Monday, February 13, 2006

Dear Diary...

It's amazing how some memories, long forgotten in the fog of time, suddenly reappear unexpectedly, for no apparent reason at all. When I was in elementary school, probably around fifth grade (which would've been 1980-81ish) I was in that voracious reader phase. I read everything I could get my hands on, and read it quickly. In class, we'd have a reading assignment where each classmember took turns reading a particular short story aloud from our book. This, obviously, plodded along at a snail's pace. So I'd read the assigned story, then skip ahead to read the next one, and the next...

One day, I read a piece titled "From the Diary of Yeddo Ski-Kredo." A Google search tells me it was written by Caroline D. Henry, who's only other genre claim to fame I can discern was a poem titled "Moon of Legend" published in the winter 1983-84 edition of Space and Time.

"From the Diary of Yeddo Ski-Kredo" was written from the perspective of a young girl's diary entries. From the title, I took it as being set in the future. In the diary entries, Yeddo talks about vaguely familiar kid concerns, while also mentioning a growing number of UFO sightings being reported in the media. By the end of the story, aliens land and come out to greet the incredulous natives. But wait! Yeddo describes them as only having hair on the tops of their heads, and only two legs and two arms! Whoa! These aliens are humans! Which means Yeddo, the viewpoint character, was actually alien all along.

Looking back now, I can see that this is a variation of the "Jar of Tang" story type from the Turkey City Lexicon. The entire purpose of the story is to mislead the reader and shout "Fooled you!" at the end, making the reader look back and view those odd names and quirky word choices in a whole new light. It manages to get away with this sleight-of-hand, however, simply because it's targetted to a young audience that hasn't encountered such a trick before. It becomes more of a teaching tool than a story. For me, however, it was an eye-opening experience, because it showed me that fiction could be more than linear narrative--it could engage in mis-direction depending on which information was provided or withheld from the reader. I won't say this otherwise forgettable story was hugely influential, but it did have an obvious impact in light of the fact I remember it 26 years later.

There is a postscript to this ramble: For the next several days, I waited eagerly for the class to reach that story, so they could experience that same mind-blowing revelation at the end I had. In truth, I probably just wanted to impress the teacher by having all the answers to her questions at the end, to show her I "understood" the story whereas the other students were befuddled ignoramuses. So imagine my horror that as we opened our books to the story, the teacher, Mrs. Loessin, tells the class, "Now, when you read this, you have to remember that it's not a human being writing the diary entries. It's an alien on a different planet. And the UFOs she talks about are really spaceships from Earth. And the aliens she sees are really people. You need to know that before you read this story." For an otherwise effective and "with it" teacher, she really, really missed the boat on how best to teach "Yeddo." I think my foul and evil mood lasted a week or more after that one.

Now Playing: L'orchestre national de France Holst: The Planets

2 comments:

  1. It is strange how these stories and memories stay with you! I just Googled 'yeddo ski kreddo' and found your blog. I read ahead in my elementary English class and found the same story! It has stayed with me all these years. When it popped into my head a few minutes ago, i decided to research. The textbook name had something to do with journeys, and featured some cosmic artwork. I'll try to find out. Thanks for the connection!

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  2. For some reason, this popped into my head recently as well! I read it back in 6th grade ('89-'90), and remember really enjoying the story of Yeddo Ski-Kreddo. The part where she comments on the new creatures' having only a tuft of hair on their head--I still clearly remember that part and how my teacher asked us "why do you think she said that?". The ending was great!

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