Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Rea Berg’s Literature Seminar’

. . . the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.~Pearl S. Buck

One of the topics of discussion during our soirée the Saturday before last was the way in which the dystopias of today–The Hunger Games, the Divergent trilogy etc., present disturbing scenes of violence between children.  While violence against children has always been a component of fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction etc., what the astute Samantha Riddering pointed out was the way in which that violence has traditionally been perpetrated by the evil adult antagonist.  Obviously, sometimes that antagonist was a monster, a dragon, an ogre, a wicked stepmother, or an evil Sméagol.  From  fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, to sophisticated Pulitzer-prize winning fictions like To Kill a Mockingbird,  violence against children is presented as the work of evil personified–the Big Bad Wolf to Bob Ewell respectively.  The difference in some of today’s young adult dystopias is how often  the ogres perpetrating evil against children are the children themselves. While these dystopias are the literary grandchildren of William Golding’s–The Lord of the Flies–the groundbreaking novel that first featured this disturbing literary trope, the nature of Golding’s brutal images did not popularize it to a youthful audience. In the US it Image result for hunger gamesonly sold a few thousand copies before going out of print. Today it is mandatory reading in high school. Unlike The Lord of the Flies, the trilogies of Divergent and Hunger Games, replete with graphic violence between children are wildly popular with young readers who seem inured to a level of violence that seems extreme.

Additionally layering the complexity of child-to-child violence is that the teen protagonists become hardened and highly skilled warriors perpetrating acts of war at a young age. Sometimes these actions involve gut-wrenching cruelty like the Divergent character Peter plunging a knife into Edward’s eye while he’s asleep. Though youth becoming skilled warriors isn’t new in children’s lit–Frodo and Sam Gamgee are young hobbits when they fight the evil forces of Mordor, and Peter and Edmund become warriors in Narnia–again, what is new is war between rival youth.  Perhaps the real-life counterpart is gang warfare, which would beg the question of how books like the trilogies mentioned may contribute to an already violent gang culture. Oh, but gang members don’t read, so not to worry.   I think it’s interesting to note that the film scene of Peter’s nocturnal knifing of Edward was cut from the movie.  Director Neil Burger denied that the scene was cut because it was too graphic, but rather because it “disrupted the flow of the story.”   Hmmm.  Gratuitous perhaps?

As I was finishing writing this my daughter Rebecca posted a wonderful blog entry on the “Loveliness of Reading Aloud” which I think you’ll enjoy.  She links in her article to another by Meghan Cox Gurdon which may further inspire the effort it takes to develop this practice in your home.  Gurdon is the children’s literature critic for the Wall Street Journal and as a mother of 5 has her finger firmly on the pulse of the kinds of books most parents want their children to enjoy.  For parents reading this that have YA readers, I think you’ll find her article on this genre enlightening.

For those that attended the soirée who might have thoughts they didn’t share that day or any others who would just like to comment on this topic, please feel free to do so below.  What are the thoughts ruminating around in your mind when you confront the issues of violence in children’s lit today? Let’s continue this discussion!  In the meantime I’ll close with this beautiful quote from Tolkien on the function of fairy-tale as it reminds us of the limitless power of the well-crafted tale to cultivate the best in the human heart.

The eucatastrophic tale [one with a happy ending] is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.  The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true endImage result for tolkien to any fairy-tale: this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist”, nor “fugitive.”  In its fairy-tale–or otherworld–setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.  It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, or sorrow or: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. –Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (68-69).

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

 

Marilyn Nelson's tender, poignant and inspiring life of a man of faith and science.

Marilyn Nelson’s tender, poignant and inspiring poetry portrays the  life of a man of faith and science.

Dear Readers and friends,

August 9, 2014 will be my Summer Literature Soirée, which many of you have attended in the past.  Normally I like to do a summer reading event at the beginning of the summer and then a Back-to-School event at the end of August, early September.  But due to speaking engagements and other life commitments (2 new grandchildren born this spring!), I am only able to provide one this season. Regardless, I am very much looking forward to spending this special time discussing literature, nurturing friendships, and making new acquaintances too!

So, I am mixing it up a bit this time, as I’d like to spend a bit more concentrated time digging into literary analysis with all of you!  Don’t panic if you’ve never analyzed literature before as this format will empower you to feel confident and equipped to discuss literature with your children/students on a deeper level.

Richard Kim's memoir of his childhood in Korea is one of the most beautiful an moving coming-of-age stories I've ever encountered.

Richard Kim’s memoir of his childhood in Korea is one of the most beautiful and moving coming-of-age stories I’ve ever encountered.

Here’s the literature we will discuss on August 9th:

Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

Water Buffalo Days by Quang Nhuong Huynh

Lost Names by Richard Kim

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

For convenience sake, Beautiful Feet Books will offer anyone who signs up for the soirée, an opportunity to purchase the above books discounted and have them shipped  to your home, in the next week or so,  to give you enough time to read them before August 9th (yeah for summer lazy days to read and rest!).  If you are interested in this, please visit the this link to order as soon as possible. The book pack is featured at the bottom of the page. We will offer  the above set of books at a 25% discount, but this offer will only be available until Friday, July 11.   And of course, bring the books with you on August 9th, so you can work directly with the text!

McCloskey's classic summer story evokes the pathos and innocence of childhood days spent on salt water, enchanted by the beauty of nature and the freshness of summer showers.

McCloskey’s classic summer story evokes the pathos and innocence of childhood days spent on salt water, enchanted by the beauty of nature and the freshness of summer showers.

So here are the details:

Date: Saturday, August 9, 2014

Place: my home: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Cost: $35.00 (which includes lunch)

Time: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm.

Registration here.

Hoping you’ll join me for this sweet summer time event!

Read Full Post »

Since the beginning of recorded history, war has defined the story of mankind in profound ways.  Man’s propensity for war reflects not only his fallen nature but also the sublime heights to which he can rise in selfless acts of courage and heroism. No wonder then, that entire periods of history are often characterized by the wars that were fought and by the literature created by those seeking to ascribe meaning to these times of tremendous upheaval.

Andromache weeps over the slain Hector.

One of the earliest epics known to mankind, the Iliad is the poet Homer’s account of the final year of the decade-long Trojan War.  The Iliad is a study in human nature, the capricious nature of the Greek gods, and the immutable quest for immortality through military glory.  From this enduring epic many of our western notions about war derive their essence.  For instance, the Trojan hero, Hector wrestles with whether or not the war he wages against the Greeks is a just war, since it was instigated by his brother Paris’s ill-fated dalliance with Helen, the wife of the Greek hero, Menelaus. In reality, Hector has little choice, as he either fights or watches the destruction of his city. When his beloved wife Andromache begs Hector to leave the battle and return to her and their young son, the scene is one of the most heart wrenching in literature; echoing the sublime tragedy repeated every time a soldier dies defending his homeland.  The profound beauty and enduring relevance of the Iliad rests upon the ways this epic presents the various faces of war through the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as the impact upon their wives, their families, and their societies.

The battles and military engagements of the Old Testament patriarchs also reflect universal themes of war, but with a key difference.  While the heroes of the ancient Greek and Roman works battled for immortality through military glory, the military engagements of the Israelites are purposed by God in his plan to establish a chosen people to reflect his glory and prepare a people for the coming of his Son­–the one who would hail as the Prince of Peace.  God rejected the warrior King David in building the Temple because he had “shed blood abundantly and had made great wars”; the King of Glory comes as the peacemaker­–he comes to a war torn world to bring “peace on earth, good will to men” (1 Chr. 22:8, Luke 2:14).

Wars of the Old World

Wars that are depicted in great works of literature for mature readers (high school) include War and Peace by the Russian author and patriot, Leo Tolstoy.  One of the world’s finest works, this tome treats the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812 and though fictional, presents over 150 historical characters. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo depicts the uprisings of the French Republicans in 1832 as students sought to overthrow the French monarchy.  The splendor of Hugo’s work is that within this beautifully crafted novel is a powerful tale of redemption.  Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for stealing a piece of bread for his sister’s starving child, when finally released, the embittered Jean Valjean is redeemed through the kindness and mercy of a humble parish priest. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens opens in 1775, and in classic Dickensian style throws light upon issues of class, injustice, and redemption against the drama, intrigue and bloodshed of the French Revolution.

Wars of the New World

A Caldecott Honor book of 1950, America’s Ethan Allen by Holbrook and Ward tells the life story of the “Green Mountain Boy” Ethan Allen, who fought in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.  For middle-grade readers, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes depicts a prideful silversmith’s apprentice and his coming-of-age amidst the turbulent days leading to the war for Independence.  For younger readers, America’s Paul Revere by Esther Forbes presents the life of the gifted silversmith and patriot and the pivotal role he played in America’s struggle.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire present primary readers with the stories of two of America’s most important founders and the service they rendered their young country. Those who have enjoyed the work of David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winner, John Adams, will enjoy Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober, as the author explores the amazing role Abigail played as wife, counsel, and encourager to her patriot husband.

The Civil War has been immortalized in far too many works to cover here, but a few noteworthy ones include: Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, another Pulitzer prize-winner.  The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is the first novel to wrestle with the shame of the soldier who turns coward upon the battlefield, a common occurrence, yet one not previously addressed in literature.  Crane’s depiction of the agonized mental state of the young soldier, was a sea change in literature, and led the way for other novels to follow. Two other Civil War novels for middle and junior high level are Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith and Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  Both Newbery award-winning novels present true-to-life depictions of teen protagonists facing the conflicted reality of Northern versus Southern sentiments and the ways in which these affect their families.  In Bull Run by Paul Fleischman, Northerners, Southerners, generals, couriers, dreaming boys, and worried sisters describe the glory, the horror, the thrill, and the disillusionment of the first battle of the Civil War. Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment by Clinton Cox tells the inspiring story of the first black Union regiment under the heroic and noble Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.

Wars of the Modern World: The Bloodiest Century

The twentieth-century was mankind’s bloodiest in history.  The scale of human tragedy and horror was ushered in by the rise of communism, socialism and Nazism and compounded by the dawn of atomic weapons, the horrors of Stalin’s Russian gulag, Hitler’s Nazi death camps, and Mao Zedong’s wholesale slaughter of untold millions of Chinese.  While none of these topics are approached with relish, these are tales that must be told and knowing the best works is essential.

Works addressing World War I include: Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front; like The Red Badge of Courage before it, deals with the horror and ignominy of war from the perspective of young German soldiers.  Two other works dealing with this period are: The Yanks are Coming: America in World War I and Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel by the award-winning Albert Marrin.  Marrin’s willingness to approach these topics specifically for the young adult reader, is commendable in itself; parents who are committed to their children knowing these stories will profit from his works.

Albert Marrin has also written about World War II and both Hitler and Victory in the Pacific are engagingly written and will educate students far better than the best text book. A tender and sweet story to read to the intermediate aged child is The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert Dejong.  Set in China during the Japanese occupation, young Tien Pao becomes separated from his family behind Japanese lines.  His desperate search for his family and his fortune in being taken in by American soldiers makes for a satisfying and uplifting story. The affect of the American bombing of Hiroshima is told in a moving and provocative work entitled Hiroshima by John Hersey.  Told through the first-person accounts of six survivors of the bombing, Pulitzer prize-winning author Hersey puts a human face upon one of history’s most cataclysmic events. His follow-up on his six survivors 40 years after Hiroshima makes a moving epilogue to this book.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom will inspire readers with the Ten Boom’s selfless devotion to helping their hunted Jewish neighbors during the German occupation of Holland. Secreting their neighbors in specially designed hiding places earns the Ten Booms betrayal, arrest, and imprisonment at a notorious Nazi concentration camp.  Despite the horror and deprivation of their experience, Corrie triumphs through forgiveness of her enemies.

The Korean War has been covered by three notable authors whose work I highly recommend.  For high-school level, Richard Kim has written a moving memoir of his childhood in Korea while his country is under Japanese occupation. Lost Names presents a devoted Christian family, the terror and deprivations of daily life under a ruthless regime, and the power of integrity, courage, and honor in Korea’s darkest hour.   So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins is the story of a young Japanese girl who grows up in Korea where her family is stationed as part of the Japanese occupation. After the surrender of Japan, Yoko, her mother and sister must escape through hostile territory. The Year of Impossible Good Byes by Sook Nyul Choi is the true story of a young Korean girl who lives through separation from her family, endless treks through dangerous territory, deprivation and narrow escapes.  Her tenacity, courage and faith are an inspiration.

This brief article can hardly do justice to the multitude of classic and historical works delving into the countless wars that have made up such a significant part of the record of mankind.  Hopefully, the list above will acquaint you with treasures new and old, and enrich and enhance your studies of these important eras of history.

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday I had the gratifying experience of meeting with 40 lovely ladies for a full day seminar discussing children’s books, education, literature, and history.  Despite the fact that we had over six hours together delving into these absorbing subjects, as usual there simply wasn’t enough time to cover it all!  So in response to some of the requests that emerged in our discussions, I’ll be posting over the next few days on some of these topics.

First of all, and a topic I come to with a great deal of enthusiasm, is the “story behind the story” of many of the best children’s books.  Honestly, the reason I come to this with such eagerness is that in this arena I happen to know one of the foremost authorities on children’s literature today!  Her name is Anita Silvey and I had the delightful opportunity to sit under her while doing my graduate work in children’s literature at Simmons College in Boston.  Since that time, Anita and I have maintained a warm friendship and I never miss a chance when visiting Boston to make a date with Anita.  She is one of those people who brings out the best in everyone she knows, and just sitting discussing children’s literature with her for an hour over lunch is always inspiring, informative, and invigorating!  I know if you were able to meet her you would feel exactly the same way!

So here’s one of my secrets:  Anita’s books on the history of children’s authors and illustrators!  I posted last year about her book Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book and you can access that here. A number of the stories I shared with you on Saturday–Robert Ballard, Jim Trelease, Andrew Wyeth, David McCullough, were adapted from this book. There are many, many, more on contemporary authors and the books that inspired them as children. I find these stories SO valuable because as mothers and educators we never really know which book or books may be the catalyst or inspiration to focus our child on their particular path in life. And of course, this points to the importance of Charlotte Mason’s notion of “abundant and orderly” serving of books.

Now, if what you’re really looking for is the stories of the authors themselves, then Anita offers a number of really important resources. But to start, I would recommend one of two: Children’s Books and Their Creators and The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and their Creators. Hardly a month goes by for me that I am not pulling one or the other of these off my shelf to reference. The first title is over 800 pages and contains about that many entries related to children’s authors, genres of children’s literature, historical and cultural forces as formative to various genres, and personal perspectives from the authors themselves. The Essential Guide offers many of the same components (and indeed carries over into this paperback edition much of the same material) but arranged alphabetically from Aesop to Zwerger (you may remember that name as Zwerger is the remarkable illustrator of the edition of The Selfish Giant that we looked at in the literary analysis component of our day). So for the really ambitious I would recommend the first title, and for those that want a slightly simpler more condensed (albeit still 500 some pages!) version I would select The Essential Guide. This is a great place to start. I have many more guides to children’s literature that I will feature later, but this is a wonderful place to start!

Read Full Post »

Dear Friends,
Now that the trial run of my first Children’s Literature Seminar is behind me, I’m posting information on the upcoming event in Orange County scheduled for Saturday, October 16th.  Below are all the specifics regarding registration, location, cost, and topics to be covered.  Please leave a comment if you have further questions.
Equipping Parents and Teachers with a Love of Literature

When: Saturday, October 16, 2010
Where: Lighthouse Coastal Community Church
301 Magnolia Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA
Time: 9am-3pm ( pre-registration due by Oct 7 ) There will be an hour long working lunch break where we will do literary analysis together.
Cost: $30 pre-registration.
At the door: $35

Objective: Provide Parent/Teacher training for the use of classical and historical literature in education, for family read-aloud time, and for pure enjoyment!

Components: Sessions will focus on the following areas:

Elements of literature–what makes a good book,  tools of literary analysis, and the importance of teaching history through literature

Literary choices appropriate for specific historic periods and specific grade levels: how individual works contribute to historical study and cultural understanding

Practicum–a hands-on opportunity to integrate the above skills with actual works (during a working lunch time)

An overview of the Charlotte Mason approach to note booking, nature studies and keeping joy in home education

An inspirational overview of children’s books that have inspired great men and women to do great things

To register go here.  Hope to see you there!

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,

The offer for a free pass to my Literature Seminar in San Luis Obispo on September 18th expires in one week!  So if you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, make sure to do so by next Monday.  If you get another friend to subscribe, your name can be entered twice to win!  Also, for those that are interested in the Orange County event–we have a definite date!  This seminar will take place on Saturday, October 16th.  We have also secured a facility, but are just waiting to hear back from another possibility before settling the exact location.  You can also be entered to win a pass to that seminar by subscribing to the blog, or getting a friend to.  We will be announcing the location in just a few days, so stay tuned!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: