The Stranger by Albert Camus

movie footage – opening sequence

Summary: (Translated from the French by Matthew Ward.) Mersault visits the group home where his mother has recently died for the funeral and is glad when it’s over. Mersault’s girlfriend wants to get married, though he admits he doesn’t think he loves her. He later becomes friends with another tenant in his building named Raymond who is wrapped up in an intrigue with a cheating girlfriend. Her brother and his friends want to beat Raymond up or worse for the way he abused her and a confrontation arises on the beach. Mersault awaits trial for the murder of her brother. Mersault’s neighbor Salamano hates his own dog until the day the dog runs away.

Personal Reaction: Just goes to show you that I’ve spent way too long reading teen/tween stuff to be able to appreciate “classic” literature. My neighbor’s kid (a 19yo boy) gave this to me and begged that I read it so he could have someone to talk to about it. He says he loves the description and how it made him feel like he was really there.
I didn’t like it. Yes, lots of description of the outside, but nothing’s going on inside the main character until the end. He doesn’t cry at his mom’s funeral because it’s too hot. He shoots a guy on a beach because it’s too hot. He gets convicted… and it’s really too hot, why wasn’t he given a fan like everyone else? He doesn’t think about why anything happens, just that it does and that’s all he needs to know.

Any Cautions: unmarried sexual relationships, not graphic

Connections to other books: Reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger

Items to display with book: beach towel, black tie or armband, photo of casket & flowers, cigarettes, photo of jail cell or courtroom, fake gun

Food items connected to story: bread & wine (grape juice), cheese, blood sausage, fried fish


Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Summary: The autobiography of a horse – Sweet and simple, good treatment makes good horses. A sad story of how the life of Black Beauty changes with each successive owner.

Personal reaction: An excellent read aloud with a child, especially if you can get your hands on an illustrated version. Just felt like reading a classic again for sheer pleasure. What kills me is that the style of writing, and the concept of a good/simple life and treatment of others is just not attractive reading to many middle graders today. I wish I had my copy of Serilda’s Star by Cook to read over again too, but I’m not ready to get all the Black Stallion series books done this summer.

Black Beauty is out of copyright and downloadable for free from Project Gutenberg in several formats. The latest movie made from this novel was in 1994.

Curriculum use: would tie in well with character ed discussions or maybe with an animal husbandry unit (animal cruelty, horse study, etc.)

Items to display with book: English saddle, bit, whip, horse figurine and/or carriage; historical photos of period – especially of the painful check-rein, London cabs, etc.

Food: (since this is horse-fare, there’s not much to share with the kids at a book party unless you want them to have a carrot, apple or sugar cube!) You could have hay, oats, bran mash as part of your items on display