I made excellent progress this week, finishing 3 books. That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds. I had nearly finished the first one last week and the second was a graphic novel. However, I am also closer to my short-term goal of reading at least one book from each category. The first week I read books from the Edwards Award and Top 10 Great Graphic Novels – fiction lists. This week I read from the Prinz Award list and from the nonfiction section of the Top 10 Great Graphic Novels. My third book could count for three different lists, but I’m choosing to count Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe as a Top 10 Fiction for Young Adults title. I’ve already read many titles from that list before the Challenge, and I want to focus on reading new books. So, without further ado, here are my reflections on what I read this week.
In Darkness by Nick LakeThis is a book I had looked at when it arrived on the New Book Shelf at the library and decided not to read. I didn’t think I’d like it and wasn’t interested in such a dark story. Wow, was I ever wrong! It is a dark story, very dark. And Shorty is not an especially likeable boy. But this book is well worth venturing into the darkness. It was not a book that I picked up and couldn’t put down. On the contrary, I needed to put it down at regular intervals to read something a bit lighter. But I also had to go back to it. I would never have read this book if it weren’t for the challenge. Yet again, taking the Challenge has pushed me out of my comfort zone so that I found another great book.
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
I am usually hesitant about choosing graphic novels and don’t read nearly as many as I should. So I use the Challenge as a way to make up for lost time, reading as many graphic novels from the lists as I can. I was really impressed by this one. I learned a lot about Annie, and I never knew about the plagiarism scandal. In a good graphic novel, the illustrations support and enhance an excellent story, and that is certainly the case here. Illustrating three different story lines that include flashbacks and two different characters’ points of view could get quite confusing. But it is all easy to follow. I especially loved the way the images from Helen’s point of view changed over the course of the book showing her moving from a vague, isolated existence in the dark to experiencing and learning about the world around her.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This was yet another book I would never have read outside of the challenge. I was blissfully unaware of its existence and how much I was missing. It’s a beautifully written story with humor and affection. I really enjoyed the Sáenz’s depiction of loving, supportive families struggling together through life’s challenges. This was a book I had a hard time putting down. I suspect that it will reward a second reading as well.
Last year I did the Reading Challenge alone, though when I mentioned it to co-workers, some were curious to learn more. This year I sent out a note to our library’s staff letting them know the Challenge was starting. Five fellow librarians have joined me in the Challenge, three of whom I see fairly regularly. (We are an eight branch system.) Every time we work together, one of the prime topics of conversation is what we are reading for the Challenge. I’ve mentioned that I like the way the Challenge gets me to read outside my comfort zone so that I discover books I would otherwise have missed. Now my colleagues are saying the same thing to me. We haven’t coordinated our reading. After all, we are competing for a limited number of copies of the same books, but this week several of us actually read the same title, Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Each conversation included at least one person asking, “Have you read it yet?” followed by gushing over how good it was. This from people who don’t normally read many graphic novels. Thank you The Hub for sponsoring this reading challenge!