Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Freckles (copy)

In the world of literature, freakish freckles, curiosity and stubbornness make for memorable characters. Pippi Longstocking, Laura Ingalls, Caddie Woodlawn and Anne Shirley are just a handful of fictional characters that spring to mind.

As an early reader, one tends to gravitate towards characters that mirror friends or one’s self. My first encounter with the be-speckled sort, arriving in book form, was Eloise. My mother and I spent hours reading this picture book front to back. Maybe because she mentioned I was very much like Eloise.

At the time, I didn’t think she meant precocious; instead, I focused on her physical traits. Miss Eloise wasn’t a cutesy character, but an ugly, pencil-legged, big-bellied mess. Remember her freckles? Well, she only sported a few, but after Mom’s comment, my Eloise had hundreds. I knew better than mark a book; however, in my mind, she became as splotched as a speckled egg.

Imagine my surprise when reading Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The character Anne Shirley is an 11-year-old, red-headed and enormously freckled, opinionated orphan girl. She could have been my hero, had I known she existed.

I became familiar with Anne on a recent trip to Prince Edwards Island in Canada. As a librarian, I knew the Green Gables series, but my childhood revolved around another entertaining one, Little House on the Prairie. The kindred spirit I felt with Anne, even as an adult, was a little unexpected.

As a teacher, librarian or parent facing a reluctant reader or struggling to get a book in a child’s hand, remember this little secret—it is all in the character. This small tip is the key to creating a life-long reader. If the child identifies with a character, they tend to become the character. For example, I was crawling all over the Plaza, not Eloise.

Search out books filled with characters that mirror the young reader’s world. Take a trip to the library and check out a stack. Sit back and watch as their eyes light up when they recognize themselves. One might catch them role-playing with their imaginary, new friends.

This universal trait applies to adults, too. Adult characters may not have as many freckles, but somehow I can always tell if they did as children.


Lesley said...

Laura Ingalls was my first childhood hero, Anne was my second. If you can get your hands on the CBC miniseries adaptation starring Megan Follows as Anne and Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, it's every bit as charming as the book.

Library Lady said...

Hey, thanks! I love Dewhurst! ;-)

jenclair said...

Loved reading Eloise to my children and later, to my high school seniors who appreciated every bit as much.

Love Anne and am re-reading these books right now.

On Freckles: I used to tell my daughter "Glory be to God for dappled things..." (Gerard Manley Hopkins) and "a face without freckles is like a night without stars" (don't remember where I got that one).