Ever come across a book you want to share with everyone? A book so great and satisfying that you want to tell your friends and neighbors all about it? What if that book had a message that was moral and good, and what if everyone in the community read it and discussed its lessons of compassion and tolerance?
That’s the big idea behind The Big Read 2007, a month-long program to be held at the eight branches and bookmobile of the Springfield-Greene County Library District during April.
“The Big Read is similar to the Springfield Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Character Ed program in that it hopes to get all of us attuned to what’s important in our lives,” said Marilyn Prosser, the Brentwood Branch Library manager who heads the Big Read committee. “We want this one-book, one-community initiative to bring people together as they read and discuss a family-friendly book.”
The book, “The Man Who Loved Clowns,” is written by regional author June Rae Wood. When I read it, I found myself laughing, and, at the same time, felt a tug at my heart strings. It’s a moving novel about a 13-year-old girl named Delrita, who lives in the same house with her uncle Punky, a 35-year-old man who has Down syndrome. She loves him dearly, but she begins to feel a little ashamed of him.
The novel is based on Wood’s own brother, Richard, and the setting for the book is recognizable to anyone who lives in the Ozarks. Delrita loves to watch the woodcarvers at Silver Dollar City and Punky is crazy about Ronald McDonald.
Wood, who lives on a farm in Ionia, Missouri, remembers that her first novel was rejected by numerous publishers, “but when tragedy struck our family, I started a new book. . .My beloved brother, Richard, who died at age 35, was my pattern for ‘Punky,’ and I both laughed and cried while calling up memories of him.”
She was amazed when the story sold right away and was published in 1992. “All these years later, I’m still amazed that the book is being read aloud in classrooms across the country. . .I thank God for giving me a special brother and the ability to make him ‘real’ for young readers.”
Wood will make several appearances in Springfield during Big Read 2007, beginning Saturday, March 31, at 2 p.m., at the Brentwood Branch Library and on that same day at 4 p.m. at Borders bookstore. Check out or buy “The Man Who Loved Clowns” at any branch library and get a head start on reading the book and its sequel, “Turtle on a Fence Post.”