Books for Mikey: Endless Summer
He won’t read it. He hates everything. #3
On the first day of summer vacation when I was twelve years old, I got on my bicycle, rode three miles down the street through a tunnel of new leaves, emerged into lemon-colored sunshine in the middle of town, racked my bike, opened the front door of the library to release its peppery aroma into the juicy green afternoon, and saw a book with a fantastic cover awaiting me on the nearest wooden table: M.C. Higgins The Great.
On the first page, Mayo Cornelius, sporting lettuce affixed to his wrists with rubber bands (for reasons that became clear later) stared into the distance, imagining the freedom that lay in his future, wondering what to do with it. Just like me: In the deafening summertime silence made up of nobody telling me what to do, and with a bicycle I could theoretically ride until I fell into the Pacific Ocean, I’d spent the entire day thinking, “Now I’m gonna make something happen. But what?”
So I started reading to see what M. C. had done with all his freedom. On a hot, leafy mountainside overlooking the Ohio River, he set out to explore what it meant—the freedom to stand up to his father, the freedom to forge friendships with people very different from himself, the freedom to imagine a future no one else in his family had ever imagined, and the freedom to pursue it. His life was more dramatic than mine, more dangerous, odd, fraught, and strange, because he was a character in a novel, but M. C. himself, I understood. He was on a quest to find out who M. C. really was.
And so M. C. Higgins The Great made the summer of 1975 last forever. His story was the story of how he became himself amid trees and streams and the first hints freedom that come with growing up.
Which makes it a perfect summer book.
Here are a few more like it:
By Tony Abbott
Jason travels to St. Petersburg, Florida, and goes on a quest to uncover secrets that will change everything he ever believed about himself and his family.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | April 2, 2008 | Ages 8-12
By Gary Paulsen
Brian survives a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness and comes of age facing the challenge of survival in a thrilling, dangerous land.
Bradbury Press | September 30, 1987 | Ages 9-11
By Susan Cooper
Will Stanton, in the strange and beautiful country of Wales, pursues magic that will define who he is, and possibly change the history of life on earth.
Margaret K. McElderry Books | May 8, 2007 | Ages 9-14
All of these books mark the beginning of imaginative journeys for their characters, journeys that continue in a readers mind long after the story ends.