Had a real upper the other day — an invitation to lunch from two juniors at Washington High School. I joined Samantha Hymer and Katrina Weiss in the school library, along with WHS librarian Ann Loesing, who provided sandwiches followed by yummy cupcakes.

I’d been delighted at the invite initiated by Sam and Katrina, was so looking forward to meeting them. The girls write for emissourian’s MO Books Blog, where I post reviews five days a week submitted by readers of all ages from our area.

Always Reading

For Sam and Katrina, reading is a passion and books are their reward — in fact they read so fast I’m usually backlogged editing the reviews they send via email. These speedy readers live to read.

On Tuesday, when I took out the new books from my bookbag one by one at the library, they were like kids in a candy store, all “ohs” and “ahs,” as they jimmied for which of them got which book first — “Like they’re trading baseball cards,” Ann said.

The new books were smelled, and greeted with gushing comments, while I looked on slack jawed. What a delight to see students on fire about reading in a time when all we hear is that teens are turned off by books, opting instead for anything online.

They Answered the Call

For some time, I’d been trying to find additional teens to review for MO Books, to help our standbys Issy Volmert and Kylie Sullentrup, from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School.

Katrina learned about MO Books from her English teacher, Mr. Flynn, who thought she might be interested. At first she was nervous, wondering if her writing was good enough she said. It was. It is, I reassured her, spouting the old adage that readers are writers.

Once Katrina got involved with MO Books, it didn’t take her friend Sam long to get hooked too. Who wouldn’t want access to new titles, carrying them around school like a warrior brandishing a new suit of armor.

The friends have a way of working things out if they both want to read a particular title. They also have their preferred genre, fantasy over realistic fiction, but they’ll try anything. Recently Sam enjoyed “Orphan Monster Spy,” the story of a Jewish teen during World War II assigned to infiltrate a Nazi school.

Talking Books, What Fun

Over sandwiches the four of us talked, the girls on one side of the table, Ann and I on the other, watching Samantha and Katrina interacting with excitement — their favorite pick out of the book bag, Sabaa Tahir’s newest, “A Reaper at the Gates,” due out in June, which they’re holding in the photo. It’s the third in Tahir’s “Ember in the Ashes” series.

Sam and Katrina popped off titles and authors they’ve enjoyed, Sam adding that “Restore Me” was a book she really loved, but it made her mad because it ended in a cliffhanger and the next book “couldn’t come out soon enough” for her.

The blog is turning out to be a real life learning experience for the students. It’s not only providing the girls with young adult books, it’s also giving them practice writing, and offering them the opportunity to experience others’ writing, like reviews from diligent MO Books contributor, Bill Schwab. It was heartwarming to hear Katrina go on about what a great writer he is, about how she reads his reviews “and tries to write just like him.”

The MO Books Blog is an extension of classroom learning for young people — it offers them the chance to read whatever they want, not titles on a required reading list, and create a portfolio of writing samples that will be impressive when added to college entrance materials.

Working with all the MO Books reviewers is a welcome perk, but I’m especially gratified to be involved with the teens – to see them so fired up about reading is gratifying beyond words.