A Review Essay: From Hinton to Hamlet
Joyce L. Graham
Sarah K. Herz with Donald R. Gallo has provided a valuable resource for teachers and librarians in From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics (Greenwood Press, 1996). Certainly, anyone familiar with young adult literature must be acquainted with Don Gallo's many contributions to the advancement of this important, and ever growing, body of literature; however, by Gallo's own declaration in the book's preface, the book is largely Herz "speaking about her own experiences" as a middle and high school teacher. NqL£theless, Gallo's involvement in the book is evident in many positive ways. Together, Herz and Gallo have developed an approachable book that will be especially useful to newcomers to the world of young adult literature. Herz's voice, strong throughout the book, provides an excellent introduction to the genre by describing her own evolution from a teacher devoted to teaching works from the canon in traditional, predictable ways to a teacher willing to look closely at her changing students and allow the flexibility in her classroom needed to inspire and encourage a love of reading.
Although the book title suggests that its primary focus relates to using young adult literature in concert with more broadly known "classics," in fact, readers will find a much broader review of young adult literature here. The book begins with a look at how Herz began to examine her own teaching practices, and how young adult literature became an important part of the resources she turns to in providing her students with opportunities to read and to write about their reading. For those new to the world of young adult literature, Herz provides a concise examination of "what young adult literature is and is not" in chapter two. Chapter three addresses many of the concerns that people usually have regarding the incorporation of young adult titles into the curriculum. Herz extends this chapter with an exploration of why we study literature and what role literature plays in meeting the varied developmental needs of middle and secondary students. She also briefly discusses the role that reader response based teaching plays in developing a literature-rich environment, in which students are invited to be at the core of their learning from their reading.
For those readers particularly interested in specific ideas related to how young adult titles can be paired with classic titles, chapter 4, "Building Bridges: Getting Students from Wherever They Are to Where the Curriculum Says They Should Be," provides a wealth of teaching ideas on pairing young adult titles with works such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, The Scarlet Letter, and Romeo and Juliet. Herz briefly describes a number of possible young adult titles that deal with similar themes, and she explicitly shows the connections between the works and how these connections may be used in our teaching. She concludes each section by presenting a number of additional titles. This section provides readers with a range of titles to consider in planning for the varied interests and reading needs of our students.
Another helpful chapter, "Other Backyards: Using Young Adult Books for Interdisciplinary Studies," discusses ways in which young adult literature can be used to support interdisciplinary teaching. A sampling of titles are suggested by areas such as art, dance, health, and Holocaust.
Another of the many strengths of this book, and one that is seen in many books dealing with young adult literature, is the inclusion of an extensive list of primary and secondary sources related to young adult literature. This information, found throughout the book, is the focus of the seventh chapter. In addition, the "Works Cited" section lists many titles of young adult books and includes reference information on many other helpful titles of books and professional journals.
From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics provides an important bridge for those with an interest in providing a dynamic, student-centered classroom in which the individual reading interests of students are a central part of work in the class. Herz and Gallo have crafted a "bridge" that will help teachers continue to change their teaching to meet the ever changing needs of their students.
Joyce Graham is Associate Professor of English at Radford University. A Past-President of the Virginia Association of Teachers of English, she currently chairs the Virginia Conference on English Education.
Copyright 1997. The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #0882-2840). Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale in any form.
Reference Citation: Graham, Joyce. (1997) A review essay: From Hinton to Hamlet. The ALAN Review, Volume 24, Number 3, 47.