BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

BOOK: My Autobiography transcribed by John Agard, illustrated by Neil Parker

BOOK by John Agard on BookDragonOh, oh, oh. What a perceptive, thoughtful, gorgeous gift are these pages. Yes, if books have a soul, this would be it – not to mention history, context, and universal appeal bound in as well.

Guyanese British poet/playwright/children’s writer John Agard ‘transcribes’ the story of Book over the centuries and even further back: “Before Book, there was Breath.” Through songs, chanting, telling, books were passed down from memory through lips because writing had not yet been invented.

And then it was. From clay tablets to decorated vessels to cave walls – Book claims them all as ancestors – pictures told stories until the alphabet came along and added some finer details. From rolled papyrus (scrolling is really an ancient throwback) to parchment (sheepishly grateful), from quills to holy illuminations, Book began to take shape from round to angular as it was folded and bound. Paper, printing, printing houses – oh the prevalence of Ps – publishers, portable pocket paperbacks, all happened, and Book continues to traverse the globe and back without pause.

Mixed in with that noble history, however, is tragedy, as well … when libraries were not welcome places for all and the multiple times and places when books were burned. Now in the 21st century, what are we to make of E-Books? Good friends they might be, but warnings come attached: “‘Better not get too high-per, because when your battery needs charging, you’ll come crashing down, won’t you?'”

Agard knows just how to choose the best stories, enhancing Book’s narrative with quotes, poems, pontifications from notable others: “… the books I love / get kissed and squeezed / and pressed against my heart,” from poet Grace Nichols; “If anyone steal this book, let him die the death. Let him be fried in the pan. [… and all manner of additional horrible endings] Amen,” a 12th-century Bible inscription warns; “Reading off the screen is still vastly inferior to reading off paper,” from … Bill Gates! And to enhance the Luddite book-love experience, British (with a peripatetic past) artist Neil Packer makes sure every page is thoughtfully, joyously, pleasingly presented.

Of course, books without readers are something akin to one hand clapping … so get reading already. Peruse Book. Read Book. Love Book. Re-read Book. Share Book. Again and again and again.

Tidbit: If John Agard’s name sounds familiar, that might be because he won the The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012. His best known poem is “Half-Caste,” and is gorgeously, lyrically accessible to even poetry-resistant readers like me! For Agard’s own resonating recitation: click here. And if you want to follow along, click here.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2014 (United Kingdom), 2015 (United States)


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