teaching Dwj with college students

deborah deborah at suberic.net
Thu Apr 11 19:35:26 EDT 2002

On Thu, 11 Apr 2002, jackie e stallcup wrote:

|Hi everyone,
|I'm making up the reading list for my senior level college course on
|adolescent literature for next semester.  The student population is
|general English majors who intend to teach at the middle school or high
|school level.  
|I've decided to use a Diana Wynne Jones book as one of the fantasy novels
|that we'll be looking at, but I'm not sure which one to use.  I'm going
|to be teaching Dark Lord of Derkholm this semester, but I'm afraid it's
|going to be a bit too long--the students have to be able to read the
|books pretty quickly, as I try to get through a lot of them to give as
|wide exposure as possible to different books.   So, I was thinking about
|teaching Fire and Hemlock instead.  Or maybe Hexwood.  Or do you think
|that The Ogre Downstairs would be more fun? 

Well, my experience with undergrads is that Power of Three was a
nightmare for the non-fantasy readers -- they didn't get the
names, the didn't understand the whole relative sizes thing, and
they were put off by the fact that it was a hard book.  Which is
arguably an excellent reason to make them read it, because they,
too, were potential teachers, and really they should have been
able to read Power of Three for basic comprehension.  But if
you're concentrating on wide exposure and volume and don't have
time to focus on a book they'll find difficult, then I'd avoid
all the DWJ that plays with time perception (which includes,
unfortunately, both Fire and Hemlock and Hexwood, as well as
Spellcoats, Archer's Goon and several others) and give them
something straightforwad.  Dark Lord might also be
incomprehensible to non-fantasy readers, since it jokes about
conventions they may not know.  I'd personally go with Howl's
Moving Castle, which plays with conventions (the fairy tale, the
romance) which they *will* know, and so will give them the
advantage of seeing the whole DWJ messing-with-expectations thing
without alienating them.  Also, it's great.  ;)  Ogre Downstairs
will work too, I think.  And Witch Week is often a favorite
because of Harry Potter, and it's also pretty straightforward.

Good luck!  Tell us how it goes.

deborah at suberic.net
Before everything else I'm a human being.
					- Nora, _A Dolls' House_

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