"Are you a gifted child looking for opportunities?"
This is the advertisement the main character, of this first book of the Benedict Society series, sees in the newspaper. He is amazed that it is written with a child as the intended audience. What child reads the paper?
When I read it I thought, "How exciting would it be to see a message like that buried in the usual columns of sport scores and who shot who and political persuasions?!" In fact, I could hardly get past that first chapter in the book, so taken was I by this headline. I wanted to get to bottom of my intrigue. To understand where it was pulling from. Why did these words stir up so much excitement within me?
I was starting this book while at the pool with my kids. I took a break, dipped in the cool water, letting the story's words settle before I returned to my towel to keep reading.
The main character found out that the next step to follow this curiosity was to report to a certain building to take a test. These were his thoughts upon his arrival:
The reason I started reading this series was two fold:
1. On one of my last days teaching this past school year, I was walking out of the building when I saw a child sitting in the hallway reading a thick chapter book. I asked him what it was. He showed it to me and told me it wasn't the first book in the series.
"You have to start with the first book, Mrs. Steward," he said.
2. The title had the words Mysterious and Society in it. Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like the Secret Message Society? So I put the first two on reserve at my library.
And it's going slow. I thought my slow reading had to do with Ayn Rand and the great lengths of her novels, but now I'm starting to wonder if I have just lost my ability to read fast for hours on end. I am a firm believer in making time for what you want, but I haven't made time in two weeks to read any further in this first book.
I see them sitting on my dresser and I get this surge of excitement. Apparently Those two quotes are enough to live on for weeks. There is magic in them, and I don't want to move on ahead in the story until I find a spell to work this magic into my reality. I'm sitting with it subconsciously and every now and then consciously. I'm asking myself questions like:
What is the thrill exactly? Being chosen? Being singled out? Being invited? Saying yes? Supposing my greatness? The unknown? The risk? The feeling that so many others will miss the invite altogether because it is hidden in plain sight? The being needed? The having a purpose? The connection to opportunity? The always looking and finally finding?
And how can I transfer that excitement into my beloved Secret Message Society?
I am someone that really likes to cut through chaos of feelings and ideas and philosophy to get to practical application. I love learning this new take on "being a reader." Love that I'm willing to stop as needed and take as long as it takes to follow a couple sentences down a rabbit hole until a magic spell forms and I have my takeaway. I truly believe sitting with Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead for some three years is why I am as self-reliant as I am today. I didn't just read. I worked my reality over with the magic I found in Ayn's ImagineNation. Through her books I was learning a new method of interacting with fiction.
It is not how many books you read. It is not how fast you read them. It is about the art - how will you express what you learned and how will the real world you are making shift, change, be altered by your hands.
The books give us clues. The stories give us hints. The characters give us opportunities. The settings gives us perspective. The climax gives us energy. The theme gives us values. The conflicts give us insight. The resolutions give us reprieve from our own stuck-ness.
I have developed a free one-page resource on How to Read a Book The Magic School Way. Try it out and let me know what you think?