Rediscovering A Classic
READING: Former teacher is part of effort to pique interest in
Edgar Rice Burroughs.
By Kelly Puente - Staff Writer
Press-Telegram ~ Long Beach, CA ~ January 28, 2012
Former teacher Rebecca Garland is a fan of author Edgar Rice Burroughs,
who's best known for creating Tarzan. She leads teen focus groups on the
novelist's books and his sci-fi character John Carter through the John
Carter Teen Reading Project.
"A Princess of Mars," released in 1917,
was the first novel Edgar Rice Burroughs published. It introduces John
Carter, the title character of a new Disney film. Members of the John Carter
Teen Reading project focus group will get to pre-screen the film.
LONG BEACH -- In a time of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" fanatics,
getting young readers excited about books written over a century ago isn't
an easy task.
But with Disney's action-adventure "John Carter" hitting theaters next
month, fans hope the movie will turn a new generation of readers on to
the classic character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early 1900s.
That's the hope for Long Beach mother, Rebecca Garland, who fell in
love with Burroughs' series of fantasy/sci-fi books after seeing a special
screening of "John Carter" in December.
"I just devoured the books, one after the other," she said. "My kids
love them, too."
Garland, who was laid off from her job as a teacher at Long Beach's
Lafayette Elementary in 2010, became involved in the John Carter Teen Reading
Project this year after meeting fellow fan Michael Sellers.
The project, created by Sellers, aims to create special focus groups
to find out whether today's teens can enjoy reading Burroughs.
Thursday, the project held its first focus group at Barnes and Noble in
Long Beach. About a dozen local teens discussed the book "A Princess of
Mars," on which the new Disney movie is based, and filled out a questionnaire
about what they liked and didn't like.
So far, the feedback has been positive, Garland said.
"What we're finding is that boys and girls equally love the book," she
said. "They like the book because it doesn't read like it was written a
hundred years ago. It's very easy to get into, and it's very addictive."
Students who participated in the focus group will get to see a special
pre-screening of the Disney movie March 3.
Published in 1917, "A Princess of Mars" tells the story of Earthling
John Carter and his adventures on planet Mars. The book is part of a series
that skyrocketed to popularity in the mid-20th century and inspired such
writers as Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clark. The series was also the inspiration
for James Cameron's blockbuster movie "Avatar."
Burroughs, who died in 1950, is best known for creating Tarzan, the
famed jungle hero.
While the books have dwindled in popularity in recent decades, Sellers
a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, believes the new movie will rekindle an
interest in the visionary author.
With the help of Garland, the reading project plans to find more teens
and hold more focus groups to get students excited about reading.
Alana Lardizabal, a 14-year-old Lakewood High student, said she joined
the focus group out of curiosity. The teen said she loves "A Princess of
Mars" because of the action, romance and amazing attention to detail.
"Everything he describes I can totally picture," she said. "It's like
being in another world."
For more information about the John Carter Teen Reading Project, visit