Saturday, December 20, 2008

Watching My Boy Read. [Street Angel--Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca (book review)]

My 8-year-old son, Evan, is sitting across from me at the table, reading a book.

Anyone who's raised or taught a reluctant reader will know exactly what I mean when I say that the sight brings goofy tears to my eyes.

Silent, in complete concentration. Pausing only to read me a funny part.

It's been a slow process for him, this reading thing. Painstakingly sounding out words didn't count as "reading" in his mind. I kept telling him he knew how to read, long before he believed it. And because he didn't believe it, he wouldn't try.

Some people would have insisted on regular practice, knowing that it would speed up the process. Me, I didn't care so much about raising a boy who could read. I wanted to raise a Reader--a person who knows the joy of losing himself in a book. And so I waited. Sure, I nudged a tad here and there, and did a lot of reading aloud, and I could see steady progress as he read the occasional t-shirt or bumper sticker out in the world. But mostly it felt like I was doing nothing.

Over the last few months he's willingly read Early Reader books with me. We take turns reading pages, but he still gets tired. I always agree to take over the reading when he asks me to. Most times he reads six or eight pages, trading off with me, and then I read the last half aloud.

Street Angel is not a kids' book. I'd probably give this graphic novel a PG-13 rating, for language and violence. But when I found the boy engrossed in it, I didn't have the heart to discourage him, even when he commented, "I have a feeling maybe I shouldn't be reading this. It has some bad words in it."

"It's okay," I said. "You can handle it."

The art and the storyline, about a 12-year-old skateboarding homeless girl who "fights ninjas, drugs, nepotism, and pre-algebra," has pulled each of us in. Ninjas slumped around the ninja station (an old fire station, complete with pole and pirate alarm) playing basketball and video games in their spare time. Inti the Incan sun god leaning back in his office chair in the clouds as his office assistant gives him an update on the sacrificed-virgin count.

Artist Jim Rugg collaborated with Cecil Castellucci on The Plain Janes, which was what led me to Street Angel in the first place. The co-author for Street Angel is Brian Maruca. So, here's to you, Jim and Brian! You helped my boy pass a milestone today.

"I finished it!"

The Soundtrack: Evan selected Linkin Park's Somewhere I Belong to go along with this book. It's a nice fit.


  1. That grin is priceless! I'm so glad Evan found something that appealed to him and held his interest. And good for you to continue to encourage him, even though the graphic novel may have been a bit "mature".

  2. Thanks, guys!

    Dawn, poor Evan hates that picture! He's had that gap in his mouth for months now and he thinks it looks dumb, but the new tooth is taking its sweet time coming in.

  3. I have a big smile on my face from reading this post =). Yay to Evan for finding a book that sucks him in.

  4. I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that girls and boys hate to put down. My web site is at and my Books for Boys blog is at

    I also have a short story in a new book called LAY UPS and LONG SHOTS, published by Darby Creek Publishing. It's a Junior Library Guild selection. I'm also featured in an article in the 2009 edition of Children's Writer Guide.

    My other books are all ranked by Accelerated Reader

    Max Elliot Anderson

  5. my niece was a reluctant reader...until she was in high school. she would never read for pleasure and that saddened me. but then, maybe half way through high school, she happened upon some books that interested her...and now, in college, there is no stopping her. I love it!

  6. Yea for Evan and YIPPEE for you - SOunds like you are an awesome patient wise mom... :)

  7. Thanks!

    Care, I asked my kids:
    "Would you say I'm patient?"
    Them: "No. Well, yes. Sometimes."

    "Would you say I'm awesome?"
    "Yeh. Well, sometimes. Other times we ask for stuff and you say No."

    "Would you say I'm wise?"
    "No, I'd say you're young."

    Love those boys to pieces, I do. :-)

  8. As the mom to four Readers, I just wanted to share in your moment with Evan. Like you, I let my kids determine when they were ready to read, not some arbitrary designated age. My first taught herself at 6. My second learned at 12. My third at 13 and my fourth at 7. Today, at 24, 18, 15 and 12, they all read at the same level. More importantly, they all read and LOVE it. And isnt' that the goal?

  9. That's so awesome for Evan and for you! I have three boys - 20, 18 & 15 (20 is hard to say. He just had his bday last week and I can't believe he's not a teen anymore!) and reading has never been their favorite thing. I'm hoping someday they will love it as I do but for now I just do whatever I can to encourage them. I get books about their interests, magazines, comic books, cereal boxes, whatever it takes. I think you did the right thing by letting him read the book he chose. I love that he discussed it with you and I love that you told him he could handle it. Great job Mom! It sounds like you both passed a milestone.