In the life of an English major there are many times he or she feels they find a “golden book.”  This book will be neither perfect, nor will it be the best writing they’ll ever see. But it speaks to their heart. I have had the great pleasure of finding several of these books in my short seventeen years of reading. Some are well-known, others sadly ignored or forgotten. Most are years, if not decades, old. I often feel alone in the academic world, surrounded by a wall of books for friends while others look in sadly, knowing they will never see this world of mine. I return the sad look, as much for their ignorance as my own: they have their own book fortresses that I will never be able to trespass. But at least their fortresses often share common walls – my fellow majors are neighbors so to speak. I am the back yard neighbor, barely sharing a border with them that includes the few modern and popular books I care for and texts books that we all have read.

But now I feel somehow less alone. My borders are shared with a kindred spirit. I respect writers at varying levels, and the highest level of respect has, heretofore, only been obtained by two: Thurber and Juster. These are the men who shaped my childhood spirit, the stories that have carried me through most of my life. And now they are joined by another, an author still alive and vibrant in both writing and physical state. Rick Riordan. I have no knowledge of this man’s adult literature, other than it’s one of the most highly awarded series in the mystery genre, but I know his series for children. Five golden books. Five books that make me feel less alone, less despondent. I feel like I have a friend on the other side of my fortress, not just a neighbor.

Riordan’s books serve a different purpose than those authors who came before him. Thurber stands for intelligence and whimsy. Juster serves as wit and love of learning. Riordan – intelligent, whimsical, witty, and lifelong student he may be – exists for hope. In the fifth book of his series, he speaks of the fragility and beauty of Elpis, the Spirit of Hope. He’s not wrong about how fragile Hope is, the one thing that will not leave the human race unless bidden. In my field, there is much competition for far too few jobs, underpaying ones at that. English majors have much to fear, going into the world. I, especially, feel this pressure, because I am no student of the classics, no great genius of criticism. I will never be a gentle, much less inspiring teacher, and I am far too boisterous to be a librarian. No, I am a child and the literature I read corresponds to this nature. I suppose this is partially because my childhood was so short – mental disease will do that to a person, among many other causes for abbreviated childhoods – and also because I have never felt like I was growing up. My body, brain, and everything important developed. But the spirit inside me did not. I am still a wandering child. And this makes my place in the adult world harder to comprehend, much less achieve. But Riordan has made a living of the things I love best: mythology and writing. He is contributing to the next great age of children’s literature that is coming upon us, that is already here in some ways. And this gives me hope. This lonely hillock I live on may yet be opened to others, the children of the generation that is rising. I feel like my life, the life of a whimsical child, might just be accepted in an adult world, now that I have seen it come to life elsewhere.

Someday I will be a grandmother on this lonely hill – hopefully less lonely by then. A child with gray hair and the spunk that can only come with age. That day appeals in many ways, so long as companions are near. For now, though, I am here. And I have my books to curl up with, leading me into a world that just might have a place for me after all.

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