I hate people. Okay, that’s a lie.
People frustrate me, so much so that I am well on my way to becoming a misanthrope.
So what did they do this time? It’s complicated, but then again, it always is. Fair Warning: This post contains whining.
So I am taking this fiction writing class as an elective. We had to write two five-page stories, both of which were reviewed by everyone in the class and then we did a class-wide critique. It was cool, but rough at the same time. We then had to take one of our stories and revise it into a ten-page story.
My second story involved two fourth-graders who apparently sounded too old for fourth-grade. So I decided to revise this story into the ten-pager. Really, it was only nine pages, but that was okay. I changed the characters to fifth grade and added another fifth-grade character. I kept my main character’s dialogue mostly the same, but I dumbed down the other two students. See, I wanted my main character to be smarter and more mature than her compatriots. That was the point. I even eliminated all contractions from her speech, to make her sound more proper and almost robotic.
But then I did something that I thought (and know) was age appropriate. I mentioned my main character reading The Hobbit. Someone took offense to this, citing “In my practicum with 8th graders, they would have nearly passed out at the suggestion of reading a book with the depth of The Hobbit, let alone read it on their own.” She is obviously an Elementary Education major. Not that there is anything wrong with that; my sister is in that major, and I respect teachers. No, the thing is, I researched it before I added that tidbit. And here is what I found:
Originally, Tolkien’s publisher gave the manuscript to his 10-year-old son to review. The boy said, and I quote, “This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.” Yes, you read that right: 5 to 9! Wow! Not only did a 10-year-old think it was good, he also thought it would appeal to younger children! In our day and age, this would seem like insanity. So, here is a more recent report, from 2013: “As one of several books that have been recommended for 11–14-year-old boys to encourage literacy in that demographic, The Hobbit is promoted as “the original and still the best fantasy ever written.”” That’s right; this book was suggested for boys age 11-14.
Most fifth-graders are 10-11 years old, so my character was right on track. True, this main character was a girl, but we don’t want to pigeon-hole her into gender norms, now do we? The other thing was that I mentioned the book had belonged to her father, who had abandoned her and her mother. So she also had an emotional connection to the book, which provides even more incentive to read it.
Okay, I am harping a little too much about this one person’s review. She did say, “Given, this could be something to characterize Amy that sets her apart from the others in her grade. This could work!” So she is not a complete idiot like I am sure many others will be.
I think the main thing people are missing is that my main character is supposed to be more mature and more intelligent than the others. She is, after all, trying to get into a difficult schooling program (French Immersion). Her parents are astronomers who do research at universities. They are also very intelligent, and thus her home life is more educationally inclined.