Monday, December 18, 2017

The Real Story

We have recently been arguing at circle time, not angrily as the word often connotes, and not with the hair-splitting dryness so often associated with academic debate, but passionately, over things that matter.

For instance, the kids recently insisted that I "tell a story." They were expecting one from the collection I've memorized over the years, and tell with the sort of repetition and telegraphed punchlines that young children tend to enjoy, but instead I opted for the traditional (as I learned it) version of the Three Little Pigs folktale. In my telling, the wolf devours the first two pigs, while he is in turn devoured in a stew by the pig who built his home of bricks. Oh, the children wailed at me as I told it, interrupting me to insist that the pigs actually "get away" and that the wolf "turns nice" at the end, insisting on the versions they have learned from today's more sanitized picture books.

Some of them, however, agreed with me, either they have been told the originals by their parents or they are taking the stance of contrarian, forming a small, but steadfast minority supporting my point of view. We then took turns sharing our "real" versions, each one being met by a chorus of "Noooooo," with me continuing to insist that mine is, in fact, the "real real" version.

I keep a shelf of books behind my usual perch in the corner of the checkerboard rug and among them are several alternative re-tellings of the story, each sillier than the last. As the our friendly, yet intense debate began to enter the "Yes it is"/"No it isn't" phase, I said, "Well, we don't seem to be able to agree about which is the real story, but maybe we're all wrong. Maybe this is the real version." And I produced, with a flourish, a version entitled, appropriately, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (Jon Scieszka).

Many of the kids are familiar with this popular re-telling from the perspective of the wolf. As I read it, we paused to notice where this version matches the ones we already know and where it differs. At the end we then argued about whether or not it can really be called the "real" version. I then pulled out another re-telling and then another, insisting each time that the new one must be the "real" version.

In the end, when I once more wondered which was the "real" story, however, we all tended to go back to the version with which we were most familiar, but not without knowing that our friends disagreed which is the place many argument, by necessity, must end. And that that's okay. Then, in the spirit of folktales, these stories that are called that because they belong to the folks, I said, "Maybe none of these is the real version. Maybe we have to write the real version ourselves." And many of them did just that.

Books make great holiday gifts. Maybe someone you know would like their very own copy of my book!

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

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