My daughter Emma chose My Life as a Book as her book club selection because like her, Derek only wants to read Calvin and Hobbes or other cartoons. The opening scene is hilarious with Derek's mom sailing over laundry piles as she chases her son, who is determined to avoid even a discussion about reading. Derek is very real: he could be my kid or the boy down the street. Like Calvin at his best, he often asks the questions adults would rather not answer. Reckless and goofy, passionate and clever, Derek sometimes takes things too far, but never out of malice.
Derek's big beef with reading is that he'd rather live all those adventures himself, not hear about someone else's amazing experience. As it stands, he's facing a long, boring summer with the required reading booklist when his best friend Matt heads off to Cape Cod and Derek gets sent to Learning Camp. The summer turns out better than expected as Derek gets caught up in solving a decade-old mystery and finds friendship in unexpected places.
The illustrations in the margins of My Life as a Book further personalize Derek--who clearly has a good sense of humor--and liven up reading for kids like my daughter. As we read, we scanned the sketches in the margins and looked for the corresponding words on the page. Emma had an easier time staying engaged in the story knowing there would be two or three breaks from the text, especially when reading on her own.
During our book club discussion, the kids pointed out that the comics Derek prefers have something in common with camp counselor Margot's visualization technique: they both make reading more accessible to people who are stronger visual than verbal learners.
The verdict? We aren't waiting to put the sequel on next year's book club list: we've already ordered it.