Reading Without Walls

Reading Without Walls

The month of March was a busy one.  So my posts slowed down last month but I have a lot of terrific books to review coming up.  Most recently I was inspired by Gene Luen Yang's campaign as the National Ambassador of Young People's Literature.  (Wow, that's a mouthful.) His take for the month of April is Reading Without Walls.  (Image above is from the RWW campaign.) What does it mean?

From Reading Without Walls:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.


What I thought I'd do is talk about a few books that I've read in my past that I may not have picked up on my own, but I decided to step outside of my comfort zone.  And new worlds opened up to me!

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The first book I can think of is The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. I was a junior in high school and a bit of a know it all.  I wasn't sure what my English teacher could possibly teach me.  Except....he taught me a LOT about writing and literature (of all kinds) that year.  AND maybe humility too.  I enjoyed that year of English and my following year (with Mrs. Thomas) so much.  We were studying H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Mr. (Brendan) Powers started talking about one of his brother's books, The Anubis Gates

The Anubis Gates is a Sci-Fi/fantasy novel first published in 1983.  I was NOT a Sci-Fi reader.  But, I loved The Time Machine and Tim Powers interwove elements of time travel and the Romantic poets, my favorite at the time.  So, I checked it out, and I didn't regret it one bit!  After that, I read all of Tim Powers' books and when I brought them all to college a few years later, Mr. Bookworm would drop by my dorm room to borrow from my book collection.

Mr. Powers, if you're out there, I know you have many students who have praised you for your wonderful mentorship and teaching.  (In fact, I'm told that there's a FB page dedicated to him.)  Each and every time I think to thank a teacher or mentor, your name springs to mind.  Thanks for being such a lifelong inspiration.  And for inadvertently introducing me to my husband. 

And if you're trying to recall which student I was in the early 90s, maybe you might remember my obsession with doodling Love and Rockets emblems in my notes?  (The BAND, not the comic book series of the same name.)  Speaking of comic books....


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

I didn't grow up reading graphic novels or comic books.  I'm pretty sure that Zita the Spacegirl is the first one I picked up and read.  (I don't count Owly by Andy Runton, which is also a great read, but I mostly watched a preschool-aged Mini Me tear through those ones.)  And, this is where it helps that Mr. Bookworm is a different type of bookworm than I am--he is the one who chose these books for our girls.

Zita was amazing and fun and my girls fell in love with the series instantly.  And so did I.  Zita is a strong, smart superhero-type kid, and the illustrations are fun while the story line is engaging.  I found myself flipping back and forth through all the illustrations and the details, and laughing out loud (literally) at some parts.  And I found my emerging reader at the time, Little Lion, falling in love with books.  Zita was a turning point in my heart for graphic novels.  Yes, we have all three Zita books.  And if Ben Hatke decides to go forth and break the trilogy trend by publishing a fourth Zita book, we'll be the first in line.

Also check out Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese or Boxers and Saints.  While Little Lion 'read' Shadow Hero several times last year when I borrowed it from the library, I feel like I might need to check it out for her again as her reading abilities have expanded exponentially.

And for another wonderful series, please check out Dragons, Beware by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado .  I haven't yet had to make a Claudette costume because Little Lion has moved on, but I'm sure she will circle back at some point.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

I completely dreaded studying Shakespeare in college.  It seemed pointless, but it was a requirement as an English major to take two quarters of Shakespeare.  So when the opportunity to study Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon came up, I jumped at the chance despite my hatred for the bard.  Why?  Because it was a way to get through the requirement in six weeks rather than twenty. 

And Shakespeare was boring.

Except, he wasn't. 

I was fully immersed in the Shakespeare experience as we read plays that were being performed that summer by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and Stratford.  Shakespeare's words came to life for me that summer, and I truly began to appreciate why he remains so popular.  And I've continued that love to his day, most especially for Twelfth Night, perhaps because the RSC version was so wonderful.

So here's the challenge for the month: pick up a book you wouldn't normally read, read a book with a character who doesn't look or live like you, or read a book about a topic that is new to you!  I'm excited to take on this challenge and see what I find next....

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