Periodically, I plan on posting reviews of books I have read here–I’m going to call it Books for Today—basically, why you should consider teaching (if you are an educator) or reading (if you are not) the given book. This is my first one.
The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall is not a new book. It was originally published in 1959, but the lessons contained in it are still very relevant. While it is not a hugely complex story (I would say it probably fits best in a 5th-8th grade classroom), it is an enjoyable book and affords the opportunity to think and talk about some important ideas. In today’s blog post, I am going to present three themes that are found in The Gammage Cup that make it a worthwhile choice for your classroom.
Shameless Plug: If you are interested in teaching this book, check out my resources below or by clicking here.
Theme One: The “odd balls” become the heroes. Every child goes through a phase where they feel like they are different from everyone else. For some, this phase is more difficult than for others, but it can be really isolating for all. It can also make students feel like they have to change to fit in and be accepted or they are no good to anyone. Because of this, it is important that we demonstrate to our young people that being different is not a bad thing, that they should embrace their individuality and uniqueness, and that these traits are valuable and precious. We can do this in the things we say, the way we act, and in the literature to which we introduce them. The more often they hear these things, the better. The Gammage Cup tells the story of several of these “oddballs” and how their uniqueness allows them to save the village when others who fit the social mold better could not.
Theme Two: Blind obedience to tradition gets the community in trouble. “But we have always done it that way!” could easily be the mantra of so many individuals. We want students to learn to be independent thinkers, but it is so much easier and significantly less scary to do what has always been done. If you blindly follow tradition, there are no decisions to make, no risks to take, and no blame if things go wrong. But there are also no new results, no consideration for changing circumstances, and no improvement. There is nothing wrong with some traditions, but one must consider each one and decide that it is something that one wants to follow. Blind obedience is what gets individuals and communities in trouble–just like in The Gammage Cup. Encouraging independent thought and openness to change help us keep the good traditions while overhauling the ones that need it. By reading about instances where these changes are important, you give your students an opportunity to think about and discuss this in a safe environment before they encounter them in real life.
Theme Three: Only in recognizing the strengths of all does the community succeed. Everyone has different strengths, and it is easy to value some above others. You can see this in something as simple as the pay disparities between star athletes and performers and top philosophers and educators. While all these groups have natural talents and then spent years of their time, energy, and effort to become the best in their fields, the pay scales are not close to comparable. In an example closer to home, think about the facilities and resources that the typical high school dedicates to the football team versus the math team. Before anyone jumps all over me or athletics or the entertainment industry, these are important things. A society deprived of them is one without a release mechanism, without a way to express emotions, and one that takes itself overly seriously. That being said, education and innovation are what keeps us making new discoveries, moving forward, and prevents stagnation. These are all important things, but discussing them can be a very personal swell as a politically and emotionally charged conversation. A book like The Gammage Cup provides the opportunity to discuss them in a safer environment, one without the politics or emotion, and come to conclusions before having to apply them to the real world. Backdoor-ing these topics is often a much more effective method than running at them head-on.
A Bonus Reason: While The Gammage Cup is over fifty years old and some adults may have encountered it many years ago, it is one that the vast majority of students will never have read before. It is a fun story with lots of quirks and puns that will make you and your students laugh–there’s the enemy, the Mushrooms (because they are short, fat, and grey like mushrooms, plus they smell kind of like the fungus), the characters go on pick-licks not picnics (because you pick what you want to eat and then lick your fingers), and every “acceptable” poem is set to the beat and rhyme structure of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” just to name a few. Embrace this fun and quirkiness with your classes, and The Gammage Cup is a very enjoyable read in addition to a chance to discuss some very important themes.
This Week’s Featured Product
This complete bundle has everything you need to teach a great unit on The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. Buy the bundle and save! For more details or to purchase this product, click here!
This Week’s Journal Questions
For the teacher: What makes your teaching different from others? Why is this beneficial to your students?
For the student: What makes you unique? Why is this such a wonderful thing?
A Recipe from My Kitchen:
Cold Garden Pasta Salad
- 1/2 pound uncooked pasta, shape of your choosing
- 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 cucumbers (I use the pickling kind because I grow those in my garden, but the smooth-skinned slicing kind with work here too.)
- 1/2 medium onion, diced into small pieces
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
- 1/8 cup olive oil (approximate)
- 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar (approximate)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Hint: No amounts in this recipe are firm. I don’t measure anything when I make it. I use what I have and taste as I go along.
- Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse. Set aside.
- Cut your tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Shred your cheese. Mince your herbs. Mix all these with your noodles.
- Add oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss until well-coated. Use more or less of these ingredients, to taste.
- Serve room temperature or cold.