My Reading Journey by Mike Curato
Reading has been an ever-changing journey. It’s shaped my life personally and professionally. Here’s the story of my reading journey.
Very early on, I was fortunate to have a parent who read to me everyday. My Mom would read to me from Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories. I was really drawn to stories with cute characters, like The Little Red Caboose, The Happy Little Whale and The Poky Little Puppy. I was very intrigued by stories about the city, and anything with cars in it.
I started to lose an interest in reading in my early teens, but comic books saved me. While I was discouraged by long texts, I was excited by the action and artwork in comic books. I was a huge X-Men fan. I really identified with being an outcast with special abilities (I guess drawing is my mutant power). I would save whatever was left of my lunch money for comics. My dad didn’t like how much I would spend on them, and he stopped taking me to the comic shop. So, when my mom would drop me off at my private art classes, I would wait till she drove away and run to the comic book shop around the corner to pick up the latest issues (and any back titles I could afford).
In high school, homework and tests were a bit more demanding. I had to write thorough essays about books for class, so I couldn’t get away with skimming pages or using Cliff Notes. Being a young person riding on the assumption that “grown-up reading” was boring, the books that my teachers chose were actually interesting. The first text we had to read freshman year was Homer’s Odyssey. Though I still wasn’t a fan of reading tons of pages, it was the content that excited me. I was always fascinated with mythology. I liked hearing about the gods, and the adventures Odysseus had were reminiscent of comic book plots.
As I advanced through high school, titles became more challenging but compelling. They were not titles that I would have chosen to read on my own. Books that stand out in my memory are: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, All the Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Jazz and Beloved by Toni Morrison. The books were surprisingly dark, but they appealed to my angsty disposition. They opened my perspective to different times and different people. They made me curious to learn about worlds outside of my small suburban town.
One would think that college reading meant bigger books and loftier concepts. However, I discovered a rekindled love of picture books. Studying illustration at Syracuse University reintroduced me to illustrated books that I loved growing up, as well as contemporary artists I admired. I started hanging out in the kids section of books stores, pouring through as many as possible since I couldn’t afford to buy them (and the children’s section at the university library was limited). I started to have an appreciation of what a good picture book was. Some had great illustrations, but the story would not capture me. Others would have a good story that the pictures did not do justice. And then there were some that had it all. Those were the ones that really inspired me to pursue picture books as a career.
If there’s one thing that my reading journey has taught me, I think it’s important to switch things up every now and then. Trying a genre you don’t often read opens your mind to new perspectives. I try to strike a balance between fiction and non-fiction. I find that reading good narrative non-fiction really helps me write my fictional stories with truthful authority. I read a lot of children’s books, but it’s important for me to read books for “grown-ups,” too. Now, when I’m not reading picture books, it’s usually a history book. I’m intrigued by biographies. As a character writer, I appreciate reading about “real-life characters.” The excitement is heightened knowing that everything you’re reading about actually happened.
Reading is an ever-changing tale of self-discovery. I’m excited to see where my reading travels take me next!
Mike Curato was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City. He has been drawing ever since he could hold a pencil. Mike attended Syracuse University and has a BFA in Illustration. After college, he moved to Seattle, where he eventually began a career as a graphic designer. In 2012, Mike finally achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a published author & illustrator of children’s books when Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (MacMillan) offered him a 3-book deal featuring his character, Little Elliot. The first book in the series, Little Elliot, Big City, debuts August 26th, 2014. Mike currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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