Friday, January 02, 2009

Young readers support a SouthCoast tradition.

Tomorrow and on Sunday, scores of Herman Melville fans as well as the merely curious will converge upon the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the twelfth annual Moby-Dick Reading Marathon. To learn more about an event that has become something of a local tradition in my home area, take a look at this post from two years ago. As today's New Bedford Standard-Times reports, new participants in this year's marathon include a group of eager young readers who are just beginning to grapple with a work that merits lifelong attention. Here's more from the Standard-Times:
They have trolled the Atlantic with Captain Ahab in search of an elusive white whale. They know Ishmael like an old friend. And on Saturday, city fifth-graders will celebrate "Moby-Dick" alongside countless other fans of the classic novel.

Eight students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, who spent the past month reading and discussing a young readers' version of "Moby-Dick" as part of their book club, will attend the kickoff of the 12th annual "Moby-Dick" Marathon at New Bedford Whaling Museum.

"The students are really excited about attending and they know their New Bedford and whaling history," teacher Debbie Perry said. "The kids basically read the book on their own and their conversations about the book were student-directed. We've read other books, but this just happens to be one of the literature circles we wanted to take a step further."

An estimated 150 people are expected to read aloud short passages from the novel during the 25-hour marathon. The students are not scheduled to read at the event, but they wanted to participate in the celebration anyway, Ms. Perry said.

. . .

Ms. Perry said her students were so interested in the famous 1851 whaling novel by Herman Melville that they want to continue their discussion with a "Moby-Dick" club that would meet every week.
Since Moby-Dick is one of my favorite books, I'm glad to hear that a few New Bedford youngsters are enthusiastic about a masterpiece that also happens to be a part of local lore. The notion of allowing literary classics to be read in adapted 'young readers' versions doesn't entirely sit well with me - even though I'll confess to having read a comic book based on Moby-Dick when I was a kid - but I hope this early exposure to Melville gets some of the Lincoln School students interested in eventually reading the original text. I hope, too, that posts like this one inspire readers of this blog who aren't acquainted with Melville to give his work a try. AMDG.


At 1/02/2009 4:17 PM, Blogger Laura Brown said...

For what it's worth, I was first introduced to Shakespeare when my fifth-grade class performed a kids' version of Macbeth, and that certainly inspired me to read the original (which contained quite a few surprises).

I don't believe I've read anything by Melville except "Bartleby the Scrivener" -- not sure why, as I really liked that story. I'll have to give his novels a try.

At 1/03/2009 9:44 AM, Blogger Author Tony Peters said...

Always loved Moby Dick, the movies suck, but the books are enjoyable. I hope that the kids enjoy it as much as I did.

Tony Peters
Author of, Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

At 1/03/2009 11:00 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


My introduction to Shakespeare was very similar, as my elementary school mounted yearly productions of his plays - the teacher who put them on cut out or shortened some scenes, but I'm grateful that she preserved the original language and didn't offer a modern version of the text instead.

"Bartleby" is a great story, and I think you'd find a lot to like in "Moby-Dick" as well. It's long and full of digressions (including whole chapters that are basically asides and do nothing to advance the central narrative, but do bring to light some of Ishmael's deeper concerns and interests), but at heart it's about the place of human beings in the universe and our relationship with God. Taken in context, the last sentence of the last full chapter ('The Chase - Third Day,' which comes before the epilogue) is one of the most devastating I've ever read. I hope you find the time to read the book.


I agree about the "Moby-Dick" movies - I think Gregory Peck made a better Ahab than Patrick Stewart, but there still hasn't been a satisfactory film adaptation of the novel (and maybe there never will be - I think there's a lot in the book that probably can't be translated to film). Of the versions on offer, I think the 1956 one did better than the 1990's TV version - though I'll admit I'm biased on account of the fact that the writers of the latter decided to edit New Bedford out of the story and transfer the setting of the first chapters to Nantucket.


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