|The new version|
|The Original, with the illustration Scieszka wrote about.|
As I read the story aloud to each class, it was immediately clear who was getting it, and who wasn't. "Where did that cat get to?" mutters grandma, and two classes gasped and giggled, realizing that the dust monster must have snacked on the kitty. Three classes, however, sat in stony silence. The end was even more revealing--spoiler--when the narrator calls grandma out to get eaten by the monster. Even in the classes that hadn't commented on the cat's disappearance, a few kids said, "What? Did he just kill his grandma?" and the classes that were following all along--well, they pretty much went berserk.
Many students, however, had no reaction whatsoever to the ending, and when I prodded them, were unable to tell me what had happened. "I don't know...he asked her to come to the living room. To sweep, I guess?"
The rest of the class took them through it, and we finally got everyone to understand what Scieszka had made pretty clear already. The whole thing prompted me to start asking them how they handle it when authors leave things open to interpretation, which in turn got me thinking about a good blog discussion question.
How clearly do you like the author to spell things out? In this particular example, it's clear what Scieszka intended, and I think it's fun that he lets you imagine what comes next. Inferring comes easily to me after years of reading and life experience. However, many of my struggling readers were lost. They needed things described and pinned down.
Do you want to have all the loose ends tied up and all the mysteries explained? Or do you like an ending that could be interpreted in more than one way? The Giver is a classic YA novel with an open ending. The recent publication of Son makes it clear that Jonas and Gabe survived, but even Lowry said for years that she intended it to be up to the reader, and that some readers were angry at her for "killing them off," while others were sure that the boys made it safely to Elsewhere. Would that kind of ending drive you nuts, or fill you with joy? I was fine with that ending, but Tana French's In the Woods frustrated the heck out of me when I realized that although the mystery of the day had been solved, the mystery of the past, with its implications of supernatural dangers, was not going to be explained.
Where do you fall on the spectrum?