www.TheOldSchoolhouse.com The Literary Homeschooler • Fall 2015 41
you’ll show your students how to think for
themselves about any book they read.
Here are a few examples of questions
you can ask about any book in the world.
In order to demonstrate their effectiveness, I’ll answer them for two books at
opposite ends of the curriculum: Russell
Hoban’s A Bargain for Frances (written
for second graders) and Marjorie Rawlings’ Nobel Prize-winning The Yearling
(written for grownups.)
Who is the protagonist, or main char-
acter, and what is he like?
In A Bargain for Frances, Frances the
badger is innocent and gullible. In The
Yearling, Jody Baxter is an innocent, selfish, childish and lonely boy.
What does the protagonist want most
in this story? Is this desire shared by all
people, to some degree? In what way do
you, the reader, share this desire?
In A Bargain for Frances, Frances
wants a china tea set – but she also wants
a friendship based on honesty and mu-
tual respect. In The Yearling, Jody wants
a friend to ease his loneliness. This de-
sire for true friendship, evident in both
stories, is universal and helps us relate to
What is the central conflict in this story, and who or what are the main antagonists? (In other words, why can’t the
protagonist have what he wants?) What
other stories have you read that feature
the same type of conflict?
In A Bargain for Frances, Frances’ own
immaturity makes it difficult to have the
right kind of friendships, and she must
grow up a little before she can find them.
In The Yearling, too, Jody’s immaturity
blinds him to the real nature of the world,
and the cure for loneliness that it provides.
In the end, both protagonists discover that
the blessings of maturity are earned by
those who embrace its responsibilities.
What changes does the protagonist undergo during this story? Is he humbled
or exalted? What causes these changes?
Based on your own experience, can you
identify with these changes?
Frances learns to take care of herself;
through her negotiation with her friend
Thelma, she becomes less gullible and
wiser to the frailties of human nature.
For his part, Jody must eventually leave
his childhood behind and become the
man of the house, taking on the daily responsibilities of adulthood. Both of these
transformations reflect rites of passage
that all readers can identify with.
If you had to summarize the main idea
of this story in a single word or phrase,
what would you choose? What other stories have you read that could be summarized with the same word or phrase?
Both of these stories can be summarized with the phrase Coming of Age, a
term that also applies to countless other
works of literature at every reading level,
Teach Me Some Greek!
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. . . you’ll show your
students how to think
for themselves about any
book they read.