Literature Through the Years

Ms. Holt's English IV Honors

Elementary

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The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein (1964)

Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree chronicles the life of a boy, and a tree that loved him. Through the children's book the boy comes to see the tree, each time needing something from her. The tree happily provides for the boy and asks for nothing in return but his company. But all good things must end, as we soon find out. The boy uses the tree up, until she is nothing but a stump. However, she is still happy. This book really resonated with me as a child, and does especially now that I'm older and can delve into the deeper meaning. The tree to boy relationship can be compared to that of a mother and child, or even a romantic relationship. Children use their parents for money, resources, and anything they can muster out of them, but are typically met with nothing but unconditional love. An alternate idea is the message this book sends about our environment. The boy swings on the trees, chops it down and leaves the earth with nothing after he is gone. Either message can be powerful.

Middle School

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The Giver - Lois Lowry (1993)

The Giver is a book about a "Utopian" world in which society has erased all evidence of free will, and assigns each person a life task once they reach a certain age. Jonas receives the assignment of the Receiver. The Receiver is responsible for obtaining memory of all emotions, memories, and individual aspects of life suppressed as a result of the societal structure. He then is faced with a choice: to stay and face the price of utopia, or to go and face the unknown. Before politics came into my life I would say this novel was an entertaining and twisted piece of fiction. Afterward however, I would have to disagree. This novel explores the extremities and hypocrisies of a uniform, Utopian world. You could almost go as far as to say the novel is a warning about the dangers of communism and other extreme left wing ideologies. Regardless, the novel is well written, suspenseful, and entertaining, making it a great read for almost anyone.
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The City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau (2003)

The City of Ember is about a Dystopian society which relies on a large, failing generator to light it. The Builders who've constructed the city left instructions on how to escape in case of emergency, but they were misplaced. The mystery unfolds as two kids begin to piece together the puzzle and uncover all the secrets about the city. This novel will keep you on the edge of your seat. I found great interest in books about post apocalyptic and Dystopian societies when I first began reading this, and The Giver.

High School

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Anthem - Ayn Rand (1938)

Anthem is a novel about the future and the collectivism that has been established. A street sweeper named Equality 7-2521 dares to break away from the "we" and discover electricity. When he shows his discovery to the council, however, they resolve to destroy it and punish Equality 7-2521. He then flees through the forest and is followed by The Golden One, a woman who has dared to break the rules to be with him. They find sanctuary in a home left over from "the unmentionable times." Here he discovers the word that will change their lives, "I." This book appeals to me because of it's content but also because of it's genre. The moral of this novel is individuality and freedom are privileges, which i whole-heartedly agree with.
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The Rose That Grew From The Concrete - Tupac Shakur (1991)

This poem, while short, is an ode to strength in adversity and success in hardships. This applies to poverty, bullying, or any hardships people may face in life. The message is one of success and beauty in the struggle. These messages were positive ones that has a profound impact on my life. Being so general, the theme can and will apply to nearly everyone, which makes it timeless.
Frida (2002) Official Trailer #1 - Salma Hayek Movie HD
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Frida - directed by Julie Taymor (2002)

Beautifully directed and historically accurate, this film chronicles the life and art of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Her hardships were highlighted through cinematic brilliance and her life experiences were composed in a way that helps the viewer look and think critically at her art with a new understanding of the meaning. Frida Kahlo was in a bus accident on her way home which both crippled her and caused her to be infertile. These two challenges as well as the constant infidelity of her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera, fueled the anger and sadness behind her beautiful artwork. This film was not my introduction to Frida Kahlo, but expanded the knowledge I already had about her as an artist and a woman. Anyone interested in art, Mexican culture, or even politics of the time would enjoy this lovely film. It is a must see.

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Half The Sky - Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2008)

Half the Sky is a collection of stories about women in lesser developed countries and the inequalities they are still faced with today. The novel is centered around
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The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

The Great Gatsby embodies the attitudes and culture of the 1920s in America by following the exploits of the main character, Jay Gatsby, and the family of the narrator Nick Caraway's cousin, Daisy. Through observation, Nick learns about the tangled web of Daisy and Tom's marriage, the party culture of the time, and Jay Gatsby's search for something which will complete him. The novel is beautifully written, and discusses love lost, social interaction in the culture, and motives behind the actions of everyone. This novel taught me that you can go your entire life looking for one thing, and while it might be the thing you want, it is not always the thing you need.
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The Devil and Tom Walker - Washington Irving (1824)

This short story is about a man named Tom Walker who meets the devil in the swamp, and gambles with his soul. He then has to face the consequences of his decisions. This is a well written fable and an essential piece of American Literature. It didn't resonate with me on an emotional level, but I think it is a good read for anybody.
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The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (2003)

Eddie works as a mechanic at Ruby Pier, where he dies trying to save a little girl from a broken ride. He is then taken to five places, where he meets five people. Each of these people teach Eddie one lesson to help him understanding the meaning of life, and reach Heaven. This book is not necessarily religious, and I can appreciate the new take on how life ends and where we go when we die. I was moved by this when I first read it because it was at a time in my life where nothing made sense. The novel makes the reader uneasy, then comfortable by presenting the reader with an unpleasant memory or fact of life, and a resolution. The novel is written in a very open-ended fashion, giving the reader room to interpret it however they feel.