Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A wonderful book!

Hello, hello! Many of you know that I absolutely love to read and I love to learn. LOVE it! I am presently taking a class on young adult/adolescent literature and I think I may be in heaven. I have been reading so many wonderful things. I'd like to talk about a book by Katherine Paterson called "Jacob Have I Loved." If you're reading this and thinking, "Hey... that sounds a bit Biblical..." you are definitely correct! (Read Romans 9:13 and Malachi 1:2-3 if you're up for it.)

This story is beautiful. Hopefully you do not mind - but I am going to cut and paste what I wrote for my class below. I fell in love with this story page after page. It's truly beautiful.

I read Jacob Have I Loved in one sitting. It's such a wonderful story.

If interested, you may want to read Romans 9:13 after this post. This story is the story of growth. It's a story of learning to follow your dreams and acknowledging/accepting that change can be difficult. It is a story of growth on many levels. It is beautifully written.

1. Coming of age novels deal with characters finding their voice. Analyze the growth of the main character in your selection.

Jacob Have I Loved is the story of Sarah Louise Bradshaw also known as "Wheeze" and her struggles as the twin sister of Caroline. She lives on an island off the Chesapeake Bay called Rass. She is a tomboy, while her twin sister is the complete opposite. She helps her father with crabbing and her best friend is a boy named Call. Caroline is pretty, talented, and eventually leaves the island to pursue a career in music. Caroline is "the favorite" while Louise often feels alone and struggles with her identity as well as her faith. In addition to these struggles, Call ends up "leaving a boy and returning a man" by joining the Navy. In the midst of these changes, Louise struggles with her senile grandmother and the hopes of her parents. When Call returns home from the Navy, it becomes very clear that he and Caroline are to be married. "Wheeze" ends up thinking about what she wants for herself and her future. She begins to realize that she needs to stop doing what she thinks others want her to do and do what SHE wants to do. This realization becomes very clear in a conversation with Call and the Captain as well as conversations with her parents. She decides to go off to college and study medicine in hopes of becoming a doctor. In the end, she becomes a nurse/midwife and finds herself happily married and fulfilled. ((I spared the complete ending for those of you who want to read it.))

This book was definitely a "page-turner" for me. It was neat to see how "Wheeze" developed. I loved her inner-dialogue and I found myself relating to her personally on many levels (feel free to ask how if interested). "Wheeze" went from living in the shadows to shining on her own. Katherine Paterson's words flow from sentence to sentence and page to page. There were several instances where I found myself laughing out loud while at the same time crying for this character. It was beautiful to see how "Wheeze" became more and more independent, more and more determined, and more and more in control of her destiny.

2. What areas of growth, that the main characters experience, are lessons of life that young adults all seem to experience?

I feel this story would make a great gift for any struggling young woman. I'm not so sure if this story would touch a male reader. However, the message is universal.

The main character grows and develops from girl to woman - literally, and figuratively. She goes from being a puddle duck to a swan. She learns to take control of her life. She learns to set goals for herself and go after them. These are all lessons of life that young adults seem to experience.

As a high school teacher, I have the honor of seeing my students grow from grades 9 through 12. They go from 100% dependent to 1000% independent just like Wheeze does in this story. They, like Louise, go from caring about what other people think to caring about what THEY think.

Like "Wheeze" my students learn that the beauty of this world is that we are all different and the challenge is to accept it. There is beauty and pain in change. There is beauty and pain in difference. This novel is nearly 70 years old but has the power to truly touch your heart.

3. Today's teens issues are very different than a generation, or further, ago, yet surprisingly the same. Where do you see the commonality of today's teen issues that the characters in your book selection faced?

I see first hand that today's teens issues are very different than a generation or further ago. I am 28 years old, only about 14 years at most older than my students. I am constantly made aware of how different things are for them at this age than they were for me. It's scary, actually. However, there definitely is a common ground expressed in this book and in my classroom.

For starters, the need for acceptance and assurance. Kids like knowing they are important. They like being heard. They don't want you to just listen to them, they long to be heard. You see shining examples of this throughout the novel. The main character wants to be known for HER not for her sister. I personally found myself relating to this. I venture to guess that teens today also relate to this longing of self-identity. Growing up with a last name like Szczurek (my maiden name) it was very hard escaping from my older brother's "wake." He and I are complete opposites. I love him, but he's made many many mistakes and as a kid in grades 1-8 I found myself having to proove that I was not like "that Szczurek boy." The main character did this same thing in the novel. My students do the same. They long to be THEM but at the same time they want to be identical to their friends. Even if they are an only child, they still struggle.

In addition to finding oneself, there is also the issue of family and faith. Closeness. Further growth. Being there for your family even when you'd rather be somewhere else. Figuring out what you believe. "Having it out with God" in a sense. I know I personally have had these struggles. Self-doubt. Worry. All of these things are present not just in this story but in life at any age, but especially during the teen years.

4. How comfortable are you in dealing with these as a classroom teacher?

I am VERY comfortable in dealing with these issues as a classroom teacher. I don't know how I do it, or how I did it... but I have a way of making my students feel comfortable in their own skin. I allow them to vent and open up. I let them spill out everything in their mind and we talk things out.

Grant it, there are times where I listen to my students and find myself silently praying at the same time. The issues of today are the same as those of yesterday. However, I also feel that there are new issues with this generation which are hard to adapt to. Sometimes my kids mimic me at the end of a day when we're lined up at the door and I give them advice for the night as the bell rings, "Do a good deed before bedtime. Love each other appropriately! Make good decisions! READ!"

I think as a teacher it is important to realize while their issues are not necessarily our issues, they are still important. I feel this book also represented this thought.

I absolutely loved this story. I think it would make an excellent gift for a "Sweet 16."

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