This week, my grade seven classes started our Heroic Journey literature circle unit. During this unit, students will discuss what it means to be a hero and analyse books using the heroic journey monomyth. The monomyth is a story structure found in countless stories and cultures, where a hero gets a call to adventures, leaves their ordinary world to go on a journey, faces trials, and emerges changed from the ordeal. It offers great insights into what it means to face your fears and grow as a person.
This week, we spent a lot of time front loading prior to selecting our novels. In particular, we talked a lot about what it means to be a hero. Often this word is overused, and it is useful to spend time coming to a common understanding of what exactly hero means. A useful resource was the picture book How to be a Hero, by Florence Parry Heide and Chuck Groenink. It is a phenomenal read aloud book because it prompts students to make inferences and read between the lines for deeper meaning. At face value, the text itself tells the story of Gideon, a boy who thinks being a hero means being in the right place at the right time and getting his picture in the newspaper. My students were pretty skeptical and the text led to rich discussion about what truly makes someone a hero. I particularly liked how the book helped us deconstruct classic fairy tale heroes, not to mention the rich visuals that added deeper meaning to the text.
In addition to How to be a Hero, my class also used a selection of picture books to analyse the heroic journey. Each picture book includes a character who takes a journey and undergoes some character development as a result.
- Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt De La Pena: An award winning book where a boy learns how he can change his perspective to see the positive in the world and help people.
- Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers: A boy helps a lost penguin find his way home. This is a great story about loneliness and friendship.
- Journey, Quest, and Return, by Aaron Becker: A trilogy of wordless picture books that tell the story of a girl who finds magic chalk, discovers a magical kingdom, and goes on an adventure.
- The Journey, by Francesca Sanna: The story of a family who must flee their home and journey to somewhere safe. The art work in this work makes it worth a second look.
- Not Quite Narwhal, by Jessie Sima: When a unicorn is born among narwhals, he must travel to find where he belongs. A great story about inclusion and identity.
- The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat: A book about Beekle, an imaginary friend who must journey to find the child who will imagine him. A story about taking risks and friendship.
By analysing these picture books, students become more familiar with the heroic journey monomyth and become better prepared to investigate their novels. Next week, my students will select their novels and start analysing the heroic journey and character development in their books. Stay tune for more posts about this unit!