Sunday, September 02, 2007

Curse you, Gary Paulsen!

When I was in elementary school, I loved to read. I read every book in the church library (which was quite well-stocked, by the way) for my age group, and then some. The school and public libraries served to supplement any literary need that was not being met by the volumes I borrowed from the church. I pored through the Scholastic Reader flyer, longing for more books for my personal collection. I would sit outside under the shade tree in the front yard, on my bed in the privacy of my room, and in various places waiting for my parents to end their dull adult conversations.

Then, 7th grade hit.

What happened?, you may ask...

One word: Hatchet.

Have any of you ever read this book? I'm sure that it is a fine read in other contexts, but Mrs. Blauw's Language Arts class was NOT an amusing one. We read, studied, analyzed to death this book... for an entire semester.

Spelling and Vocab words came from Hatchet.

Daily journal entries were inspired by Hatchet.

We had to do a Hatchet panorama.

Act out scenes.

Write incessantly.

Again, let me emphasize: An ENTIRE SEMESTER: January through June.

When we finally finished the book, we spent two days watching the movie.

In 8th grade, our teacher told us we were going to read The River, Hatchet's sequel. We cried out in agony. The next day, he told us we could individually choose a book to read and report on. We sang his praises.

Hatchet single-handedly ingrained into me a hatred for the written word, specifically in the realm of fiction. I have since tried to read, I really really have. I am sorry to say that in the 11 years that have passed, not counting required reading for other English classes (which were, oddly enough, always my favorites...), I have read a whopping three novels: Alas, Babylon, The Giver, and Cry, the Beloved Country (all fantastic reads, by the way). I have worked in various John Piper (though I have not cracked a Piper book in several years... but that's another story...) and a couple other non-fiction writings, but nary a novel.

My husband, on the other hand, is an avid reader. One of the (many) reasons he was delighted to complete his seminary was so he would have more time to read books of his choosing. He has inspired me.

Let me back up a bit to say, too, that I have never read any of the classic "girl books" (nor have I seen the movies...) Anne of Green Gables, anything by Jane Austin, Little Women, etc...

So, with this newfound inspiration (and the fact that it has been rainy the last few days, making me want to curl up with a good book... only to realize I don't really read...) and the idealistic notion that, before introducing my daughter into the world, I should have more "girly" literary experiences, I removed Jane Eyre from its place on one of our five bookshelves. Well, I removed it about three weeks ago. It has since been sitting on the floor in a pile with my textbooks from last term...

But tonight, I cracked it open. I have to say, I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would... I found myself interested by the time I turned the first page, and read 40 more without even realizing it.

Maybe... hopefully... my old friend will not disappoint, and it will be a sweet reunion... and if not, well hey, at least I tried!


Beth said...

I think I just wet myself a litte...from laughing so hard. Wow. That takes me back. And I just finished Jane Eyre, too. It's a good one. :)


Anonymous said...

back to the old school template, eh? Are we feeling a little nostalgic?


Rhonda said...

Jane Eyre - one of my all-time favorite reads. Enjoy every minute of it!

Hatchet - yes, lots and lots of middle school students who were hooked on the Paulsen books - particularly boys. Paulsen alone got them to enjoy reading on their own. As a middle school English teacher, I always tried to give choices about what books - often within a specific genre'. Seemed to work well. An ENTIRE semester saturated with Hatchet (or any one book)?! Ugh!

...but please don't curse Paulsen -unless he was your MS teacher - he has turned many reluctant readers on to fiction!!