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One thing I noticed in Huckleberry Finn is that Tom Sawyer is always trying to make things harder than they really need to be. For example, in the beginning of the book when they are making the robber’s gang, Tom insists that they ransom the ladies. No one knows what that is, but Tom insists that they have to because it’s in the books and all the heroes do it.

Another part is where Huck and Tom are trying to get Jim out and Huck comes up with a plan: get Jim out of the window and run away. He tells Tom and Tom scolds him because his plan would take only a day, but Tom bets he could come up with one that would take at least two years. Then he says that they need to steal two knives, one for a knife, and one for a saw, but when Huck says he found an actual saw, Tom give him a pitying look and says that they have to make the saw out of a knife because that’s what all the books say to do.

They also need to sneak the saw in to Jim so that he could cut off the leg of the bed he was chained to and eat the sawdust (even though they just had to lift up the bed), and they needed to dig him out with spoons, even though they have shovels. Then Tom climbs the lightning rod and almost kills himself in the process and Huck just goes in the door (which wasn’t locked).

They also have to dig a moat so Jim can send messages (even though he doesn’t write). Sometimes – okay, a lot – I think Tom is crazy. It seems like he is out to get Huck, and himself, through his plans.

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IMG_2312smallChoose Your Own Adventure

By the 2014/15 7th Grade Literature Circle

We used large sticky notes to brainstorm this. Image by a student in the 2015 Fine Arts Camp mini camp.

1.

You wake up in your middle school bathroom. “Uh oh,” you think, “what if someone sees me there.” You hear the sounds of the jungle. “Hmm,” you think. “Middle school is wild, but not this wild.”

Do you:

Consider getting up, but you fall back asleep. Go to 2A

You get up and forget the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” and get up and explore. Go to 2B

2.

2A

You wake up again and look around. You are in another dimension. There is a Laser Unicorn right next to you. The unicorn runs at you and tries to lick your face off.

Do you:

want to hug it, go to 3A1

want to kill it in self defense, go to 3A2

2B

You see trees growing out of the trash and fungi in the gym lockers. You’re scared but also curious. A coffee mug is sprouting an oak tree. You think this is the best and worst thing that ever happened.

Do you:

decide on a safe approach and hide in a locker where unfortunately someone left their lunch a little too long, go to 3B1

Go look out a window while standing on a desk. Eww gross you stick your hand in some gum. Go to 3B2.

3.

3A1

The glittery unicorn gives a shuddering tremor, and then suddenly, it erupts into a poof of rainbow flames. You catch a whiff of peppermint poo, for some reason. After a while of the unicorn burning, a few mean, yucky, bright orange bears come into view.

“We smell peppermint. We eat you,” they say in a flat tone. Obviously they have not spoken much.

You fight your way through the bear’s sharp claws, but all too soon, you perish a sad, sad death.

3A2

The unicorn hugs you with its furry hooves but it starts to eat your hair. What do you do?

Let it eat your hair, go to 4A2A

Tell it to stop, got to 4A2B

3B1

Unfortunately, the old lunch in the locker becomes overpowering and you remember you accidentally shut the door. You die.

3B2

You see a rabid tiger. You panic but search in your pockets and along with the pocket lint you find a very squished cupcake and an old carrot. You know your only chance is to feed it something.

Do you: go for the the sweet choice (cupcakes) thinking that although it’s squished you like it, so they’ll like it. Go to 4B2A.

Or, do you go for the carrot, and save the cupcake for yourself. Go to 4B2B.

4.

4A2A

You let the unicorn eat your hair, and after a while you forget about the old school and you live forever in an alternate universe with your best friend the unicorn living off of peppermint poop and candy corn.

4A2B

The unicorn gets extremely moody. After an irritated whinny and a flick of its irridescent tail, the pubescent pony trots away. However, after you poke around for a while, you find a minty mound of poo. It smells delicious, and you fight the urge to stuff every last sticky bite into your mouth. In the distance, a clear blue lake shines and glimmers.

Do you – throw it into the lake, because you’re afraid it’s toxic – go to 5A2B1

Or, do you eat the delicious peppermint poop. Go to 5A2B2.

4B2A

The rabid Rabbitiger loves you but licks frosting off your face and you die from the stinging saliva that melts your skin and bones and fingernails.

4B2B

You feed it the carrots, but that makes it upset. It decides to eat you, and you die. Start over!

5.

5A2B1

The bratty unicorn gallops off, leaving a glittery, blue-green, minty-smelling poop. For a second, the smell overcomes you, and all you can think about is filling your growling stomach with this mint-smelling poop, then your senses return! That’s absurd! It’s poop! Ew! In disgust, you pick it up and throw it into the rather pink colored lake. When you throw it, your foot slips, making you tumble, into the sweet smelling water. The fumes of it play with your mind. You start singing of a turtle and a duck as you sink. Your mother was right, too much pink will kill. The end.

5A2B2

Suddenly, you wake up back in the bathroom where you started.

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Most Awesome Adventure Story

I turned around, startled by a noise, and as I did, I remembered why I was hiding and I prepared myself to face the horrors I knew I would see. Even then, I wasn’t prepared enough. The monsters from every child’s nightmare were standing before me, eating each other and the animals from the zoo. As I stood there watching in horror and disgust, I remembered how it all started.

Two weeks ago, I had gotten a vision. The vision said to kidnap 2 llamas and a rhino from the local zoo and bring them on a ship with me. Then it said that I would create a wonderful new creature. Little did I know that the llamas and rhino would cross – breed with the rats and ants on the ship resulting in an awful combination that were now in front of me eating each other.

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Hamlet

First off, guess who’s playing Hamlet this fall on stage in London: Benedict Cumberbatch. And, guess who he played, in 2011, in a play and film – Victor Frankenstein! and, the monster. And of course of course – he is Sherlock. How did he know what we’d be reading this year?

Frankenstein7_1833298i

Here is an outline of where the scenes take place, who the characters are, and some action that might not be obvious. So much of what is going on is in the language itself, how the characters speak, so this is so you’re not wondering who the heck is this guy and why are they in a closet.

It’s not a summary, because the questions of why he’s doing what he’s doing, and right and wrong, are why it’s worth reading (and performing) 500 years later.

Act I

Scene 1

Elsinore – a castle in Denmark

Castle platform, night – FRANCISCO is a soldier, on guard. BERNARDO is his officer, coming to relieve him.

HORATIO, who is a nobleman and Hamlet’s friend, and MARCELLUS, who is another officer, come up. They see the ghost of the dead king, Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). He is in armour, and disappears when the cock crows.

Then you have some of the set up: MARCELLUS asks why all the preparation for war. King Hamlet had been at war with Fortinbras, the king of Norway, and killed him, and the deal was that Norway forfeited certain lands. Fortinbras’s son though is moving to get the lands back by force.

Scene 2

Castle throne room

KING, QUEEN, HAMLET (Prince Hamlet, son of the now deceased King Hamlet), POLONIUS (Chamberlain, an old and respected advisor), LAERTES (Polonius’s son), courtiers VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS, and other lords and attendants.

KING tells how when his brother (King Hamlet) died, he married his dead brother’s wife, the Queen. He’s sending Voltemand and Cornelius to the king of Norway – Young Fortinbras’s uncle – who is bedridden – to see if he can call Young Fortinbras off.

LAERTES asks permission to go back to France to school.

KING asks Hamlet not to go back to school at Wittenberg.

HAMLET can’t get over his mother marrying his uncle so soon after the king’s death.

Everyone leaves but Hamlet, then HORATIO – who has come to Elsinore from Wittenberg, where they were going to school together – and BERNARDO and MARCELLUS (the officers) tell Hamlet about the ghost and invite him to come and try to talk to it.

Scene 3

Polonius’s house

POLONIUS, and his two children, LAERTES and OPHELIA.

He gives Laertes advice on conducting himself in France, and tells Ophelia that Hamlet can’t marry whomever he wants to, because he is royalty, and in any case don’t give him her heart – or body.

Scene 4

Castle walls again, Ghost appears, Hamlet follows it and the Ghost tells Hamlet he was murdered by his brother, and how. Tells Hamlet to get revenge.

Scene 5

Hamlet makes the others swear not to tell, and he starts acting crazy.

Act II

Scene 1

POLONIUS is telling his servant REYNALDO to go to France to spy on his son Laertes. OPHELIA comes in, says how Hamlet is wooing her. POLONIUS tells her not to have anything to do with him.

Scene 2

Castle. KING, QUEEN, and ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN, courtiers who had been friends with Hamlet, who have been summoned to try to figure out what’s wrong with Hamlet.

POLONIUS comes in, and Ambassadors VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS who report that Young Fortinbras won’t attack Denmark but wants permission to go through Denmark on his way to fight Poland. POLONIUS says he’s figured out why Hamlet’s crazy, he’s in love with Ophelia. Suggests spying on Hamlet and Ophelia.

HAMLET and POLONIUS have an exchange. ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN come in, tell how a troupe of actors is coming. Then there seems to be a discussion of the theater in Shakespeare’s day. Players (theater company) come in, Hamlet requests a certain play. FIRST PLAYER recites part of a play, and is moved to tears. When it’s just Hamlet and the First Player, he asks if he can add some lines into the play they will perform at the castle.

When it’s just Hamlet, he berates himself for not having as much passion as the actor, who was moved to tears by the scene of the widow. Then he goes into his plan to confirm whether or not the ghost was telling the truth, see if his uncle will react to the murder reenacted in the play.

Act III

Scene 1

KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROZENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN

King and Queen are quizzing Ros. and Guildenstern on why Hamlet’s acting crazy.

Then, the King and Polonius hide, to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia.

Hamlet’s soliloquy on suicide. Then Ophelia comes in and he’s nasty to her. King decides he has to get rid of Hamlet.

Scene 2

A hall in the castle.

HAMLET and the PLAYERS – Hamlet is coaching.

Hamlet confides his thinking, and his plan, to Horatio.

Everybody comes to watch the play. The “dumb show” is a pantomime, where they act out the technique used by Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle) to murder the king – by pouring poison in his ear while he was sleeping. Then in the play itself they act it out, and the King stops the play.

Hamlet is unmercifully messing with everybody.

Scene 3

KING, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN

They plan to take Hamlet to England.

Polonius plans to spy on Hamlet and his mother.

The king is alone, and Hamlet has a chance to kill him, but doesn’t – reasoning that since his own father was killed before he had a chance to atone for his sins, and so went to Hell, he won’t kill the King when he’s praying, because then he might to go heaven.

Scene 4

The Queen’s closet (room). Hamlet accuses her, she calls for help, and Polonius calls out too, and Hamlet stabs him through the curtain he’s hiding behind. And drags the body away.

Act IV

Scene 1

A room in the castle – the Queen tells the King what Hamlet did, King sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find the body.

Scene 2

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet, he messes with them, but tells where the body is.

Scene 3

King is worried because Hamlet’s popular – so can’t just get rid of him. King’s plan is to tell the king of England to kill Hamlet, which he will do, because he is in fear of Denmark.

Scene 4

A plain in Denmark. Young Fortinbras sends a message to the King, to say he’s on his way through Denmark on his way to Poland.

Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern come in and talk to one of Fortinbras’s capains, who tells how they are going to Poland to fight for a piece of ground that’s basically worthless, just to do it.

HAMLET all alone, again feeling inadequate, how these guys are going to fight and maybe die just for the glory of it.

Scene 5

a room in the castle

Ophelia is officially crazy. King comes in, message that LAERTES (his father was Polonius) is back, and that the people want him to be king. Laertes comes in and he is pissed. Especially when Ophelia comes in and she’s crazy.

Scene 6

another room in the castle –

HORATIO and a sailor – with a letter from Hamlet to the King and to the Queen. Hamlet’s back.

Scene 7

another room in the castle

King tells Laertes that Hamlet killed Polonius. Gets Hamlet’s letter – how pirates boarded the ship, and Hamlet is back, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are still on their way to England.

King and Laertes hatch a plan to kill Hamlet and make it look like an accident, by baiting him to a fencing match with Laertes – but, they will take the button off the end of Laertes’s foil, and, for good measure dip in poison with no antidote. And just to make sure, they’ll have a cup of poisoned wine, get Hamlet good and sweaty so he needs a drink.

News that Ophelia has died – in her insanity she was gathering flowers and weeds, and reaching for one fell in the water, and just lay in the water and sang until she sank.

Act V

Scene 1

a churchyard (graveyard)

Two clowns/gravediggers.

Hamlet and Horatio come up – repartee on how death is the great leveler.

They see Ophelia’s funeral. Since she’s presumed a suicide, they can’t have a full service. A graveside scene, pretty intense.

Scene 2

a hall in the castle

Hamlet tells Horatio how, on the ship to England, he stole the orders that R and G had, and saw that the order to the English king was to execute Hamlet. So he swapped it out with one telling the English king to execute R and G.

Then the fencing match, and it goes tragically, shall we say.

 

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Ok we read Frankenstein, then Treasure Island. This will be a short post, just some of the observations kids had about Frankenstein, and then the contrast between the two books.

One observation, by someone who had only got so far as the letters in the beginning of Frankenstein, is that Watson never asks his sister how she’s doing: he’s kind of self centered. So typical Romantic hero, isn’t it.

Another observation was that Victor Frankenstein blames the world for his problem – it’s Fate.

One_More_Step,_Mr._Hands

“One more step, Mr. Hands” by N.C. Wyeth

Which leads to the question of how well Victor Frankenstein would have done if he had been in Jim Hawkin’s circumstances. He probably would have been broody. Which led to the observation that while Victor Frankenstein is a Romantic hero, Jim Hawkins is a – hero. Another element is luck, which is where poor old Victor never had any.

Treasure Island is fun – it has all the elements of an adventure novel for young people, which were probably pretty established by the time this was written (1881): what do you think Tom Sawyer was reading, way back before the Civil War?

One of the elements is getting the parents out of the way, early on.

Here is the article I mentioned, which is way long and also has a lot of vocabulary and references a seventh-grader would not know. Well it’s probably inappropriate. Not only about the absent mother in animated films, but – fun dads. “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?” by Sarah Boxer. Maybe read it when you are in college.

I’m hoping to post the adventure novel chapters kids wrote, they are pretty good – well really good. Not only getting those required elements of needing something that’s unattainable, the enemy that’s a formidable match, and – the hero’s advantage of superior intelligence and skill (and, luck)  – and danger – but making me interested in the character, and how on earth that cow ended up on the ice floe.

 

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Here, for your convenience, is an outline of the book. At the bottom is a list of some of the recurring motifs, that I noticed – maybe you have others?

Letter 1 from Watson to his sister – he is a sensitive and tortured scientist attempting the North Pole

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4 sees a giant on a dog sled, then picks up Frankenstein, on an ice floe

Chapter 1 (The entire book is Watson recounting Frankenstein’s story) Story of F’s parents and his adopted sister

Chapter 2 His growing up and getting into Alchemy

Chapter 3 Death of mother, off to Ingolstadt to go to school – excellent student

Chapter 4 discovers secret of life, assembles monster

Chapter 5 Monster lives!!!! and F gets very sick all winter, nursed by friend Clerval

Chapter 6 letter from Elizabeth

Chapter 7 letter from father – Justine (family friend, servant) accused of murdering F’s little brother – F goes home, sees monster in area where brother was murdered

Chapter 8 Justine executed

Chapter 9 Miserable F goes hiking in the Alps

Chapter 10 meets up with the Monster on the glacier

Chapter 11 Monster’s story

Chapter 12 Monster’s story

Chapter 13 Monster’s story

Chapter 14 Monster’s story

Chapter 15 Monster’s story

Chapter 16 Monster’s story

Chapter 17 The deal: make me a mate

Chapter 18 Scenic tour

Chapter 19 Scenic tour and a lab in the Orkneys

Chapter 20 Decides he won’t make the mate – ends up in Ireland, where Monster has murdered his friend Clerval, F accused

Chapter 21 father comes, he’s let off the murder charge, goes home to marry Elizabeth

Chapter 22 Gets married, knowing Monster said he’d see him on wedding night

Chapter 23 Monster murders Elizabeth

Chapter 24 F chases Monster – back to the beginning of the book

Moon, nighttime, springtime, noble feelings, goodness, mental suffering, injustice, winter, storms, mountains, desert (without people or habitations) places, the sea, the Alps, the arctic, ruined castles, beautiful scenery, the sublime, Nature, human cruelty

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918pNkGfAYL._SL1500_March 13th 2015 Literature Circle 7th grade Rebecca_poulson@hotmail.com

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This is a very old book – first published in 1818, when Mary Shelley was only 20 years old.

The stories we read last time were from the 1930s and 1950s, and were example of Modern literature.

Frankenstein is an example of the Romantic movement in literature, which got its start in the 1790s in England with Samuel Taylor Coleridge – in particular his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which Mary Shelley refers to and even quotes.

Her crowd included her husband, the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Someone I think Anja asked about Moby Dick, and someone mentioned Edgar Allen Poe – also part of the Romantic movement, though later, and American.

Very broadly, the later 1600s and the 1700s were the Age of Enlightenment, of a belief in rationality and science. Romanticism is at the same time an outgrowth of that belief in Man’s ability to control himself and his world, and a reaction to to the fear that man has too much control.

Cold intellect is not enough – there is something more, that can be accessed through the power of Nature. Not a pretty park, though, but a dramatic thunderstorm (the lightning-destroyed tree is a frequent motif in Romantic art) or near sinking at sea.

The Romantic is still very much a part of our culture today: the romantic hero is the tormented artist, who does not fit in with the ordinary people and concerns all around him. His exquisite sensitivity, and access to Meaning, is a source of torment. Passion and emotion are great values.

Frankenstein also is considered the first work of science fiction; it also begat the Gothic genre, as well as horror. And written by a teenage girl!

In Frankenstein there is also the very old theme of hubris, or pride – what got Eve and Odysseus into trouble. Frankenstein dares to trump God.

This is an awesome book.

So, for next time (the week after Spring Break), finish reading the book, and choose a topic to research and report on one of the following, or something else relevant to the book (briefly):

The Enlightenment and Thomas Jefferson (Romy)

The Romantic Movement in literature (McKayla)

the Napoleonic Wars (Abby)

Mary Shelley (Cora)

The Circumstances of writing Frankenstein

The Romantic in Art

The Romantic in Music

Alchemy

Differences between the book and the movie

Economy of England 1816 – colonialism

Class system in England 1816

Women in England 1816

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