Come Through the Magic Door with Me …¹
by Myrtle Robinson, ASH
Sometimes we embark upon a
path whose outcome we may never know. I have always been interested in
encouraging young people to read and hope they will include the Canon in
that reading. The project described in this article was my brain-child and
succeeded as I had
would. For the eighth graders involved, the seeds of interest have been sown.
Who knows how many fledgling Sherlockians we have created?
In April 2002, the Hansom Wheels scion of the Baker Street Irregulars
hosted a weekend of activities in Columbia, SC. Included in the program was
an outreach effort to interest young people in Sherlock Holmes. We hope other
groups will follow our example.
The following notice appeared in our brochure for The
Intergalactic Sherlockian Weekend:
FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATION—In
a competition sponsored by the Hansom Wheels, eighth grade language arts
students from two South Carolina schools are reading The Hound of the
Baskervilles and will prepare projects to compete for prizes for
themselves and their schools. Prizes will be awarded at the Saturday
luncheon at which winners and their parents will be guests.
Among our members is a high school mathematics teacher, Dr. Twyla
Tuten, who lives and works in North Augusta, SC, approximately 100 miles
from Columbia. She was enthusiastic about my idea to have middle school
students read HOUN as a project and enter a Sherlockian competition. She
contacted schools around the state and two eighth grade advanced placement
class teachers in North Augusta were interested. Our October approach was
late because teachers usually have their year’s plans in place in early
summer. However, the schools had canceled a traditional trip to Washington
because of September 11, and the teachers welcomed a project to fill the gap.
They used HOUN in a study of Victorian life in general.
Since each student must have a copy of the book if it is required
reading, we ordered 92 copies of HOUN. Seventy-two came in and were
distributed in early January with the other twenty arriving a week or so
later. I’m told twenty youngsters were “champing at the bit” by the time they
received their copies. At the teachers’ request, Twyla visited each school to
give an introduction to the Canon, HOUN in particular, and some information
about Doyle. In mid-March the project ended, and the teachers graded the
entries and selected 60 “products” deemed suitable for the competition.
By March 31, Twyla had the
entries. Jo Bradford, another Hansom Wheels member, and I participated in the
judging. We found entries all about Twyla’ s kitchen and dining room, posters
leaning against walls, and her computer prepared for viewing the PowerPoint
entries. There were numerous posters, two 221B dioramas—one with Dr.
Mortimer standing outside the door, models of Baskerville Hall, a plaster of
Paris plaque, a collage of Sherlockian items, a board game, a model of the
yew alley, and many more. Four entries were chosen, two from each class.
¹Arthur Conan Doyle, Through
the Magic Door (Pleasantville, NY: The Akadine Press, 1999), p.5.