Monday, March 31, 2008

Musings on the Classics

Spring Break is over, so it's back to work!

Reading Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath had me questioning again why such books are in my library. Really? The Last of the Mohicans? Vanity Fair? 99% of the time, the motivation for a student picking up these titles is the fact that they are 50 Accelerated Reader points or more, and while I recently had a student make it through Stevenson's Kidnapped, he did not enjoy it. I can see these books being worthwhile in a high school library, but then again, might they be the reason that high schoolers stop reading quite as much?

Really thought I would love The Grapes of Wrath, because I enjoy historical fiction, and the Depression is especially interesting to me, but the entire third chapter was about a turtle. This is an inordinately descriptive book, and very little happens. Okay, unfair. Stuff happens very slowly. Is this a great work of fiction for adults, indicative of a particular time in American history. Yes. Should middle school readers pick it up? Doubtful. I'll keep this one, but Vanity Fair (which an English teacher and I couldn't manage to read aloud while car pooling) and Last of the Mohicans (with its two page long paragraphs) are going away.

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