I will begin the story of my adventures
with a certain morning early in the month
of June, the yar of grace 1751, when I
took the key for the last time out of the
door of my father's house.
Opening to Kidnapped
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Loved it. See my review here. My students were lukewarm to it, but I liked it enough to put it along with a small set of his other classic novel for young readers Kidnapped on my book club selection shelf this September. This month both books found their way into my students hands.
They immediately complained that both were too hard, that they couldn't understand a single word. Not even 'the,' I asked.
The group reading Treasure Island got no sympathy from me. They had to read it. It's challenging, but they can read it. Since I hadn't read Kidnapped, I decided to join that group and read it with them.
It was too hard; I couldn't understand a single word; not even 'the.'
But, by then, it was too late for the group to turn back. So I encouraged everyone to read the plot summary on the Kidnapped Wikipedia page, which is pretty good, and to keep reading. It's not cheating to read a plot summary if you are confused, I told them, as long as you still finish reading the book. They did. I did. We all deserve extra credit.
The books starts well-- lots of Gothic atmosphere as young David Balfour leaves his father's home for the creepy decrepit mansion of his uncle Ebenezer. The action picks up when David is kidnapped and forced to work on a ship bound for the Carolinas where he is to be sold as a slave. I even made it through the shipwreck, after which David finds himself washed ashore then taken in by a band of revolutionary Jacobites. Then I got lost. Very lost. Things kept happening, but darned if I could explain them. I'll confess here that I ended up skimming the last few chapters and just hope none of my students ever read this post.
Apparently, Mr. Stevenson based Kidnapped on a true story. His contemporary readers would have known all the references and probably would have been fine with all the different dialects his characters speak, but most American middle schoolers would have trouble listening to someone speak with a heavy Scottish accent let alone reading it. Reading dialect is hard. Even 'the' tends to be written as 'th' or 'o' in dialect. What is a seventh grader supposed to make of 'th' or 'o'?
So Treasure Island stays on my book club book list. If book clubs manage to survive the transition to the Common Core and the end of GATE classes some future group of seventh graders will probably once again be lukewarm to Treasure Island. I do insist that they read a classic now and then and you never know when the right child will find the right book.
But Kidnapped is going back in th' book room.