Planning around a text. examples. Crispin: The Cross of Lead brief overview/description.
Set in the 1300s, in England, Avi’s Newbery Award winning novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, is narrated in the first person, by Crispin, and tells of his adventures, which are, indeed, adventurous. The book opens with his mom having just died, and Crispin (who at that point did not even have a name, he was considered so inconsequential in the community) finding himself pretty much alone and bereft.
He soon discovers that not only is he alone and bereft because he has lost his mom (there’s no dad to speak of, at this point in the story), but he is alone and bereft because it turns out the town leaders want to kill him and consequently have falsely accused him of a crime and put a bounty on this head. Even though he is terrified, Crispin realizes his only chance of survival is fleeing, even though he really has no idea how he’ll survive. So, he takes off, and the book chronicles what happens to him along the way, his slow discoveries about himself (discoveries of a factual nature as well as of a personal/character nature…), as well as descriptions of the different people and problems he encounters.
Suspense, action, and foreshadowing, as well as compassion for the main character all help to drive the story and keep the reader engaged.
In Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, our main character, Kevin Boland, has been confined to his bed, due to a case of mono. He’s missing both his mom, recently deceased, and baseball: both playing and being with his friends from the baseball team. He has a decent relationship with his dad, a writer, though the fact that the dad is a writer makes Kevin not want to appear too outwardly engaged in or interested in writing.
Nevertheless, as is the case with a number of books I have read recently (Dairy Queen, The Rules of Survival), the story is not just being told in the first person (as is the case of Crispin), but is actually being written by the first person narrator as it is being told (for some reason, right now, I think this is a cool feature…). Furthermore, the writing is an element of the story that is important to pay attention to.
In this case, growing out of his boredom, his dad casually handing him a composition book, and his sneaking up and grabbing one of his dad’s books on poetry (just as a kid might furtively squirrel away a Penthouse magazine, Kevin observes), he decides to experiment with writing poetry. The writing (story) that follows is a series of poems, and, as Kevin experiments with poetry, he also reflects on his world: grieving (in a very low level and not mushy way) for his mom, missing baseball and his friends while he convalesces, and providing alternately poignant and funny commentary on adolescence.
This is an easy read, in terms of density, as there is not that much text, basically, a short poem per page, with a few extending over more than one page. While it has some heavy stuff – his dead mom, for one, and his sort of loneliness at being excluded from the team while he recovers from mono – it is, at the same time, a really sweet book, especially when Kevin’s efforts to have some success in the girl department begin to be rewarded.
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
Point of view is the angle, or perspective from which a story is told.
Point of view is a larger category, which asks us to think about who is telling the story, what role they have in the story.
There are a number of different types of point of view: first person, third person limited, and omniscient. These are the standard ways a story is told, though, of course there are variations on these, and in a given story, the point of view could shift.
First person point of view. In “first person point of view”, one of the characters – often the main character – tells the story. What this means is that we, as the reader, experience the exact same thing as the narrator, but no more. That is to say, we do not learn about what other characters think or feel, because we are busy learning about the feelings of the person who we are viewing the story action from. We are necessarily just getting a portion of the story, if the character in question is interacting with more people and events.
One of the things that first person point of view does is force us to think about what else is happening in the story (infer, fill in gaps). Because we are only getting one perspective, but usually more is going on, we have to do some extra work to figure out what else is going on, as well as to decide what we think of the first person narrator (is he or she reliable? how is his or her own experience affecting how the or she tells the story and what we end up learning?) and his or her position or role in the story.
Let’s return to…