Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back To School

School starts Monday and you know what that means—Have you read your Summer Reading books?

It seems like most schools these days just let students read a set of books from a broad list of titles, both classic and contemporary, with something on that list which would appeal to just about anyone, but when I was coming along there were specific books you were supposed to read and you avoided them like the plague and read everything under the sun instead.

Two titles in particular stand out:

Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain.
I chose to read this because it was the shortest book on the list that year, a critical asset for a book you check out of the library on the morning back to school and English is at 1pm that day. Good Luck! Actually, this classic forensic mystery is the story that put fingerprinting on the map. Before Mark Twain wrote this, most ordinary folks didn’t know that the swirled patterns on the tips of fingers are unique to each individual person.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
This book sticks out in my mind for several reasons, not the least of which is that at the time this title was assigned to me it was out of print, so in the Spring the instructor mailed photocopies of the entire book to every student who was to take AP English that Fall. Luckily, this brilliant, amazing book has since come back in print. Hoban is better known for his Frances picture books (A Bargain for Frances is a favorite around my house) which were illustrated by his wife, Lillian).

Riddley Walker is a coming of age tale, written as a series of letters or diary entries from the title character. Riddley is a young man living in a post-apocalyptic Britain, writing at a time when memory of the written language has faded, so the entire book is written in a phonetic future-speak which you have to decipher to understand. It was tough, but awesome. I remember pacing around my back yard reading sections aloud, my head swimming with the power and richness of this unique reading experience.

Hopefully, of course, you’ve already read your Summer Reading assignment, but even if you haven’t:
Have a great school year!

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