Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Divorce books, older titles.

Working my way through the end of the collection, and had to read Van Leeuwen's Blue Sky Butterfly(1996). Twig's family has always been happy, but her parents have separated because they don't make each other happy anymore, and her father has moved out. Her mother, distraught, neglects all the housework and cooking, and spends most of her time studying. Twig refuses to see her father, and tries to cope by learning to cook. When things are really bad, she calls her exuberant grandmother, who helps by restoring order to the house and giving Twig a sense of optimism. Twig's brother starts to see their father, her mother takes up gardening and returns to her normal household duties, and Twig begins to realize that while life will not be the same, it will be okay.

Also picked up Wallace's Beauty(1988). In this, Luke's parents have split up and financial difficulties force him and his mother to move in with his grandfather on his farm. His plight is eased by a horse named Beauty, to whom he can talk about all of his difficulties. There are some problems-- his grandfather has a farm accident, and Beauty meets a sad end.
My copy of this is waterstained, a bit smelly, and has a wholly unappealing cover. Both of these titles are very slow reads, which is probably why they haven't been checked out in some time. Tastes change. Perhaps students used to like to read lyrically written books about family pathos. Perhaps there just wasn't anything else.

You would think that Carman's third Atherton book, The Dark Planet, would have hit the spot after reading these two, but I think I got it on a bad day. It has all of the adventure and excitement of the first two books. Edgar, in his traveling around the newly reconfigured planet of Atherton, finds a shuttle that takes him to the Dark Planet, where children are enslaved making food and sold to traders when they are 4200 days old, presumably for evil purposes. Edgar manages to rescue the children and put in place the mechanisms to save the Dark Planet. Students who like the first two will find this a worthy ending, but there were just some unanswered questions that took away from my enjoyment of this. One very nice touch, though-- the beginning of the book synopsizes the other two, and has a list of characters. This was very helpful in getting me back up to speed.
A teacher brough this article from The New York Times to my attention:
There are some schools that are letting students pick books that they actually enjoy reading instead of automatically assigning To Kill A Mockingbird to everyone. I thought that the titles discussed in the article seemed awfully old for middle school students. There's a lot of quality literature for young adults-- why make 8th graders read adult fiction? I side with providing choices of quality literature for children. We no longer live in a society where we embrace common canons of anything. Students don't even listen to entire albums of music, and won't be able to sit around at their high school reunions and talk about what everyone watched on television on Thursday nights. Having a passing idea of what To Kill a Mockingbird is about-- great. Spending nine weeks reading it as a class and discussing it-- great way to kill the love of reading.
Things change.

1 comment:

  1. Granted I was in 10th grade, but I loved To Kill a Mockingbird! I'm glad I was forced to read it. And I have had students in my book club respond to a selection with "I wouldn't choose to read that title, but if you make me, I will, and I'll probably like it." And they did like it.

    As you know, a lot of students like to stay in their comfort zone (reading every book by an author/in a series/only a particular genre) and don't know what is out there. Which they might actually like.