Over the holidays I was inspired by my mother to reflect upon the books that have shaped my life. I’ve been a reader since birth, so it’s hard for me to select only a few, but since that conversation a few have risen again and again in my thoughts. The next few blog posts will be dedicated to these formative books and the way their stories changed my life.
The first of these books was not difficult for me to choose. Bruce Coville’s sci-fi and fantasy books aimed at adolescents swept me away as a child. I devoured his books whole and demanded more. I completely lost myself in his pages, an experience so entrancing that it ensured I’d be a reader for life. And among all of his books (his bibliography tops 100 books, and I’ve read dozens and dozens of them), the first one that captivated me, the first series I ever felt the pangs of waiting for a release date, was one of his very first: My Teacher Is an Alien.
The book follows three kids in an elementary school, a popular girl, a bully, and a nerdy guy, who discover together that the old cliché is true—their teacher really does harken from a distant world. However, [SPOILER ALERT] it ends with a twist. Rather than the alien seeking to invade or destroy Earth, he came to learn, and when the alien’s identity is outed, Peter, the nerdy kid, feels compelled to leave with him. Even two decades later, I can remember my excitement each time I returned to that book.
My mother was already heavily involved in the American Library Association at the time, and one day she surprised me with an autographed copy of this book. I opened to the cover page, and there I saw in slanted script my favorite author’s name, along with a dedication: Keep looking to the stars! Thanks to this book, and to others like it, I’ve never stopped.
I still have all of my books from childhood. Someday soon, I’ll pull them all down from the attic and hand them over to my son, starting with this book. We’ll read the dedication, and I’ll tell him of how much this story resonated with me when I was his age, and how it still does. And then we’ll read the story together, excitedly turning the pages, and hopefully he’ll fall under the same spell that has held me in its sway all these years.
I wonder, what books shaped your lives? Perhaps it’s time to return to the books wherein you first beheld the magic of immersing yourself in other lives, other worlds.
Keep reading, my friends!