One of the most unbeatable things about reading is that every now and then our passion for it is renewed by something unusual, or unique, or just exceptionally good. That is the opportunity Big Read offers. The NEA Big Read is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports approximately 75 dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read book. We are thrilled to share that the Orange County Library System (OCLS) will be one of those libraries in 2020.
The book we chose to celebrate is Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. Link was described by Neil Gaiman (author of Good Omens) as a “national treasure” and by Holly Black (author of The Spiderwick Chronicles) as “a flat-out genius.” Pretty Monsters is a collection of nine stories in the genre of fantasy and fairy (or faery!) tales. While the stories are distinct from one another, they all capture that same nether-worldly spirit of the macabre. The book teeters seamlessly between funny, strange and breathtaking. At one point in a story entitled The Faery Handbag, the narrator says “So that’s the story so far. Not that I expect you to believe any of it.” This is truly a dare on the part of the author, and an appropriate one – because each story draws you in total embrace of the plots unfolding.
The NEA Big Read kickoff event will be held on Sunday, May 17, 2020 at the Orlando Public Library in downtown Orlando. The keynote speaker will be the author herself, Kelly Link. Attendees will get a chance to go home with a free copy of the book. There will also be arts and technology programming for friends and families of all ages. Additional events and creative activities will take place weekly from Sunday, May 17 through Saturday, June 13, 2020, such as: As You Wish – Genie Bottle Craft, Picture Your Story (an Instagram photo essay contest) and Food 101: Magical Herb and Fungi. There will also be several Pretty Monsters book discussions hosted by OCLS in partnership with Valencia College, one of which will take place in Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery.
OCLS is always exploring new ways to Learn. Grow. Connect. with the community. This is especially apropos during the annual summer reading program for kids, teens and adults. In 2020, the summer reading theme is “Imagine Your Story” and will center around the fairy fales, mythology and fantasy genres. So think of the NEA Big Read: Pretty Monsters event series as a sneak preview of this coming summer’s fantastical events – an extra two weeks of events for the Central Florida community. The activities we have planned will run the gamut, but one thing will be the same throughout: a chance to get a free copy of Pretty Monsters and join us in celebrating Kelly Link’s mystical, magical imagination. It really is unbelievably good.