From Homer to Shakespeare, students weigh in. 

By Moriah Seymann (’19)

English teachers at SDJA carefully select books that they hope their students will appreciate, but often times students don’t enjoy these books as much as was hoped. Isabelle Flores (‘20) says, “It feels like I’m forced to read English books, and I don’t enjoy all the books that we read.” However, there are some SDJA classics that students couldn’t help but love.

1. Romeo and Juliet

Even the freshmen can enjoy and relate to this classic Shakespeare play filled with love, humor, tragedy, and death. Dalia Benson (‘19) says, “I like how it is an old story, but it still fits in with today. The idea of forbidden love lasts forever.” Mrs. Hansen makes reading Shakespeare interactive, which the freshman love. “It was really fun reading it with Ms. Hansen and I enjoyed acting it in class,” Benson (‘19) continued.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird

Another beloved classic is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel about racism and prejudice. It is hard not to love such a heart wrenching modern American novel. Ella Diamond (‘20) says, “It showed how people aren’t equal and how terrible things happen in this world and we have to stand up for what we believe.”

3. Night

Night is an account of Elie Wiesel’s horrific experiences in the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald and as a Jew being persecuted during the time of World War II. This novel is filled with gut-wrenching details that open eyes to the horrors of the Holocaust. Though it might not be ‘fun’ to read, it is extremely moving. Evan Levin (‘19) says simply, “Even though it was really sad and upsetting, I liked it.”

4. Lord of the Flies

Sarah Simmonds (‘20), is not the only one who says, “I loved Lord of the Flies.” Lord of the Flies is a powerful novel about the savagery of man exhibited while a group of boys is stranded on an island. “It taught me what to do in survival and gave me tips on what to do if it actually happened,” Simmonds says. “Something like that could happen in real life, you never know. The most important thing is to get along with other people because they are the people that could either help or kill you.”

A few of the featured favorites. Photo: Moriah Seymann (’19)

5. The Outsiders

The Outsiders is a novel about a teen gang’s fight against rival gangs and learning to face the consequences of their violent lives. Rebecca Datnow (‘20) says, “In a way, it was relatable, as a teen going through struggles, but it was also so intense.”

6. Siddhartha

Siddhartha is a moving novel about a Buddhist man’s spiritual journey towards discovering himself. Kayla Schwartzberg (‘21) enjoys Siddhartha’s deep message. She says, “It was very meaningful how he found his own journey and purpose.”

7. Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of short stories by Chaucer. Although they are written in Middle English, the freshmen can still appreciate Chaucer’s use of satire. “I liked the humor,” says Sharon Cohen (‘20), “and that Chaucer was making fun of his characters.”

8. Macbeth

Another classic Shakespeare play that 10th grade students enjoyed reading is Macbeth. Macbeth is a tragedy filled with murders, ghosts, and witches that dramatizes the detrimental effects that power can have on people. Tikva Velazquez (‘19) says, “The story was interesting and it had characters that were damaged, but they were worth rooting for.” This play is powerful and unforgettable and references to this Shakespeare classic appear countless times throughout other pieces of literature, movies and even sometimes, according to Seth Novom (‘19), in conversations. Novom says, “Macbeth haunts me everywhere I go.”

9. Animal Farm

Humanities 10 students read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a novel portraying the problems in the leadership and government during the Russian Revolution, while studying this time period in their history classes. Vivienne Blackburn (‘19) says that she liked the novel and, “reading it at the same time as learning the material in history made the Russian Revolution easier to understand.” Seth Novom (‘19) appreciates Orwell’s brilliant criticisms of the government. He describes Animal Farm as a novel with, “great social commentary.”

10. Illiad

Homer’s Greek epic poem, the Iliad, is a story about the Trojan war and its heroes. Although it is a book that we assume was written around 762 B.C., students are still interested in this epic. Madeline Ramirez (‘21) just finished reading the Iliad. She comments, “It was interesting because it was about Greek Mythology which we don’t usually learn about in school.” The Iliad shows the brutal truths of war. “It was pretty violent,” says Madeline, “there was a lot of fighting and even though it is a myth, it made war seem pretty bad.”


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