Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chew!

The first of a three part-movie series based on The Hobbit, will be released on Friday, December 14.  The movie is brought to us by the same creative team that produced The Lord of the Rings, and I am looking forward to a wonderful movie experience, but I am also feeling a little anxious. I have seen some movies that just did not do justice to the novels they were based on, and The Hobbit is my all-time favorite novel.   I have probably read it 20 times since I was in the seventh grade.  In seventh grade, my English teacher read it out loud to me.

This is my SECOND copy.  I read the covers off of the first one.
I was an Air Force brat in Nellingen, Germany in 1971 during the last semester of 7th grade.  We had a long commute to Stuttgart Junior High School each day, and I don’t have fond memories of my classes.  In fact, I don’t remember any of the classes at all, except for Mr. Chew’s English class.  I remember Mr. Chew as being very tall, with dark hair and big, bushy eyebrows. I don’t remember whether he was a good English teacher, but I do remember his voice:  a deep, basso profundo that he could modulate to fit the setting, mood, and characters of the books he read aloud to us.  

I loved Fridays.  We would start class with a spelling test, and then Mr. Chew would read to us for the rest of the period.  He poured character into his reading, with dramatic rises of pitch and deep, quiet whispers of dread.  It gave me the shivers. When The Lord of the Rings movie series was released, I was astonished to hear Gollum speak in the voice of Mr. Chew!  He captured the light-hearted early start of the book, and gradually shifted the mood of his readings to fit the change in tone in the book, as the hobbit and his dwarvish companions came closer to the final, desperate battle for the Lonely Mountain.  

Do you read to your students?  Forty-two years later, when I read The Hobbit, I still hear the voice of a man whom I only knew for one semester.  I hear the echoes of his love of fantasy and science fiction whenever I pick up the latest Rick Riordan book, and I know that his dedication to reading left an indelible impression on a twelve year old girl.  

In Mr. Chew’s honor, I’m inviting my students to come listen to me read The Hobbit during sixth grade lunches this week, and have planned a book club meeting for the day before the movie is released.   I hope I am able to communicate how much I love this story, and maybe encourage some new fans.    If anyone out there knows a former English teacher named Mr. Chew, tell him “Thank you,” for me!