Beating the heat with a good read

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GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge Community Pool was the place to be last Sunday, July 28. With the heat, it was crowded and half the bodies were in the pool. But some, like Drew Forgione, were on the sidelines reading books. 

The sixth-grader at Ridgewood Avenue School, who had “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen in hand, said it was about a kid named Roy traveling from Montana to Florida. Roy’s father works for the government.

“There’s a barefoot boy who runs by his bus,” Drew said. “Roy gets into a pile of snakes and the barefoot boy puts a hood over him and ties him to a tree.” 

There is also a bully who punches Roy in the face. 

“It’s really confusing,” said Drew, who was on Page 66 of the 292-page book.

Near the children’s wading pool was Elizabeth Epstein, a Glen Ridge Middle School seventh-grader. She was reading “The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton. Her teacher was making her do this, but she didn’t mind.

“It’s a good book,” she said. “It’s about two groups of people that don’t like each other and want to kill each other.”

Elizabeth’s sister, Emma, a Ridgewood fourth-grader, piped up and told her not to talk like that. Emma was reading “Understanding Buddy” by Marc Kornblatt.

“It’s about a boy named Buddy,” she begins. “He’s really quiet. There’s another boy, Sam. He knows Buddy’s secret. His stepmom is a cleaning lady.”

Nearby was a dripping wet Samanta Bresalier. As she dries herself, she said she was not reading anything but would like to try a Michele Obama book. 

It wasn’t only the kids reading at the pool that day. Joe Marigliano, an adult, had a worn paperback of Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” about a priest being hunted in Mexico. 

“My father worked for the Chicago Sun-Times,” Marigliano said. “There were always three newspapers in the house. That’s how I became a reader. I saw my parents reading.”

Dylan Messer, a kindergartener at Linden Avenue School, was with his parents and reading “Flat Stanley,” by Jeff Brown, one of a series of books about the adventures of Stanley Lambchop. Dylan recounted a few highlights: A board falls on Stanley, flattening him, and he has a jealous brother.

“Stanley gets to go on all the adventures and he stays at home and does nothing,” Dylan explained.

Also reading that day was pool manager Jodie Schnack, who is also a kindergarten teacher at Linden Avenue School. People in Glen Ridge know one another and she knows Dylan but he is not in her class. Schnak was reading “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens.

“I read it in 24 hours,” she said. “It’s a No. 1 New York Times best-seller.”

The story is about an orphaned girl whose parents deserted her.

“This girl learns to take care of herself on a North Carolina marsh,” she said, adding, “She was really down on her luck at an early age and learned to depend on herself.”

The heat hasn’t let up, the pool was churning and nobody was leaving yet. But in the shade of the umbrellas, smartphones had real books outnumbered by 15-1. It was time to go.

Photos by Daniel Jackovino