WEEK 1, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Cormier, R. (1974). The Chocolate War [Kindle iPad version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
This compelling book dives into the heavy young adult choice of having to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, or adapt and blend in with those around you. This novel follows a boy who chooses to do the former. At the start, the students at Trinity High School seem to support Jerry Renault’s refusal to partake in the annual chocolate sale. This decision eventually backfires and lands Jerry in a world of trouble. Will he break down and finally conform? Or will he maintain his ground and truly defy his universe?
Keywords: The Vigils; football; assignments; boxing; defiance
What I Think (Assessment):
I really enjoyed the content and morals learned in this story. This is one I would definitely recommend to young adult readers for two reasons.
First of all, the moral or lesson of the story is one I think young adults and teenagers could benefit to learn and read about. The main character, Jerry, had a poster in his locker that said, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” (Cormier, 1974, p. 128). Many times Jerry found himself pondering this statement and wondering what it meant. By the end of the book, he made a decision, ultimately deciding that society may tell us to be ourselves, but in all truth and reality people are looked down upon when they do disturb the universe. I think this book and theme challenges young adults to ponder the same question for themselves and truly attempt to think about they’re own beliefs.
Secondly, I would recommend this book to young adults because of the fact that it is a classic novel, yet it appeals to so many of the teenage population today. This book includes adventure, drama, real-world teenage issues, and of course, an emphasis on sports. This book seems to have a little bit of everything to offer teenagers with all sorts of tastes. For example, the book starts out with action and adventure, describing the setting as if it were a war zone. “They murdered him. As he turned to take the ball, a dam burst against the side of his head and a hand grenade shattered his stomach” (p. 1). Yet soon, the reader discovers the true scene is of a freshman trying out to play football for his high school team. The reader also discovers the emphasis of boxing at the school, as one of the leaders of the school, Carter, “appreciated the fight concept. He loved boxing” (p. 239). These examples from the book show the variety the reader gets from action to sports even to some drama, which ultimately appeals to all teenage readers!
Overall, I highly recommend this book for young adult readers. It was a very interesting and fast-paced book that was hard to put down. I also very much enjoyed the ebook version because it was nice to have a version on my iPad to carry and whip out anytime I had a minute to spare!
What the Experts Say (Review):
Gr 8 Up–Still as powerful and disturbing as it was when published in 1974, this classic of a lone student confronting the system relates the story of a high school freshman who refuses to participate in the annual chocolate sale. In doing so, he invokes the rage of a corrupt and bullying school authority, challenges the ruthless school gang, and pays a terrible price for his nonconformity. Audio version available from Listening Library.
Ralston, J. (2005, May). Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. School Library Journal, 51(5), 51.
This book would be a great one to just have in the library for students to read. As a teacher, I would recommend this book to students who might have trouble fitting in and could relate to the main character, Jerry Renault.
This book would also be great to use with groups of students and then have them respond to writing prompts. For example, students could write an opinion piece responding to, “If you were in Jerry’s position, would you sell the chocolates? If so,when would you start selling them?” The students could also write a persuasive piece to the principal on if they think their own school should rely on a similar candy sale to raise money or if another option would be better.