• Happy birthday Nancy Farmer (House of the Scorpion, A Girl Named Disaster).
  • In 1872, the doughnut cutter is patented in Maine. Read Homer Price by Robert McCloskey.
  • The first successful open heart surgery was performed in 1893. Read Hope Is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson.
  • In 1962, Bob Dylan records “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Read The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins; A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle; and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Lazy July days—perfect for summer reading. But what if you don’t like to read; what if you actively avoid reading? Such is the dilemma of our protagonist of the day, twelve-year-old Derek, who begins his saga in My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian with these bold words: “I DON’T WANT TO READ THIS BOOK!” That has been Derek’s relationship to what the adults in his life consider appropriate reading for years. A very reluctant reader, Derek has been pressured by teachers, librarians, and his mother to pick up books, which he personally finds a waste of time. His mother even offers bribery—one chocolate chip per page—to no avail. And now this summer he has to read three books from an approved reading list—a fate worse than death.

But while avoiding books, Derek finds a newspaper clipping in his attic about a seventeen-year-old girl who died years ago on Martha’s Vineyard. Who is she? And why has his mother kept this moldy clipping for so many years? In his pursuit of answers, Derek doesn’t exactly discover the joys of reading traditional books, but he certainly begins to open up to the possibilities of research. First he discovers a website dedicated to this teenager. Eventually, he manages to get his family to revisit Martha’s Vineyard, where Derek locates the best friends of the girl who died. In doing so, he and his family come to terms with what happened on their family vacation many years ago when Derek was a baby.

In this page-turning, exciting book, perfect for fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the text appears in larger than normal type and is heavily illustrated by Derek (who makes drawings of vocabulary words). Derek is smart and sassy. In his easy, breezy narrative that sweeps readers along, he demonstrates plenty of humor and lots of heart. Funny and serious at various points, the story might just convince some reluctant readers that they enjoy books—the right kind of books that is.

Jake Tashjian, son of the author, provides the illustrations of the vocabulary words displayed on the pages. Janet provides the fascinating story. Both are descendants of one of the finest children’s librarians I ever worked with, Virginia Tashjian, whose enthusiasm for stories convinced many children that they would love books and reading. I’m glad to see the family tradition continued—and grateful to have such a funny, fast-paced, and enjoyable book for young readers ages eight through twelve.

Here’s a page from My Life as a Book:


Originally posted July 9, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Family, Humor, School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for My Life as a Book
One year ago: The BFG


  1. G. Perry says:

    This sounds like a fine creative book to read, and the mystery involved absolutely has my interest.

    The idea of someone convincing a child that reading a book is a great thing, is something I never had happen to me. Virginia Tashjian would have done just that for me. I regret not having had her in my life then.

    I’ll be reading this quite soon.

  2. G. Perry says:

    This book is now on the way to my branch library.

    Stand by..

  3. G. Perry says:

    I’ve read this book now, and this writer has done something wonderful I’ve not seen before.

    First, it is a perfectly written and drawn book. It is clearly written on the child level, as well as the adult.

    So, you take what appears to be just a sweet, kind book with cute line drawings, then add an interesting mystery, and that mystery turns out to produce a completely unexpected trauma which teaches several life lessons that go to the core of being a truly decent person. Just looking at the cover, you’d never guess this. Inside this book presides much heart, love and caring.

    It also brought a storm of memories back to me from a near drowning as a child.

    This is one extraordinary book. In some ways, it introduces real life drama and fantastic children.

    I once asked “Where have all the happy children gone?” Well, there’s a few that live in this book.

    Don’t just read it. Buy it.

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