Written by Matthew Cody
When visiting with readers, I always begin the same way. First, I ask, by a show of hands, how many kids out there like to read for fun. It’s always less than half, and usually a lot less.
Next, I ask how many kids have older brothers or sisters, which as you can imagine is a pretty good percentage. Then I ask my follow-up – how many of those older brothers or sisters are total jerks?
I swear the number of hands raised actually increases! It’s like the kids without older brothers or sisters just want to get in on the sibling bashing for the fun of it.
I empathize. I really do. As the youngest of four, I endured name-calling, snow-baths (in nothing but my pajamas), and that thing where they tie your socks together and your feet sweat so much you can’t get the socks off and they tickle you while you try to crawl away while making fun of your sweaty feet which is totally not something you can control and . . . well, suffice it to say I suffered.
What do sweaty feet and siblings have to do with books? The sweaty feet, not much, but the sibling thing, that’s the story I tell my would-be readers:
My big brother Brendan was an avid reader. Loved science fiction and fantasy especially, and he loved to haunt used bookstores. His bedroom bookshelf was jam packed with DAW paperbacks with the cracked spines. Pages yellowed and smelling of mildew. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, I was not a reader. Books were boring. Books were for sitting still, and everyone knows that if you sit still for too long they’ll grab you by the socks and . . . you get the idea.
So, not a reader, me.
Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, Brendan tired of the torture. Maybe my cries for mercy were disturbing his reading time, I don’t know. What I do know is that one evening he asked me to come into his room and to choose a single book from his bookshelf. Hands trembling, feet sweating, I did. I choose the book by its cover of course – a boy in the woods facing down a man on horseback who had a skull for a face and horns. Horns!
The book, which some of you might have guessed, was The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Now here’s where the story gets weird, because Brendan sat me down on his bed and started reading to me. It was like enemy forces on opposite sides of the battlefield pausing to sing Christmas carols or something. It was miraculous! Never mind that I didn’t like it and I was bored out of my skull – my socks were safely untied and I wasn’t bathing in snow! He read a chapter or two and then I scurried safely off to bed.
The next evening, he read a few more chapters. These ones weren’t so bad. The fortune-telling pig was funny and the Horned King was downright terrifying! This went on for about a week, night after night, chapter by chapter until we came to the climax of the book, which by definition was the most exciting part. By then I was on the edge of the bed listening with rapt attention when Brendan asked, “Do you want to find out how this all ends?” and I’m like, “Yeah! Yeah, course!”
Then he closed the book, handed it to me and said, “Go find out for yourself.”
Or maybe not. Was this just another more elaborate form of torture? An escalation in psychological warfare? Or was he, just maybe, extending a small olive branch and sharing the hobby he loved most in the world with his only kid brother?
Heck, I don’t really know the answer. I’ll tell you this, though – the next day I crept into his room, uninvited and took a new book down from his shelf. It began a years-long habit of pilfering his bookshelves at odd hours of the day and night. Brendan had to have known what I was up to, but he never complained. Not once.
So for books, thank you Brendan.
For the socks-thing, not so much.
About the Author:
Matthew Cody is the author of several popular books, including the Supers of Noble’s Green trilogy:Powerless, Super, and Villainous. He is also the author of Will in Scarlet and The Dead Gentleman. Originally from the Midwest, he now lives with his wife and son in Manhattan. You can visit him on the Web at matthewcody.com.