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An Act of Revolution

In author/illustrator, Lynda Barry's estimation, I committed a revolutionary act.

I read a big, long book - Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick.

By hand and eyes.

It was delicious.

There was so much to admire in Selznick's captivating, ingeniously crafted format. He entertwines a composite of drawing and words that cause you to slow down and savor the experience of reading. He has written three in this style. To read them is to practice mindfulness. His hand drawn pencil sketches, when turned, create an illusion of watching a silent movie. The revolutionary, physical act of reading Wonderstruck made me recall my childhood excitement of reading for pleasure.

Here are Lynda's ominous words

"Doing things with warm hand to warm hand, face to face, without photographing them, posting them, is becoming a revolutionary act."

Along with reading a physical book, she included writing and supporting libraries. I am a proud revolutionist.

It scares the hell out of me to think that libraries and physical books may one day become a thing of the past. Nothing comes close to a visit to the library where you can dive into the collective knowledge of the universe, explore topics both imagined and fact, choose your favorites and walk out knowing that you will be richer for the experience. Not to mention, it is free. When I walk out of a library, I still coyly hold my treasures with curious anticipation and a sense that I must be getting away with something.

Since childhood, the pending mood of adventure has surrounded a library visit. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, the home of some majestic libraries. Just imagine walking into the libraries pictured below. The first is Toledo's oldest library, built in 1890 at the corner of Madison and Ontario streets. When it opened, it held the distinction of being one of the few in the country to adopt a then innovative open-stack concept where patrons could browse for books on their own. The initiative was made possible after the Carnegie Foundation donated $125,000 to the city for the buildings and Edward Drummond Libbey gave $100,000 for books.

The photo above is the inside of Toledo's current Central Branch on Michigan Street, built in 1940. In August of 2001, this library added a 271,000 square foot expansion.

Admittedly, there is joy in all measures of digesting books. From Audible and Hoopla to Kindle; I use them all. When I go to bed, I set the timer on my current audiobook and have a fifteen minute listening snack before sleep. Some books are better read out loud with a skilled narrator. Others need to be touched and turned. Selznick's Wonderstruck, The Marvels, and Caldecott medal winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, all deserve the slow and savor treatment.

Each of them feature his cinematic style inspired by the beloved children's book illustrator, Remy Charlip, who wrote an essay about turning pages:

"A book is a series of pages held together at one edge, and these pages can be moved on their hinges like a swinging door.

. . . . . . . . .

Of course if a door has something completely different behind it, it is much more exciting. The element of delight and surprise is helped by the physical power we feel in our own hands when we move that page or door to reveal a change in everything that has gone before, in time, place, or character." (Full essay here.)

Selzick's creations have yielded stories which inspire adults and children alike. The density of each book demands your attention and adds to the anticipation of sumptious reading. The act of turning each of their pages is, as Remy describes, to open another door. Behind each page waits another discovery. Fond memories of earlier reading resurfaced as I read each book. Back I went to the 1960's and my reading spot on the orange swivel rocker in the living room of my home on Wycliffe Parkway. From this spot, I explored the wonders of the world.

As an early reader, my classmates and I used the number of pictures as a guide for book selection. The more pictures a book had, the better it would be. Selznicks books would have more than met my childhood standard of excellence, but not my adult standard. Wonderstuck and the like are all categorized as young adult literature. There is a high probability that I would never had read any of them if one were not named Wonderstruck. In my year long quest to remember that wonder exists in the everyday, I googled 'books with wonder'. I'm glad I found it.

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