"Because you want us to have fun!" This was the response of one of my 8th graders when I asked the class to predict why I was about to read aloud the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears during our study of the novel Where the Lilies Bloom (WTLB), by Vera and Bill Cleaver. Incorporating an accessible - perhaps even familiar - folk tale into a literary lesson can lighten the atmosphere and help students to feel comfortable with the task of literary analysis. Luckily, the authors of this engaging and layered novel very clearly intended readers to find numerous allusions to The Story of the Three Bears, and to make connections that reveal important themes in their now-classic novel for young people.
This lesson provides a detailed discussion of the similarities between Where the Lilies Bloom (WTLB) and the folk tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It includes a written exercise for students focused on the use of evidence in literary analysis. By laying out four categories for which students should find evidence, the lesson makes clear that direct quotes (with page numbers!) are the right way to prove their points when analyzing literature. Before the student writes an introductory paragraph, this evidence is collected and categorized, ready to be used in the body of an essay. Depending on the age or skill level of each class, I suggest several options for teachers to provide relevant quotes or to ask students to start from scratch to find evidence in the text.
In addition to a two-page written exercise for students, I have included 2+ pages listing WTLB passages that parallel the traditional European tale, an answer key, as well as pages of background and questions for the teacher to use in guiding discussion.
If you thought WTLB was straightforward realistic fiction, you may have a few "Aha!" moments with the discussion points in this lesson, and find ways to explore the novel on a new level. The Cleavers clearly relished tucking in details that would recall the Goldilocks story as well as other European fairy tales (you will find a few other hints in my answer key in this lesson). I hope this lesson helps you and your students to all live happily ever after!