From encyclopedia to best seller

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Local students get the chance to meet best-selling author Robert Hicks.

Local students get the chance to meet best-selling author Robert Hicks.

As a child, Robert Hicks was given volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica or Bartlett's Familiar Quotations to keep him company when he was sick.

Those books, along with a few others, served the now best-selling author well.

Hicks -- who wrote the book selected for Cape Girardeau's 2006 United We Read program -- will be at Central High School this week to share his insights with local students and others.

His book, "Widow of the South," is a historical fiction set in the Civil War-era.While the book's subject is historical, the genre appeals to many teenagers, said Central librarian Julia Jorgensen.

"It's so well done it is a great read for students," said Jorgensen, who helps organize the citywide United We Read program. "Our focus with the United We Read program is an intergenerational aspect, getting different generations reading the same book and talking about the book."

The storyline surrounds Carrie McGavock, a strong-willed woman who works to establish a cemetery for Confederate soldiers. The book is based on a true story.

"The message is that one person can make a difference, and that's always good for students to hear," she said.

Jorgensen said it is interesting to see the interpretations of different age groups, a 17-year-old versus a 70-year-old.

"It really is a community read," said Jorgensen. "They're reading the same printed word, but they may have a different way of approaching it."

Jorgensen said "Widow of the South" is appropriate for upper-level junior high students and high school students. The book is set in Franklin, Tenn., and the Midwest locale has hit home with many readers.

"This book is probably the most sophisticated book we've done for the program," said Jorgensen. "The language is beautiful, with contents that make a former English teacher smile."

Hicks will speak with students this Friday during three different sessions at Central. He will speak at a public session Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Central.

Jorgensen said he plans to talk about the effort that goes into writing a book -- it took Hicks seven years to research "Widow of the South."

"It's important especially for students to understand you don't just sit down and write a book," said Jorgensen.

There will be a question and answer session and the author will read part of the book aloud. For more information, contact Jorgensen at 335-8228.

335-6611, extension 128

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