Mom and Daughter Author Study on Sharon Creech: We Agree to Disagree
My 5th grader is doing a Sharon Creech author study in class and she’s been reading and loving Ruby Holler and Heartbeat, and wants to read Chasing Redbird. We tend to agree on books that we like but it’s strange that we haven’t when it comes to Sharon Creech. Don’t get me wrong; we both LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Sharon Creech, but we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE different chapter books.
Take Walk Two Moons, a Newbery Winner, for example. Her friend chose this chapter book for their book club where they made gorgeous Pandora Boxes as the craft. My daughter had actually checked the book out of her school library and brought it home for me to blog on last year because her friend (same one that chose it for book club) recommended it but my daughter had trouble reading the book. “It’s too sad,” she told me. Her book club, though, all loved it. Maybe she’s very sensitive about loss?!! They made lovely “Pandora Boxes” as the craft and each kept hope in the box.
I bought her Hate That Cat; I think it was on sale through those Scholastic fundraisers. Again, I LOVED it and she wouldn’t read it. “It’s not really a book Mom.” For a blog post on Top 10 Dogs to Fall in Love With inKidLit, I schlepped to the library to find Love That Dog, and while digging around, also found Bloomability. I don’t think my daughter will read either, but maybe she’s just in a pre-teen rebellion stage because she loved Heartbeat, another novel in verse like Hate That Cat and Love That Dog. And I think when I finish my own author study of Sharon Creech, I bet my daughter and I will agree more than disagree!
As for Madame Creech, I am grateful that she once was an English teacher because as I read her books, I realize how much her love of teaching, poetry and kids has seeped into her stories. That she seems to know us, the reader, as if we were a student in her class, also connects us to her and her stories in a deep and heartfelt way. And that she seems to have a large extended and wacky family with access to a farm in the country is the cherry on top! Creech says that her characters, and amazing characters they are!, are mash ups of people that she knows, mostly family! Thank goodness she was not an only child of only children!
What are your favorite Sharon Creech books or books that are Sharon Creech-like? Please share!
You can really tell that Sharon Creech was an English teacher who loved to teach poetry to her students and she’s a natural at instilling a love and appreciation for poetry! You can also sense the power behind her writing; she’s like a high performance car that drives so smoothly and effortlessly that you almost don’t realize how fast you are going. She is a master of weaving plot into an ending that feels like peeling an onion … there are layers and layers of interesting stuff that build into a surprise that is like a scavenger hunt. You sort of knew it was coming and yet it’s a revelation. This story is deceptively short, simple, and seductive. Don’t like poetry? Well…not for long. She draws the reader into a story in verse AND introduces iconic poems AND makes them feel fresh and sparkly new. Which is hard to with Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening! [story in verse, ages 8-12. I’d try it for reluctant readers, particularly boys!]
I have an earlier post here. What is unusual about this book is that it is a sequel and I think, folks, that this is the only sequel that Sharon Creech ever wrote. Jack is back and still very sad about his dog. I read the books in reverse order but I would recommend not doing that. And, if you were only to get your child to read one novel-in-verse, try Love That Dog. [story in verse, ages 8-12]
My daughter and I both loved Heartbeat and I think this is her first novel in verse that she’s liked and this is only my 4th novel in verse, if you can count Call Me Maria; the others are all Sharon Creech. I am amazed how Creech can sneak in humor while creating a novel in verse, as well as characters and a plot that unfolds like a flower in bloom. I mean, she uses less words than when she writes a novel, so it’s as if every word works double time.
This is a such a good read with heartbeat referring to both a baby developing in 12-year-old Annie’s mother’s womb, and her own heartbeat as she runs madly for the sheer joy of it with her friend Max. His life, it seems, is more grim and he’s running to get himself to college on a scholarship. Annie’s grandfather has Alzheimer’s and Creech paints a loving but realistic portrait of living with dementia for both the grandfather and the people who love him. But my favorite part — the part that always makes me chuckle — is Annie’s English teacher, Mr. Welling and his “forbidden” words: very, like, ya know?, uh, well, stuff, yeah. I love it when the English teacher in Creech comes out and it IS funny how difficult it is for Annie to avoid saying or writing these words, though she makes very good use of both footnotes and a thesaurus! 🙂 [novel in verse, ages 8-16]
We see the English teacher again in Sharon Creech in Bloomability, and not just because the book is set in a Swiss International Boarding School which parallels Sharon Creech’s own life. Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening makes another appearance but again, Creech makes the poetry somehow blend into the story so that it’s not trite which is hard to do with such a well known poem! This is another coming-of-age story of thirteen-year-old Domenica “Dinnie” Santolina Doone. I couldn’t help but think of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume when reading this book; there is a girl in both books that get a “magic pass” to a more exclusive boarding school world. I have a feeling that Dinnie’s classmates were inspired by Creech’s experience teaching in a boarding school in Europe and they ring true as “poor little rich kids” with parents who have too much money but not enough time for their children and hence the boarding school-as-dumping-ground.
And while this book is not her finest and will not make the roster on my daughter’s author study, it is a pleasant read, particularly for those kids trying to find their way as they enter a new school, particularly if it’s the boarding school kind. Finally, I think this book is interesting as an author study book for its significance in watching the author develop. I would hazard to say that there would be no Salamanca Tree Hiddle if it were not for the training ground of developing Domenica Santolina Doone. [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Ruby Holler won a Carnegie Award for Children’s Literature. I know that I go on and on about obscure children’s lit awards (and that no one cares), but my point is that there are soooo many books deserving of Newbery recognition and these other obscure awards help to identify great books. Ruby Holler is the perfect example!