Friday, September 28, 2007

Book Report Bloodbath

Wishbone on PBSWith school back in session it means that we're now back into the Season of Book Reports. Something about all the reading and reporting my kids are doing reminded me of a classic Grace story. The following is reprinted from my journal for March 18, 2001 when Grace was in first grade:

***

I picked up Grace from school today and asked her the traditional question of how her day was.

"Fine," she said. "I gave my book report today."

"Really? How did it go?"

"Okay I guess."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't think Mrs. Hanlon liked it."

"Why?" I asked, slightly surprised.

I knew she'd worked hard on it, Grace really enjoys the “Wishbone” series of kids' books which are based on the PBS series where this cute little terrier dog recounts the plots of classic stories with himself as the main character. They retell literature in an easier, abridged, kid-friendly format--everything from A Tale of Two Cities and Tom Sawyer to The Illiad. As Grace loves dogs and loves books her love for the show knows no bounds and she reads all the companion books she can get her hands on.

So when the teacher started them on their first-ever book reports a week ago Grace chose one of her Wishbone books which is a re-telling of Beowulf, called Be-a-wolf. I didn't pay much attention to her selection--hey, it's a classic, right? And there's a little bit of pride in the fact that your first grader is taking on a monolith of Old English literature as her first foray into the world of formulaic critical analysis, right? I could smell Pulitzer already.

I had noticed with satisfaction how she had wrote out her report with gusto, just as a good, independent first grader should learn how to do. She wrote it, checked it and even accompanied her thorough and probing in-depth analysis with an artistic representation from the plot in full Crayola Technicolor on the back. No problems there, right?

Well apparently when it came time for her turn in front of the class she got up and with her drawing as a gripping visual aid enthusiastically recited the basic story of Beowulf, emphasizing some of the key sequences—most notably the part where Grendel stalks the men in the dead of night, ravages the castle, eats the sleeping men, rips off their heads, tears off their arms, destroys all in his path then leaves a sizable blood trail back to his lair. Maybe she should have just shown clips from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead--it would have been less violent and blood-thirsty.

Surprised at my sweet little innocent one's ferocity, I realized this would most certainly affect my standing in the PTA and I could expect calls at any moment from the other mommies telling me how Johnny and Mary now needed therapy thanks the unleashing of my sociopathic child on the first grade.

I gulped a bit after her narrative of the events and said, "So how did the kids in the class like your report?"

Grace smiled and said enthusiastically, "Oh the boys loved it! They thought is was really cool! Especially when they saw my picture that I drew of Grendel's Mom killing everyone."

Upon examining her illustration I realized that she might as well have done a report on Silence of the Lambs given the amount of carnage, barbarity and bloodshed she had depicted with her little box of eight crayons. I'm guessing the school counselor has already been alerted that this is a kid to watch and knowing Northern Lights school, I'm guessing it's going into her permanent record. Though look on the bright side, I bet if she did her next report on The Godfather it would ensure that she'd never have to worry about being bullied on the playground . . . ever.

Maybe I should have encouraged her to read, oh I don’t know, maybe Little Women--something kinder and gentler, I mean Mr. Darcy never ripped anyone’s arms off. Nervously, I asked Grace what her teacher had said about the report and her picture of Grendel’s mom being terminated with the large spear thrust through her still pulsating heart.

Grace said Mrs. Hanlon listened to the report and then said her picture was “pretty" but I don't think she caught the sarcasm.

Maybe it's time to start reading more Charlotte's Web.

Technorati tags:

34 comments:

Melissa Garrett said...

Had I been her teacher, I would have been seriously impressed. I read Beowulf in HS and loved it. I take it off the shelf every now and then and just look at it. Hmm ~ perhaps I should have another read. If you haven't read the modern-day companion to Beowulf called Grendel, written by John Gardner, it's a great story told from the perspective of the beast.

Lisa said...

I think it is awesome that she did it on her own!

PunditMom said...

Thanks for my first laugh of the day! I think this is wonderfully hilarious -- and it should make for some good play date conversation in the future!

Summer said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh. my. goodness.

Tammy said...

Oh my goodness, that's hilarious! I laughed out loud! So is she still reading such gruesome tales?

Dedee said...

That's an awesome story on a number of levels.

Love Beowulf. Love that your daughter loves it, and love the bloodbath narration. (Maybe your daughter's teacher has never read Beowulf!)

Loralee Choate said...

If you had been in MY PTA I think you would have gone up in everyone's estimation.

Just sayin...

Magpie said...

That is awesome. I love that she did that.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Just give her Pride and Prejudice and get it over with....

I like Beowulf too. Isn't there a movie coming out I don't know...

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

yeah, I was right...here it is...

Maddy said...

Rats to that! Grace should go to the top of the class, with an extra commendation.
Cheers

maggie said...

Good for Grace!! Stand by her Mom. It reminds me of my book report on ,Candide, I focused mainly on the eating of well a particular body part. I think everyone in the class read that book after I did my report.

Babystepper said...

Ha! That's the coolest 1st grader around. I'm going to send this link to my cousin who was a Wishbone addict in her day, and would've been thrilled to report on Be-A-Wulf.

Next time you buy her a box of crayons, just call the Crayola company and tell them you only need reds.

Lisa said...

I LOVE this story of your little girl. She would fit in quite well with the little boys in our hood. She'd be a most popular playdate.

chelle said...

I began reading frightful tales at a young age. Loving challenging my imagination and the little fright.

Kudos to your daughter to be so brave and share her passion and imagination.

Daisy said...

I'm actually chuckling over this. So many of our stories have been cleaned up, like the original Grimm's fairy tales, and this particular tale still had some classic to it.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am just impressed that she did her homework all on her own with no help!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I deal with this one quite often. We decided to read ancient Chinese Myths and my daughter drew illustrations for a story about a brave young hero who ripped the horns of demons and used them to peirce their eyes out. I would have rather that she had drawn the scene where his family welcomes him home but.... Luckly I am the teacher AND principle so I get to reward extra creativity with extra gold stars =)

Julie@HighFive! said...

That is absolutely hilarious!!

As a side note, I grew up in Anchorage and my immediate family is still there. We are considering a move back, we're on the east coast right now. We're actually considering Kenai/ Soldotna area. I was back in Anchorage about 4 years ago and couldn't believe how much it has grown. I guess I moved away about 14 years ago....wow, that's just amazing, how time flies!

Anyway, great to find someone from Alaska, I love your blog!

Damselfly said...

"Especially when they saw my picture that I drew of Grendel's Mom killing everyone." LOL! Well, it's good nothing seems to phase her!

Patois said...

Many, many, years ago -- and I mean many -- when I was in second grade, I wrote a story that had an entire town murdered. I don't know what my inspiration was. I was 7. My parents had to come to the school to talk to the teacher. We're talking late 60's here. I can't imagine what they'd do nowadays with such a story. And mine didn't even have any graphics accompanying it.

childlife said...

Oh my goodness - what a character! Not often you hear of a first grader ready for an AP English Lit course - hope she kept up her love of reading!

Karen_thrifty said...

Oh my goodness. I'm having to hold in my laughter b/c the kids are sleeping. So funny!!!

It's a wonder she didn't have nightmares.

Jenna said...

I loved this post! You are a great writer, and you have a terrific kid, it sounds like. I read Beowulf(an adaptation) to my kids when they were in first grade, and my son cried when Beowulf died. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "He can't die! He's the HERO!"

I love your blog, and I've been popping in from time to time. I think you might like a new community forum called Cre8buzz. It's like an adult Facebook or Myspace, but not raunchy. The whole idea is to create buzz about whatever it is you do, in whatever community you choose (although you can cross over). You can drum up a following for your purses, or your blog. And there's this terrific rating system for everything you do. It's still in beta form, so it's by invitation only, but I've been having a lot of fun there and I think you would make a great addition. If you're interested, send me an email and I'll send you an invitation. Would be great for you! Hope to hear from you! And great blog!

Mean Mommy said...

Awesome. You go Grace.

my4kids said...

Thats to funny she did that book! Oh wow how I would have liked to be a fly on the wall just to see the teachers reaction. So how did it turn out? Did your hear from any mommies? Has she been followed by the school counselors?

Lauri said...

Wow, I can't believe Wishbone did Beowulf.

Life on the Edge said...

Nine years of teaching 1st and 2nd grade and I was never lucky enough to have a child do a book report like that...where did I go wrong? I would have absolutely loved it!!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious, indeed!!! To coin Lillian's word. Sweet little first grade Grace and pics filled with blood and gore? Total contradiction!! MOMM

nik said...

Ok, I was dying here! Poor you mom! I use to love doing book reports back when I was school. I had a great love affair with books back than, even today as well. Good post!

Qtpies7 said...

LOL, thats good stuff! My first child's first book report was on a book called Water. And that is exactly what it was about, water. No story. Just science. I couldn't convince him that doing a book report would be more fun and interesting if it was about a story, but no, he would ONLY read science books. He came out of that at about 13. Seriously.

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

LOL- I feel better now about my DS's first two kindergarten art projects which included some rather violent scenes.

lace said...

Great book! I listened to that story on CD in the car. Talk about violent.

Rebecca said...

now THAT is funny!