Thursday, February 2, 2023

So, Why Read A "Classic" Young Adult Book?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have already started down the reading path suggested by the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. While I've read three of the five YA books DeMille suggests starting with, I'd like to focus this review on the two I've read, but had never heard of until DeMille's book. The third book on the list was one I believe is quite well-known by many, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which I read as an adult when another teacher suggested it a few years ago.

The first book I chose to read from DeMille's list was The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I was greatly moved by this book about two Jewish teenage boys in 1940s Brooklyn who become friends, despite the differences that exist within their shared religion. The book teaches so many important life lessons about friendship, loyalty, family, education, and compassion. I loved the book so much, I bought two of the books mentioned by the characters to help with my understanding of higher-level mathematics and the history of the Jewish people. 

I asked myself if the lessons I learned from the book would have been as meaningful to me when I was fifteen, if I'd read the book then. I think they most definitely would have. For example, I didn't have a strong relationship with my father, and I would like to have read about the two fathers in this story (who are very different from each other). As a teenager, I didn't know very much at all about Judaism, except from the viewpoint of the Christian church I was raised in, until I was out of high school. I used to babysit two adorable little boys for a college professor who was Jewish. She encouraged my curiosity and was happy to share their beliefs. I definitely think The Chosen would've been a book I would have enjoyed when I was a teenager.

I had such a great experience reading The Chosen, I was excited to move on to the next book on the list, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. Now, I admit, the title did very little to thrill me,...but I had high hopes for the book - I was on a roll!

Moody's autobiographical fiction novel consists of stories from his childhood in sequential order. It reads like a novel, and I enjoyed it in the beginning. After a while, though, I got tired of all the cowboy stories. I understand the book's place as a "classic" YA novel because it helps young people understand what life would have been like for children in the early 1900s, the responsibilities they carried and how hard they worked to help their families. Ralph's father had the patience of Job and was always teaching good lessons to his son in the book. I appreciate the sentiment behind the book, and I've even considered that a boy might find the book more engaging than I did. I intend to put a few copies in our reading classroom and see if I can get some feedback from our sixth graders. This book is the first in a series, but I'm not interested in reading the series. If some of our students at school decide they like it, I'll buy some for the classroom.

I am continuing to read other books, of course, while I'm on this specific reading journey. Since we have another "ice day" off from school tomorrow, I'll post about a couple of more recently published books I've enjoyed this week while we've been "iced in" all week.

Happy reading!

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