Mentor Text: A Love Letter to Saga by Laura Sackton (via BookRiot)
- Lit appreciation
- Media Appreciation
Background: Teaching English the way so many of us do winds up highlighting so many great dichotomies that exist in that practice. Write with passion, yet realize that you must do this within constraints sometimes. Read poetry with your heart, but be ready to subject it to an autopsy.
Enjoy and appreciate literature, even though we’re going to attach academic tasks to the reading.
That’s the one that hits me the hardest, and it’s where I see this week’s offering of a mentor text being a good resource. Having students write to a beloved text should prove to be an engaging act of literary appreciation.
As you likely already know, Book Riot is a great source for writing about all kinds of books. I especially enjoy their features on genres such as sci-fi and comics. This specific piece reminded me of a particular series, Saga, which I haven’t read in a while, and now need to carve out some time for.
It is the way that this piece is written, as a love letter to that comic, that makes it such a great mentor text.
How We Might Use This Piece:
Lit Appreciation – This is kind of obvious isn’t it? Of course a love letter to a book is a form of literary appreciation. The magic in this piece is how committed to the notion that Saga is a sentient audience for the letter Sackton is. It reads like a letter written to the unresponsive recipient of her unrequited love. It is open and effusive, full of the unabashed emotions that go with that love. My, but that would be fun for our writers to play with, wouldn’t it?
This approach allows her to express her appreciation for Saga. She begins by sharing how they met, and what caused her to feel so strongly. There is a venue here for young people to talk about a text that they love without having to analyze it. They can mention the literary merit, the craft, the themes and other traditionally analyzed aspects of the text, but if they take their lead from this mentor text. They’re hopefully not going to default to the academic side of things, and analyze.
They also get a chance to express their nervousness. That anxiousness that is part of romance, any serious reader will tell you, is part of the reading experience. Sometimes, we find ourselves angry at the book we’re reading, feeling as if we’ve been betrayed. If we’ve committed to a series, we know that each installment brings the promise of everything we adore, yet also could be a source of heartbreaking betrayal.
The closing of the letter is also something I’d highlight when using this as a mentor text. Sackton talks about what Saga has given her. When we think about the books we love, it is what lingers that matters. Our favorite books from childhood connect us to important moments, or people. So many of the books we fall for in our teens represent an awakening for us. There is something in the books that we love that speaks to our heart, and closing the letter by highlighting that is just beautiful.
Media Appreciation – This is a lazy paragraph, in which I suggest that all the ways this mentor text can be used to talk about literature also applies to any medium. Students could write letters to their favorite shows, movies, games and music. Again, it’s obvious how wonderful this text is as a mentor piece for writing about the entertainment that we consume and love.
Review – Writing reviews is something many of our writers struggle with. Some of the mentor texts we use get into analysis. Many focus on criticism. There’s a family of criticism that our students are exploring anyway that this mentor text serves – when we talk about something we like purely because we like it. Listen to students break down their reactions to an episode of their favorite show, or whatever blockbuster they’ve just watched. They’re reviewing, focusing on their appreciation. This mentor text gives them a nice model for doing this.
Criticism – I love the idea of having students write love letters to a piece they love, and upon finishing those, to write a letter that just as passionately expresses their distaste for something. So often, when having students express criticism of any piece, they struggle to get very far past “It sucks.”
Imagine writing a letter to that thing that sucks, and telling it why it sucks. Following this mentor text, they can do that. How did they “meet” this piece, and how that impacted their relationship. Perhaps, like many pieces of pop culture we dislike, we expected more, and are angry because we feel unfulfilled. This can be expressed here, directly to the piece.
If the piece left us with nothing that resonated, and made no impact, we get to close off with that. Or we can close off with what made us angriest about the piece. And we get to say it directly to the piece, effectively telling it off, which could be fun, and possibly cathartic.
I initially flagged this piece because it reminded me how awesome Saga is, and that I need to catch up on it. However, as I read it, I knew that this was actually a really fun mentor text to bring into the classroom. When we tell students that we want them to appreciate literature, and especially if we go so far to tell students they should have books they love, we need to let them express this appreciation and love without turning it into a dry piece of analysis that doesn’t let that love shine.
How do you have students share their appreciation for texts? How else could we use this mentor text? What books would you write to?
Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @doodlinmunkyboy!
Hi Jay, I work at Get Lit and would love to send a proper email thanking you personally:) Can you please send me an email at Kelly@GetLit.org so I can give you a more in depth note for our appreciation?