Summertime, and the reading is easy . . . or challenging, depending on our mood, right? I have just submitted my latest YA manuscript to my agent, so I am gearing up for a reading frenzy, a veritable feast of other people’s words. And I love them all, from picture books to the classics. (Right now I am reading The Mysterious Benedict Society aloud to my daughter (age 7) at the urging of my boys (ages 10 and 12) and I am LOVING it.)
For myself I am currently reading A Discovery of Witches.
When I was a child, summertime meant getting lost in other worlds created by amazing authors, JUST FOR ME. (Right?)
This summer, Patch has teamed up with James Patterson to create a reading list to encourage literacy: Read Kiddo Read. I was very pleased to see my grandmother’s award winning book, A Wrinkle in Time, among the selections for 8 – 12 year olds. As you know, we just . What is it about this book that makes it so timeless?
It was the first book I fell in love with.
Thirty-six years ago, I was in second grade when Sister Madeleine Mary started reading it to my class. I remember sitting ramrod straight on the floor in my navy blue uniform dress and white knee socks, listening to Sister intone the words of Mrs. Whatsit and Meg.
I wasn’t reading books that complex yet on my own, but I couldn’t wait until the next week when Sister would read us another chapter: I had to start reading it at home. It was then that my reading took off, and my life was never the same.
Did it make a difference that my grandmother was the author, Madeleine L’Engle? I don’t think that the author/grandmother connection would be my only motivation to surpass my teachers’ reading expectations. It was the wonderful story that compelled me, and kept compelling me to rediscover over and over again. I am sure that I felt the closest kinship to the book when I was eleven or twelve, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with the possibility of “story” when I was seven. I grew up with the characters—I understood Meg, marveled at CW, and crushed on Calvin.
From the beginning, when Meg is scared in the attic on “a dark and stormy night” I slip into her skin, going downstairs for the comfort of hot chocolate and my mother and brother. I too am wary of Mrs. Whatsit at first, not trusting the world “out there”—the world that has not only taken my father, but uses his absence as a way to isolate my family. I too tingle with surprise when we meet Calvin in the woods and bring him home for dinner, and I am ready to believe the Mrs W’s when they call on us/them to save my/Meg’s father on the planet Camazotz.
It was the first book I read where I—so closely identifying with Meg—got to be the hero, where I realized that parents are fallible, and that anger and stubbornness aren’t necessarily “faults”—that our anger and stubbornness can protect us and serve a purpose. And that love is most important when it’s not just a feeling, but an action, a verb.
There is another popular book on Patterson’s list that celebrates the same themes. Know what it is? That’s right, Harry Potter, which happens to be the first book my boys’ really fell in love with and has made them both hungry, avid readers. My pal Rebecca's book, When You Reach Me, is also on the tween and teen list. (This one is also destined to be a classic!)
I am excited to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which also made Patterson’s list. I have heard terrific things about this book!
So will you help me figure out what to read and catch up on this summer? Divergent, by Veronica Roth is waiting for me at the library . . .
Lená Roy is a creative writing teacher in New York City and Westchester County, NY. Her latest novel, Edges, was published in 2010.