Stories can change your life!
Entertain the Mind
All narratives – novels, biographies, movies – start at the same place: entertainment. If a story can’t hold our attention, we won’t finish it. So the basic requirement for a good story is that it must be interesting.
Students say that these stories entertain them: Captain Underpants; City of Ember; Curious George; The Hunger Games; Percy Jackson; Rascal; Thomas the Train; The Twilight Saga.
Students say that these authors entertain them: Eric Carle; Robert Munsch; Dr. Seuss; Eric Wilson.
Inform the Mind
Some narratives tell us more about another time or another place. Some introduce us to new ideas. So as long as the story is interesting enough that we finish it, we will have learned something. We will have expanded our general knowledge.
Students say that these stories inform their minds: Afghan Dreams; The Breadwinner; The Glass Castle; Mud City; The Rules of Survival; The Tunnel King; Word to Caesar.
Heal the Heart
Some stories make us feel better. They help us recover from the emotional wounds of life. They encourage us and make us feel more hopeful. When we come to the end of them, we have new energy to face the challenges and difficulties of real life. These stories help to heal our hearts.
Students say that these stories heal their hearts: Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret; The Belonging Place; Bone Dance; Chicken Soup; Dairy Queen; Deenie; Janie’s Girl; The Last Song; Marley and Me; Mud Girl; Riley Park.
Feed the Soul
Sometimes stories change us. After reading them, we see life differently. We behave differently. We become more patient, compassionate, grateful people. We become stronger and more able to take on the challenges of life. These stories are the ones who help us become wiser human beings.
Students say that these stories feed their souls: The Breadwinner; The Giver; The Hunger Games; The Last Song; Lisa, Bright and Dark; Looking for JJ; Marley and Me; Mud Girl; My Sister’s Keeper; So B. It.
Some very rare stories do all four for us: entertain our minds, inform our minds, heal our hearts and feed our souls.
What do stories do for you?
I recently read a great book called All but Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The author has written a lot of series, and I like these books because Alice does what I do and we both get embarrassed easily. But the book All but Alice relates to my life. Alice goes through a time of wanting to be someone else, of wanting to be a copy of someone. That is the feeling I am experiencing now. It feels like if I try and be myself, I will do embarrassing things. But after I read how Alice went through difficult times being a copy of someone, I decided that being myself is better. So I think the author’s message is ‘be yourself’ and that is exactly what I needed to hear. (Nadia in grade eight)
Hautzig, Esther. The Endless Steppe. New York: HarperCollins, 1968.
Have you ever stopped for a couple of minutes to think back to 1941 when the Russian arrest occurred? My guess is no, and I believe that is why Esther Hautzig wrote the book The Endless Steppe. I believe that because her and her family were a part of this dreadful incident, she knows so much about it; therefore she wanted to write a book informing her audience about the challenges during that time. She definitely succeeds with this mission because of the way she writes with so much detail and makes every struggle and moment of joy so vivid in your head. Throughout every chapter, I learned how wise and persevering these victims were although they were faced with so many problems. She really put in perspective, an average day of suffering for kids and for adults. Esther was also able to put the challenge of separation in our eyes by showing us how terrifying it was for couples to be split apart. She demonstrated this with Esther’s grandma and grandpa. All in all, I think that Esther Hautzig did an amazing job of putting the 1941, devastating and emotional, Russian arrest in our minds, thanks to her personal experience throughout the arrest. (Saniya in grade eight)
In The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket (Scholastic Inc., 2000) Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are attending Prufrock Preparatory School where everything seems to go wrong: snapping crabs, unjust punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals and, worst of all, S.O.R.E. The only good thing that seems to happen is meeting the Quagmire triplets. But then Count Olaf, the man who has been trying to kill them, arrives, disguised as a gym teacher. This outrageous story is one that, surprisingly enough, heals the heart because whenever I’m bored or sad, I’ll curl up with it and see that my situation, compared to the Baudelaire’s, isn’t that bad. (Jezy in grade eight)
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech (Joanna Cotler Books, 2009) is a heart-felt novel about a confused angel assigned to watch over the people in a Swiss town. When new people arrive from America, a small girl – Zola – sees the angel and starts to control her. Dejected, this poor angel starts to think that she is an awful guardian who must be an unfinished angel. Will she realize she is a real angel, not an unfinished one before it is too late? You’ll have to read the novel yourself to find out. But I certainly can tell you now that I recommend this amazing story to anyone looking for a soul healing novel. (Andriana in grade eight)
Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Alfred A Knopf, 2006) is the story of Jordan who lives a lonely life in the streets of New York City. This all changes when he meets Chloe. Chloe, a small blonde girl who has also lived her life in the streets, thinks the world is ugly and full of misery. But when Jordan takes Chloe on a road trip across the country to show her that the world is a wonderful place, they have lots of adventures, make many memories, and Chloe changes her mind. She realizes that the world really is beautiful. This book entertains, heals your heart, and feeds your soul. I really enjoy reading it and I recommend this book to children ages twelve to fifteen. (Megan in grade eight)