Hi! My name is Mitch Axelson and I am a rising senior at College of the Holy Cross, where I am an economics major. I am one of the Corporate Communications summer interns at Scholastic. As I think about the books that have influenced me the most, I realize these books weren’t necessarily my favorites growing up, but rather books that provided “firsts” in my life. Books can have so many different effects on a reader, conjuring up different emotions, questions, and discoveries – and the following titles remind me of the “firsts” I encountered through the power of reading.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: I had my parents read Goodnight Moon to me countless times as a child. It was a perfect bedtime story and served as one of the first examples of books as a tool for relaxation. Whether getting ready for bed as a kid or serving as a distraction from stress, a good book can always help me take a temporary break from the real world.
Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler: Cam Jansen was the first book series I really got addicted to as a child. The Cam Jansen books felt like “my books” as other kids were occupied reading other book series. I’m sure plenty of other kids were reading this series, but at the time, I was discovering the proud feeling of finding a hit book before everyone else. Each story focused on Cam’s photographic memory that she used to solve mysteries. I think it is impossible for anyone to read these books without taking a moment to blink their eyes and say “Click” to see if they too have the powers of Cam Jansen.
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson: I read this book in fifth grade and I remember being proud to carry it around because it was nearly 500 pages - albeit with very large text. I was motivated to finish the book because I had never read anything so long on my own before. What I didn’t expect was to get so wrapped up in the story. Serving as somewhat of a prequel to the Peter Pan story that I was familiar with growing up, the book took a childhood movie that I loved and heightened the stakes with more exciting action and mystery. Having watched the movie so many times as a kid I loved reading more and more of this book as it felt like I was unlocking part of the story that had been hidden from the rest of the world.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I was filled with excitement as I anticipated how the movie would bring to life the intense battles I had imagined while reading – as The Hunger Games was one of the first book series I read that became a film phenomenon. I enjoyed the film, but I realized that reading a book is a more personal experience. Reading The Hunger Games allowed me to create my own version of the story. It was fun to notice the differences in what happened on screen and what happened in my version of the story. And that’s the power of reading: igniting the imagination.
Jim the Boy by Tony Earley: During high school I read a plethora of coming of age stories, but Jim the Boy always stuck out for me. I have a bad habit of getting caught up in stress or focusing too much on the negatives in my life. Jim the Boy was a profound reminder of the many good things in life and how to look for them. On the surface, there seemed to be a lot wrong in Jim’s world. His father had died and it was a time where poverty and illness had an effect on many of the characters. In this seemingly small town there are plenty reminders of the large and cruel world, but things are rarely as gloomy though Jim’s eye’s. Most of his life revolves around baseball mitts, school yard rivalries, and the town fair. Only at the end of the book is Jim struck by how the big the world is looking down on his town from the mountain. His failure to realize this doesn’t come across as stupidity or pure naiveté. Instead, it seems that Jim tries to focus on what is good in his life while he can, leaving me hoping he or I don’t grow up too fast.
Wikipedia (Jim the Boy, Peter and the Starcathers)