I just read a news item about a travelling show that “celebrates young readers of Walter Farley’s classic novel The Black Stallion.”
That caught my attention for starters. The show celebrates not the novel, but the readers of the novel.
I went on to discover that the show is a reward to fourth graders for having had the perseverance to read the book:
The book is apt to throw some readers with such big words as ’emblematic’ and ‘simultaneously.’ But if they stick with it, the reward is a ticket to traveling horse show performed by the cast of the Arabian Nights dinner attraction in Orlando, Florida.
Then came the quotation from a 10-year-old that caused my jaw to drop:
“We read it in our class. It took two weeks. The book was amazing.”
According to the reporter, the boy was “caught up in the story of how Alec and the stallion overcome their initial fears of each other.”
My question is, how caught up in the story could he have been if he was able to wait two weeks to see how it turned out?
I remember when my class was required to read A Tale of Two Cities during class time. Everyone took turns reading. It was infuriating to me how slowly they read, so I read ahead and didn’t have the place when the teacher got to me. She marked me down for inattention, but I went to the library to get my own copy because I couldn’t stand to wait two weeks to see what happened to my beloved Sydney Carton.
Back then, Farley’s Black Stallion books weren’t the sort of thing any self-respecting English teacher would spend class time on. School was for hard stuff. I read the Farley books on my own time, polishing them off in one or two sittings.
As for words like simultaneously and emblematic, if they were unfamiliar to me, I either figured them out from context, or looked them up in a dictionary.
Two weeks to read The Black Stallion!