James Patterson wants to get kids reading

THE DANGEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X

An Author Looks Beyond Age Limits

Three years ago James Patterson, the creator of the blockbuster best-selling Alex Cross and “Women’s Murder Club” series, began “Maximum Ride,” a series for young adults about a group of genetically mutated kids who are part human, part bird. The idea, he said, was to get children to love reading — or at least to love reading his kind of books.

Of the three installments to date, there are about 4.8 million copies in print, according to the publisher, Little, Brown & Company. Despite the kind of numbers that would make most authors beam, Mr. Patterson — who has an estimated 150 million copies of his books in print worldwide, and whose adult novels typically outsell his young-adult titles by two or three to one — wants to sell more. A lot more.

Now, with a new volume, “Maximum Ride: The Final Warning,” going on sale next month, Mr. Patterson figures the best way to get young readers may be through their mothers.

“The reality is that women buy most books,” he said in a telephone interview. “The reality is that it’s easier, and a really good habit, to start to get parents when they walk into a bookstore to say, ‘You know, I should buy a book for my kid as well.’ ”

True Confessions

IF THIS WERE A MOVIE instead of real life, this would be the part where in a strange, ominous voice I’d say, “Take me to your leader!” But since you are far more important in making a difference in this world than the earth’s leaders, and last time I checked on the Internet those leaders seem to have more than enough on their plates, and for the most part I’m not a total dork, I’ll just go with a simple “Hi.” My name is Daniel, and this is the first volume of my life story, which, hopefully, will be a very long and distinguished one. Why should you read it? Very good question. Maybe because this is your planet, and you have a right to know what’s actually happening on it. And more important, off it.

Trust me, there are legions of strange and disturbing creatures out there you probably don’t want to know about. Like the fast-breeding creeps with burnt-looking metallic faces and deer horns bristling above hornet noses and stingers, who populate the American Midwest and parts of Europe. Or some very nasty sluglike thingies with jowls like water balloons about to burst all over much of Japan and China, as well as New York City and Vancouver. Plus a host of human-skeletonish freaks with tentacle hair and green multifaceted fly eyes; some white chocolate-colored cretins that look like giant human babies, only with glowing television fuzz for their eyes and mouths; and a praying mantis-looking race with shrunken heads, long red dreadlocks, and a pathetic need to kill, operating in the general area of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Maybe I should stop talking, though, before I get too far ahead of myself. To those of you who feel that you’ve heard enough, let me say I’m sorry I had to give you a glimpse of what’s really out there, and would you please close the cover of this book down tightly on your way out.

Now, the rest of you, I need you to do three important things.
1. Take a deep, deep breath.
2. Disregard everything anyone has ever told you about life on earth.
3. Turn the page.

Prologue
THAT WRETCHED LIST

One

I WISH THAT I didn’t sometimes, but I remember everything about that cursed, unspeakably unhappy night twelve years ago, when I was just three years old and both my parents were murdered. I was taking an ordinary can of Play-Doh down from the playroom shelf when my mom called from the top of the basement stairs. “Daniel? Dinner will be ready in five minutes. Time to start wrapping things up, honey.” Finish? Already? I made a face. But my latest masterpiece isn’t done yet!

“Yes, Mom,” I called. “One minute. I’m making Play-Doh history down here.”

“Of course you are, dear. I would expect nothing less. Love you. Always.” “Love you back, Mom. Always.” In case you’ve already noticed that I didn’t speak like a typical three-year-old, well, you should have seen what I was building. I stared at the museum-quality replica of the Lighthouse of Alexandria I was trying to finish.

Behind it, all the way to the edge of my worktable, stood matchless reproductions I’d made of the remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Great Pyramid of Giza The Hanging Gardens of Babylon The Statue of Zeus at Olympia The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus The Mausoleum of Mausolus The Colossus of Rhodes I would have liked to do the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Chrysler Building as well, but I was only allowed one hour of playtime a day. I squinted suddenly as I spotted what looked like a tiny, flat black seed climbing up the side of my miniature lighthouse, and really moving too.

Whoa there, little guy! Where do you think you’re motoring to? It was an Arthropoda Arachnida Acari Metastigmata, I thought, recalling the phylum, class, order, and suborder of the tiny creature at a glance. A tick. A young male dog tick, to be exact. “Hey, little fella,” I whispered to the tick. “You on a sightseeing tour?”

Two things happened next, almost simultaneously. Two very odd and unforgettable things. There was a strange shimmering at the back of my bright, turquoise-blue eyes. And the tick slowly rose onto its hind legs and said, “Hey, Daniel, my brother, you do real nice work. Cool lighthouse!

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