Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Harking Back...Part II: High School

Grade 9-

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Twelfth Night- Shakespeare
An excellent play to jumpstart a Shakespearian education in high school, in which we covered a play per year, as is the practice even nowadays. I enjoyed this play thoroughly and was able to understand it, despite the language barrier that turns off many students (and even adults!). As with most Shakespeare classes, I saw the film version with Helena Bonham Carter, which was a good interpretation of the play, even without Kenneth Branagh at the helm. I am still tickled by Shakespeare’s and Oscar Wilde’s comedies, which stand the test of humourous time. 
Rank:  (A)- Highly recommend

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The Chrysalids- John Wyndham
This was a love it or hate it novel. Having not read a science-fiction novel with my class and only having read about two Monica Hughes novels up to that point, I had no idea what to expect from this book. I haven’t read it since Grade 9, however I remember some details of it and how it tried to appeal to a younger audience with its characters, though I don’t remember the themes suggested in most online forums. At the time, I found it “just okay.”
Rank:  (C)- Just okay

Grade 10-

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Lord of the Flies- William Golding
A brilliant philosophical tale, albeit told through the eyes of children, but stemming from deeper political and psychological means. The tragedy of succumbing to influence struck me even then, and I still believe it to be very relevant to misgivings in society today.
P.S.  The edition at Chapters is the one I read & the cover is really disturbing...Freaked me out for a few weeks!
Rate:  (A)- Highly recommend

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Romeo & Juliet- Shakespeare
Not the most memorable time spent in studying this play, but nonetheless it is hard to resist the romantic/tragic underpinnings of the star-crossed lovers. At least it is for girls :o) We saw both the Olivia Hussey-starring, Franco Zefferelli directed version from 1968 and the highly popular Leonardo DiCaprio-Claire Danes version of 1996, which Baz Luhrmann directed in a sparkly, flittingly spasmodic style a la Moulin Rouge, which was a much better film IMO. I preferred (and still prefer) the Zefferelli interpretation, which gives a rich backdrop to Verona with amazing detail and elegant costumes. R + J was set contemporarily, I realize, but lacked much depth and was more a star vehicle that pairs nicely with Titanic in its themes and its beautification of Leo.
Rank:  (A)- Highly recommend

Who’s on First?- Abbott & Costello (during class :oP)
Sorry to Mr. Williams, my long-retired Grade 10 English teacher, but I’ll admit that I snuck a glance through our anthology textbook and came across this classic that has always been my favourite comedy routine. View it on YouTube for major laughs! I nearly laughed out loud reading this during class. As a teacher, I cringe a bit at my behaviour, but I feel that this material could have been much more appealing than what was averting my attention to it.

Grade 11-

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To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
Still remains a coming-of-age milestone in literary education. At the time, I felt that the first half of the book was rather tame with not much occurring, but my teacher insisted (and was correct) that the second half was so powerful it was worth the trek. As usual, we also viewed the Gregory Peck-starring film, a very worthy adaptation that next to Lord of the Rings, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile…is probably the greatest book-to-film piece ever made. Any others that come to mind?
Rank:  (A+)- Instant favourite

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Inherit the Wind- Jerome Lawrence & Robert Edwin Lee
A play based on the controversial Scopes evolution-in-education trial. Being in a public school, it seemed like a no-brainer to teach Darwinian theory in science since it gave a secular viewpoint on the history of mankind free from religious bias. That being said, there was very little debate about the subject matter as we were basically all in agreement, which stifled (and likely shortened) the unit on this play, but it tied in nicely with the popular law course. Again, we saw the film versions: Spencer Tracy & Fredric March in 1960, and Jack Lemmon & George C. Scott in 1999.
Rank:  (A)- Highly recommend

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Animal Farm- George Orwell
At this point in Grade 11 English, we had a student teacher who was less than effective and didn’t offer much, if any, insight to the socio-political entanglements of the novel. I was very confused by its themes, but I’d like to reread it some day, as I am determined to get a better hold on it. Since then, it’s been a turnoff. The animated film versions of 1954 & 1999 supposedly aren’t much better.
Rank:  (C)- Just okay

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Macbeth- Shakespeare
Again, this was taught by a student teacher who didn’t make it very understandable. It is supposed to be Shakespeare’s most appealing tragedy to teenagers because of its profound violence & sexuality, but it came off to me (at 16 years old!) as vulgar. I want to insist that I wasn’t being prudish at all—I couldn’t stand most excessively violent movies until I was about 18—but again, I feel that having a teacher’s direction would have improved my experience reading this play. I may try rereading it some day, but until then it remains my least favourite Shakespearian work. On top of all this, we watched some of the Roman Polanski-directed film, which includes the disturbing image of all the dead children, eerily similar to photos of Holocaust victims’ mass graves.
Rank:  D (Don't Recommend)\

Grade 12-

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The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
I learned a great deal about imagery and metaphor from this novel—the glasses overlooking the Valley of Ashes is a memorable motif with Orwellian “Big Brother” allusions—and the juxtaposition of class influenced a number of later (perhaps even better) works, but overall I failed to connect with the entitled, upper class society and could not sympathize with most characters. Like the follow-up to Gone With the Wind (The Wind Done Gone from the point-of-view of the slaves), the novel may have been more interesting if it was from Myrtle’s point-of-view. To be fair, I did think that Nick Carraway was a worthy narrator, considering he was as much of an outsider as the reader is, and it wasn’t as cheap a decision as, say, Gatsby being the narrator. Frankly, I don’t understand why this novel continues to be taught in high school as there isn’t much teenagers can come away with from it. Maybe I’m biased due to my bland experience with Gatsby, but it doesn’t seem relevant to the age group studying it. Am I missing or forgetting a key aspect of the novel that does relate to high schoolers? As for the more familiar 1974 film adaptation with Robert Redford & Mia Farrow, we saw it but it didn’t bowl me over, either.
Rank:  (C)- Just okay

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Hamlet- Shakespeare
Like Romeo & Juliet, this is Shakespeare’s most relatable play to be taught in high school. The protagonist is indecisive, moody, high-strung, and bitterly wry to all but his best friend—sounds like the ages of 13-18! This is the first Shakespeare tragedy I enjoyed reading and the language continues to be quoted in many forms. BTW, I can recite the first half of Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” monologue on command :o) The only drawback is the lack of time devoted to the hilarious gravediggers, and the suspicious dismissal of “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead” (a deus ex machina, no?), which Tom Stoppard has infamously used to great success. Maybe a play about the gravediggers is in order? I have never seen Laurence Olivier’s film version, but Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation is absolutely fantastic and, with Henry V coming close, is his best Shakespearian work.
Rank:  (A+)- Must-read (the best Shakespeare tragedy I've read)

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Death of a Salesman- Arthur Miller
This play reminded me of Paul Zindel’s The Pigman from Grade 7 with its comparable title subjects: sad, pathetic, washed-up men who glow optimistic in the light of youth. For the Pigman, it was John & Lorraine; for Willy Loman, it was his sons. The differences are few; they both end tragically. We also saw the Dustin Hoffman TV movie version, which he played splendidly. It is a comic tragedy that conveys sympathy for unusual people like Willy Loman, who we often encounter but rarely pay mind to. The play alludes to this kind of ignorant attitude and creates meaning in people who are otherwise thought disposable.
Rank:  (B)- Recommend

Coming soon...Part III: English University Degree Course Selections
Between the copies I kept, what I can remember, and what I Googled haphazardly until I pieced together the missing links, I have a nice selection of novels that were read amongst the countless theories & articles.  Not a single textbook bought after my 1st year...!


  1. What a gerat selection of books. I've read most of them, but Inherit the Wind has been on my TBR for too long.

  2. Thanks for reading & commenting! I've been enjoying reading your blog :o) Inherit the Wind isn't a long read (being a play) and it's so powerful, even though many people accept the message of freedom of speech before reading it. It's very inspiring!

    What did you read in high school? I'd be interested in seeing what I have & haven't read.

  3. Yes, a great selection! Although I too, have only read most of them. Thanks for commenting on my "The Chrysalids" review. It saddens me that you only thought it was "just ok" and I would highly recommend that you give it another go. I find that alot of books I "had" to read for school I just did not enjoy as much. If you do get around to it, I'd love to know what you think of the second go around! Thanks,
    The Benterud Bookshelf