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, a student walks through her neighborhood searching for hidden stories.
by Johnny Vasquez, 826 MSP
A family interview reveals a mother's painful past and shines a light on her persistence.
by Elizabeth W, 826 Valencia
Even though we may look different, we remain united with one another.
by Luis, 826LA
A rap song dedicated to the Marvel comic writer Stan Lee and his inspired creations like the Hulk, Deadpool, Iron Man, and The Fantastic Four.
by Kaitlyn, 826NYC
A middle school student firmly protests the flavor and quality of her school’s lunches.
by Luis, 826LA
This student writes a letter to a hero with a sweet double kick: Jackie Chan!
by Laila, 826CHI
A memoir about losing a parent—and a community’s support.
by Natalie, 826CHI
Weaving together Spanish and English, a student shares the discovery of a family secret.
by Sammie, Grade 9, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a freshman at South High School in Minneapolis thanks care workers for supporting our local and national communities during this global pandemic.
by Mariah Valenzuela, Minneapolis, MN
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poet uses her voice to speak up for those who have been silenced in the indigenous community.
by Luke, 826 Valencia
An essay shared in English and Spanish discusses the effects of global warming on penguins and their source of nutrients, krill.
by Elsy, 826LA
Song lyrics about memories of cake and pizza, friendship, and giving 1,000 opinions.
by 826NYC students
This collaborative poem explores the many sides and senses of laughter.
by Caroline, 826 Valencia
A student explores U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe’s decision to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
by Jason, 826michigan
Making bottle flipping look like child's play, this piece outlines rules for the new, competitive Fantasy Sport "Pencils".
by Kiara, 826CHI
In this personal narrative, a student explores growing up young and black in Chicago.
by Evelyn Escamilla, 826 Valencia
This poem uses metaphors and similes to describe happiness.
by Ryker, 826michigan
Liner notes that showcase the meaning and musicality of the Jimmy Ruffin song “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”
by Kevin, 826NYC
An informational briefing on a horrible incident in the year 5176 that changed the hoverboarding industry forever.
by Jazmine & Vanessa, 826CHI
Over a series of letters, two compassionate and resilient students develop a deep friendship sealed in writing.
by Tylor, 826NYC
A lean but essential checklist for readers to determine if they are awake.
by Lola, 826 Valencia
A poem that portrays the arc of a love story told through the gift of a cigarette lighter.
by Pia, 826NYC
A student reimagines food justice: Fruit Woman must convince Junk Food Man and Cheesecake Boy to eat their fruits and vegetables.
by Isabel, 826 Boston
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem features a student battling with the voices constricting her freedom.
by Chelsea, 826NYC
An acrostic poem about the Black Lives Matter movement.
by Renée, 826NYC
A persuasive letter detailing to the recipient the pointlessness of writing a persuasive letter. A helpful example for reluctant writers.
by Emmanuel J., 826NYC
An avid basketball fan discusses the rise of the Golden State Warriors through its individual players.
by Jazlyn Moses, 826 National
One student explores their online persona and the lasting importance of conscientious social media practices.
by Gilbert, 826LA
One teen writes a letter to his 14-year-old self, citing his past fears but looking towards his present, a brighter future.
by Cora B., Grade 8
This narrative uses nature imagery, to help the reader walk through a day in the speaker's shoes
by Kyla Edwards, 826 New Orleans
This creative short story explores a snapshot of what a future New Orleans might look like amid climate change.
by Cayden, 826DC
This poem lists all of the pieces that make up the writer's whole.
by Arianny, 826 Boston
A poem that celebrates being Latino
by David, 826CHI
A student writes about the smell, taste, and pace of their neighborhood.
by Mercury, 826CHI
A student explores the representation of LGBTQIA+ minorities and youth in US pop culture.
by Arielle B., Grade 8
This poem invites readers to remember that people are often going through more than choose to show.
by Jack, 826 Valencia
An argument against the overconsumption of sugar outlines the ways its effects are anything but sweet.
by Piya, 826 Valencia
A demand to the public stop to buying ivory that seeks to explain the devastating effects of poaching on elephant and rhino populations.
by Ella, 826 Valencia
A persuasive argument for co-ed teams in the face of gender stereotypes, supported by results from primary research conducted by the author.
by Christopher, Bryan, & Jahir, 826CHI
In an exchange of letters, three students across one city share stories about where they came from and the places that matter most.
by Henry, Matthew, & Santiago, 826CHI
A compilation of letters written by three students across one city filled with thoughts on books, sports, music, family, and musings on Valentine’s Day.
by Mya, 826CHI
A piece packed with vivid description about taking risks at an ice rink.
by Aniah, 826 MSP
A student is lifted up by the dance of her ancestors.
by Curtis, 826michigan
A rhyming (inverse) ode to a very irritating noise.
by Rey, Grade 9, 826 MSP
Aliens give this student superpowers to help him fulfill his greatest dream.
by Byanna & Kayla, 826CHI
Two students across one city bond by writing letters to each other about the people they love most.
by Jiaxi, 826CHI
A student’s worldview is forever altered after a lesson on the Segregation Era and Jim Crow.
by Salome Maldonando, 826CHI
A poem about unrequited love.
by Jamie, 826 Valencia
A metaphorical poem about frustrations, from homework to homelessness.
by Sebastian Cendejas, 826CHI
A student reflects on how much Chicago means to them.
by Elizabeth W., 826 Valencia
A persuasive piece for women and girls to unite and cultivate a culture of body image positivity.
by Sharon, 826CHI
A memoir about finding true friendship.
by Angel, 826CHI
A student writes about the transformative experience of changing schools.
by Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, 826DC
Living in the digital world can create unwanted attachments, as one student laments.
by Calvin, 826michigan
A student professes love—to a jalapeño!
by Shayne Williams
Discover what one student experiences when they tuck their phone away for a whole day.
by Pretty S, 826 Valencia
Glimpse into the mind of a student who considers artistic influences in her life.
by Roger, 826 Valencia
An essay in English and Spanish that traces connections between two movements in modern American history for the rights of people of color.
by Vivian, 826CHI
A narrative about loving to run—and learning to never quit!
by Jason, 826 Valencia
A student reports on the death of a college student from Bernal Heights, San Francisco, who neighbors believe was killed due to racial profiling.
Amara, 826 New Orleans
An ode celebrating an important figure in this student’s life.
by Soraya, 826NYC
This student’s powerful piece reveals the essence of racial injustice.
by Anjum, 826CHI
A shout-out poem to some things missed (Hyderabad) and celebrated (Mom).
by Kevin G, 826 Valencia
This narrative calls us to see the world through the perspectives of others.
by Xaria, 826 Valencia
An argument against the wage gap that prevails in the U.S. and across the globe.