I spent part of winter break rereading Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. And falling in love with the book all over again. Rawls captures boy-innocence and rambunctiousness from a bygone era, when roaming the woods around your farm felt safe, you feared disappointing your parents more than anything else, and you got along swimmingly with your grandfather, who lived a few miles down the road.
Remember these guys? My kids loved watching reruns when they were younger. Rawls' books remind me of Andy and Opie, where kids ponder some of the big questions in life and are given the opportunity to work them through without anyone making fun of them or putting them down.
I know we don't live in simple times like these anymore. But, like many authors who bring us to different worlds, Rawls makes you feel like you're walking alongside Billy or Jay Berry through each of their adventures.
I strongly encourage you to read these aloud to your students, or, if your students are old enough, to recommend them for their own reading. Like much of historical fiction, the beginning chapters start off a little more slowly as they set the stage for later events, but once you get going, the books are hard to put down.
The language is rich and lush and the challenges are thoughtful, but not fraught with the kinds of tension most kids experience today. It's easy to escape into the Ozark mountains with either of these boys. And the language? Rawls expresses himself so well, with such imaginative language that there are a lot of lessons that teachers could tailored to either book.
If you're looking to have students read Where the Red Fern Grows, I have a novel study packet in my TpT store, which includes the following:
-Question for understanding
-Make connections (text to text, text to self, and text to world)
-Explore the setting
-Learn vocabulary important to the story
-Determine types of figurative language (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification)
-Explore generalizations and overgeneralizations
-Discover causes and their effects
-Determine physical and character traits
-Compare and Contrast
-Create a book review
I'm working on a similar one for Summer of the Monkeys. Stay tuned!