WHERE IT STARTED
By David Arnold
When I was in middle school, I read the cover off Jurassic Park. I’d finish reading it, and simply start over. I was convinced Jurassic Park—the place, not the book—not only existed, but existed for me. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Tim and Lex, the inimitable Ian Malcolm—this was my family, Jurassic Park our happy home. But, David, you say, it was an island full of dinosaurs. (Or, in the immortal voice of Jeff Goldblum, it was a “dinosaur island.”) To that, I say, Yes, what of it? Its dinosaur island-ness was at the very heart of my desire to live there. The risk of losing life and limb—of causing a poor, unsuspecting velociraptor some serious heartburn—was not quite the deterrent you might think. It was, in fact, a checkmark in the “pro” column. Outlandish? Outrageous? Outstanding, more like. I felt this way because Jurassic Park—the book, not the place—did, in fact, exist for me.
But this is not where it started.
When I was eight, my dad took me to the library. (The greatest sentence ever, yeah?) Our plan: check out the first book in the Hardy Boys series, The Tower Treasure, then read it aloud together. I think my dad had the whole thing pretty romanticized in his head—some real father-son bonding time, possibly with a log on the fire, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and hey, if some smooth jazz happened to play in the background, all the better. In reality, Dad simply had too much on his plate, too many real world responsibilities to truly devote the proper amount of time to the noble adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy. Theirs was a righteous calling, not for the faint of heart or, at the very least, not for those who had jobs and kids and mortgages and all the other ridiculous trifles adults deal in on the regular. I left Dad in the dust.But this is not where it started.
When I was a kid, I loved the rain. (Still do, actually.) I would put all my books in milk crates, and drag them to a particular spot in the living room floor. Our house at the time had these tall windows that went almost to the ground, and there was a couch positioned in such a way as to leave about three feet of floor space between it and one of these tall windows. Here I would park my books, build them like two walls on either side, the couch behind me, the window in front of me, the rain outside, the story within. And, in true little kid type-A fashion (a trait I now see in my son, and whoa, is that weird), I called this my Rainy Day Place.
And while that’s my first real memory of loving books, I doubt that’s where it started. My parents loved books, too (see above, the greatest sentence ever), and I have a sneaking suspicion I owe them for the Alan Grants, the Frank and Joes, the Rainy Day Place. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s where it started.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read a book to my son. Something with dinosaurs, I think.
About the Author
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David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. He is the critically-acclaimed author of Mosquitoland, which has been translated into over a dozen languages. Previous jobs include freelance musician/producer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And pesto. He believes fiercely in pesto.
About Kids of Appetite
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Vic and Mad, two New Jersey kids, are being held in separate interrogation rooms in the Hackensack Police Department. Each chapter is told from their alternating points of view in the present, as they’re being questioned about their involvement in a murder, and the past, which follows how Vic befriends Mad and their adventures with a bunch of misfit youngsters from their neighborhood.
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After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!