the seventh grade reading assignment

You remember the seventh grade reading assignment, don't you? My fear and loathing? I think that was the last time I got involved in anything, of an academic nature, at school.

Youngest and I ran off to the library yesterday, reading his list in hand.
We had 15 minutes to choose the book for his reading assignment, as the library was closing, and started to formulate our hasty opinions of each of the contestants while still in the car...
our judgements were harshly and instantly based on the following premises:
girl book or boy book
horrible tale of woe and angst
too hard for a three week reading period
just not interested

I probably knew half of the books on the list, and we raced to the juvenile fiction area.
FIFTEEN MINUTES, remember that when you judge us.

Little Women
- girl book
Sounder - bb thinks it is a dog book, we grab it
National Velvet - girl book AND horse book, two strikes
Jane Eyre - horrible tale of woe AND girl book
The Secret Garden - half boy/half girl with a touch of woe, we grab it
The Incredible Journey - animal book, no interest
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - read it
Robinson Crusoe - out
Oliver Twist - horrible tale of woe
The Three Musketeers - in THREE WEEKS?!
The Black Stallion - not interested
Ann Frank - would put him in a psych ward
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow - interested but deterred by the language
Flowers for Algernon - a heartbreaking tale of woe
The Jungle Book - not interested
The Lord Of The Flies - go ahead, YOU explain this one to an unbearably sensitive 12 year old.
Moby Dick - they're kidding, right?
The Pearl - is there ANYTHING uplifting on this list?
Of Mice And Men - "It's about a mentally challenged man and the horrible thing that happens to him."
The Little Prince - we grab it.
Black Beauty - "Sheesh, there's a lotta horse books."
The Yearling - ...
Treasure Island - too hard for three weeks.
Dracula - really hard, and his brothers adored it at 16, he will too, probably.
The Hobbit etc. - not a hobbit kinda guy.
The Adventures of Huck Finn
- read it.
My Side Of The Mountain - read it.
Death Be Not Proud - bb mistakenly thinks "it's a soldier book" - we grab it and discover it's a brain tumor book. Nixed.
Rip Van Winkle - we grab it.

In the car, we discuss our choices.
He wants to know what the deal is with The Little Prince. I give him a rough outline and tell him that it's one of those books that is, on one level, about one thing and, on another level, about life. He's intrigued by the plane crash (which I do realize isn't even IN the story).

He has a look at The Secret Garden and decides it sounds creepy.

He reads me the back of Sounder, which goes something like: A poor black share cropper and his family are forced to live under the cruelest conditions... so, SURPRISE! I don't think it's "a dog book."

Rip Van Winkle is appreciated for its length but dismissed for it's language.

So - it's The Little Prince.
Which, as it turns out, is really the perfect little tale for Youngest who saw the film Odd Girl Out last week at school and spent a week wrapping his head around how kids could treat each other so poorly. I know that he's too young for many of the books on the list although he is an avid reader.

He's just putting together his art project for the book before this assignment - which are some kind of big illustrated flash cards for Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast Of Champions, a choice which CRACKED ME UP.


Paula said…
Ahh, school days...
Badger said…
Wait, they are reading Breakfast of Champions in SEVENTH GRADE NOW? That means I have only a year to explain to the boy child what a clitoris is, right? Yeesh.

I'm pretty sure the dog doesn't just die in Sounder, either. But I can't really remember. And, um, I'm pretty sure I only saw the movie.
Anonymous said…
I think they put Moby Dick on the list just to find out which kids know about Cliff Notes.

Mine was into Vonnegut at that age too... and yeah, the Little Prince is about the only one on that list I would have gone with. Three weeks isn't any time at all!
Anonymous said…
That reading list is straight from my 10th grade english class requirements!
Alice said…
The Little Prince, eh?
Guess what college student is currently reading that? It's the perfect destressor.
Maybe youngest and I should have book club.
Anonymous said…
As I read your linked older post about Wiesel's Night, I was a bit scornful, thinking that it IS important to see and fully understand the horrors that humans can inflict upon each other. But I'm rethinking that because your writing here has helped me empathize with you and Middle, who are far more sensitive than I. Maybe you are right...

"Maybe"? Sheesh, who am I to pass judgement; he's your kid and you know him better than anyone -- go with your gut and forget about everyone else's opinion, including mine.

But one thought did occur to me. There were probably people who suffered in slavery or the Holocaust or in refugee camps who were/are every bit as sensitive as Middle. I'm not drawing any conclusions here; he is what he is and you are absolutely right to respect that. It's just food for thought.
BabelBabe said…
he might really enjoy Secret Garden - the kids totally pull one over on the adults, and it's a fast read. I have a soft spot for crotchety Mary Lennox and a ragng crush on her heartbroken uncle.

that list mostly sucks though, I must say.
Anonymous said…
seems to me a Totoro-kind-of-guy would also be a Hobbit-kind-of-guy, but maybe that's just my own kids (as well as bias.
tut-tut said…
the reading list for high school here is much the same doom-and-gloom heaviness. I wonder what is going on in education these days.
Suse said…
I was surprised to hear Youngest isn't a Hobbit kid either, when I've seen the costumes and role playing games he creates.

My eldest who is the same age as your youngest quite enjoyed The Hobbit, but absolutely devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy and has now read them all twice. Number two son is reading the Hobbit now!
Anonymous said…
Good choice Little Prince! Charlie and the Chocolate factory is another favorite.
You had me laughing with your descriptions. You are so funny!
Anonymous said…
DAMN! Blogger just ate my comment.

I am always dismayed by middle school reading lists. This one is much better than some of the ones my kids came home with. How about Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms as required reading for all incoming SEVENTH GRADERS? This was from a Catholic middle school that was trying to prove how academically rigorous it was. In the meantime, I would bet money that the teacher who assigned it either never read it, or read it in college.
Joke said…
The Little Prince is the one I'd've picked without so much as glancing at the spines of any others.

~ej said…
wow, dogs, horses and tales of woe. i often wonder about these reading lists too. the little prince sounds ideal tho (haven't read it, but in HS french class we did something with, i think i've blocked it from my memory tho). we had lots of language issues on the 6th and 7th grade lists, 8th wasn't too bad.
Unknown said…
Hi There :)

I'm one of your lurkers . . . Your blog is incredibly entertaining, and I totally want to be your friend! I read you from work (I'm not a terrible slacker, I'm a receptionist.)
I decided to finally say 'hi' today because of your trials with the seventh grade reading list . . . Because I never was required to read something in school that I actually wanted to read. Somehow, teachers feel the need to give their students some sort of trauma through literature. I was required (with the whole class) to read Sounder in the 4th grade. It's horrible, the dog dies AND the father dies after the father and dog spend a miserable time apart while the father is in prison and the father's son/family has to deal with horrible life circumstances. And can I say that that list has an odd range of difficulty levels?
The only one you nixed that I don't think there was a good reason for is The Jungle Book--but maybe he can try it out another time.

So there's my first 'hi'.

Oh, and if The Things They Carried ever happens onto a reading list for one of your boys--avoid it.
Anonymous said…

Sounder is a 'dog book' like Black Hawk Down is 'about helicopters.'

...not the point.