Category Archives: Little Women

The Wide Wide Web

It started out as a list of YA books on my PGCE course wiki last year. A few people thought it was useful, so I decided to retrieve it and maybe post it online somewhere as a resource for other teachers. Then I started categorising. Historical books needed a seperate page. What about recent titles? Wouldn’t some links be good?
Now I’ve got a website. I didn’t quite plan that. I published it online last week and some helpful people on Mumsnet and the TES forums critiqued it a bit for me. There is still lots to do on it, but I’m hoping it will evolve into a useful reference point for English teachers looking for YA fiction resources. There is so much to do when you are teaching that keeping up with new fiction often slips way down the list, but I know from experience how being able to share pupil’s enthusiasms for the books they are reading can transform your relationship. When a child comes up to me and says ‘Miss, I really enjoyed that book you told me about’ that makes my day.
Not long before I decided to build the website, I was in a secondhand bookshop in Barnstaple, poking around in odd volumes of forgotten 19th century fiction to see if I could find an Anthony Trollope I hadn’t read yet. I like them for train journeys – there’s nothing like knowing you have 600 pages of 7pt type on onionskin paper in your pocket in case of unexpected delays. Especially on the Barnstaple to Exeter line where sheep on the track can hold you up for ages. Anyway, I didn’t find any Trollope that day, but I did find The Wide Wide World – a sentimental epic that sold more copies in its day than any other American novel bar Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I had to buy it. It was pretty much unreadable, but that’s not the point. Owning it was a link with my favourite literary heroine from childhood, Jo March, who I remember crying over it in Aunt March’s house in Little Women. So when I found the Wide Wide World domain name was available, I snapped it up. Because for teenagers that is what fiction is, a way into the wide wide world outside their own experience. Books are ‘magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn’. As an English teacher, my job is to point the way to those windows.


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