Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 6:12:30 PM
My fifth grade class was required to read a certain number of books per quarter. When we neared the end of a quarter and the prospect of achieving my goal wasn’t in sight, my teacher would chase me down and make me pick a book out of the class library, then quiz me on it when I was done. Being a reading cynic, I muttered my way over to a shelf and grabbed the first thing I saw, a little book called Grim Tuesday, the second book in the “Keys to the Kingdom” series by Garth Nix. She watched me sit and open it hesitantly. She watched my eyes first wander on the greyish page in front of me, then maybe take notice of a couple words and finally watched them frantically moving across the page, scanning the text with a speed and enthusiasm I never knew I was capable of.
Normally she didn’t allow her books out of the classroom, but she told me I could take this particular one home with me. I came back two days later and tried to turn it back in to her. She didn’t believe that I had finished it, but with confidence I took the quiz and aced it. It hadn’t taken me long, but I knew this book like the back of my hand. Nix’s story was simply so engaging and his language so appropriate and intriguing, it engrossed me morning, noon, and night.
After all my many years of heckling and hating the concept of reading, or only reading when my mother asked me to, it seemed quite odd that a stack of papers covered in words could possibly be so enticing. That year, especially, I had been very discouraged from reading due to the contents of the class library. It was filled with the typical donations and purchases from the Scholastic book store over the years, which had accumulated into a heap of simpleminded realistic fiction with stories so hackneyed and stereotypical that I didn’t want anything to do with them. But this beautiful work of art came to me hesitantly and actually caught my attention. His stories are an awkward and unusual kind of fantasy that doesn’t come very often, mostly because it doesn’t work for many authors.
The idea of the boundary being broken between this happy, quaint little world and some grotesque fantastical place beyond all familiarity is something we simply wouldn’t want to believe. A place where blue blood flows, and the days of the week, which are the rulers of all, ride around in bathtubs on school playgrounds. These are simply childish musings for the rest of us. But Nix approaches it well. His characters are not only believable but relatable, and it’s easy to get emotionally attached to them. I had no choice but to appreciate his work, as he is truly a master of his craft, and the only author who could get this reluctant reader completely addicted.