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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Growing A Reader with Molly B. Burnham, author of Teddy Mars, Almost a Winner

The Power of a Book
by Molly. B Burnham

When asked about formative reading moments, like many of us, I get kind of goofy and want to gush about them all, like how I loved the book Snow, Goodnight Moon, anything by Judy Blume, and the all-important Tuck Everlasting. I’ll stop there because otherwise I’ll be writing a novel instead of a few paragraphs.

But there is a bigger reading memory---a memory that exists like an elephant sitting on my lap---huge, heavy, and not in a rush to go anywhere. It’s a memory about a book that had power, that took away my breath, that sent shivers up my spine, and all before I ever read it.

I grew up in Washington DC, in the 1970’s, and as hard as it is to believe, we didn’t have air conditioning. Really. Luckily, my grandmother and grandfather lived about an hour away in the Maryland countryside. During the most blistering of the summer days, my sister and I were sent off there. Just to be clear, they didn’t have air conditioning either, but their house was surrounded by trees, and had sleeping porches (still the greatest invention ever). The other nice thing was that our cousins lived close by so we could all play together. Distraction is a good way to deal with heat.

It was here that my sister, my two boy cousins, and I would wander our days away. Sometimes in the old barn, sometimes in the woods, sometimes in the attic, but all roads eventually led to the basement. Besides being cooler, it was also terrifying, which is always a bonus. It contained some machine that made a strange wa-woo-wa-woo sounds that at the time seemed particularly ominous. The thought that it might jump out and eat us was always a possibility.

Also in the basement were rows and rows of bookshelves. Our grandparents were readers. We didn’t know any of the books, except for one. We didn’t care about any of the books, except for one. It was a fairly innocent looking book. A greenish hardback with no cover, but the title clearly printed on the spine: Dracula.

Out of all the books on the rows of freestanding shelves we knew right where this one was. We were drawn to this book like ants to honey. None of us had read it. Sure, we had heard stories about people reading it, like my mom who after finishing it when she was a teenager late one night couldn’t move and had to be rescued by her father and taken upstairs. We never said the title out loud-do so was too terrifying. We knew what was inside (vampires). But the greatness and power of the book was utterly thanks to our imagination.

We would egg each other on to see who could stand the closest to the book? Who could reach out and touch it? And who could pull it off the shelf and open it? And no matter if we did or didn’t, it would always end up with us running away screaming at the tops of our lungs, past the gurgling machine, until the safety at the top of the stairs.

There were the times that our grandmother would send just one of us down to get something from the basement. And, now, I can only speak for myself, you never disobeyed our grandmother, but as I crept down those stairs, it felt as if the book was staring at me, that Dracula was in the rows waiting to sink his teeth into my neck, and I would grab what my grandmother needed and skedaddle away from that book as fast as I could.

Sometimes the power of a book seeps and exudes out of it, and doesn’t need to be cracked open until the reader is much, much older. But still, the book has so much meaning.


About the Author

Molly B. Burnham has been a dog walker, ice-cream scooper, and elementary school teacher. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two daughters, and a dog named Pepito. Pigeons really do live next door to her. Sadly, Grumpy Pigeon Man does not. Molly earned an MFA in children's writing from Hamline University. She has not broken a world record—yet!
About Teddy Mars, Almost a Winner
Win or lose, friends stick together. But when Teddy’s whole class decides to break a bigger, better world record, friends turn into enemies. And Teddy feels stuck in the middle. To fix this mess, Teddy will have to do something he’s never done before—try not to break a record! Can he win at losing before his whole class misses out? And can Teddy be a winner at all without help from his friends? Humor and grit triumph in this story of one boy’s struggle to make peace in a class full of record breakers, a coop full of pigeons, and a world full of wonders.

Told in short, accessible sections with fun lists and highly rambunctious illustrations, the Teddy Mars series is perfect for reading aloud. Teddy’s never-give-up attitude will have readers laughing out loud and striving to break world records of their own.

About Teddy Mars, Almost a World Record Breaker
Fans of Jeff Kinney's humor and Sharon Creech's heartfelt stories will love this hilarious new series about a ten-year-old boy from a big family who dreams of making it into The Guinness Book of World Records.

Teddy Mars is determined to stand out in a world full of wonders and a house bursting with siblings. With the help of his best friends, Teddy tries to build the biggest snow mound, stuff the most grapes in his mouth, and lift a chair with his teeth. He'll do anything to succeed—even if it means sleeping in a tent and cleaning up pigeon poop for Grumpy Pigeon Man. Too bad his pesky little brother, also known as The Destructor, always wrecks Teddy's record-breaking plans!

Told in short, accessible sections, with memorable lists and winning illustrations, Molly B. Burnham's Teddy Mars #1: Almost a World Record Breaker is perfect for reading aloud. Teddy's never-give-up attitude will have readers laughing out loud and clamoring to break records of their own!
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!


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