Monday, July 25, 2016

A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S Durbin

I found A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin in the adult section of the library.  It is a fantasy that will become a classic one day. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It is suitable in every way for a third grade classroom all the way up through high school. The book is centered around a young boy who is sent to stay with his Grandmother over the summer during war time. The country, the time period, the names are all mysteries to create a story that could be anytime, any country fighting any other country. Readers are not allowed to pick sides in the war. That is not what the story is about. The story is about loyalty, love, and sacrifice. It's about honesty and trust. And it's about loss.

The young boy and his grandmother work on a puzzle that appears in an ancient garden. In the meanwhile an enemy soldier's plane crashes near the garden. The grandmother patches up the soldier even though he's the enemy. And because she helps the soldier, the soldier lives to help the young boy and his grandmother. This story is full of metaphor. It is thoughtful and kind and beautiful. It would be an excellent story, much in the line of the Lion and the Wardrobe but kinder and gentler.

I would use this book to teach diversity and tolerance. A lesson plan might include discussions of the reasons why the author left the names of the characters out of the book. The riddles of garden can be expanded to discussions of stars and constellations or myths. Or this book could just be enjoyed in order to make students lifelong readers.          

What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt

I found What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt in the children's section of the local library. The book is said to be for 10-15 year olds. It is a Newbery Honor Winner. The book is traditionally like Tolkien---the author creates another world complete with a new language and new objects and new beings. The story is about a young boy who has just lost his mother to a horrible auto accident. The boy blames himself for the accident. He didn't say goodbye to Mom the day she died; he was angry. On his next birthday a magical necklace from another world appears in his lunchbox. He puts the necklace on and starts interacting with the strange beings from another planet.

This book is full of metaphors, similes, and hyperbole. It has a very complex storyline, plot, and list of characters. I would not use it for elementary school at all. Perhaps it would be acceptable for a middle school classroom. It would be an excellent example of the use of symbolism. The book is very enjoyable, engaging, and well written. The plot keeps moving but at times is hard to follow. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and this would make it difficult for elementary and even some middle school students.  But the characters are believable and the good are caring and evil loses in the end.