Naperville Reads picks 2013 featured authors
By David Sharos For The Sun November 19, 2012 4:04PM
First-time novelist R.J. Palacio is one of two authors selected for Naperville READS 2013.
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:16AM
Naperville Reads, a program launched 12 years to encourage reading among children, has announced its featured authors for 2013. Both are first-time novelists: R.J. Palacio and Naomi Benaron.
Palacio’s book speaks to its readers about choosing kindness, while Benaron’s focuses on the horrors of the Rwandan genocide.
Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Bookshop and a member of the Naperville Reads author selection committee, said she met Palacio last week and described her as “someone with a story she had to tell.” Palacio’s first novel is called “Wonder.”
“Ms. Palacio has worked for some time in the art direction and editing areas of publishing, so she has been involved (for) some time,” Anderson said. “Apparently one day she and her two sons were out for ice cream and saw this deformed child, and the reaction from her children and even herself bothered her so much afterward, she felt she had to tell this story.”
Palacio’s book “Wonder” deals with a boy named August “Auggie” Pullman, a child who has been homeschooled because of his facial deformities and now wants to attend classes like other kids. The story is told from multiple points of view from his sister who feels self-conscious about her brother “appearing” in public to a school bully who also helps tell the story.
Benaron’s novel, “Running the Rift” was thoroughly researched based on four trips she took to Rawanda.
“This book has been used by a junior high school in Tucson, and there is also an entire high school that is using my book and having panel discussions about it,” said Benaron, who spoke Monday with The Sun about her writing. “I think young readers should read it because it talks about the spirit of people, and survival is about that spirit and love and not just putting one foot in front of the other.”
Benaron adds that her book also speaks to the importance of understanding the world and the various people and cultures in it.
“I think reading this gives people a sense of understanding other cultures and people learn about others and the consequences of labeling others,” she said.
Benaron previously published a collection of short stories.
Anderson, who has served on the selection committee for Naperville READS since the program’s inception, said the process of selecting authors began six months ago and that the focus “is to select authors that will resonate with readers and spark discussion among students as well as adults.”
“We look at 20 to 30 authors, and our five-member board works hard to review books and contact authors about their availability,” she said. “Some are eliminated right away because they can’t come to Naperville, but we want authors who will start a conversation.”
Palacio will visit Naperville in early February and make presentations to area sixth-graders. Benaron will visit in early April and will make presentations to area high schools. Both also will appear publicly.