This is what makes my day…

I couldn’t get to sleep last night to save my life. I tossed and turned. I read. I had the tv on and I turned it off. I turned it on again and listened as it sleep timed itself off (two different times). And I was miserable. I knew that I had a long day today and that just made it worse. I remember rolling over at one point, squinting like crazy (can’t see jack without my glasses) only to see that it was 2:32. Gotta love it. Coffee was mandatory this morning, but it hadn’t really helped.My buttisimo was dragging this morning, to say the least.

Until Regis came in before first block, that is. We were starting our discussion of Part One of The Book Thief today and I know that I’ve gone on and on about how much I love this book, but you’re just going to have to deal with it – it’s that good. And Regis came in early to reaffirm this. To hear a student tell you that he loves a book so far, well, that makes it all worth it. To hear a student rave about the writer’s style, the characters and just how visual this first part was for him is the ultimate reward for me. He’s hooked, and there’s no telling where it goes from here.

And it did more for me than any amount of caffeine. I’m just hoping that this “high” doesn’t come with a caffeine crash on the back end…

I went to a conference sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) about 10 years ago and I vividly remember a presenter opening with a piece written by Dennis O’Neil as an introduction to The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics. I remember sitting there literally thinking “hey, this is a journalism conference – what the heck is this guy doing talking about comics?” No kidding, I thought he had to be joking. Boy, was I wrong.

And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody discuss what a book should do better than O’Neill did with this:

Here’s what I’d like you to do for me:

Make me laugh.  Make me cry.  Tell me my place in the world.  Lift me out of my skin and place me in another.  Show me places I have never visited and carry me to the ends of time and space.  Give my demons names and help me to comfort them.  Demonstrate for me possibilities I’ve never thought of and present me with heroes who will give me courage and hope.  Ease my sorrows and increase my joy.  Teach me compassion.  Entertain and enchant and enlighten me.

Tell me a story.

— Dennis O’Neil

I mean, seriously, how great is that? I want everything I read to do these things for me in some form or another. More importantly, I want my students to encounter this in whatever form of book it takes – whether that be a comic book, a work of non-fiction, or some crazy tale of vampires and werewolves. I just want to see us reading – and devouring what we’re reading at the same time.

For me, The Book Thief did all of the things O’Neil spoke about. Quite honestly, I’m not sure that any other book I’ve read has done this to the extent that Zusak did, and maybe that’s why I feel such a strong tie to it. But I do know this: I’m going to keep searching for others that do it as well.

And I’m also going to hope that Regis comes back in tomorrow with as passionate a review of Part Two as he did for Part One.

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