Tag Archives: john green

Why I believe in magic and fairytales at age 21

By Claire W. Staley

When one turns 21, as I did recently, one is expected to indulge in the “adult” practices of alcohol, practicality, and business meetings. After all, I am no longer a teenager (which brought on a brief existential crisis at 20), and I am far beyond the time when I believed fairies existed under each flower petal and mermaids swam in the oceans (although I’m still not prepared to give up the latter). I am a fully functioning college student beginning to understand financial aid, cooking, and her own bedtime…sort of. The fact is, Santa Claus isn’t real, my pet dragon is actually imaginary, and true love’s kiss won’t break any spell.

What confuses me most is that I barely noticed these changes as birthdays passed. I can’t pinpoint the moment when my dolls became plastic instead of people, when I stopped looking for faerie circles in the woods, and when creating my own elven language lost it’s thrill. They just faded away, and I miss the sense of adventure they brought to my life. I miss the way it made anything exciting and created a world that only I could see. Something I could understand.

And now I have term papers and tests and loud dorm mates that make me question my belief in not killing people. My willpower against the latter prevails.

However, as I was rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, I realized something. Perhaps my way to find magic had just changed. There was certainly magic in these books, because the magic was happening inside my head and I was living it. And that is real. It is a tangible thing to be captivated by a book, to be so entrenched in the story and the characters that you cry and laugh and mourn them, to feel the real and powerful sadness that comes with a certain character dying, to love Isabella in The Pirate of Panther Bay like a sister, and to feel as in love with Augustus Waters as Hazel Grace is (in The Fault in Our Stars).

Perhaps, as an adult, magic has just changed. And who knows, really, if there are fairies underneath flower petals. They wouldn’t let us see them anyway, so does it matter? Perhaps I should just remember that not everything in the world needs or wants an answer. And perhaps I am quite happy with filling that space with this particular kind of magic.

It’s way more fun for the world to have magic in it anyway. So who cares if there is or there isn’t any. I’m happy just believing that I can be flown on a dragon to a pirate ship in another world.

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Modern fiction for the modern classroom: Round 1

By Claire W. Staley

In an earlier post, I discussed why today’s students have a distaste for reading and why incorporating more modern fiction into the classroom would be a tremendous step forward in promoting reading among teens. Today’s post includes a few of my suggestions for modern books that can be used in the classroom. Perhaps, if more teachers took into account these next books, kids and teenagers would have a new outlook on books.

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Even teenagers who hate reading are reading this book. The Fault in Our Stars is a story about overcoming the vastness of the universe, finding your place in an unpredictable and unfair world, and finding happiness for those around you despite the horrible things that happen in the world. It’s modern, edgy, clever, and filled to the brim with enough symbolism and discussion points to keep teachers happy for weeks, if not entire semester. Plus, it’s well written, thoughtful, and has a good story with likable characters.

Positive role models: Hazel Grace, Gus, Hazel’s parents, Gus’s parents, Isaac, and etc…

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A brilliant work of literature that delves into the worst parts of humanity with hope, inspiration, and intelligence. Unlike The Road, which is also post-apocalyptic and shows the worst of humanity, this story has hope in it. Collins, despite the horrific lives these people lead, infuses her words with a chance at a better future. She writes to illuminate and change, while creating compelling characters we can root for.

Positive role models: Peeta, Finnick, Rue, Prim, and Katniss (though I’m not convinced her literary job is to be a role model)

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Tris, the main character, taught me to be strong, courageous, to make a change, to believe in oneself, and to never give up. She battles rivals close to her and far above her, the entire time with kindness, compassion, and a clever head that is capable of making tough choices as well as loving her family and friends. I aspire to have some of her strength and her ability to adapt quickly and positively.

Positive role models: Tris, Four, most of the Dauntless initiates minus Peter, Uriah, and etc…

 

Next post? Round 2 in my suggestions for incorporating modern fiction into the classroom!

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The case for modern teen & YA fiction in school classrooms

by Claire W. Staley

Some people tell me that they wish they read as much as I do, but they either don’t have the time, or they don’t enjoy it. The way teenagers or college students see reading confounds me, especially when their faces are like most children’s when they are told to eat vegetables. Most students look at reading as a requirement for class, and most don’t even read those books. And yet, they want to read.

My friends believe they should read, and even have a desire to do so, but they haven’t had an experience with reading that makes them act upon this.

To enjoy reading, teenagers think they must enjoy all types of books, or, even worse, that they must enjoy the classic literature they are force fed from eighth grade onward. If students are not getting good books at home, the only experience with literature comes from school. I’m sorry to say that A Christmas Carol—or any other book by Charles Dickens for that matter—has done nothing to inspire me to pick up books and read them. And it has not inspired anyone else I know, either. If teachers honestly expect students to be avid readers after reading Shakespeare I think they are quite mistaken. I am not saying to this cut Shakespeare (or Dickens) out of the curriculum (I, for one, adore Shakespeare), but perhaps infusing it with modern YA books would create a new generation of readers.

Harry Potter got me started on books in fourth grade. The books taught me about the values of kindness, courage, intelligence, wit, reflection, loss, love, fortitude, standing up for my beliefs, and the power of a single individual. This is only a fraction of what I could say about Harry Potter, but there are a multitude of books that students love and are usable in the classroom. Divergent, Eragon, Artemis Foul, anything by Tamora Pierce, The Hunger Games, and countless others have created powerful role models that changed my life. When I have a problem I look to them. I look to Hermione, I look to Tris, I look to Peeta, I look to Percy Jackson, and I look to Hazel Grace. They always provide me with answers and support. They have never let me down, and I wonder why these characters aren’t a part of my education experience at school.

To pretend that John Green (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) is just teen fiction and has no basis in a classroom because his books are not “old” or about certain subjects is to deny every student and what they love. It reinforces the idea that there are good books to read and bad books to read, and that only one kind has value. Once teenagers find books with relevance to their lives and are well written, then they will read.

My next blog post will explore this concept even more as I discuss different books that I recommend for classrooms.

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