How do you choose what to read? As I looked back over May’s wild reads, I noticed a theme: award-winners. Two books received the Newbery Medal and one received a Pulitzer Prize. It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking, This won a major award: I should like it, but often I have found something to value in award-winning books, whether I like them or not. Then there are stories like The Book Thief, which never earned more than an honor award, has been a best-seller since its release in 2005, and is often included on school school reading lists. Go figure.
At Tweetspeak, books matter, whether they have won awards or only readers’ hearts. We host a book club, we review books, and we publish them at T.S. Poetry Press. We’re dedicated to literacy — for life.
Do you want to be a wild reader? Are you reading wildly already? We’re using Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits to explore what it means to be a wild reader — someone most likely to embrace literacy for life. Read through these 5 characteristics and see which ones fit your reading style and which you might incorporate this month. Or add your own, as one of our wild readers did last month.
5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers
1. They dedicate time to read.
I first tried to read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak several years ago — too soon after a death to want a novel narrated by Death. This month I revisited it and finished it quickly for a book that’s over 500 pages. Death’s narration is often heavy-handed, which was distracting. However, this is a story about the Holocaust, and sometimes a little distraction is warranted. It’s about the power of words, both to kill and to heal. Within the book are two smaller books. One contains this introduction: “I thought you might be too old for such a tale, but maybe no one is. I thought of you and your books and words, and this strange story came into my head. I hope you can find some good in it.” Readers, I hope you can too.
2. They self-select reading material.
Why was a children’s poetry collection called Winter Poems laying out in the library, just prior to Memorial Day? Probably so I would find it. Author Barbara Rogasky selected only poems about winter — nothing about Christmas or Hanukkah or even New Year’s Eve. She includes an anonymous Japanese poem, circa 905, as well as selections by Richard Wright, Sara Teasdale, and William Shakespeare, all united by illustrations of the home and land and critters where Rogasky and illustrator Trina Schart Hyman live. The first illustration is of late fall and feels dark and cold, even without snow, while the last one, set in early spring, feels bright and thawing. The first shows Hyman walking the dogs toward home, ready to nest for winter, and in the second one she and the dogs are walking out into the wide world.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
Michelle Rinaldi Ortega recommended The 21 Balloons, by William Pene du Bois, in Tweetspeak’s Through the Looking Glass workshop this spring. The 1948 story is about a retired schoolteacher from San Francisco named Professor William Waterman Sherman who travels by hot air balloon to the island of Krakatoa. It’s an imaginative story, which School Library Journal rates at number 64 on its list of Top 100 Children’s Novels. The motto of the Krakatoans is Non Nova, sed Nove, or Not New Things, but New Ways,” and that describes the book as well — not new ideas but presented in new, unforgettable ways.
4. They have reading plans.
I always plan to read the books reviewed on NPR’s Science Friday, but too often I forget. This time I bought the book on Audible immediately after hearing the interview with Alan Stern and David Grinspoon about Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto. It’s the story of NASA’s mission to Pluto, and it captivated me. Why? Perhaps I like human stories of success against all odds. Here’s the last sentence : “We believe that the power of these and other very human impacts made by New Horizons outshine anything learned about Pluto, and for us, nothing can substitute for that discovery.” [Megan waves an American flag while weeping.]
5. They show preferences.
Anyone who knows me knows I prefer fairy tales. This month Tweetspeak published The Golden Dress, a story about a dress with a touch of magic, an old seamstress, and a girl who becomes a woman. Birds play a major role, although they do not speak (that is the job of the blue lace wind). Many of the illustrations by Gail Nadeau sprang from a series of paintings she made after discovering a photograph of a lost white dress that was a family heirloom. The text and the art inform one another in an infinite, beautiful loop.
Where the Sky Opens, Laurie Klein (poetry, finished from last month)
Chasing New Horizons, Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
Early Readers and Picture Books
The Golden Dress, L.L. Barkat, illus. Gail Nadeau
The First Song Ever Sung, Laura Krauss Melmed
Winter Poems, selected by Barbara Rogasky, illus. Trina Schart Hyman (the poems are not necessarily children’s poems, but the illustrations appeal to a younger audience)
Middle Grade and YA
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Medal)
The 21 Balloons, William Pene du Bois (Newbery Medal)
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak (Michael L. Prinz Honor)
Sliced (Got what I needed and moved on or plan to finish someday.)
Abandoned (Not my cup of tea, it bogged down quickly, or others beckoned.)
Started (Will I finish? Of course!)
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright (Pulitzer Prize)
1. Share anything about you and the 5 main wild reader characteristics. How do you display them, or wish you did, or plan to in the future?
2. Last month Maureen Doallas postulated a sixth characteristic of wild readers: “6. They go broke buying books. OR They have a permanent membership in a local library.” If that’s you, please elaborate.
3. Share your May pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
Photo by Martyn Fletcher, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome, author of The Joy of Poetry.
Browse more Reading in the Wild
- Perspective: The Two, The Only: Calvin and Hobbes - December 16, 2022
- Children’s Book Club: A Very Haunted Christmas - December 9, 2022
- By Heart: ‘The night is darkening round me’ by Emily Brontë - December 2, 2022
The movie version of “The Book Thief” was quite good (I haven’t read the book). The cast includes Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816442/
My two-month work project ended last Friday. It was one of the best projects I’ve ever had — the tracking down of descendants of executives who had their portraits painted – to give the portraits to as gifts; documenting with text, video, and photographs the last 18 years of a company’s history and what the CEO had accomplished; and finding old corporate archives in a storage room and having to determine homes for everything from a wet suit that was used for the first underwater filming ever and an 1899 photograph of a mother and child to a model of the first commercial computer ever installed in the US – an IBM 702 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_702).
The portrait part of the project included finding homes for two paintings of executives who had no descendants, which led me to the U.S. Navy Art Collection (I didn’t know they had one) and a small museum in Arkansas dedicated to documenting prairie life. Sorting through the old archives, I found a Gold Pass for Disneyland issued to a CEO in the early 1960s and signed (real signature) by Roy Disney, Walt’s brother. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the work was finding a family descendant by googling the name of a collection of poetry!
Out of Sorts by Aurelie Volognes
Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer
The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen
Remembering Dresden by Dan Walsh
Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman
Death in the Fearful Night by George Bellairs
Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts
The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything by D.A. Mishani
Revolution: The History of England Vol. IV by Peter Ackroyd
Poetry and Poets
The Consequence of Moonlight by Sofia Starnes
War Poet: The Life of Alan Seeger and His Rendezvous with Death by Michael Hill
Come as You Are by Debra Elramey
How Can I Be Right with God? by R.C. Sproul
Megan Willome says
That sounds like such a cool project, Glynn, and one that sent you in many directions.
I very much recommend the book of “The Book Thief.” Now that it’s been a week or two since I finished it, I find it’s staying with me. It’s unusual in many ways, especially for a YA book. I’ve heard good things about the movie.
Will Willingham says
I’ve always wanted to read The Book Thief, glad to see you mention it here. I was first interested by the film when it came out, but wanted to wait to watch it until I’d read it. And then, probably several other things got in the way. But perhaps I should put it back on my list.
I haven’t a list of books to share, but I can say this: I started reading again in May after a very, very long dry spell. I’m hoping even to finish a book yet this week. (Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering). It’s most interesting to me that I broke the drought with nonfiction, as it’s usually fiction that gets me interested enough in a book to keep reading. But maybe there’s a little of that lingering reluctance that came after the last book I really remember wanting to read, that kept saying in the back of my head, “This will be a disappointment.”
This feels hopeful to me, and maybe I can even start to participate in your Wild Readings soon.
(And oh! Yes. I did also read The Golden Dress this month, and loved the story and the exquisite illustrations. 🙂 )
Megan Willome says
It feels hopeful to me too, LW. I think it’s interesting that nonfiction drew you back (along with all the poetry that kept you company in the meantime.) We need different things in different seasons.
Looking forward to the book club for “The Art of Gathering.”
L.L. Barkat says
I would love to hear about Michelle’s The Twenty-One Balloons recommendation (what led to it, why she likes the story), and I just ordered it from the library. 🙂
I started Cynthia Rylant’s Lighthouse Family early reader series. The illustrations by Preston McDaniels are so marvelous—nostalgic and whimsical, both.
I also started Insomniac City, which I may or may not finish. (It’s actually a beautiful story of the relationship between Bill Hayes and Oliver Sacks, but I’m feeling a little unsettled about whether or not Oliver knew it would end up published after his death… maybe they had an agreement about this, which I will discover later in the book? Of course, it brings up the long, delicate question of who in our lives we write about and how and whether—a question both you and I have written through.)
Still reading (and loving!) DrawDown.
Am reading the Barron’s French-English dictionary. No, really. 🙂
Started The Road to Ever After, which is intriguing with its angels plot device.
Reached back to Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost. It always intrigues me to see notes I made previously, to see what mattered and if it still does. 🙂
At your recommendation, I’ll try The Book Thief. Just ordered from the library (and hoping it’s not too graphic, which can be problematic for me, since I seem to store images in such a way that they’re apt to haunt and not help.)
Thanks for leading us in reading, once again! 🙂
Megan Willome says
Of course you’re reading a French-English dictionary. 🙂
I have the same issue you do, with images getting stored and haunting me. There are moments that are graphic but, oddly, fewer than might be expected. It’s part of the paradox of Death as narrator; he’s not broken up about doing his job, even during such a time as this, so it removes the horror a little bit.