Author: Gary Ross
Illustrator: Matthew Myers
Publication Date: November 2012
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Illustrated Novel-in-Verse
GoodReads Summary: A soaring bedsheet carries a young boy on three incredible adventures in this compelling debut by acclaimed film director Gary Ross.
Bartholomew Biddle’s life has always been pretty ordinary, but when a huge wind blows past his window one night, he feels the call of adventure — and he can’t resist the urge to grab his bedsheet and catch a ride. Soon he’s soaring far above his little town, heading wherever the wind takes him! After spending time on an island full of pleasure-seeking pirates and at a prep school that boasts a hundred shades of gray, Bart finds himself in a mysterious cove where the wind doesn't blow. Stuck, Bart is forced to face the fact that his flying days might be over. Will he ever get home again?
What Kellee Thinks: We have ourselves a modern day epic poem right here! There is so much going on in this book. Though it isn't a traditional hero's journey, it is a hero's journey like Where the Wild Things Are is. Maybe we could call it a child's journey. Bartholomew, like Max, thinks that the wild is better than home. He leaves home, finds fun, misses home, and... well, you know the story.
One thing interesting about this book is that it is written by a film director and writer. This is his first book and although I didn't realize his profession before I began, it made complete sense when I found out. Bartholomew Biddle could easily be turned into a movie. Our 8th grade ELA teachers did a film unit this year discussing framing, cut, angles, lighting, suspense, etc. of films; all aspects that affect the tone and mood of a film. They started with film primarily, but then added in literature and students naturally connected what they'd learned about film to literature. By looking into all of these elements within film, students were essentially looking at subtle contributions to theme, mood, and tone thus making it so they could apply this new knowledge to literature. I think Bartholomew Biddle would be a perfect book to read in conjunction to this unit (as would Where the Wild Things Are). It would be brilliant to storyboard the plot, discuss when what angle would be appropriate, how we would light each scene, how to add suspense/humor/loss/excitement, and how to keep the book's tone authentic in general.
Since the book is in verse, there are also all of the poetic elements that could be touched upon as reading. For the most part, the whole book is ABCB rhyme scheme which could lead directly into a writing activity. It is also filled with imagery, similes, and other figurative language.
What Jen Thinks: What an adventure Bartholomew has! Unlike Kellee, I actually recognized Gary Ross as a movie person and when I started to read this book, I was making connections to Save the Cat, a book I'm reading right now for Teachers Write that is all about screenwriting. In Save the Cat, the author, Blake Snyder, outlines different "beats" or parts of a screenplay. These beats are evident in movies no matter what the genre. I couldn't help thinking about the beats as I read this book, recognizing them along the way. I also found myself thinking about how I would read this with students. The book is divided loosely into chapters, different parts of the story. This definitely seems like a book I would read with older readers because of how much thinking they have to do about what experiences Bartholomew is having, how they are shaping him and what he is learning from each part of his adventure. Like Kellee said, I can see how breaking down the beats of Bartholomew would help student writers think about how their own stories move along. Bartholomew clearly has to muster up the courage to even start off his adventure and there we see the theme of accepting a challenge and being brave and then that follows Bartholomew throughout his adventure.
I love stories like these where as a reader we get to follow along with the main character on his or her adventure but when he or she gets back to reality, the whole adventure is kind of a secret between the main character and the reader. The main character has changed and the reader is changed, too...actually, it's kind of like reading a book in general! When I read a book, I get lost in its pages and rally along with the characters but then I close the book and am back to reality. Have you ever finished a book and stopped to smile and reflect on how much you experienced by reading it? I love that. Books are little time traveling machines that take us on adventures and forever impact who we are. Bravo to Bartholomew for letting me travel along on his adventure!
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 12
Read With: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Sector 7 (and others) by David Weisner, Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Snatch of Text:
"The houses all looked
like the toys in his room.
If genies had carpet,
and witches had brooms,
then what was he doing
up here with a sheet?
He banked to his left
and looked down at the street." (p. 5)Mentor Text for: Story Boarding, Suspense, Rhyming, Figurative Language, Tone, Theme, Mood
Writing Prompts: Write a narrative poem using ABCB rhyme scheme for each stanza. If you could catch a wind and fly out your window, where would you want to go? Write a story about what you would do on your own flying adventure.
Topics Covered: Imagination, Adventure, Freedom, Home, Regret, Dreams
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