Maybe it’s unusual to still find someone who will set aside almost everything –social media, video games and reality television but probably not pizza – to read a book. That kid does still exist, odd thing that he is, and believe me, it can be a little overwhelming to keep up.
We were mostly fine through elementary school, but once his taste became more discriminating, and he wouldn’t read just anything, it became much harder to find books that pulled him into another world so intensely that he wanted to stay there and not come back for dinner or anything else. I still bring a lot of books home for him, but he often also scours the school library on his own or asks his friends for new ideas.
With younger kids, you can sometimes fill the need for volume with series books. This started for us with The Magic Treehouse. After what seemed like a hundred of them, he dipped briefly into The Hardy Boys and Wimpy Kid series, and then moved on to Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. We blew through all of The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Unwanteds, and then tore through the Super Human books, too. (They’re still regularly pulled off the shelf for car trips.)
Sometimes it takes a few tries before a book or an author grabs him, but once it does, I can forget about him remembering to practice his viola. If a book he loves has a sequel, we find it, even reading an occasional story only published electronically. (We did this with The Julian Chapter, a companion story to Wonder by R.J. Palacio and for one of the Four stories by Divergent’s Veronica Roth.) Sometimes finding an author will lead us to more of his or her books – this happened with Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet – or to a different genre completely.
A few months ago, I came across Vango: Between Sky and Earth, part of a two-book series by Timothee de Fombelle. I don’t know how I missed this book when it came out, since it has so many things I love. Mysteries, secrets, adventure, a zeppelin, orphans, great escapes, bad guys, and an incredibly complex backstory… wow! I read about four chapters and then bugged my son into starting it. The book disappeared for a few days, and when I got it back, I also managed to finish it within two days. Because we had to wait on its sequel, I got Toby Alone and its sequel (also by Timothee de Fombelle) which had a similar effect, although it’s about a miniature boy in a tree world instead of a teenager with a mysterious past escaping Nazis and Russian agents.
Escaping into a book is one of my life’s great pleasures, especially during the long winter months when my garden is dormant. When my son was small, we started having “book parties,” which mostly just meant that we’d take a stack of books and spend an afternoon reading together. We’d have to stop and talk if something really funny or scary or surprising happened. He’d talk through a character’s mistakes and try to get me to listen to the best parts. I’d think about other books with similar characters and forget the best parts by the time I read whatever new book he was so excited about. The books have changed, but once in a while, if I’m lucky, the devices get left on the counter, and we still party on.