Mentor Text: ‘Super Mario Kart‘ from The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
How often do we set something aside, but never quite make it back to it?
I tweeted, way back when I first read it, which was, admittedly, a while after it seemed like everyone else had, that John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed was likely going to show up here. It’s rich with mentor text potential.
Green’s also pretty widely read, and the audience of this site is likely his secondary target audience. (First, the youth, secondly, we who teach the youth.) As a result, I kind of kept putting it off, and not writing a Mentor Text Wednesday related to the book. I assumed we had all likely read it, and already knew what I was going to share.
But when I realized that I had not actually made myself a copy of ANY of the text I was going to use this week, (And can’t access until I buy a copy because it somehow disappeared from the online library I’d borrowed it from) I dug into the notes on my phone where I have lists of everything, including potential mentor texts.
And when I saw my notes about Green’s book, I realized that, once every month or so, I see a post from someone just discovering The Anthropocene Reviewed.
So let’s talk about its potential. A collection of pieces that are ostensibly reviews, but sneak into personal essay territory, they’re wonderful pieces for students to write beside. I’ve chosen one to focus on, but this is really very much an “open to any page and you’ve got something” text.
How we might use this text:
Introduction- The last few years, we’ve been using the 5 Part Essay to guide our writers. (5 part not paragraph – background, narration, confirmation, refutation and final assertion.) This has actually led to much, much stronger writing of the introductory part of essays, both personal and academic. Largely, the introduction, in our writing, is a combination of the background and narration. There is the sharing of background information, as well as some narrative element. Collectively, this introduces the topic, whilst providing necessary context for the piece that follows.
Green’s pieces in this book exemplify this. The Super Mario Kart example I’ve chosen establishes a background for the game, but isn’t simply a dry presentation of facts. It’s quickly followed by some narration, where Green recounts his experience with the game. As an introduction to a review, it’s excellent because he gives us a context: this is what the game is, and lets us know he’s logged some hours in the game so we can trust his review.
Narrative – Largely, Green’s reviews have a very lengthy narrative element to them. This is because the purpose of these reviews isn’t solely a review per se, but an exploration of things, ending with the rating and recommendation we’re accustomed to in a review.
How much time do we spend getting our writer’s to explore their experiences? How much of our writing about things isn’t actually about the things, but our experiences, and often, the emotions related to the things? This is what Green shows so wonderfully here – that our reviews of things, our recommendations of things, are largely tied to how we feel about them. It’s less about something being objectively good or bad, and more about how it made us feel, or what we connect it to.
Metaphor– In this particular piece, when Green gets into his exploration of how the power ups in the game have very real-life counterparts, he’s using metaphor wonderfully. This is a power move, isn’t it? We’re often pushing our students to explore the connections between things, and seeing him do this would be a valuable model for our writers.
Review– Personally, I like reviews that have a little bit of the writer in them. When I was deep in my film geek days, it mattered who was reviewing the film, and knowing them impacted my feelings about the film. Ultimately, whether we openly admit it or not, reviews are subjective judgements of something. Green’s reviews are openly this, and are a very good example of how to review this way, openly, honestly admitting where a personal bias may exist. As a result, we understand why he gives the star ratings he does.
So, although the notion of The Anthropocene Reviewed as a mentor text took a while to make here to Mentor Text Wednesday, it’s a perfect fit. There is such a wide variety of things reviewed in the book that whatever you may be covering in a class, you’re likely to find something in there that aligns with it, providing your writers with a great mentor text to explore that topic in writing.
What text(s) do you have in your notes app or notebook that you haven’t tapped yet? If you’ve read this book, which of the reviews have you flagged for your classroom?
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