Monday, December 10, 2007

Critical Analysis of Sharon Creech's Novels: The Wanderer and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup

Sharon Creech's novels The Wanderer and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup have many similarities. Both novels contain a great deal of voice. In The Wanderer the entire story is told through either Sophie or Cody's journal, often quoting specific parts of conversations, stories or experiences. In this novel, a hidden story about children, specifically young teenagers, and their struggle to find their own identity is woven into the boat journey to Bompie's house in England. This theme can also be found in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup when Rosie faces the reality of changing friendship, both new and old, and the impact that has on her self-concept and identity. In this novel, Granny shares long stories and personal experiences with Rosie and her friend Bailey, comprising the majority of the novel. In both novels the main characters, Sophie and Rosie, embark on their own personal journey of self discovery and sense of belonging.

Family plays a huge role in both novels, specifically grandparents. Both novels contain a great deal of stories and lessons of acceptance and personal value taught by a grandparent. In Sophie's case these are taught to her in a journal Bompie gives her; while Rosie's lessons come from weekly visits with Granny and are often exposed during meal preparation. In both grandparent's cases loss is highlighted. Bompie is ill and alone in England after the passing of his wife and Granny is alone still dealing with a lost love, Pardo.

Both novels include very vivid imagery. Scenes are painted with descriptive words. Imagery is divided into many chapters as both novels contain a great number of chapters. Chapters are condensed, yet quite powerful.

Another similarity between The Wanderer and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup rests in the characteristics of each novel's characters. It is obvious to see the characters in The Wanderer have courage - why else would they set sail from Connecticut to England? This, of course, is also demonstrated with Sophie's parents who recently adopted her and have let her go on this journey. Bompie is also a pillar of strength and courage by returning to his "home" alone and at an old age. Courage; however, is a little more subtle in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup. In this novel Rosie demonstrates courage by standing behind her friend, Bailey, who is blind. Bailey displays courage by being a happy and loving kid despite his disability. Granny shows her courage through her many stories of leaving her love and coming to the United States. Finally Bailey's mom, Carmelita, is definitely an unsung hero in her ability not only to love Bailey unconditionally but also continue on after her husband left.

A final similarity happens to be my favorite, the many personality sides of the main characters; Sophie and Rosie. Sophie,as described by her father, has three sides to her personality. She has her dreamy and romantic side, a logical side and an impulsive and hardheaded side. Rosie, on the other hand, can be described as a tiger, fox and ice queen. After thinking about these characters' three-sided personalities, I can definitely relate though I lack the ability to accurately pinpoint my three sides.

As much as these two novels have in common, they also contain many differences. The first rests in the main plot. In The Wanderer the plot is centered around the sailing journey to Bompie's house and the stops along the way. In Granny Torrelli Makes Soup the plot revolves around Granny's weekly visits and the meal preparation.

Family and friendships differ in the two novels. Although grandparents are important in both , a grandfather is Sophie's inspiration and a grandmother is Rosie's. In The Wanderer Sophie is adopted and has to earn her family's acceptance (cousins especially), while Rosie is born into her family. The friendships or relationships that develop in The Wanderer start off distant with Sophie having to prove herself and take a lot of crap from Brian especially. This eventually comes full circle and ends with permanent bonds being formed. In Granny Torrelli Makes Soup the novel starts with close-knit friendships which become somewhat distant and eventually return to being close again. As I have already mentioned, Sophie is adopted and her adoptive parents truly want her and have accepted her as their own. Bailey's blindness has put a strain on his parent's marriage, ultimately resulting in his father leaving as leaving was easier for him than dealing with his son's disability. Finally in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup friendship is challenged when others are brought in, while in The Wanderer friendship grows stronger when others are brought in.

Another contrast, though strikingly obvious, is there are no physical disabilities to note in The Wanderer while Bailey's blindness is an important aspect in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup.

My final contrast is the closest to my heart . . . the way lessons are taught in each of the novels and the effects that has on relationships. In Rosie's case, she secretly learns Braille. Although her intention is to surprise Bailey, his reaction proves to be unfavorable and offers a challenge to their friendship. Sophie and her family members all have to teach the others a lesson while sailing. This initially seems to be a challenge but quickly turns to a method of bonding. Each family member shares something with the others that offer a glimpse into each person. Unlike Rosie's experience, these lessons bring each person closer and leads to acceptance.

I am not sure how to encapsulate all of my thoughts into a few paragraphs. These two novels are absolutely wonderful and I encourage everyone to read and teach them. I love how they contain real thoughts teenagers have, meanwhile lending hand to a much larger lesson than originally thought. These novels can be taught on many different levels and should be explored as their lessons are invaluable. One thing that I find difficult to get used to is the great number of chapters! This is of particular concern in The Wanderer, where it is a bigger struggle for me to stay focused. This book also challenges me because the real action of the book does not come into play until halfway through.

These two novels have exposed me to a unique form of writing and one I think students will enjoy. The extensive dialogue offers more than a simple narrator perspective and delves into thoughts and interpersonal workings through stories within stories. I feel students can gain a great deal from both novels. Each have significant lessons that challenge all kids at one point or another. The manner in which the lessons come to play can offer great classroom discussions and encouragement for students; male and female. I encourage all teachers, current and future, to teach Creech!

For more information on teaching Sharon Creech, check out these web sites.

Write to Sharon:
Sharon Creech c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
Author Mail
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019

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