Say hi to Miss Martone’s class at Cathedral Chapel School in Los Angeles. Hi, class!

Miss Martone's Class from eleven, the book by Tom Rogers

Miss Martone is front right; your author is playing Waldo in the middle.

Miss Martone has been teaching Eleven to her students at CCS this spring and invited me by for a mid-book check-in. These kids are excellent readers, and we had an insightful discussion about some of the book’s key themes of family, heroism, loss, and maturity.

They’ve also been studying the Holocaust this term, and coincidentally, on the same day I wrote my post about my friend and Holocaust survivor Andy Roth, Miss Martone led a bunch of her students on a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance.

Miss Martone's Class from eleven, the book by Tom Rogers

Class field trip to the Museum of Tolerance

In addition, they’ve been reading Night, Elie Wiesel’s account of his time in the camps. (Elie and Andy were bunkhouse mates at Buchenwald.)

And they were so moved by an article in Tablet magazine about the struggles of aging Holocaust survivors that they wrote letters (read them here) to the subjects profiled in the article.

Seriously, click on that link. Their letters are fantastic–thoughtful, empathetic, eloquent.

Adults don’t give kids enough credit

Kids can handle tough subjects.

They are curious and interested. Many are not strangers to trouble and tragedy. When I was in 5th grade, my own dad nearly died of a ruptured gall bladder. Middle-schoolers are discovering that life is full of difficult situations; asking questions and reading about the experiences of others is one way they start to figure out how to deal with dark times.

With Eleven, I’ve encountered plenty of adults who are wary of the subject matter. Many are understandably still disturbed by memories of that day and want to shield their children from that painful moment in history.

But hiding the truth does them no service.

And besides, nothing is more tempting than the thing you can’t have.

Which brings us (sort of) to cupcakes

The first time I visited CCS, one of Miss Martone’s students, Emilee, stayed after school to meet me. I’m not sure which of us was more excited.

The second time I visited CCS, two days later, Emilee informed me that she had already finished the book. I’m not sure which of us had the bigger grin.

The third time I visited CCS, to talk about the book with the class, Emilee told me she’d gotten up early to bake a batch of cupcakes in honor of my visit. (Cupcakes feature in a key scene in Eleven, involving a bully out to ruin a birthday.)

But the cupcakes slipped her grip and hit the floor.


I’m not sure which of us looked more glum.

Miss Martone's Class from eleven, the book by Tom Rogers

That’s Emilee, second from right (with Portia, Ivy, and Shannon)

Sure. Shakespeare got a cupcake on HIS day.

Sure. Shakespeare got a cupcake on HIS day.

In Eleven, the main character rescues the smashed cupcakes by mashing them back together like snowballs. I wouldn’t have minded if Emilee had done the same!

But never mind. Like a true hero, Emilee shook off the failure and vowed to bake again.

And like a true hero, I vowed to come back for more.