Monday, June 13, 2011

The Yearling

The Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Oh what language! It was dense and thick and like poetry to me.

The story, The Yearling, is of a young boy named Jody and his life in the hardscrabble backwoods of northern Florida in the late 1800's. Jody and his parents live a solitary life and one where frivolous things don't belong. Yet all Jody wants is something that belongs just to him; a pet. When his father is struck by a rattlesnake in the deep woods, a doe is shot and killed for her healing organs, leaving behind a tiny fawn. This fawn now becomes Jody's pet.

I loved this story. It was the recipient of the 1939 Pulitzer Prize and was written for children or young adults. I would be hard pressed to put this into the hands of a child today, though middle school patient kids who love long and carefully crafted deep stories might be candidates. The pacing is slower than most of today's novels and the author infuses so many details about hunting and farming that one would think she lived the same lifestyle herself (she did not!)The dialect was also thick and I found myself having to read some phrases over and over to 'figger' them out in my mind!! I loved the phrase, "don't go gittin' faintified on me!" The descriptions of the woods were full of words like loblolly pine, saw grass, red bay, sweet gum, and palmetto. I still don't know what a ti-ti or a blackjack pine looks like but they sure are fun to say. I read words that I knew but they just didn't make sense in the sentences - like milch, sorties, feist, crony, brogans, boles, and cooter. I was surprised when I looked them up and found they meant nothing like what they mean now! Oh,I remember - I was supposed to be speaking "southern"!

Lots of homeschool kids read this book and there are lots of study guides on the internet, yet I also saw reviews by many teenagers who just didn't like this book because they were forced to read it. Once again it supports my thoughts (what I tried to tell so many parents at Barnes and Noble) just because your child CAN read at that level doesn't mean that they SHOULD. Having some life experience behind us gives us a frame of reference, more meaning. This book requires some patience to uncover the gem that it is. I'm glad that I didn't slog through this in junior high, but that I uncovered this later. I was a real reader when I was growing up, but I don't think I was ready for this story of a yearling boy and his yearling fawn.

This book had me reading and enjoying it for a day or too after book group and I keep looking for a chance to say, "He's sure got a low eye for a high fence."

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