Last week, we read Into the Wild with the teens at the JDC. I was hesitant at first about bringing this book. Krakauer peppers his writing with words like “perambulation” that I was worried would keep kids at an arms distance and unable to delve into the book. But, just like so many time in working with this group of teens, I was completely wrong. They rocked this book. They understood it, not just on the surface level, keeping track of the many flip flops in sequence, but on deeper levels as well. They vigorously argued the case that Chis McCandless was not mentally ill or a fool, but really smart and willing to test his soul in ways most of us could never begin to think. They thought that had he lived, he’d be president. They did concede he was careless about his resources (Burning money! Ditching his car! Not a good move.) But they related to Chris’s journey both physical (hopping trains, sleeping outside) and spiritual (pushing away society to find out who they truly were.)
To start us thinking about the values inspired by Chris McCandless, we wrote down our “bucket lists.” I shared mine: to teach my girls to sail, to practice yoga for more than 2 days straight, and they shared theirs: to get out of juvie, to be with my little sis, to build a house all by myself.
We read each day seminar style – sitting in a circle, close reading out loud with permission given to each person in the room to halt the reading if anything didn’t make sense or to make a comment. I brought in my dog-eared Alaska atlas and taught them how to find the Stampede Trail and Healy and other spots Chris visited. I also found, thanks to our terrific adult librarian, Lisa Gresham, a great book that was filled with the photos from Chris’s camera and journey.
The last day we watched the movie. They were excited about seeing Kristen Stewart. Despite the great music from Eddie Vedder and amazing Alaskan tundra backdrop, I thought the movie too cinematic and dragged for my taste. But they loved it.
While we watched, we ate trail food: granola bars, cheese and crackers, fresh berries and a little chocolate to end our meal together.
Some of the comments we loved from the evals…
“This is one of the most touching, crazy, amazing books I have ever read.”
“Very exciting book that will pull the reader in and make you never want to turn away.”
“You never know what book your gonna need…and you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. After book club I just picked up whatever book and read it.”
--- Tamar Clarke with help from Aubri Keleman