• These Words Matter: Brendan Reichs

    The question of which book turned me into a reader is complicated for me. The concept of reading for enjoyment broke through in fourth grade. My father forced nightly sessions of The Hobbit down my throat, despite all my “books-are-stupid” protests. Night after night, I went from obnoxiously pretending not to listen, to grudgingly accepting the readings as unavoidable, to secretly looking forward to them, and finally to skipping school one day to finish the novel all by myself. The Hobbit opened my mental doors to the magic of books. However, it wasn’t the book that made me a truly insatiable reader. That one came years later. In 1990, I was…

  • These Words Matter: E. Lockhart

    At age nine I was a member of a community that operated through the reading nook of my Montessori classroom. My three best friends and I would press worn Yearling editions into one another’s hands: “This one is so good!” If a book was beloved by one of us, it would be beloved by all. We would all four read it, one after the other. If it were especially adored, we would “play” the book during recess, acting out important scenes and making up new stories for the characters. One of my friends, a kindred spirit, had a lending library that operated out of her bedroom. She had index cards…

  • These Words Matter: Michelle Hodkin

    Ask a writer to name the book that shaped her and you’re likely to get a list instead of a single recommendation. It’s hard to resist the temptation. There was The Joss Bird, which my mother lovingly read and reread on demand when I was two. Then The Velveteen Rabbit, at four. “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” Sam, Bangs & Moonshine by Evaline Ness, Amos & Boris by William Steig followed. Given my obsession with animals, it was no surprise that I graduated to the Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell, The Wild Mustang and The Black Stallion books. I wanted a horse almost as much as I wanted a dog. (I…

  • Book Review: “Identical” by Ellen Hopkins

    I first read Identical by Ellen Hopkins when I was in high school. I’d started with Crank (if you haven’t yet read an Ellen Hopkins book, I highly suggest you start there), and was so eager to get my hands on more. The first time I read Identical was an experience I have only encountered once since. I didn’t see the ending of Identical coming, just as I didn’t see the ending of The Fault in Our Stars coming. These are the only two times that an ending has surprised me so much that I still, to this day, wonder how their authors so masterfully left me dumbfounded. I think this is the most disturbing Ellen Hopkins book I’ve read…

  • These Words Matter: Calla Devlin

    Writing didn’t come easily. School didn’t either. Reading, however, was my greatest challenge. Letters took on their own shape, and I didn’t see them as my classmates did. For them, jumbled lines named “C” and “A” and “T” somehow flowed together. Other students read aloud, at first sounding things out, but eventually the words rolled off their tongues. I marvelled as they moved from beginner books, slim paperbacks with simple sentences, to chapter books. For me, letters were backwards, flipped around, mirror images. They didn’t assemble into words or stories. My classmates moved on while I was called into an office, then another classroom where they tried to turn the…

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