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In Memory of Lois Duncan

Before The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter or James Patterson’s Middle School Books, there was Lois Duncan.

The Young Adult books of my time  (I graduated from high school in 1977) were limited.  Most of them were problem novels about drug addicts and  teenage alcoholics. (News Flash! drug addicts and alcoholic don’t  read books.)

But in the 1970s and 1980s,  Lois Duncan was one of the most popular young adult authors.  Her books were about normal teenagers suddenly thrown into terror and suspense.

Books like…

Ransom-a  terrorist comes aboard a school bus and takes students hostage.

Don’t Look Behind You – April’s normal life ends  abruptly, when she and her family are forced to flee drug dealers and  enter the Witness Security Program

or  Locked in Time– Lenore begins to realize that her stepmother and stepsiblings never age.  Her stepmother kills off her husbands when they become inconvenient.

Young Adult Author, Richard Peck talked to The New York Times about Duncan in 1978:.

“Lois Duncan breaks some new ground in a novel without sex, drugs or black leather jackets. But the taboo she tampers with is far more potent and pervasive: the unleashed fury of the permissively reared against any assault on their egos and authority. … The value of the book lies in the twisted logic of the teenagers and how easily they can justify anything.”KillingMrGriffin

This was certainly true of Killing Mr. Griffin. When several high school students plot to kidnap their loathsome English teacher, they are suddenly dealing with a dead body and a whole host of other problems.   Lest you think I am giving the plot away, that’s only the beginning.  The story is about the teens’ attempt to cover their tracks.

DaughtersOfEve

Then there were The Daughters of Eve in Duncan’s first book. Members of a female secret society are advised by a radical feminist teacher to carry out extreme acts of violence.  The New York Times Book Review referred to it as a female Lord of the Flies.

Lois Duncan died on June 15 at age 82.  Her books will be remembered by many former teens.

She knows what you did last summer. And she knows how to find that secret evil in her characters’ hearts, evil she turns into throat-clutching suspense in book after book. Does anyone write scarier books than Lois Duncan? I don’t think so.

—  R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps and Fear Street

 

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Ten-Gallon Bart

Ten Gallon Bart is the sheriff of Dog City, the most peaceful town in the West, thanks to brave and courageous sheriff.  He’s served the town for 10 years. The other characters in Dog City include Miss Kitty, the  owner of the local saloon, two chickens named Pixie and Dixie,  and two pigs named   Bill and Wyatt.

TenGallonBartgunsmoke2

None of the children at Hollis Academy knew  about Gunsmoke but that didn’t stop them from giggling at this silly story.

Ten-Gallon Bart is just about to announce his retirement when he learns that Billy the Kid,  “the roughest, toughest, gruffest goat in the country” is headed into town on the noon train. It’s up to Bart and all the other animals to put Billy in his place.

I read this book aloud to first, second and third grade groups.  They all enjoyed the story but needed guidance at getting all the jokes in the story.  For example:

“I  see this place is going to the dogs” snarled Billy the Kid.

“You gotta bone to pick?” asked Bart

This is a great book for teaching visual literacy.  It was helpful to have the Promethean Board so I  could zero in on the details.  Most of the children needed help understanding the story.

The artwork by Dorothy Donahue is unusual.  She uses cut paper collages and a variety of textures.

ten_gallon_bart_all_1

Here  are a few other stories about Ten-Gallon Bart:

bart_wild    bart_beats_heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Holocaust Hero

 

 

PassagetoFreedom

Hiroki Sugihara was a young Japanese boy growing up in Poland in 1940.  His father was a Japanese diplomat.

One morning, he awoke to find hundreds of people crowded around the gates in front of his house.  All were Jews, all of them in great danger.  They wanted his father to write visas so they could leave the country safely.

The Japanese Government refused to allow his father to write the Visas.  He heard his father say to his mother, “I have to do something.  I may have to disobey my government but if I don’t I will be disobeying God.”

When he consulted his family, even his young son agreed that they must help these people escape Poland.  By writing these visas, his father helped almost a thousand Jews escape Poland

The Sugihara family were also forced to leave Poland and spend eighteen months in an internment camp in Soviet Russia.

.In the 1960s, the family began hearing from the “Sugihara Survivors,” Jewish people who had escaped almost certain death because of these Visas.  Chiune Sugihara was awarded the “Righteous Among Nations” Award.

This is an inspiring story about a very dark period of history.   This could be an excellent resource to use with elementary students with its focus on a hero rather than the atrocities.

 

Mochizuki