It was a pleasure to meet Kevin Costner at the October 2015 National Press Club preview of his new book, “The Explorers Guild” — an epic novel for children. So what was his favorite book as a kid? And how about his co-authors — Jon Baird and illustrator Rick Ross? Scroll down to find their top picks.
Kevin Costner’s favorite book: My Side of the Mountain
This children’s / young-adult adventure novel, written and illustrated by Jean Craighead George, features a boy who learns about courage, independence, and the need for companionship while attempting to live in a forested area of New York state. In 1960 it was one of three Newbery Medal Honor Books, and in 1969 it was loosely adapted as a film of the same name. Decades later, George continued the story in print.
The book stars Sam Gribley, a 12-year-old boy who intensely dislikes living in his parents’ cramped New York City apartment with his eight brothers and sisters. He decides to run away to his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains to live in the wilderness.
The novel begins in the middle of Sam’s story, with Sam huddled in his treehouse home in the forest during a severe blizzard. The reader meets Frightful, Sam’s pet peregrine falcon, and The Baron, a weasel that Sam befriends. Roughly the first 80 percent of the novel is Sam’s reminiscences during the snowstorm about how he came to be in a home made out of a hollowed-out tree, while the remainder of the novel is a traditional linear narrative about what happens after the snowstorm.
Jon Baird’s favorite book: Books by Edward Gorey
Edward Gorey (1925-2000) wrote and illustrated such popular books as “The Doubtful Guest,” “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” and “The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas.”
Amphigorey: Fifteen Books features a creepy collection of Gorey’s work that stems from the word amphigory, meaning a nonsense verse or composition.
As always, Gorey’s painstakingly cross-hatched pen-and-ink drawings are perfectly suited to his oddball verse and prose. The first book of 15, “The Unstrung Harp,” describes the writing process of novelist Mr. Clavius Frederick Earbrass:
“He must be mad to go on enduring the unexquisite agony of writing when it all turns out drivel.” In “The Listing Attic,” you’ll find a set of quirky limericks such as “A certain young man, it was noted, / Went about in the heat thickly coated; / He said, ‘You may scoff, / But I shan’t take it off; / Underneath I am horribly bloated.’ “
Many of Gorey’s tales involve untimely deaths and dreadful mishaps, but much like tragic Irish ballads with their perky rhythms and melodies, they come off as strangely lighthearted. “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” for example, begins like this: “A is for AMY who fell down the stairs, B is for BASIL assaulted by bears,” and so on. An eccentric, funny book for either the uninitiated or die-hard Gorey fans.
Gorey was also a successful set and costume designer, earning a Tony Award for his Broadway production of Edward Gorey’s “Dracula.” In addition, animated sequences of his work have introduced the PBS series “Mystery!” since 1980.
Rick Ross’ favorite book: Crazy Cat — Reading A-Z
Crazy Cat has a lot of ambition, and he likes to challenge himself. His friend does not think Crazy Cat can do all of the things he claims. But Crazy Cat proves that he can accomplish what he sets out to do in interesting ways.
One of a series of books, this title introduces and exposes students to the /k/ sound represented by the letter c. It also builds oral comprehension skills, and models fluent reading.