I never used my Classics Illustrated comics for book reports. I reported on books from the library.
The branch library nearest to us in Salem was across Lafayette Street and a few blocks further on. It was a cinder blockish building, and rather small. I haunted the shelves with juvenile literature on the look out for adventure.
I remember reading those series that most boys would pick up, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and his Electric whatever, and histories of the FBI and the Secret Service and the like.
And then there was Jules Verne:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Around the World in 80 Days
The Mysterious Island
Five Weeks in a Balloon
Master of the World
Journey to the Center of the Earth
(And surprise of surprises, here I discovered that Verne had written a sequel to Swiss Family Robinson which definitely satisfied my thirst for adventure in print).
All made it onto the big screen in this era (except that SFR sequel). Verne as an author was a popular source for the movies.
And I saw them all.
One I always remember with fondness was The Mysterious Island. Together with my brother and sister, I trekked downtown to the New Plaza theater. The Plaza theater opened in 1913, burned down a few years later and was rebuilt as the New Plaza in 1917. It was an old movie house with a flat floor and a balcony supported by pillars that would obstruct your view if you sat in the wrong seats. My dad had told us a story about the theater, probably apocryphal, that once in the showing of a sea picture, a leak in the roof above the stage let in a deluge from a rainstorm that flooded onto the auditorium floor bringing with it hordes of fleeing rats. My sister sat with her legs curled up underneath her on the seat.
Anyway, all the adventure was on the screen this matinee. A daring prison escape by Union soldiers in a hot air balloon, and castaway on an island in the Pacific, encounters with giant crabs, a giant prehistoric bird, giant bees, an undersea monster (the artistry of the fabulous Ray Harryhausen), shipwrecked women, Captain Nemo and his submarine, pirates and exploding volcanoes.
We hurried home and told the entire story to our parents. I recounted every detail fresh from my memory.
Which leads me back around to book reports and how I stumbled over details.
I don’t remember the title of the book for which I wrote the report. It was a biography about a figure from the Colonial or Revolutionary War era. In my report I fixated on his swiveling eye, the ability to look at someone to the side of you without moving your head. The teacher took me to task for not writing more about what the book was actually about. And then demonstrated for me that the swiveling eye was not all that uncommon of an ability by calling out a student who was at the periphery of her vision.
Lesson learned (but I still like details).
Funny – I too have a swiveling eye. 🙂