Wine and cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Chocolate and, well, anything. Some things just go together.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly as I’ve been having the same conversation over and over—in a very Groundhog Day fashion—with high school students who are endlessly bemoaning the fact that they have to do summer reading. Some of them are reading classics, but most of them are reading contemporary novels that their schools have chosen with the goal of convincing them that reading can actually be fun. It’s a great idea and one that I support completely.
Life of Pi, The Kite Runner, and The Hunger Games have been particularly popular this year, which should give you an idea of exactly how cool the English department chairs at our local high schools really are. They figure that if they can just get student to enjoy reading during the summer, it won’t be as difficult to get them interested in the classics (or the “dead white Russian guys”, as one teacher calls them) during the school year.
So I’ve been thinking, how can we pair classics with contemporary novels to help readers explore thematic material, narrative structure, and literary devices on a deeper level? And I’ve come up with a few ideas. Some of the connections are obvious, some less so.