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Asked and Answered | August 25, 2017

In this month’s Asked and Answered column, the ECC Board asked authors/illustrators what their favorite assigned summer reading book.


“My favorite summer reading assignment was probably Lord of the Flies, which remains one of my all-time favorites. I’m a big fan of dystopias and post-apocalyptic stories, and it has all the best elements of both: government overreach, the dangers of conformity and groupthink, and the whole “people are the real monster” trope. And it’s about ordinary school kids. It changed the way I thought about reading and writing dystopian stories the same way The Shining changed the way I thought about horror.” — Dana Mele, author of People Like Us coming February 2018

“I may be showing my age here, but I don’t remember ever having a summer reading assignment. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t read over the summer! My parents did not have the money for summer camps or even vacations, so I usually read a book a day, from Trixie Belden mysteries to The Swiss Family Robinson. I loved to read so much that the children’s librarian at my local Carnegie library soon decided that the standard six-books per child limit did not apply to me. Probably my strongest memory is of reading Jack London’s White Fang when I was about ten–I fell into that book like a fever dream.” — April Henry, author of the Edgar Award nominee The Girl I Used to Be, and the forthcoming Run, Hide, Fight Back.

“My older sister used to litter the household with her fantasy and science fiction novels (she devoured them like potato chips). Those books fascinated me: in part because of the weird and amazing cover illustrations, but more importantly, because my sister threatened to literally kill me if I ever dared to touch them. Teresa had a strict “hands off, brat” policy (I was the brat). Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes your fingers itch with desire like the thing your older sister tells you that you CAN’T touch.

“However, once in a while (always in the summertime) she’d hand me a book to read. And I would take it reverently, and I would READ THAT BOOK because my sister had given me permission. Each time it felt like she was offering me a key to a wonderful, mysterious mansion that I desperately wanted to explore.

“I remember when she told me that I was finally ready for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I remember her telling me that I’d get a kick out of A Spell For Chameleon by Piers Anthony, and most of all I remember when she handed me The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, which I still think is the coolest fantasy series ever written.

And the funny part is this: if she’d pushed her books on me… if she had tried to force me to embrace her own love of literature… I would probably have taken those books for granted. Rather than offer the whole bag, Teresa slyly doled out a single potato chip at a time. Those rare summer assignments were a big part of what made me a lifelong reader (and a well-read brat).” — Jay Cooper, author of the Spy Next Door series from Scholastic (Book #2: Curse of the Mummy’s Tummy comes out in September)

“I love to read non-fiction/historical/archival newspaper articles. These help me to germinate some of my ideas. As far as fiction goes, I will reread two novels during the summer months, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and 100 Years

of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Those books help me to solidly within me the storyteller stance of parable in that they help me to look at ourselves through the human condition — feeling the humility, the humanity — allowing the reader to laugh in sympathy but more to have empathy.” — Jerdine Nolen, most recently at S&S she has published a Middle Grade novel called Calico Girl, but is best known for some of her picture books like Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, Thunder Rose, and Plantzilla.

“[Loved The Giver.] I won it in 4th grade, and then it was assigned in school three more times. In 8th grade, I told the teacher I wouldn’t read it again, and that’s how I discovered Phillip Pullman!” — Jenna Lettice, author of the 12 Day series.

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