“Zorro” is the story of Diego de la Vega’s progression from an aristocratic Spanish youth to the masked hero of TV and movies.
“Water for Elephants” spins the tale of an older man recalling his youth as a circus employee.
“Zorro,” by Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende imagines a romantic and adventurous back story for the legend of Zorro, familiar from TV and film. Diego de la Vega is a child of two worlds, the son of an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and a Shoshone warrior woman, who finds that he cannot silently bear witness to the brutal injustices visited upon the helpless of colonial California. And so, as Diego’s life story unfolds, a great hero emerges — skilled in acrobatics and dazzling swordplay, his persona forged between the Old World and the New — the legend known as Zorro.
“Water for Elephants,” by Sara GruenJacob Jankowski, now in a nursing home, recounts his youthful experiences in a traveling circus during the Great Depression. Orphaned and penniless, young Jacob jumped a train and ended up caring for the animals of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth including Rosie the elephant. Author Sara Gruen contrasts the tawdry, and often cruel, but fascinating features of Jacob’s circus life with his present day dissatisfaction, his sterile nursing home existence and his family’s neglect.
The two novels have been selected from over 150 possibilities for the final ballot of the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s One Read program. Members of the community will have the opportunity to vote for the novel they would most like to see become the program’s focus for 2007.
“I think we’re unusual in that the community does have so much input, and that’s what I think makes this extra-special,” said Doyne McKenzie, one of the project’s co-chairs. “The community has its input from the beginning to the end.”
Karen Entrikin, a member of the reading panel, said Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” is a rich narrative that allows readers to visualize life on a circus train during the Great Depression.
“‘Water for Elephants’ is just a very charming, romantic story about people running off to the circus,” McKenzie said.
She said “Zorro,” written by Isabel Allende, explains Zorro’s history in a lively way.
“It was a lot of fun to read the backstory for it and find out, ‘Oh, that’s why he has a mask,’ and ‘That’s where he learned to be acrobatic,’” McKenzie said.
She said the two novels share some similarities: vivid characters, adventure and romance.
The library takes nominations for potential One Read novels from residents of Boone and Callaway counties. The reading panel meets in January and narrows the list of prospective novels to 10. After 10 weeks of reading the contenders, the panel votes for the two books they would like the community to decide between.
The One Read program, which is in its sixth year, was founded to encourage community residents to read the same book. The program also organizes public discussions in the fall, which in the past have been led by community leaders such as Mayor Darwin Hindman and UM System President Elson Floyd. The library sometimes runs a movie related to the selected novel.
Last year, One Read selected T.C. Boyle’s “The Tortilla Curtain.” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” have all been selected by the program in the past.
Entrikin wasn’t sure which of the potential novels she would like to see selected.
“I love both of them very much for different reasons,” she said. “I think either of them lend themselves to a variety of community programs.”