Peoria Reads! is a One City, One Book project to promote reading, spark discussion, and bring our community together around one exceptional book. The first year for Peoria Reads!, successfully culminated in April 2002 when author Ernest J. Gaines visited Peoria. His book, A Lesson Before Dying, was read by thousands of Peorians of all ages, including new adult readers. The enthusiasm generated by this project convinced the Peoria Public Library, Common Place Family Learning Center, and the rest of the planning committee that Peoria Reads! should be an annual event.
The book chosen for Peoria Reads! 2003 is The Reappearance of Sam Webber by Baltimore author Jonathon Scott Fuqua. It’s the story of 11-year-old Sam Webber, whose life changes after his father leaves his family. We all have something in common with Sam: we’ve all been 11 years old. Not only that, but we’ve all experienced, in different ways, abandonment, fear, and put-downs. But as adults, we also know how to triumph over these hardships. We often do this by calling upon our strengths: the people who have an influence on our lives.
As the citizens of Peoria come together and discuss The Reappearance of Sam Webber, the discussions invariably lead to people telling their own stories about those who made a lasting, positive impression on them when they were children. We hear about the woman who, as a middle school student, stopped daily on her way home from school at the home of her neighbor, a senior citizen who always had a snack and a smile waiting for her. We hear about the man who showed his school artwork to the cafeteria lady because she praised him more than his own parents did.
Many of the people who influence our lives don’t know they’re doing so. They’re the people who, just by living their daily lives, make us feel good or inspire us. In The Reappearance of Sam Webber, Sam learns to see the good in people and discovers how to take advantage of the many role models in his life. He rediscovers a new self-image that’s stronger and more resilient than he ever imagined.
Since mid-January, Peorians have participated in drop-in book discussions, brown bag lunches with celebrity readers, and panel discussions about the themes in The Reappearance of Sam Webber.
Award-winning author Jonathon Scott Fuqua visits Peoria April 3 to 5. He’ll spend much of that time visiting with middle school and high school students who have been reading his book. He’ll also stop at Common Place to meet the adult learners who read the book and then discussed it at their Let’s Connect book club at Lakeview Library.
All readers are invited to meet Fuqua during his Peoria visit. Public events with our Peoria Reads! 2003 author include:
- “Benefit Breakfast with Jonathon” at 7:30 a.m., April 4, at the Hotel Pere Marquette. Tickets cost $20, and the event includes a book sale and signing. For more information, call 674-3315.
- “Community, History & Hope in The Reappearance of Sam Webber” at 7:30 p.m., April 4, at Westminster Presbyterian Church; and at 10 a.m., April 5, at the Ward Chapel AME Church. The events include a book sale and signing.
- “Recognition of Student Contest Winners” at 3 p.m., April 5, at the Peoria Public Library, followed by “Community, History & Hope in The Reappearance of Sam Webber” at 3:30 p.m.
For more information about Peoria Reads! 2003, call 674-3315 or 497-2200. AA!