S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

the-outsiders-by-s-e-hintonIt can be difficult for teenagers to delve into young adult fiction. Generally, teen fiction is written by adults who are trying to appeal to a teenage audience. This is not the case for S.E. Hinton who wrote this award-winning novel when she was only 15 years old.

S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is a book that can appeal to all ages, but it is particularly for teens around the age Hinton was when she penned the story. Very much like the author herself, the narrative is told through the voice of Ponyboy Curtis, a young teenager who struggles with being a part of the ‘out-crowd’ and the artificial identities that are placed upon him in result of his socio-economic status: an effective example of Erikson’s ‘morality vs. role confusion’ stage of teen development.

After experiencing a violent ordeal, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny are forced to hide themselves from the rest of society. The remainder of the story follows the boys as they experience hardships that are very different from the hardships of both children and adults alike. The novel also boasts a great cast of both male and female characters. Hinton does a wonderful job at avoiding the “good”  and the “bad”, and instead highlights the grayness in humanity that stops us from being wholly good or wholly bad. This aspect touches on the rising moral development of its teen readers (as explained in Kohlberg’s ‘post-conventional morality’ stage) who are beginning to understand decision-making based on moral development and nurtured values. This is a novel about teens, told through the eyes of a teen, and written by a teen herself. It plainly grasps the difficulties that come only during the transitioning time in a young adult’s life.

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S.E. Hinton

Another wonderful thing about this novel is the timelessness of it. The novel was set and written in the 1960s. Although some of the styles and slang have changed drastically since then, the social issues in the novel have stayed pertinent over the fifty years since its release.

Readers who enjoyed S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders may also enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak. Both novels deal with young adults as they struggle with the fear of being a social enigma and the hope of finding one’s identity through harrowing experiences.

Although it could be read by pre-teens, this novel involves mature themes such as cursing, theft, gang violence, gun violence, and the smoking and drinking of minors. So much so that this novel was placed on the Top 100 List of Banned Books in the decade before 2000. Despite that, or maybe because of it, teen readers have resounded with this novel over the years.

S.E. Hinton’s novel is far from a romanticized view of teenage life. In a genre flooded with fantasy and fairytale endings, Hinton’s The Outsiders is a glimpse of a once reality and, in a way, an existing one.

 

5-flashlight-rating

Let’s Read: Little Fox, Lost

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Little Fox, Lost is a beautifully written and illustrated book published in 2016 by Pajama Press, Inc. The author (Nicole Snitselaar), illustrator (Alicia Padron), and translator (Erin Woods) all do a wonderful job at producing a book that children ages 3-4 and their parents would love to have as a part of their collection. This quaint story is somewhat of a cautionary tale, dealing with themes of mischievous behavior and strangers. In the case of this story, the titular character, a small fox kit, gets lost and cannot find his mother. Throughout the story, the kit copes with his predicament and, eventually, remembers the words his mother told him to heed if he ever finds himself apart from her. In the story’s conclusion, the fox kit is rewarded by the reappearance of his mother and his return to home and to safety.

This heart-warming book is also a wonderful way to cater to a toddler’s personal level of cognitive development. According to Piaget, a child from this age group is still egocentric in nature and cannot completely grasp stories that they cannot themselves emphathise with. In the case of Little Fox, Lost, the little fox experiences a situation that a young child can easily relate to: being separated from his or her mother. Furthermore, this book also reinforces social rules. When the young fox is lost, he tells the strange owl that he cannot talk or follow her because his mother warned him about entrusting himself to strangers. These small but clear behaviors in the book can in turn be passed on to the avid young listeners.

littlefoxlost_image2 A proper frame, or preemptive activity for the children before the story, would be attempting to relate the feeling of being lost to the children’s own lives. This call for empathy can be prompted by asking the children questions such as: have you ever been separated from your mother/father? and how did you feel when that happened? These questions will cater to the child’s own egocentric nature and prompt them to reflect upon how situations and emotions are interconnected. Furthermore, throughout the story, the fox kit asks himself questions such as “where will I end up?” These questions can be directed to the children and they themselves can come up with imaginative answers to anticipate what might come next. The children can also be encouraged to recite the small rhyme that is repeated throughout the story. This rhyme will then become a part of their extension activity.

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“If ever you are lost, my child,

Don’t let a stranger guide you.

Be still, and I will search the wild

Until I am beside you”

 

This extension activity promotes the children’s literary and artistic skills, as well as strengthens their memory. Depending on the child’s literary level, this rhyme can either be written out by the child his/herself or can be printed out by the storyteller. After the child has the recorded rhyme, they can illustrate the paper with decorations or drawings of them and their parents. Not only does this help the children with their literary skills, it also teaches them a valuable lesson that safety and obedience are interconnected.

Little Fox, Lost boasts a wonderfully constructed story with emotional and reactive illustrations. The book also welcomes a fun variety of frame and extension activities that can help your child get the most out of this enriched experience.

This book and it’s furry little empathetic hero gets an easy five flashlights!

5-flashlight-rating

“Who Am I? Cuddly Animals”

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Who am I? Cuddly Animals is a small board book written by Charlie Gardner and published in 2014.

This fun and interactive book deals with slightly complex concepts such as different kinds of animals and how those animals interact with their environment. I would recommend this book to children ages 18-36 months because of its rare words (for example, “grain” and “hutch”), its possibly unfamiliar animals (such as a guinea pig), and the interaction between the animals and their respective settings. However, younger children that are more advanced in their literacy skills can also enjoy the book for its bright realistic pictures and amusing interactive activities.

This book also includes a “peek-a-boo” feature in which a child can receive hints to the answers of the question by looking through the holes in the page. This not only helps the child perform well and receive positive reinforcement, but it will also help them recognise aspects of an image and relate it to the image as a whole.

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Although the children may not recognise the reoccurring rare words, the context in which they are used (often accompanied by a picture that the word denotes) makes the presence of them less intimidating to the young child. It also helps that the book is abundant with repetition (every page has a similar format). This will encourage the children to predict what the next line will be or even to recite it with their parent. Along with these emergent literacy skills, this book also introduces children to some pre-math skills such as pairing the animal with their habitat, their common actions, and their sounds.

Most importantly, this book educates children both through reading and through action! According to Piaget, the development of motor skills are exceptionally important in helping a child this age learn new concepts and interact with their surroundings. Each page of this book asks a child to perform an action that relates to the animal on the page. These actions will help the child retain information while also physically engaging them with the book and having fun. This extension activity, along with asking the child more open-ended questions about the animal, (“where does this animal live? What does this animal like to eat?”) will make this book a favourite in their collection. This is a book that celebrates reading as a form of playful experience and not just static education.

This book gets a playful five flashlights!

5-flashlight-rating