With 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: motherhood, parenting, literature, books, Beowulf