14 November 2011

Tales for Young Men

"Grendel's plan, I think, will be
What it has been before, to invade this hall
And gorge his belly with our bodies.  If he can,
If he can.  And I think, if my time will have come,
There'll be nothing to mourn over, no corpse to
    prepare
For its grave:  Grendel will carry our bloody
Flesh to the moors, crunch on our bones
And smear torn scraps of our skin on the walls
Of his den.  No, I expect no Danes
Will fret about sewing our shrouds, if he wins. 
And if death does take me, send the hammered
Mail of my armor to Higlac, return
The inheritance I had from Hrethel, and he
From Wayland.  Fate will unwind as it must!"

(Beowulf, lines 442-455, translated by Burton Raffel, Signet Classic edition)

Emperor seems to read well enough.  It is not his favourite subject, but he likes Beowulf a lot.  "It's very pretty," he tells me. "I like writing that is beautiful and has a lot of adjectives in it.  This lets me know what is really going on." 

Yep.  There's really no mistake about what's happening in literature like this, and the character motivation doesn't seem to be so deep or introspective as many tales marketed to children seem to be.  It's understandable to Emperor in a way standard "kid" literature is NOT. He has a lot of trouble with your usual kid-fiction. 

Emperor is currently being tested by our school district to see if he needs any sort of special services.  Lately the tests they have been giving him are reported to be boring.  Emperor tells me they had him read and answer stories about some child and a dragon.  "But, the story had no taste to it."

No taste?  Surely my kid isn't getting all highbrow and pining for classic literature only?  I asked him a few questions about the readings he was supposed to do.  One is about a dragon and a small town, he told me, rolling his eyes.  Well what about it?  "Four letters," he said.  "L-A-M-E."

Stories about odd creatures such as dragons and Grendel and Orcs and what-have-you are usually very exciting! 

Ughhh... Emperor explained that this one is about a dragon that steals people away from the town.  Everyone was scared and didn't know what to do until some little kid went off to find out what the problem was.  "And ALL SHE NEEDED TO DEAL WITH THE DRAGON WAS A MAP AND SOME FOOD."

As if this weren't insulting enough to the reader's intelligence, Emperor reports that the kid brought along as her companion some fluffy thing called MISTER FEATHERS.  Here I got another good eyeroll from him at the stupidity of the story. 

"Mister Feathers and the girl find the dragon and then they just TALK with the dragon.  The dragon tells them he is picking up all the people to save them from the avalanche that will be destroying the town soon." He shook his head and put his hand up to his brow as though the whole ordeal were painful to recount.

"THE END."

"The story just sucked, Mom."

Well, maybe it did.  I don't fault the school for having sucky stories during the testing process because I'm thinking that it might be a test to see if the child is able to remain calm and polite under duress or something.  (I dunno.)  Usually these "tests" have a hidden objective and the thing you think you're getting tested on isn't the thing they're really measuring. 

But on the whole, I hear boys are "behind" on reading.  I wonder at us as parents for not having better literature choices than the Junie B. Jones series in our personal family libraries.  Sorry, I hate those.  They are just WRONG. 

Am I the only one with reading pet peeves?  Looks like I passed mine onto my children somehow.

12 comments:

  1. I think Emperor reads EXCEPTIONALLY WELL for his age. Any boy of that age would think that dragon story was L.A.M.E. even our Griffin!

    Griffin is reading at a 6 year old level... somedays a little better. We are thankful he can read at all.
    I feel so sad for him some days. He will never be able to write ... and that worries me so much.
    Your boys, while having other difficulties in life can at least read and write. That is a big thing.

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  2. We had an interesting discussion after watching an episode of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" (which is currently a hot item, I hear, for 18-34 year old males). It's quirky and over-the-top and, oh my, wow. But what's truly bothersome is the complete lack of conflict. All the problems can be giggled away or solved with a smile.

    Granted, Scripture does say that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but sometimes there's more to a conflict than mere misunderstanding, and sometimes the bad guys really are bad. I don't read much modern children's literature, but it sounds like these key ingredients are being removed from our stories so we can teach other ideals that aren't, well, as ideal.

    ~Luke

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  3. Chris, G doesn't really read or write and he is almost 17. SOMETIMES autism is really hard to deal with, so... I do understand the sadness/lost dream thing there.

    Luke, I think you hit the nail on the head there. Total lack of conflict and everybody wins. No reason to even START to read the story if you know that's the sort of drivel you'd be given. No wonder boys have trouble with reading.

    And Junie B. Jones. Please say Sonlight does not sell that crap. lol

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  4. Junie B. Jones is a BRAT. We read one and banned them from the house.

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  5. Well, well, well....I was told by my daughter's first grade teacher (she did go for a whole 9 days) that I was being 'haughty' over her reading the Junie B. series to the class daily. I thought they were classless, tasteless, ignorant and pointless. I didn't want that to be the foundation MY kid learned from. The paper that came home the first day of school that showed that series was being read daily KILLED me...I even offered to purchase a different series and donate them. I felt that strongly about it. But, ahem, we found out that the district doesn't always get the final say. Needless to point out, Junie B. is NOT welcome at our school. :D

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  6. Testing. Sorry, but this is the second time my comment has gotten whacked! I solemnly swear I'm not having impure thoughts.

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  7. Deb, I hear ya!

    Blondee, I hated the whole attitude this kid had, and I don't think you are being haughty at all.

    Tammy, I'm really bummed that I didn't get to read the impure thoughts. Write 'em again, willya?

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  8. Whew! Okay. Bravo to Emperor for having good taste. In the Charlotte Mason world, we call that sort of, er, reading material twaddle. Blech! Mind-numbing. Look where having a conversation with a dragon got Adam and Eve....

    Has Emperor tried Redwall, Tolkien, or Howard Pyle? That was red meat for my son (and me too).

    On the Friendship Is Magic, it is true that a certain person I know in that demographic (and it's not my young at heart autistic daughter either) who has been trying to convince me to watch it for a month. Frankly, I think it's a worldwide conspiracy to dupe unsuspecting grownups.

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  9. Twaddle. Ha ha! It is, too!

    I am guessing the friendship, hearts and flowers themes go over really BIG at the military university your son attends. You should join him on your next parent night... and not watch that movie... :)

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  10. Happy Elf Mom, look for your blog's spam filter. That's probably where the "impure thoughts" get stuck.

    If you think "Junie B. Jones" is bad, you should check out the "Fairy Books" series that my younger daughter likes.

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  11. Waah! No spam! I checked.

    Haven't heard of the "Fairy Books" series. Whatever you enjoy and if it gets your kid to read, more power to ya. But please not to the class, not stuff like Junie B.! :)

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  12. I do not like Junie B Jones either. She is a horrible role model. I try to steer my kids away from all the delightful stuff they have to offer these days. Like Captain Underpants and some worthwhile books!ha!

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)