Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

One of my earliest childhood memories occurred when I was about 5. One of my grandmas decided to have a family reunion. Somehow it was then decided that it would be a carnival cruise in the Caribbean Sea. I have only four vague memories from that trip. The first is in New Orleans before we got on the ship. We took one of the old street cars to the docks. The car cracked and squeaked like it was falling apart. But we made it to the dock and that’s all I remember. My second memory is of being up on the top of the ship standing next to the pool. For some reason I decided to look over the rail of the ship to the sea below. All I remember is pulling my head back very quickly because of the frightening height. My third memory is of my brother sitting on the beach holding a toy truck and licking all the sand off of it. He then decided that was to slow and just shoved his face in the beach and proceeded to injest about three pound. (About half of his weight). My last memory is waking up with my face in my pasta at dinner. I did this all seven nights of the cruise. I think I was tired from a very full day.

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One day in Kindergarten, we had just come in from recess and someone noticed a queer smell. Everyone paused briefly to try to sniff out where the scent was coming from. The teacher tried to get us under control, but if you have ever been around kindergarteners, you know that once they start, you can never get them to stop again. Eventually we found the culprit. A boy had stepped in dog poop during recess. “Eww!” we cried. The boy sat down and started crying. Mrs. F, the teacher, helped him get up and took him to the office to wipe his shoe off while one of the paras tried to track down where he had been walking and wipe up the poop. Meanwhile, all of us must have been going crazy-hiding under tables to get away from the foul stench and covering our noses with our sleeves. The smell was awful. It smelled like burnt something and chocolate lilies. Fortunately, the day was almost over so we waited for a little while in the room next door until our parents came.

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One hot and dry day, three years ago, in July. My family and I were in the middle of a wonderful trip to Europe. We decided to visit a lake that was quite a popular tourist destination, probably because of its beautiful scenery and clear water. I think it was either in Switzerland or Austria but I am not sure. This lake had a small island in the center. Since the lake was not very big, it was easy to swim to the center. The lake was very shallow but the bottom was covered with sharp rocks, so my dad swam with me. When we reached the shore, my dad and I split up. My dad went to get my sister, while I stayed behind to explore. I walked a little ways tell I reached a stump. I bent down to look more closely at it, then I felt a sting on my foot. The sting passed quickly so I payed no notice to it, but when I felt two more I looked down. There on my foot were three dead red ants hanging on by what I assume was their teeth. They were quickly joined by more. Then I panicked. I jumped into the water, and called for my dad. Together we swam to shore. I vowed never to go back to that island again.

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Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

Click here for this post as a pdf.

November 21 2014 Literature Circle 7th grade, session # 5 Rebecca_poulson@hotmail.com 747-3448

Next week is Thanksgiving holiday, so next time we get together will be December 5th.

So over the next two weeks, read the rest of the book, and write your own mini memoir, to share on December 5th.

Next book will be Call of the Wild, so we can do it in time for Battle of the Books.

Last Friday, only a few of you had bothered to get the book and read it!
As Cora said, haven’t you ever worked with middle schoolers before?

But here’s the deal – you need to make a commitment, that if you are going to do this literature circle, you have to commit to reading and writing.

If you truly don’t have time to read and write, it probably does not make a lot of sense for you to do the literature circle.

So IF you do want to continue, our next get together is December 5th, and you need to:

1. Type up and get me your Huckleberry Finn essay (easy!) by email, or if you can’t do that, let me know and we’ll figure out some other way.

2. Finish Boy (this is a short book, not only is it just 175 pages, most of those have pictures!)

3. And, write a short mini memoir from a childhood incident that stands out in your memory.

So the essay and memoir, by short, I mean a page of handwriting – which is a half page of typed writing, a few hundred words.
Easy! And fun!

Things to notice in Boy:

what you learn about the author’s personality from what he writes about and how

things are probably exaggerated and simplified

what he wants you to think about him – how he is portraying himself.

Things you notice, and things he points out, that are different from your life today: attitudes and lifestyle, technology, family life, expectations.

One thing that came up in our discussion Friday was the idea that a memoir is not literally true. It is a story. In order to make it more interesting and meaningful, the author leaves things out, puts things together that weren’t, and makes things more vivid than they would have been, seen objectively.

While it is possible the Matron had steam coming out of her nose, it is more likely he is putting that in to paint a picture of her fury, and the students’ fear.

Roald Dahl seems to use exaggeration of people’s physical qualities to express his relationship to them, whether it’s the goat legs of the candy shop owner or the fearsome bosom of the Matron, or the watery blue eyes of the Captain.

I get the impression he’s still angry, over the way children were treated in these schools, and by certain authority figures such as doctors, at the time.

Also, he was an outsider, in a few ways: while his family was wealthy, he was not from an aristocratic English family; he was Norwegian; and, he was very tall (6′ 6″ as an adult).

Your memoir

For the mini memoir, go ahead and make it more intense than it really was. Memoir is not strictly, literally true. You are telling a story, just as Roald Dahl was. Try imagining what it looked like, remember what it smelled like, any details that help tell the reader what that incident meant to you.

And don’t say nothing ever happened to you! I had just as boring a childhood as anyone, but I once got pushed up against the fence by the mean girl, played horses on the playground, got swatted by the PE teacher for not putting the wire basket in the locker room back in the shelf (and can vouch for that delay between the smack and the pain, that Dahl describes so well). I recall the first time I heard a grownup criticize another grown up, seeing dead kittens, figuring out how to write the word “purple” “prpl,” going to spend the night at my friend’s house but walking home because I was scared of her dad.

Think about a time you were treated unfairly – getting a really great Christmas present – or the disappointment when you didn’t – doing something for the first time – even little incidents that stick out and you don’t know why. Something that happened when you were vising relatives. Injuries, a time when you screwed up, or saved the day, in a game. Getting in trouble. Being embarrassed, or suddenly aware of how much a parent loves you. The first memory that pops into your head.

So hope to see you December 5th, stories in hand!


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