The Shiloh Trilogy
Remember on Christmas Eve I introduced you to a fine seasonal
book called Shiloh's Christmas? In that review I alluded to three
prequel Shiloh books and promised to check them out? Well I finally
got around to it. I found them to be well worth reading with not only
plots that will captivate young bibliophiles and believable
characters, but thought provoking ethical questions that could lead to
lively questions in classrooms or around the kitchen table.
Eleven-year-old Marty lives with his mail carrier father,
mother, and sisters (annoying Dara Lynn and cute little Becky) in
rural West Virginia. His community is the kind where everybody knows
(and has an opinion about) one's business. It's also the kind of
place where neighbors help each other out in time of need. In Marty's
opinion, his hill-surrounded home is the best possible place to live.
One day on a walk Marty is followed home by a very frightened
looking dog. Although he would love to have a canine companion, he
knows that's wishful thinking. His family lives by the rule that
people have no right to take in creatures they can't afford to feed
and get vetinary care for.
It turns out that the beagle is Judd Travers' new hunting dog.
Marty is sure Judd is abusing and neglecting him. He sees his
fearfulness and the ticks on his coat as convincing evidence. When he
and his father return the dog, Judd lives down to Marty's
expectations, kicking the terrified canine and promising to "whup the
daylights out of him" if he leaves again.
Marty's father believes that a man has a right to treat his
property as he sees fit. Needless to say, Marty is not in agreement
or able to follow Dad's advice: "...you've got to get it through your
head that it's his dog, not yours, and put your mind to other
things.". He has quite the dilemma on his hands when the dog reappears
one morning and no family members are around to see what he does.
Shiloh Season takes up where Shiloh leaves off. Marty now owns
the dog whom he has named Shiloh. Only the beagle is not out of
danger. Judd has started drinking big time. He is also hunting on
Marty's family's land even though it's posted. Marty has a guilty
secret. He had seen Judd shoot a doe out of season and had not told
the game warden as part of the deal by which he acquired Shiloh. Now
not only his dog, but his sisters could be killed by a liquored up Judd.
In Saving Shiloh Marty is faced with a new dilemma. Judd has
survived a near fatal accident and seems to be trying to clean up his
act. The community seems not to be noticing. Marty is conflicted.
Despite his less than good close encounters of the Judd Travers kind,
he believes people should give him the benefit of doubt. But what if
they're right to remain suspicious?
Good discussion leading questions:
1. At some point most young people realize that what's legally
sanctioned and what's morally right sometimes feel miles apart.
Encourage them to think of instances from the book and from their own
lives. Share some from your own.
2. Although Judd does some pretty bad stuff, he also is shown
to have good qualities. Marty learns from others some reasons Judd
may be bitter and angry. Ask if they think making this character
nuanced rather than all bad adds to or detracts from the book. Why?
3. When Judd tries to reform, people remain unconvinced. Why
is it so hard to overcome prejudice and reputation? Is this true for
groups as well as individuals?
On a personal note, I had a Shiloh worthy decision to make just
recently. In January the school board lost our chair who moved away.
As vice chair, I became interim chair. The people who would have been
better permanent chairs had no interest in doing so. I didn't feel
all that capable, but maybe I was the best in the situation. My
decision would be to accept or turn down the nomination. After losing
sleep over it the four weeks between meetings I accepted.
A great big shout out goes out to all who take big risks to rescue
Julia Emily Hathaway
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