Looking forward to reading Cassie Beasley's Circus Mirandus and I adore this guest post on the series that got her to love reading!
I wasn’t always a reader.
When I was little, I loved to hear stories read by other people, especially my mother, who would pull out her copy of The Hobbit on rainy days. And of course I had to learn to perform the whole alphabet-deciphering thing in school. I did so dutifully and (I assume) well enough to keep all of the grown-ups happy.
I remember a series of cassette tapes that were supposed to turn me into a child prodigy overnight. I remember practicing until I could recite words with no trouble at all. But I wasn’t a reader. Not yet.
It happened to me suddenly, a few weeks after my classmates and I were first given unfettered access to our school library. It was every kind of wonderful to be able to select our own book and take it back to the classroom with us. I felt very responsible and mature, almost as mature as a third grader. (Third grade was, back then, practically adulthood.)
I was browsing the shelves with my friends one day when the library door opened, and a real live third grader walked in. (I knew she was a third grader because she was older than me, and I was impressed, and obviously everyone impressive was in third grade.) I stalked this fascinating creature around the library until she selected a book from a shelf full of pastel-colored paperbacks.
I knew what I had to do.
The book was thicker than anything I had ever read before. It seemed to be awfully full of words. But I checked it out anyway. And…
I LOVED IT.
I read it slowly at first, but I couldn’t stop. This book was not like the books my teachers had given me. This book had teenagers in it. And makeup! And a club!
I honestly don’t recall which Baby-Sitters Club book I picked up that day because I eventually read dozens of them. But that book was the one that started the avalanche. I discovered Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Animorphs! And my appetite for reading grew and grew until one day I read myself right out of the school library, and I had to get started on my parents’ bookshelf.
I don’t know if everyone grows to love reading in the same way, but I do know I’m not alone. I’ve met a lot of people who remember the book that started the avalanche for them. Sometimes the book they tell me about is a picture book, and sometimes it’s a bodice ripper. I’ve met people who never could enjoy reading until they found the right horror story, or the right sci-fi novel, or the right comic book. I even know someone whose reading took off the first time a story made her cry.
I think what’s so interesting about the book that starts the avalanche is that it’s not always great literature, and it’s not always the kind of book that is “right” for the reader in question. Sometimes the book that turns a person into a reader is chock-full of cliches and purple prose. Sometimes it’s a movie tie-in. Sometimes it’s a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s poetry.
I don’t even remember the plots of most of the Baby-Sitters Club novels, but I remember how enthralling they were when I first encountered them. They weren’t about children my age. They weren’t supposed to be for me. But they worked.
Whenever I think back on that day in the library, it makes me more determined than ever to write the stories that pop into my head. Just in case one of them is the one that starts the avalanche for someone else. And it reminds me that I need to keep recommending books to everyone I know, even those people who swear up and down that they don’t enjoy reading, because what if they just haven’t found their book yet? And it also reminds me to get out of the way sometimes and let the kids I know read the books that I’m afraid are too hard or too scary or too sad.
Because sometimes it only takes one book. Just one.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Find out more at doublecluck.com and cassiebeasley.com. Follow Cassie on twitter @beasleywrites
Thanks for a fab post, Cassie! (Also, love the cover and the wonderful candy stripe effect on the pages!)