Indebted: How to find gold kid lit

Our son's backpack is in the heavyweight category, slightly wider than his slim shoulders, always filled to the brim with a lot more than I think a person can rationally carry to school. He likes this particular bag, though, and will not hear of the kind you roll like a suitcase. I didn't think there would be space for one more thing in it today, much less a 650-page book. He was half way through Wonderstruck (Brian Selznick) and begged permission to take it to school.

Tonight, he told me a group of classmates gathered around, fingering the illustrations in the book and begging him to read some, which he did. It's in English, so they asked him if he knew whether it existed in Spanish. (It does: Maravillas.)

Finding a book to treasure, especially for a 10-year-old boy, is a rare stroke of fortune. How does it happen? For me, so far only one way: recommendation, and not just from anyone, but from book lovers in my spectrum. Not just readers, but ones I know well enough to trust.

My friend Tammy writes a blog that reaches my heart in every good way. She recently wrote on favorite kidlit. Her short description of Wonderstruck particularly caught my eye because it seemed so different to anything we had ever read (but it's not — if you read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a child, you'll find this a beautifully nostalgic read).

It didn't take me long to order Wonderstruck as a special treat for the month.

It arrived Monday, and I showed it to our eldest two. They weren't as impressed as I expected. I wasn't having the best day, so afterwards I quietly tucked the book away, muttering, "Fine. If they're not going to enjoy it, I will." That night found me owl-eyed in the living room, reading Wonderstruck cover to cover.

The next morning, I put it on our eldest's desk with a note: "Read it last night. You're going to love it."

Are we noticing a pattern?

She wasn't quick enough, though, and her brother started reading it before she did. And once he was in, he wouldn't let go.

I love seeing his eyes shine when he picks up a book he's enjoying. It's wholly different, unlike any other type of excitement he shows. I know the look. It's wonderstruck.

All my life, ever since the first book recommendation I can remember around age 8, I've been indebted to other readers who cared enough to pass on the wonder, the joy and the love.

Thank you, Tammy! Let's all keep passing it on.


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