PARCHED opens in a dusty, drought-ridden African tundra where children who once enjoyed fountains now struggle to locate life-sustaining water. It’s a book that tackles tough subjects, but one that debut author Melanie Crowder hopes will “cause young readers to grapple with important questions; to weigh the great good and the great evil that humans are capable of.”
In short, this book challenges readers to see the world as larger than the scope of their own experience and to be active in bringing about the kind of world they would wish to live in.
As EMU authors, we are also avid readers. We all recall a book from our childhood that changed our perceptions of the world and shaped who we are today. I asked our EMUs to reflect on books that affected them as young readers and what lessons from those titles have stuck with them.
The most influential book for me was William Horwood’s DUNCTON WOOD, an epic war story, an epic love story of two moles trying to find their way in a dark world. It touched me b/c the MC was the prototypical loner/outcast who overcame great odds to achieve his dreams. What I most appreciated about it was that the characters were all fully drawn, with shades of gray. These moles were very human!
That, however, was an ‘adult’ book, one that still resonates deeply with me. On a younger level, ENDER’S GAME was the coolest book in the world. That plot twist at the end. Mind blown. Definitely one of those books that inspired me to want to write. The fact that SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD was even better….holy wow!
There are two books that changed my life as a kid, in two different ways. One was THE CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT by James Howe, which was really instrumental in shaping my sense of humor. American mainstream humor in the 80s was broad and zany, but CELERY—and the other books in the Bunnicula series—exposed me to much drier, language—and timing-based humor, which resonated with me much more and shaped how I write today. The other book that changed my life was RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson. What I love about this book is that the lives of all the animals on the hill are changed by simple acts of compassion. I read a lot of books with great environmental/social messages as a kid, but RABBIT HILL is a story that, rather than being a call to action on a grand scale, changed me fundamentally as a human being.
Pat Zietlow Miller
When I was in middle school, my aunt—who was a librarian—gave my sister and me THE WESTING GAME and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. I was enthralled by both. I loved Turtle and her commitment to winning the game, and Jess and his commitment to being Leslie’s friend. Although I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a writer yet, there was something about those stories that filled me with longing and with a sense of possibility. And when I read those books today, I still feel the same way.
In 6th grade, my school held a book fair. All the cool girls were raving about this book called EDGAR ALLAN. You HAVE to get a copy, they told me (a much less cool person). So when it was my class’ turn at the fair, I was determined to find that book. And I did—but my classmates had gotten the title wrong. The correct title was EIGHTEEN BEST STORIES BY EDGAR ALLEN POE. Even though I quickly realized it wasn’t the cool kids’ book I’d been expecting, I dived into “The Black Cat” and seventeen other tales of horror and really hard, long words—and I loved it! Every terrifying, phantasmagorical bit.
I was crazy about Judy Blume books as a young girl, but when I moved from TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING to ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, it was a shock! Who knew there was such a big jump in maturity from elementary school to junior high? Not me! I was so naive. I was born a Catholic and baptized, but my Catholic parents were so disillusioned with the religion after spending their entire lives in Catholic school (my dad was even an altar boy), that we never set foot in church again. I was happy that I had my Sundays free to ride my bike, but I was still curious about religion and God. Margaret made me question religion and the meaning of God as she tried to make sense of her conflicting, dual religious heritage. Moreover, Margaret introduced me to bras and periods and boys and kissing and all that girly stuff I was too embarrassed to ask my mom about. That book made me realize I was slowly becoming my own person, independent of my parents. It helped me to carve out my own identity.
Tell us, what book affected you as a young reader?
Congratulations again to Melanie Crowder on the release of PARCHED!
And thank you for joining us for the release party this week!
Lastly, drumroll please…
The winner of PARCHED from our launch party giveaway is:
DONNA GWINNELL WEIDNER!