Saturday, December 29, 2007

Elementary school short stories

After the San Fransisco Zoo incident, I was thinking about tigers, and I suddenly recalled a short story I read as a child entitled "The Lady or the Tiger?" It then occurred to me that during elementary school, we read the same short stories over and over. I don't know if the repetition was due to the fact that the school only owned one set of short story books, or if there just aren't that many good ones appropriate for that age group in existence. Note to aspiring writers: the elementary school audience could be yours for the taking!

The one we read every single year, without fail, was "Charles" by Shirley Jackson. A young boy entertains his mother will daily accounts of his mischievous classmate, Charles. During the parent-teacher conference, she learns (SPOILER ALERT!) that there is no Charles, and the devious juvenile is none other than her own son.

In the aforementioned "The Lady of the Tiger?," a princess watches as her lover stands in an arena in front of two doors. He has been arrested by the king, and as punishment, is forced to choose between the two doors. Behind one stands a beautiful woman ready to become his bride, and behind the second lurks a vicious tiger. The princess knows the location of each, and signals to him which one to open. He opens the door. Is it the lady or the tiger?

Lastly, there was one story that we only read a couple of times, but I found it particularly haunting. It was a science fiction tale by Ray Bradbury (strangely enough, seeing as how I love fiction and am a scientist, I don't really like most science fiction.) about a group of schoolchildren on a colony on Venus. One of the girls was a social pariah, because she had actually grown up on Earth, a fact that made the other children envious. On rainy Venus, the sun only comes out once a decade, and none of them had ever seen it. The day the sun was scheduled to come out, they locked the Earth girl in the closet as a prank, but then forgot about her and left her trapped inside while they went out to frolic in the sunshine. What cruelty!

It's kind of funny how memory works. I can never seem recall where I left my keys, but as for something I read twenty years ago, I can remember it in vivid detail.


Kim said...

I always felt so sad for that Earth girl missing the sunshine.

I also remember one about limberger cheese on a train.

eileen said...

Yeah, the stinky cheese they thought was a rotting corpse!

Wow, they really give kids some messed up stories to read, don't they?

Kevin said...

I don't know any of those stories. Didn't you have Harold and the Purple Crayon and Clifford the Big Red Dog? I also remember reading A LOT of Amelia Bedelia.

eileen said...

Kev, I think you're thinking about preschool instead of elementary school. Unless Juniper Hill was waaaay more advanced than Stapleton.