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
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
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
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
"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