In the wake of so many celebrity deaths over the past few days, one important passing that may go unnoticed is that of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. Originally published in 1972, this is one of those books that was never meant to be a children's book, but has eventually become a classic of the genre like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye. It is a book that I read in seventh grade. It is a book that changed my life in many ways.
The book was not my first encounter with the rabbits of Watership Down. The summer between Kindergarten and First Grade, I attended the summer rec program at my elementary school. One day, most likely due to inclement weather, all of the children were in a large room filled with toys. A movie was also put on for those wanting to watch. (It was on Laser Disc) At the beginning of the film, maybe five children were watching. By half way through, every child was watching this brutal and enthralling cartoon, including me, until the aides decided to turn it off. For years, those images stayed with me as I always wondered what that movie was.
Flash forward seven years later in seventh grade English. We were given the assignment to read a book and told that we were going to have to give a class report on it. Though I was a good reader, I never enjoyed reading. My teacher (whose name I cannot recall) gave me her copy of Watership Down and told me she thought I would enjoy it, recommending it for my report. It took about 20 pages for me to realize it was indeed the book on which that haunting movie was based. It took less than 20 pages for it to change the course of my life.
This was the first book that I ever read where the story played out in my head in a visual way. I could see everything as I read it and it was the awakening as to what reading could be. I never looked back and became an avid reader from that moment on. I owe so much to that story and to its late author. His passing has not gone unnoticed by me.