BACK - BACK - BACK TO YOUNG ADULT LITERATUREWeek One - The Classics
In my Young Adult Lit class we have a reading list. Each week is a different category. The first week was Classics. It's hard to define what a "Classic"is, whether you are looking at Adult, Children's or Young Adult Literature. So books on this list would be considered a "Classic" by some but not by others. And one parameter for the list was that the book needed to be at least 25 years old. To be honest, I am older than the majority of the books on the list. But that's OK. There were 46 titles listed; I had read exactly half of them. But - I did not read them as a teen for the most part; I read them as an adult. To Kill A Mockingbird is probably the one exception. It was published in 1960 and I read it as a teenager.
Besides Susan Cooper's Under Sea, Over Stone, I had to read two other books on the list that I had not read before. I am listening to most of the books that I am "reading" for the class. Or at least listening to a portion of the book. So that limits my choices to a certain extent. I have a one and a half hour commute each day - I am happy to spend that time listening to books! I would never get them all read if it weren't for audio books. Anyway - I chose to listen to A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck. I have heard about this book for YEARS. It was published in 1972 and I thought people had recommended it... but maybe that was Zindel's The Pigman. I won't say DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! I will say - please don't force your kids to read it. It is a semi-autobiographical account of Peck's own life, growing up on a poor farm in rural Vermont in the 1920s. His parents had Shaker leanings and that influenced a lot of his thinking and lifestyle -- No Frills. The story opens with Rob rescuing a neighbor's cow who is having a hard time giving birth to her calf (or calves, as it turns out). To thank Rob for saving the cow (and the twin bulls that were born), the neighbor gives Rob a beautiful baby pig. Rob names her Pinky and they become fast friends. He even takes her to the fair and they win a blue ribbon. But any comparisons to Charlotte's Web end there. There are dreams of breeding Pinky and having a fine mess of young pigs to sell - a sure way to make money. But -- Pinky is barren. Mating her with the neigbor's boar is explained in pretty explicit detail but, despite repeated matings, there are no baby pigs. Pigs that can't breed get eaten. But wait! The name of the book is The Day No Pigs Would Die! So that means -- nope. Pinky dies. And Rob has to help slaughter her. As I said - don't make your kids read this book. I actually liked the character of Rob - he has to grow up pretty fast between the ages of 12 and 13. The title refers to the death of his own father, who slaughtered pigs for a living. But I could never recommend this book to a kid. It's considered one of the first true young adult books. I think it probably traumatized a few teens along the way.
The third book I read was Pollyana by Eleanor Porter. It was written in 1913. I can't say it was the exact opposite of Peck's book. It's sad in it's own way. And both Rob and Pollyanna were optimistic young people - while at the same time acknowledging that they lived a pretty rough life at times. But the overall tone is definitely different. I loved the Disney Pollyanna when I was growing up! My fondest memory is Pollyana holding up the crystals and the sunlight making rainbows on the walls. I still have little crystals hanging all over my house just so the sun will strike them and create rainbows! At first I was afraid that the crystals were a Disney fabrication. But it's in the book - it's just not as prominent. Neither is the tree climbing. Pollyanna only clambers down the tree outside her window once. And she never falls - she is hit by a car. So - not a huge surprise - the Disney version is quite different from the book. I enjoyed the book quite a bit though. Pollyanna has had her share of heartache but she always strives to see the "glad" in any situation. Playing the Glad game is pretty good advice. Dance in the rainbows. And there were sequels to the books! Lots of them. I'm guessing she grows up and marries young Jimmy. But I will have to find a copy of the sequel to find out if that is true. I don't think this would appeal to teens today. It would make a nice read-aloud, though, for ages ten or so. And now onto the next section -- Award Winners!