I was invited to be a guest listener during Mrs. Bouwens‘ 5th grade writer’s celebration. I sat in the round with a group of seven writers who each shared their literacy essay about a specific short story. As an essayist, their job was to connect the each essay’s central purpose to their own lives. As a writer who makes many revisions to even the simplest piece, I have great appreciation for the hours of work devoted to the development of these essays.
I was impressed with the short stories they each reviewed: Eleven, by Sandra Cisneros, The Marble Champ, by Gary Soto, Boar Out There, Slower Than the Rest, Marble Champ and Spaghetti–all by Cynthia Rylant.
Not only are these three of my favorite writers, I now have seven favorite literary essayists to follow. Enjoy their pieces below.
Literary essay on “Slower Than the Rest”
By: Sydney Segard
Everyone is slower than the rest at something from one time to another. For example, when I was in third grade I did girls on the run and usually I was slower than the rest. Because of that time I can relate to how characters like Leo feel.
In the story, “Slower Than the Rest” by Cynthia Rylant Leo has trouble keeping up with his classmates.
Leo doesn`t have a lot of friends because he is slower than the rest. When he finds Charlie, his turtle he is happy because he finally finds something that can relate to how he feels about being slower than the rest.
In the story it says Leo was slow in reading, numbers, and in nearly everything that passed before him in the classroom. In fourth grade Leo was so behind in everything that he had to go in to a special room with people who were as slow as him. Leo thought he would never get over it. But, Charlie helped him feel better.
For example, during forest fire prevention week Leo took Charlie to school for his project. When it was Leo`s turn he took Charlie out of the box and said, “It isn`t fair for the slow ones during a forest fire.” I think Leo was not only talking about Charlie but himself too. I think this because Leo hates being slow, and he doesn`t think it`s fair for him to have to go in to a a special room because he is slow.
Later that day Leo`s school had an assembly. There were dancers who everyone was laughing at. But Leo didn`t feel like laughing. Leo just sat there holding Charlie and went off in his head to his own world. Soon, everyone was cheering and shouting his name. Leo walked up to his principal who gave him an award for having the best presentation.
Leo felt happy.
Leo felt proud.
and for the first time in a long time
Leo felt fast.
Reading this story makes me think that Leo should not be embarrassed about being slower than the rest, because other people are slow too. Just like I was.
Literary Essay to “Eleven”
by Jack Mandryk
I believe growing up is one of the hardest things kids have to go through. And if you can’t stick up for yourself, every thing’s going to get a lot harder.
In the story, “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros Rachel, the main character, thought growing up to be eleven would make her feel older and smarter, but she didn’t. She figured out that even though she was eleven she was still just a kid.
Eleven is about how Rachel has to wear the ugly red sweater that smells like cottage cheese, even though it is not hers. I mostly think this story is about how Rachel is a girl who is unable to admit the truth when it comes to sticking up for herself.
When Sylvia tells the class, “I think it belongs to Rachel.” Rachel knows it’s not hers but all she can say is, “That’s not, I don’t, and you’re not… Not mine.” She finally manages to say in a little voice that no one could hear like when she was four. Then she just gives up and thinks because Mrs, Price is older, she is right. This was showing that Rachel couldn’t stand up for herself in front of the class. Rachel also shows that deep inside she is three trying not to let the ugly red sweater wreck her eleventh birthday, as it sits of the corner of her table. She is thinking about how when she gets home, her mom will be baking a cake and they will be singing, “happy birthday, happy birthday to you.”
When Sylvia lies about the red sweater Rachel should tell the teacher, but she doesn’t. Like in football practices, when kids are messing around next to me, I should walk away from them or I get in trouble too. Rachel makes the same mistake about the sweater when she should tell Mrs. Price it isn’t hers, instead she has to face the consequence of having to wear it.
“Rachel!” Mrs. Price yells at her bringing her out of her daydreaming.
“You put that sweater on right now and no more nonsense.”
“But it’s not-”
“Now!!” Mrs. Price says. This is a example that Rachel is a girl who doesn’t protect herself in bad situations. In the real world, Rachel will probably find out that starting at that age, she will not get special attention like she did when she was younger. I think Rachel should try to get over the fact that she was to wear the sweater and just get up and tell the teacher. After Mrs. Price yells at her she is forced to put the sweater on in front of the class. She slides her arms through with all the years pushing against her eyes. Now when Rachel finally got the sweater on she thinks the red sweater hurts her, it’s all itchy, and full of germs that are not hers.
Then, right before the bell rings, stupid Phyllis Lopez remembers it is hers. Mrs. Price thinks everything is o.k. now, but it’s not.
I think Rachel will learn from this experience and not let it happen again. I mostly think Sandra Cisneros wrote “Eleven” to show that life is rough, especially when you don’t stand up for yourself. What I learned from “Eleven” is that when you are in a tight situations, give yourself a chance, even on days you feel like a, “runaway ballon.”
By: Andrew Vredeveld
In the story, “The Marble Champ” by Gary Soto Lupe thinks she sill never be good at sports. ”I’ll never be good at sports she fumed one rainy day.” But she kept practicing and became good at marbles. When I was in third grade I wasn’t good at fielding ground balls. But now since I’ve been practicing I am really good at fielding them. It’s just like Lupe. She practiced and practiced and became good.
Lupe was determined to be good at marbles so she “rummaged through her closet until she found a can of her brother’s marbles. She poured them out and picked the five most beautiful.” She noticed while she was practicing that her thumb was very weak. So she, “…took an eraser and squeezed it 100 times to make it stronger.” This shows you that Lupe is determined to win at this sport even though I would not consider it as a major one.
Lupe knew the tournament was coming up so she worked harder than ever and it made her thumb very sore. This shows you she wasn’t going to give up on wining in this sport. Lupe was pretty close to being ready but she still had time to improve. After her dad found out why her thumb was so swollen he wanted to help,”So he rigged up some lights in the back yard so she could practice after dark. He squatted down on one knee, entranced by the sight of his daughter easily beating her brother.” Lupe had practiced so much she beat her brother.
On the day of the tournament it was cold and cloudy. Lupe knew she needed all of her concentration to win the tournament. She was up for it. “Lupe walking between her father and brother, shook from the cold not nerves. She took off her mittens and someone asked, “How are you going to play with a broken thumb? Lupe smiled and said nothing.” Lupe had practiced for so long her thumb looked broken! “Lupe had her first match on diamond number 3.She easily beat.” Lupe is now really good because of her practicing and she beat her first three opponents. Lupe worked so hard to become good at this one sport.
In the end Lupe goes on to win the tournament. Lupe succeeded and finally got a trophy in sports. That shows you that everything Lupe did helped her to win. “…but winning in sports was a new experience.” Lupe finally got her dream to win in sports. Just like me when I practiced and succeeded in what I needed to do to be a good fielder. I learned from this story that if you set your mind on something and practice you’re likely to succeed.
Literary Essay On “Slower Than The Rest”
Sometimes I am slower than the rest. Just like Leo was in “Slower Than the Rest” by Cynthia Rylant. I think that the author put Charlie the turtle and Leo in the story because they both can relate to being slower than the rest. I think she shows that it’s okay to be slower than the rest. Sometimes I am slower than the rest in math because it’s a harder subject for me to understand. I know that sometimes being slower than the rest is okay because it helps build confidence and understanding.
I think that Leo took being slow in a bad way. But, when he found Charlie he realized that there are other things out there that are as slow as himself!
In his classroom, “Leo was slow in reading, slow in numbers, slow in understanding, nearly everything that passed before him in a classroom.” He also had to go into a room with kids that are as slow as him. This made Leo upset because he thought that he would never be fast at things. “But Charlie took care of Leo’s happiness.”
“One day Leo decided to take Charlie to school. It was prevent forest fires week and all of the students were working on posters…” and other things. But Leo wanted to take Charlie to school for his project. I think that Leo wanted to bring Charlie because he wanted to show how some people are slower than the others.
When Leo began his presentation he said, “ When somebody throws a match into a forest he is a murderer. He kills trees, birds, and animals.” I think that Leo felt bad for Charlie because he is a slow animal and would not be able to survive a forest fire. When Leo opened the box and took Charlie out all of his classmates laughed at what they saw. After a while Leo’s classmates began liking turtles and hating forest fires. I think that Leo felt happy because they had began to understand how some are “Slower Than The Rest”. “Leo’s teacher had tears in her eyes”during his presentation.
“That afternoon the whole school assembled in the gymnasium to bring the special week to a close”. When the dancers proffered “Leo wondered if he should laugh at the dancers like everyone else”, But he did not feel like it, instead he was in his own little world.”Finally the principal stood up and began a long talk. But Leo just thought about being home.” When Somebody whispered his name he could not hear. he was to busy drifted off in his thoughts. Then he heard his whole school chanting his name. Leo had won for having the best presentation.
“He looked back and saw his principal smile at him”. He was so happy Leo felt like he could explode. “ And for the first time in a long time Leo felt fast.” After reading the story “Slower than The Rest” Makes me feel that it’s okay to be “Slower than the rest”,and that everyone works at their own pace.
Literary Essay on “Spaghetti”
by Drew Boeve
In the short story, “Spaghetti” by Cynthia Rylant, Gabriel is a lonely boy needs to find a friend, but doesn’t think he could do it. Just like me when I moved out of state and never thought a friend would come.
When Gabriel is sitting on the stoop of a tall building thinking deeply about things he nearly misses a cry from the street. He thought it could have been the wind or a stubborn window. Gabriel decides to follow it. In the story it says, “ On skinny stick legs wobbling to and fro was a tiny gray kitten.” I think Cynthia Rylant put the kitten in the story because Gabriel and the kitten are both lonely. When Gabriel picked up the kitten he finally found a friend. Just like Gabriel I found a friend. Now every time I see stray cat I think of Gabriel and his new kitten friend named Spaghetti
By: Bryce Akins
I think in the story, “Boar Out There” the main character Jenny wants a friend. Jenny thinks she can be friends with the wild Boar that lives in the woods. It turned out she wasn’t. This is similar to a time when I moved and I needed a friend. I moved to a new school and I was thinking I could be friends with someone nobody liked. But it turned out I didn’t become friends with him.
In the story Jenny goes to find the Boar. She finds him and is scared but she doesn’t move even though she knows he is much more powerful than her. “Jenny matched his silence, her body was rigid but not her eyes.” I think this shows that Jenny really wants a friend. When the boar runs past her she feels sad. I feel that Jenny wonders if she’ll ever be friends with the Boar. Now she doesn’t know where to get a friend.
I also think that Jenny feels that she did find a friend in the Boar because she still looks over the fence and whispers “Boar Out There.”
After reading this story I don’t know why Jenny still thinks the Boar is her friend because if somebody ran from me I wouldn’t think that I would ever be friends with them. I feel that no matter how you see friendship you can always have a friend.