Coming of Age

The theme for next year’s curriculum is “coming of age.”  CHS is entering its fifth full year, we’re re-imagining our vision and purpose, and the director of the school is dying to stage a production of Alice in Wonderland, so we settled on the theme of personal growth to inform our curriculum choices for the next school year.

I’m asking you, dear readers, which novels, short stories, plays, poems, and films you’d recommend for the theme for my core English courses.  Keep in mind that I’m designing classes for all four levels – freshmen to seniors – and that I’m invested in a wide variety of genres.  Also keep in mind that we’ll likely read Alice in Wonderland as a school community, so that’s already in the plan.

In 10 minutes of brainstorming, I’ve come up with:

The Book Thief     To Kill a Mockingbird     The Secret Life of Bees   Atonement  Speak    The Perks of Being a Wallflower    The Diary of Anne Frank   Siddhartha     Frankenstein

What would YOU want to read (or what would you want your child to read) in this theme?

Aaaannnd, GO!



Filed under book geek, great writing, I love my job, lesson planning, Literature, Questions, reading, Teaching

15 responses to “Coming of Age

  1. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a coming of age story.

    I don’t usually like coming of age books, hm. What about something by Beth Kephart (I’ve read The Heart Is Not a Size and Nothing but Ghosts) or Sarah Dessen (I’ve only read her Lock and Key so far)? They’re great writers and the works of both star teen protagonists coming of age, but they’re less angst-filled than the typical coming-of-age tale I tend to think of.

    • I KNEW I could count on you, Lily! Thank you!!

      I’m not looking so much for classic “coming of age” stories as I am stories about marked personal growth. I fully intend on using The Last Samurai in my upper-grade curriculum, just because I think it’s a gorgeous example of the genre but, really, it doesn’t fall into the definition of “coming of age” story at all.

      For the younger-level grades, I really DO want the teen-protagonist, classic definition of the genre type stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing what other suggestions get thrown around in the comments!

  2. This seems awfully familiar. Didn’t you ask this question before?

  3. Scott

    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson are both very powerful books, but also can be very controversial.

  4. The Book Thief is a definite candidate I would put on the list.

    Atonement- I honestly think the coming of age relevant storyline gets buried in the complexity of this novel. I’m not sure they would be able to move past that and get to where you want them to be.

    You are probably going to think I am nuts, but I like Dune in this category (more male oriented)

    And The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a contemporary bio of a woman who grew up with very disfunctional parents, but it was fascinating.

  5. Falcon, I don’t know that I’ve asked for this specific theme suggestion before, but I ask all the time for book ideas from my readers. The last genre I remember asking about was Women’s History ideas.

    Darci, I read Life of Pi a while ago, and I remember feeling kind of “eh” about it. Perhaps I should read it again.

    Scott, do you know me? Controversy does not scare me; I say, “bring it on!” In fact, I’m considering sneaking “Brokeback Mountain” into the June unit for my junior-senior English class this year…

    Seester, if you hadn’t left a comment, I was going to email you privately because I knew you’d have some great ideas. Funny, because I went and sat in front of my bookshelf last night and nudged out of line some of the books I thought might work for this theme, and The Glass Castle is one that’s poking out now. I DON’T think you’re nuts – I’m looking specifically for books that will appeal to my boys – though I do wonder if they’ll balk at the bulk of that book….

    • I guess I don’t think Dune is long because I love it, and it reads so swiftly (too me!). I just went on a Frank Herbert binge, re-reading all of his books I read as a teen. Several of them, I had to get from used bookstores, because they are out of print. I was excited at how well they held up over 30 years; his writing is still relevant, today. But, that’s probably another topic of discussion.

      I personally would not use Life Of Pi as coming of age; although it has some elements of that, it isn’t really the focus of the story. There are much better fits in your list.

  6. While the story in Speak is powerful, the writing isn’t that great. What about Raisin in the Sun?

  7. First of all let me say, I’m about to start my first year teaching Sophomore English. I LOVE this blog. You are very thoughtful and include a great deal of ideas and things I had not thought about.

    the perks of being a wallflower ? Love it!

    My suggestions would be
    -The Last Summer (Of You and Me)
    -“Just As I Am” (short story) by Joyce Gibson Roach
    -A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    -Great Expectations
    -A Wrinkle in Time
    -Make Lemonade
    -Little Women
    -The Lovely Bones
    -The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
    -The Portrait of Dorian Gray

    I hope you’re able to use some of these!

    Your list is rather impressive, though. I’ve read most of those and love them all.

    Best of luck to you!

  8. Heather

    Mrs. Chili, email me your email address and I’ll add you to my blog. It is a personal blog at the moment. I’ll start a teaching blog once I begin my job. My email is:


  9. Terry

    Hi Ms. Chili,
    Long-time reader, very infrequent poster. I love the book A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry (I know–heavy title!). You might check out the book Shelf Discovery–it has a lot of great book recommendations (but I’ll be the first to admit some are dated because the book focuses on 1970s/1980s YAL, and, I think they might be skewed to a younger age/easier reading level than you seem to tackle).

  10. What about The Hobbit? Doesn’t Bilbo Baggins experience tremendous personal growth as he goes through his adventure?

  11. Hi Ms. Chili! I love your blog! The books that you and others have suggested are great…the list makes me want to curl up with a stack of books and ignore the world for awhile.

    “Coming of age” brings to mind Countee Cullen’s poem “Incident,” which is one of my favorites.
    “Marked personal growth”…hmm…Song of Solomon – Milkman finding peace with himself, his family, his past?
    The Color Purple
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian ?

    I want to take your class!

  12. Siobhan Curious

    I love The Catcher in the Rye and so do a lot of my young college students. We also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and it’s a big favourite (and one of mine too.) The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides usually goes over well, and one of my personal favourites is Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital (although there is an abortion involved, if that matters.)

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