Gateway Book

I’ve been waiting for Silas to experience total absorption in a book. I knew that once he had that feeling, he would be beyond hooked.

I don’t remember my own gateway book. I was reading novels at five, and my favorite activity by kindergarten was to tune out everything around me and fall into a book coma. My brother was a good bit older; I remember him dabbling with Goosebumps when he was in elementary school, but I don’t remember him getting absorbed to the point of choosing a book over some other activity. That all changed when he brought home the first Harry Potter book. I think he was in the seventh grade. That book was a gateway for him. He became a reader, and eventually started recommending books to the rest of us (I still have nightmares from some of the books he’s sent my way…).

A few weeks ago, I was listening to the Mom and Dad Are Fighting podcast from Slate (love it), and Gabriel Roth, whose daughter is close in age with Silas, mentioned that she had had her first night of staying up until 11:30 to read under the covers, prompted by The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani. I hoped it would have the same effect on Silas (I have tried and failed at finding this magical book before). I think Lillian also was telling me about this book. So I picked it up at the library and we started doing it as a bedtime read-aloud.

Then, one morning, Silas asked me to read him a chapter. I was busy cutting Richard III, so I told him I’d do it later. When I went to find him after an hour, he was eyeballs deep in this book. I asked if he wanted to play a game with me and Petra, and he said, “Maybe after this chapter.”

He read a whole chapter–and these chapters are long. He was so focused, just oblivious to the world. I am beyond excited about this.

The School for Good and Evil is an interesting book, incidentally. I wouldn’t have picked it up if I hadn’t heard such a great recommendation, but I am eagerly following it. If Silas reads a chapter by himself, I read it to catch up before bedtime. It has some things that I’m uncomfortable with–there’s an open question about whether people are mostly good or mostly evil, and about whether our outsides reflect our insides. There’s also some serious fat-shaming all over the place, which I do not like, and we point out and talk about. But the characters are drawn fully and deeply, especially Agatha, who is the protagonist. The plotting is twisty and deep. The world is well-built, although I think its rules aren’t always adhered to as tightly as I might like. The author is a gay south Indian man, and having his perspective on the shelf alongside Silas’s primarily white, straight, British collection is a good thing. And, most importantly, he is devouring it.

And now, every morning for the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an hour that looks something like this:

I’m reading The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory, Petra has a popup of Alice in Wonderland, and Silas is sharing TSFGAE with his friend the sloth, who is a temporary visitor. Lyra is apparently guarding a bookmark.


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