It’s almost time for back to school (actually, I suppose some of you have already started classes!) — so what better way to sweeten up the return to the classroom than with ways to use Sweetly by Jackson Pearce in the classroom! Here are a few essay & project ideas to get you started:
* Study some of the original versions of “Hansel and Gretel” and compare it to Pearce’s retelling in Sweetly. Discuss where she drew her inspirations for different elements of the book, and how she differed from the source material.
* Compare the elements from Sisters Red that carry over into Sweetly. How do they complement each other? Explore the ways in which Pearce is building upon the world she created in her first book.
* Discuss the elements of classic fairy tales, and the sorts of lessons they carried. Now compare those to the messages conveyed in Sisters Red and/or Sweetly.
* Explore the different types of relationships in Sweetly: the brother-sister, the lovers, the friends, the neighbors, etc. How do these different roles and relationships play a part in the story’s progression?
* Fairy tales were originally written as cautionary tales. Do you think Sweetly is a cautionary tale? What sort of message do you think the book conveys?
* Fairy tales, in their various versions and retellings, continue to be popular today — hundreds of years after people first started telling them. Discuss what makes these stories so enduring. Why do people still enjoy them?
* Explore the oral tradition of the fairy tale, and how the stories continued to evolve — in many cases, even after they had been written down by people like the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen. How does this tradition lend itself to the continued practice of reinterpreting fairy tales, like Pearce has done with Sisters Red and Sweetly?
* Create a map of Live Oak as described in Sweetly. Illustrate it with key locations that are important to the story, such as the Chocolatier, the post office, and Judy’s diner.
* Create a collage of important symbols in Sweetly. What images would you find important? Consider things such as “the witch,” the woods, the chocolatier, etc.
* Try your hand at candy-making! Attempt some of the recipes based on sweets Sophia Kelly makes in Sweetly. What do you get out of the process of candy-making? Is it enjoyable? Relaxing? Stressful?
* Perform one of the scenes from Sweetly as a short skit. Consider some of the scenes with important dialogue, such as conversations between Gretchen and Sophia, or between Gretchen and Ansel. What sort of dramatic elements come into play in these conversations?
For the comments: What other ways can you think of to use Sweetly in the classroom? Share your ideas below?