A great nonprofit organization called First Book recently conducted an interesting survey called What Book Got You Hooked? The study asked respondents what book made them fall in love with reading. In looking over the results, I was intrigued by the notion that one book can make a person a reader for life.
Think about it: there could be a book out there that, when matched with the right kid, would make a child fall in love with reading and books for life? That's heavy, man.
Can the right book touch us so deeply that it changes us in some lasting and profound way? Can you say the same for a movie? A TV show? A video game? Nope. Let's face it: there's something about the nature of a book that enables it to crawl into our soul and rearrange the furniture in a way in that other forms of entertainment simply can't. So...what are the books that did a feng shui number on your soul's living room?
For me, one book was Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer and illustrated by the great Robert McCloskey. I haven't seen that book in years, but there was a well-thumbed and slightly beat-up copy at our house when I was growing up. There was just something about that story that stuck to yer ribs. The illustrations were dark, slightly creepy and troubling—but somehow compelling and full of life at the same time. I remember the kid in that story (named Johnny) had to leave home because his family was too poor for him to stay. He chases a rolling pancake (his journey cake) for miles and ends up back home. What the Sam Hill did it all mean? I don't know, but that book captivated me as a kid like no other.
I remember, too, The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes with illustrations by Robert Nadler. Of course, this wasn't the recent movie tie-in version, this was the old version from about 1968 or so. I read it in the third grade and was blown away. I still remember reading the scene where the robot puts itself back together again after a fall. That blew my fuses. I am fascinated with robots to this day. I told my kids about that book so many times, they eventually bought it off of eBay for me for Christmas one year. And it still rocks my socks!
If anything, this study should point out the importance of getting books into the hands of kids. And who knows, that next book could be the book that wins them over for life.