Kate's Reviews > Magical Melons: More Stories About Caddie Woodlawn

Magical Melons by Carol Ryrie Brink
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Jun 18, 2012

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bookshelves: amer-culture, classics, j
Read in June, 2012

Caddie Woodlawn has the unfortunate distinction of coming across as a Laura Ingalls Wilder wannabe, sort of Laura-without-the-lyricism, but award-winning regardless. The books, written by Woodlawn's granddaughter, are okay and fill a readalike need...but I can't believe even in the 40s someone thought it would be innocuous to name a book "Magical Melons." The copy from my middle school library hadn't gone out in more than 10 years, not least because the off-focus, off-color permabound cover depicted a young girl holding a hat flat over her chest. Whoever designed that paperback had a sense of humor for sure.

Here's where I get fiesty about the "reading level" obsession of current educators. This book is fine fine fine for middle elementary kids, say 2nd-6th grade. However, the reading level would likely be deemed too high for those younger kids, so the book ended up in my middle school library at some point. Of course the content (and the embarassing title/cover art!) isn't of interest to any but a historically-interested middle schooler. Where I work, kids are being discouraged from reading what used to be children's classics because the language is deemed too difficult. I read Treasure Island, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables ravenously in the fourth grade. I cannot get a fourth grader to pick them up, not because they're not interested, but because they are too Hard, have too high a Lexile/AR Level/etc., or their teacher won't give them credit for them because they are "out of their range." They are not to read things that they won't comprehend sufficiently for a test/report/project. Never mind the extent to which our previous knowledge informs our reading comprehension, or that one can enjoy a story without understanding all the author meant with it. Never mind that people can learn to read from the King James Version of the Bible. We must all progress neatly from reading level to reading level because the goal of reading is, of course, to get good at reading, not to enjoy literature or learn philosophy or psychology or anything else. ARGH. Rant off.
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