Friday, February 19, 2010

My Life as a Book, by Janet Tashjian

I have really big furniture and it is one of the joys of my life to get in my chair and swing my legs up over the arm and sit in the sun and read. Or, as my husband says, "read" with quote fingers. It's true, I often use the reading thing as a gateway to napping, but, sometimes the book is worth not napping for. I finished My Life as a Book during the slow slide of the new spring sun across the southern sky. It was good. And then I weeded.

Wimpy Kid fans will really enjoy Derek's story about being a regular boy, not a particularly confident reader, always involved in a major project or two, and looking forward to a summer filled with water balloons, his friends and his dog. The last thing he thinks a summer should have is a summer reading list and a summer Learning Camp.

Derek likes to read but he tends to really enjoy things like Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. He would probably enjoy other books, too, but he doesn't think it fair that people (let's say teachers and parents, mostly) get to muddle in something as private as reading choice.

Derek gets really good at figuring out ways to do anything to avoid opening up any of the books he has to get through before September. While he is in the attic hiding from his mom and her book he finds a newspaper article that turns his summer into an adventure he never expected.

This news story involves a mystery about him, a girl he doesn't know, and a trip across the country. While he tries to figure out how this story ends, he realizes that stories are everywhere! Everybody has one! All of his friends and people he doesn't even know have stories to tell and they must be heard to have meaning! Along the way he discovers that stories come and are told in all kinds of different ways from panels of art to the internet.

And, because he has found something of personal interest to him, he spends an inordinate (for him) amount of time reading.

His triumphant return to school in September with all of these summer stories in hand prove that being literate doesn't always have to be via the printed, bound, word.

I think that this quick, fairly short, big-fonted, wide-margined, illustrated book could be a pretty important one for a lot of people who think that literacy and being literate in the world only happens when you read "real" books.

In all my years as a bookseller, I have found that parents are usually pretty relieved when we suggest something other than a book of fiction for their reluctant reader. Captain Underpants, Baby Mouse, flip books, Wimpy Kid, non-fiction Eyewitness books, these are all books that let a not-so-confident reader feel more powerful in their abilities.

Many readers who are "reluctant" in their choice of book often can't see the story while they are reading; they have to concentrate so hard on reading each word and digesting the combination of words for meaning that by the time they are done with a sentence, not to mention what happens when they get to the end of a paragraph or a chapter, they have absolutely no idea what they've read.

Reading is a skill and it needs a lot of practice to do it efficiently and easily. Like any other skill, some people are made for it, some have to work at it.

Eventually, most people are able to read with ease. Although, think about what you choose to read when you're tired and can't concentrate- I read Calvin and Hobbes (a stack sits right under the bed), kid's science fiction, very commercially written adult mysteries. They are clear and the sentence structure is simple and I don't have to work at keeping the ideas straight in my head.

Yeah, well, anyway- My Life as a Book, by Janet Tashjian, cartoons by Jake Tashjian (he illustrates vocabulary words- great teacher idea!), to be published by Henry Holt in July of 2010, is a good story. There is mystery, humor, and personal discovery, all good things for a book that will appeal to boys in particular, and especially boys of a particular age.

1 comment:

  1. good book my grandmother is lois lowry u have met her i got your sig