Sharing in the Edges by Joan Milliken
I recently attended a Scholastic Reading Summit in Charlotte, NC. Attending was one of the best things that I did “for me” this summer. Listening to presenters like Mr. Schu and Donalyn Miller always inspire me to be a better librarian!
Just like Donalyn Miller shared how ‘reading in the edges” is OK, (If you haven’t heard her explain it, see Reading in the Wild – page 13.) I always learn from the “sharing in the edges” times at conferences and workshops!
One ‘sharing in the edges’ moment came around a table with Alan Boyko, President of Scholastic and Donalyn Miller. We were discussing favorite books (what else!) and Mr. Boyko asked if either of us had read The Foxman, by Gary Paulsen. I had to admit that I knew the book was on my shelf at school, I even knew exactly what the cover looked like, but I had never read it. Listening to Mr. Boyko’s book talk, we both knew we needed to read it! Donalyn pulled out her phone, went to Amazon and ordered the book right then! “If Alan Boyko is telling me about it, I HAVE to read it!” I felt like I had just met a reading soulmate–I had pulled up Amazon earlier that day and already downloaded an ebook copy of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (after an earlier conversation with Mr. Boyko that day and embarrassed that I hadn’t read it yet…) I did not order The Foxman, but went to school the next day and took home my copy.
I sat down and did not get up until I was finished. I cannot wait to recommend this to my students, (and yes, I will recommend this to boys AND girls). The main character in The Foxman does not have a name. He is the narrator of the story and lived with alcoholic parents until a judge removed him from his home and sent him to live with relatives in the country. Their land includes hundreds of acres of property, both fields and woods. From day one, he realizes that life as he knew it had changed. He describes the table “covered with platters full of food, so if you didn’t know them and walked in during the meal, you’d think they were rich. But it was all food they made themselves…none of it came from a store”. The main character works all summer clearing land: chopping trees and pulling stumps his cousin, Carl. Carl teaches him how to live in the woods. He learns to track animals, run trap lines and kill–’it is not hunting when you go out for meat, and you get it.’
During the winter, every night the older relatives tell stories about the war, Hans and Agile were in WWI and Uncle Harold served in WWII. But the war stories that haunt the main character are the ones he doesn’t hear – the ones he wonders about when he meets the Foxman–another nameless character. Foxman is has a horribly disfigured face from an injury from the war. He lives alone in a shack far in the woods, his only contact with people is once a year when he trades all his animal pelts for supplies. The main character not only experiences what it is like to belong in a family, but for the first time in his life, he experiences other emotions such as compassion, confidence, love, and more. It may have an older copyright date, but it does not matter – Gary Paulsen knows how to make the reader feel like you are right there in those woods with the main character and Foxman. Why have I always recommended Hatchet, but never recommended The Foxman? That is about to change. Highly recommended.
Joan Milliken is a National Board Certified Library Media Coordinator at Lakeshore Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina. To be able to recommend books to her students, she reads books from her school library shelves every night. A voracious reader, she averages at least 100 pages a night. She believes that everyone likes to read; some just haven’t found the right type of book yet! The best part of her job is helping students find books they love to read. Her favorite quote is, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” – I Can Read With My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss