Tuesday, June 23, 2015

by Donald Crews

This story is autobiographical for Crews and a brilliant mentor text for memoir. It could also be a great mentor for small moment writing or personal narrative.

I love this book for the sense of carefree, unsupervised play that the characters experience-especially at the beginning of the book.

Donald Crews dedicated Shortcut to six people (on a first name basis)  with the last line in the dedication  being “All’s well that ends well”. Since there are seven characters illustrated, I can only guess the six named in the dedication are Crews’ family and friends in the story.

Book Talk
Seven kids are heading home after a day’s play.  They have apparently lost track of time, as it is getting late and they know they are expected at home soon.

A favorite line from this part of the book:
“We should have taken the road.
 But it was late, and it was
   getting dark, so we
     started down the track.”

They know they shouldn’t take the ‘shortcut’ down the railroad track, because it can be dangerous if a freight train unexpectedly appears.  The railroad is on a steep mound, with briers, water and possibly snakes down below it.  

The darkening sky adds urgency to their quest to get home quickly, so the seven decide to take the shortcut—walking along the railroad. This brave decision to take the railroad adds a playful attitude to the scene as the children laugh, shout and sing as they walk along.

Another favorite line:
“We laughed. We shouted. We sang.
   We tussled. We threw stones.
      We passed the cut-off that
         led back to the road.”

Suddenly, they do hear a train and their dilemma deepens—should they run ahead to the path home—-or back to the cut-off?  Should they jump down from the railroad mound into the brier patch?

They decide to run back to the cut-off—-but are forced to jump off the tracks when the train catches up with them.  The train passes them. They are so close that they feel the tremendous force and noise. Crews beautifully illustrates the train passing with all its strength.  Finally i the train passes and heads on. The children are still scared, but are all fine.

To head home this time, they take the cut-off to the road, like they should have in the first place.
They arrive home safe and sound and no one tells the grown-ups or talks about the experience for a long, long time.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Memoir
Reading Workshop Strategies:  Connecting, Predicting, Inferring
Writing Workshop Genres: Memoir, Personal Narrative, Small Moment
Curricular Themes: We Need Diverse Books

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