British Literature

Teacher Guide: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Arthur Clennam returns home to England to investigate the meaning of his recently deceased father’s last words: “Do not forget!” His inquiries lead him to little Amy Dorrit, a seamstress and companion to his harsh, religious mother. Certain that his family’s secrets are in some way connected with Amy, Arthur works to better her family’s straightened circumstances and to make reparation for whatever damage his family might have caused her. He means to live a blameless life. 

Teacher Guide: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

When a rich and eligible bachelor, Mr. Bingley, moves into the neighborhood, Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters take an eager interest in his romantic affairs, hoping to be singled out for special attention and saved from a life of spinsterhood. Bingley's best friend, Darcy, twice as wealthy as Bingley himself, takes a reluctant shine to Elizabeth, in spite of his belief that she is beneath him socially. Yet his arrogant slights prejudice Elizabeth against him as their unlikely courtship progresses.

Teacher Guide: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

[Originally published in Ready Readers: High School Literature, Vol. 1]

Shakespeare’s immortal classic of political and psychological intrigue belongs on every junior high or high school reading list. Astute readers will encounter ambition and sacrifice, tyranny and patriotism, jealousy and love in abundance as Shakespeare plumbs the glories and the depths of human nature. The characters in Julius Caesar are unforgettable, and their challenge to the reader to examine his own heart rings as true as ever. Noble Brutus, crafty Cassius, loyal Antony, ambitious Caesar – every reader is sure to identify with one of them.

Teacher Guide: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

[Originally published in Ready Readers: High School Literature, Vol. 1]

One of Dickens' most acclaimed works, A Tale of Two Cities is a moving story of love and self-sacrifice set amidst the violent upheaval of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror.  Utilizing a brilliant cast of characters, from the half-mad Dr. Manette and his angelic daughter Lucie to the cynical Sydney Carton and the cruel Defarges, Dickens explores the extremes of human nature.  Through foreshadowing, irony, metaphor and allusion, he expounds the themes of faith, redemption, loyalty, bitterness and more

Teacher Guide: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

[Originally published in Ready Readers: High School Literature, Vol. 1]

Perhaps the most powerful devotional work by the most beloved Christian writer of the twentieth century, The Great Divorce is C.S Lewis' meditation on the nature of heaven, hell, sin and divine redemption. Join Lewis himself on a fanciful journey from the Grey Town to the Solid Land and listen in on his interviews with various "ghosts" -- fellow souls taking a special trip for an advance look at heaven.  Each interview is an incisive commentary on human nature that is sure to surprise, amuse, convict and inspire you. This 145-page novel is not only appropriate for junior high and high school students but also a must read for grownups - even if your kids are small!

Teacher Guide: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

A classic of juvenile literature from the author that inspired CS Lewis, At the Back of the North Wind is a fairy tale of the best kind.  Here myth and mystery conspire to deepen our understanding of reality, to animate it again with imagination. Though it remains as approachable and engaging as the purest fairy tale, this story is rich with insight into the most enduring human questions.  MacDonald leads the reader effortlessly into contemplation of the nature of God, the problem of evil, and the reality of the spiritual world.  MacDonald’s generous use of a host of literary devices will bountifully reward the Lit teacher looking for object lessons and examples. We have read this story with students as young as ten years old, though its most stirring themes (Childlike Faith, The Goodness of Providence) are probably best handled by students in junior high or above.  Perfectly appropriate for high school or adult reading groups as well.

Teacher Guide: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

The original pirate story, and still the best!  Stevenson's classic tale of swashbuckling adventure set the standard for everything that followed, and your students will never regret joining Jim Hawkins and his mates in the search for Skeleton Island. Stevenson's clear themes of loyalty, deception and growing up make for a discussion that's accessible for younger students and teachers alike.

Teacher Guide: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

J.R.R.Tolkien’s engrossing tale of Bilbo Baggins and his quest through Middle Earth is a rare literary phenomenon:  a book that has achieved true classic status less than a century after its publication.  But classic it is, by any definition of the term.  Bilbo’s journey from the safety of the Shire to unknown terrors under the Lonely Mountain captivates young readers whileexploring dozens of universal themes.   Fear and courage, greed and selflessness, pride and humility – all these ideas and more find eloquent treatment in Tolkien’s lyrical prose.  In the grand tradition of the Iliad, Hamlet, Great Expectations and Huckleberry Finn, The Hobbit presents a hero with whom all readers can identify.