CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007
The Everyday Living of Children & Teen Monologues: 51 Real Life Acts Complied Together to Enhance Performing Arts Skills for Inspiring young Actors/Actresses Ages 7 thru 18.
Victoria, BC: Trafford, 2005.
75 pp., pbk., $14.58.
Grades 2-12 / Ages 7-17.
Review by Joanne Peters & Jenn Cuddy.
This book of monologues not only provides directives, and different acts created to achieve various emotions, every act is based upon the lives of real living kids. Through observing the students acting these scenes, I discovered what was missing – kids connecting to "Kid Based Situations." I had never observed a group of youngsters so sincere and involved with performance. The students absolutely adored demonstrating every single scene, because the lives or circumstances of youngsters are always amusing to other youngsters. ("Greetings" p. 6.)
Last year, when I reviewed Demetra Hajidiacos' Acting Alone: A Drama Teacher's Monologue Survival Kit, I bemoaned the lack of monologue collections for young actors as well as the overall lack of truly helpful "how-to" books for drama teachers. Both I and Jenn Cuddy, Drama Teacher at Kelvin High School and co-reviewer, were impressed with Acting Alone, and so when we received The Everyday Living of Children & Teen Monologues, we hoped that, once again, we would be equally excited by yet another addition to the school library's collection of monologues for high school students.
Sadly, we were both disappointed. Now, I am not a drama teacher – I am a former classroom English teacher, and maybe that's why I'm over-sensitive to spelling mistakes and split infinitives (the name of the restaurant known colloquially as the "Golden Arches" is spelled as "McDonald's," not "MacDonald's," page 34, and reminding young actors "to not overdo it" just grates me). I can overlook one or two slip-ups, but nearly every second page had some glaring grammatical or orthographical error. And then, there was the Table of Contents' division of monologues into those "Specifically for Young Ladies," "Specifically for Young Gentlemen," and then, "Monologues for Young Males and Females." Why should they be designated as "young ladies" (or gentlemen) and later, "young males or females?" However, more than anything, I found the actual language of the monologues to be totally inauthentic.
For example, the monologue headed up as "Shocked due to starting her menstrual cycle at school this young lady tells her story," has the performer stating: "I got permission from my teacher to go to the lavatory." The "lavatory"??? Later, the speaker states "...the truth of it all is, there is nothing to be embarrassed about." (17) As a senior high school teacher of nearly three decades' experience, I know that no junior - or senior high - school student would refer to the school washroom as "the lavatory". However, lest you think that this is the rant of picky ex-English teacher now transformed into a teacher-librarian, I offer Jenn Cuddy's response to this book:
The intended audience for this book is listed as ages 7 through 18. While there may be some 18-year-olds who would find these monologues "useful," I found that most of monologues are not suitable for 14 to 16-year-olds, let alone a seven-year-old. The content and reading levels are too advanced for children under the age of 12, and the content is a bit trite and immature for older teens. As a drama teacher, I would use this book very sparingly, as monologues can be wonderful tools for engaging students in the dramatic medium, but some may be turned-off by the subject matter.
The "Greetings" section of this book suggests that this monologue book is different from others and states the reason why: others do not provide instruction on body movements, nor do other books provide emotions for character development. While both of these statements are true for the most part, as a drama teacher, I would prefer my students to derive both their emotion and body movement in a more organic fashion.
The book is well laid-out with one monologue per page, each with a short background descriptor written just before the monologue title. The monologues are an appropriate length for high school students, and with some minor re-writings (as offered up by a selection of my students), I could use them in my own classroom. I would give this book a 2.5 star rating, as it is not a 'just pour and serve' type of text. There also needs to be more of a breakdown to delineate which monologues are for specific age groups, rather than just stating whether they are for males or females; sometimes, the content is weak and/or too advanced for younger audiences.
So, there you have it. 2 ½ stars. That's our final offer.
Recommended with reservations.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian and Jenn Cuddy is a drama teacher at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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