Thank you for making Thursday totally worth it. Piglet would be a lot happier if he was on shrooms. The rabbit is more like the narc of the group. Next you should totally look into the Montauk Project. You must be logged in to post a comment. Cat's Corner. Skip to content.
This entry was posted in Passion and tagged ohara , passion , RCL , week7. Bookmark the permalink. March 14, at pm.
I think that Cheryl is spot-on so far as it relates to individual scenes. However, occasionally a story drags out the mystery so long that reading the book feels like pages of "neener-neener. The hero, Tyler Markum constantly eludes to some past events that have defined her. Last week for our Children's Literature course, we had an enjoyable discussion about Roald Dahl's Matilda. This book is very dear to me -- it was the first "long" book I read as a child and it sparked a lifelong love of reading. One thing that struck me during our conversation was how many things in this book run contrary to current parenting trends.
Let's dive right in More than a few children's books include reading lists of all the novels the protagonist loves. This usually functions as a sort of literary name-dropping intended to give a young hero instant credibility with readers: " You loved the Narnia books and so did my main character! He doesn't just have Matilda read beloved children's books, he has her read beloved adult books -- the list includes Dickens, Bronte, Hardy, Hemingway, Greene, Orwell, and Faulkner among others. Tess of the D'Urbervilles? What's the woman's response? Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.
Kids today can't go anywhere without their parents knowing. Yes, a cell phone is a form of freedom, but it is also a way for a parent to track their children's every move. Newbery winner Rebecca Stead has stated that she set When You Reach Me in the 70s because kids today don't have the independence necessary for her story.
I'm sure Roald Dahl would agree. While re-reading Matilda , I noticed how he makes a point of letting his young hero do grown-up things. The whole story starts with her walking to the library by herself at four years old. And this isn't just parental negligence. The first thing the kind Miss Honey does when she invites Matilda into her house is ask the girl to fetch some water: " The well is out at the back.
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Take the bucket on the to the end of the rope and lower it down, but don't fall in yourself. The book opens with an authorial screed about parents who dote too much on their children. Dahl fantasizes about being a teacher and sending home more accurate letters describing his students: " Your son Maximilian I hope you have a family business you can push him into when he leaves school because he sure as heck won't be getting a job anywhere else.
And even after Matilda reveals herself to have psychic powers , Miss Honey is careful not to let her get a big head. But I'd rather you didn't think about yourself as anything in particular at the moment. By my last count, only 1 in ,, people gets to be the president -- chances are you're kid's not it.
Dahl doesn't play the coward by giving Matilda evil step -parents or evil guardians.
She has evil parents. In doing this, Dahl breaks the tradition of letting adult readers delude themselves into thinking that they could never do the horrible things that book villains do. I have to give a shoutout to Betsy Bird for making this same observation last year in her Top Children's Books series. There is a central cruelty to this novel that I think makes it unique among children's books. Wronged kids are nothing new in children's literature, but Dickens never let Oliver Twist come back and terrorize his persecutors.
Matilda, on the other hand, dishes out revenge with gleeful pettiness. That's draconian by any standard. Dahl knows it, too, and he complicates the book by blurring the line between Matilda and Trunchbull -- consider how both characters always make sure the punishment fits the crime. This is actually a subject big enough for its own post -- I think the subtle differences between Matilda and Trunchbull set up a very sophisticated set of moral rules that determine who deserves punishment.
My guess on the deal-breaker? Bad sportsmanship. Just a few bits of child-rearing wisdom from old Uncle Roald. So throw away your Baby Einstein , pull out the TV dinners, and get parenting!
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For those interested, you should check out these other posts from our course reading list:. Plot vs. Story in The Chocolate War.
Literary dress rehearsals in Peter Pan. The childlit mentor in The Coral Island.
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How Little Goody Two-Shoes influenced other major children's books. For those who have not read it, The Chocolate War is a harrowing story of a freshman who dares to buck convention by refusing to participate in the school-wide chocolate sale. This book was a perfect followup to William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
In some ways, The Chocolate War is a continuation of Flies' thesis about the depravity of human nature, but unlike the earlier book, The Chocolate War does not seek shelter in rules and law -- in fact, social strictures are depicted as fundamentally destructive. But that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about a unique way that Robert Cormier achieves a sense of " interiority " in his writing. YA literature is often noted for its use of interiority -- working overtime to forge a direct, emotional connection between reader and protagonist.
We don't just know what the main character did, we know how they felt while they were doing it. This probably explains why so many adolescent girls are in love with Holden Caulfield. But what is surprising is how the book goes about creating it. Generally speaking, most books aiming for interiority make use of the first-person narrative mode. Some go one further and employ the present-tense. If you like hearing people dump on contemporary literary conventions, I urge you to read Philip Pullman's delightful takedown of this trend.
Sure, a great number of brilliant novels have been written in the first person. But I also feel that less talented authors sometimes use this device to compensate for an anemic narrative. Most of the Twilight books contain about pages of plot sandwiched between pages of, er, "interiority. Robert Cormier was a journalist, and it shows in his clean prose. Authors who rely too heavily on first person narration should feel shame when reading The Chocolate War , which somehow creates intimacy between reader and hero without ever ever breaking from the third person.
Even more, Cormier doesn't even bother to stay with his protagonist in every chapter -- instead he nimbly hops from one side-character to another, shifting his third-person-limited perspective every few pages. In fact, every public scene containing the protagonist Jerry Renault is narrated from the perspective of an outside observer, and it's only after school that we get to hear out hero's take on the events that transpired.
How does Cormier pull it off? I've read the book three times in as many months and still can't answer that question.
However, on this most recent reading, I started to wonder if Jerry's aloofness was actually part of the puzzle. Perhaps the reason that we connect with Jerry so much is because we long to connect with him, and so when we do get a rare glimpse inside his head, we make the most of it. My former writing teacher Milan Stitt once outlined the difference between "plot" and "story. Story is the act of telling those events in a way that creates meaning.
These are two very different skill sets, and while the ability to concoct engaging plots is helpful, it is secondary to the ability to tell those events in a way that pays off. The gap between plot and story is the reason your mom can't retell a joke. I see now that this comes dangerously close to a "your mom" jab Please accept my heartfelt apologies , Moms of the World. Cormier understood that a book about selling chocolates would not work unless he made it meaningful Robert Cormier died in November , and Publisher's Weekly released this touching memorial discussing the man and his work.
I wonder if there's a middle-grade version of Jerry Renault out there? Any ideas? Taking a break from so much drawing to share with you readers the second half of our syllabus list. For those new to the site, my wife Mary and I are currently co-teaching a children's literature course. A few months back, I posted the first half of the reading list , which took students up to the midterm. The books in the first half of the class were meant to give students a grounding in the basic idea behind children's literature -- where it came from and how it evolved into the genre we know and love today.
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