How to Choose a Just Right Book

I was shopping in the delightful River Run bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and came across a book that the entire staff had read that I had never heard of. “You must read this book!” the hand written recommendation implored and lucky me, I hit the X on the treasure map:  The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken. It is about a 30-something librarian that falls for the (teenage) town giant – a boy who grows, and grows, and grows, and grows. What kind of premise is that? Who writes a book about that?  The human mind amazes me again and again, and because of passages like this I sighed audibly as I read:

I want to tell you about his body.

His thighs –

I want to say that they were like railroad ties, and they were, they were solid and blocky and no wider at the hip than at the knee, but I promised myself I wouldn’t turn his body into something it wasn’t. I wouldn’t compare it to other things. People always did that. They made him into a redwood tree, a building, the Eiffel Tower. I’d never thought about it before, but now suddenly, with so many strangers around, so many new people making guesses, assessing his girth, arm span. I couldn’t help doing it myself. I vowed to stop.

I don’t want to leave you with a man assembled out of house-hold goods, a scarecrow with hands as big as toasters and arms long as brooms and glasses the size of a child’s bicycle, I want to detail only facts….

Finding great books is one of the incredible joys of my life.  I read reviews voraciously and mostly, when I read a review, I just KNOW I’ll love a book. But, why? What is it? I think it is a crazy cocktail of surprising characters, quirk factor, and beautiful language.  It would be fun to analyze the reviews of the books I am drawn to. What are the key words that make me stop, drop everything, and shop for a book?

Besides the local recommendation, what else struck me? A blurb on the back by stated, “This book is so lovely that, when you’re reading, you’ll want to sleep with it under your pillow.” That made perfect sense to me. I understand that kind of longing for a book, to have it near me all the time, even when I don’t have time to read it. I still throw it in my purse, just in case I find myself with a spare minute — waiting to pick up or drop off kids. An extra long traffic light.  You never know. This description also moved me to buy, “Two misfits whose lonely paths cross at the circulation desk, Peggy and James are odd candidates for friendship, but nevertheless they soon find their lives entwined in ways that neither one could have predicted….as he grows…so does her heart and their most singular romance.”  A librarian and a teenager? This should have creeped me out, but instead, I agreed, “I MUST read this book.”

I usually have a print book, an e-book, and an audio book going all at the same time. The i-pad has changed the weight of my bag, since I can have hundreds of books with me without breaking my shoulder. I never want to be caught with a minute of down time without a book or magazine. It is a sickness, I know.  I heard an interview with Maurice Sendak once where he recounted loving books so much that he would take bites out of pages. He wanted to eat the books he loved. I love books that much too.

So, what does this have to do with school? I’m not sure, other than sharing and spreading personal joy should be our goal every day.  Choosing a just right book is a complicated matter.  Sharing things with kids that delight us, make our eyes light up, and our brains crackle, and our hearts grow bigger should be the learning target every day. Don’t dumb it down…make it into the miraculous event it is, every time. Every single time you find a book that moves you, it is a tiny miracle.

Take some time to spread a little joy to the kids and grown ups you work with today – share a great book, and how you happened to come across such a treasure.