A couple of weeks ago I read Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt. What a powerful, poignant story of a young girl growing from girlhood to womanhood! This book and its characters continue to linger in my heart and mind.
Here’s a brief description about the book from the inside cover: “Up a Road Slowly is the story of a girl growing to maturity and of the people who influenced her life along the way. This is a sensitive and perceptive book which will be welcomed and appreciated by those who are now experiencing or who have already experienced the sometimes painful often beautiful years of adolescence. It is the story of one girl, Julie Trelling, but it could be the story of many.” Yes, it is the story of many. Parts of Julie’s story are my story too.
I learned of this book in the early nineties when I first started teaching. In fact, the book was on my classroom library shelf. But, for some reason, I never read the book. What prompted me to read the book now is that it is one of the choice books my rising seventh graders can choose to read this summer. I am not overstating when I say my life is richer because I read this book.
Hunt is able to capture in words the longing, the joy, the self-centeredness, the disappointment, the misunderstandings that encapsulate adolescence. She does this without sermonizing or belittling the experiences of youth. Even as a woman in my forties, I found myself challenged and encouraged by the various characters. This book isn’t plot driven, but more a progression of Julie’s life.
The 1966 cover of the book may throw-off some young readers—an old house set in the woods—but the publishers have an updated cover with a “modern-looking” young girl on it. Pick whichever cover you think will best appeal to you or the female readers in your house.(I would be less than honest if I didn’t say this book will resonate more with females than with males.) Believe me, I am on a mission to “sell” this book to my own daughter. I really think that if one gives the book a chance, the characters and their experiences will win reluctant readers over.
Lastly, as I think about teaching writing to seventh graders this year, I was struck by a comment Uncle Haskell, a wanna-be writer, tells Julie as she begins her own writing career. “Write of things you know about, Julie; familiar, simple things that you have experienced; things that have touched you deeply.”
I can’t think of better advice to give to my budding writers this year—write about the things you know.