The Gobblestone School: A Tale Inspired by the German Criminalization of Homeschooling, by Jacob Schriftman (aka Jokim Schnoebbe) (Moonrise/CreateSpace, Scotts Valley, California, 2009)

I wanted to like this book.

First, I wanted to read it, and for that I had to buy it, as it was not available in the library.  It languished in my Amazon "save for later" cart for a while, but I recently decided to indulge myself.  I'm glad I read it, but as indulgence goes, I'd rather have dark chocolate.

I don't remember where I first heard of The Gobblestone School; it was probably because of my deep concern (and daily prayers) for Germany, where homeschooling is sufficient grounds for forcibly removing children from their homes and placing them in governmental care.  Many homeschoolers have left their homes and jobs, families and friends to be able to give their children the education they believe is best, and the author of The Gobblestone School (now living in Ireland) is one of them.  So I really wanted to like his book.

But even extreme sympathy, identification, and concern won't make me say I like a book if I don't.

The Gobblestone School has three problems, as far as I am concerned.  First, it's aimed at modern adolescents, and I like very little that is focused on this narrow demographic.  I do give the author kudos for not filling his book with profanities and sexual themes, as many of that genre do.  It's also about school and magic, and let's be honest:  when it comes to modern adolescents, school, and magic, J. K. Rowling has set the bar rather high.

Second, I don't have to be able to write a better story to be qualified to say this one is not well written.  I can stand a poorly-written book if the story captivates me sufficiently, and I can stand a less interesting story if the craft is superlative.  But two strikes and I'm not happy.

Finally, I had hoped that the book would be a good introduction to the benefits of homeschooling and to the particular problems in Germany, an easily-read explanation I could lend to others. It turns out to be a book that the homeschooling cognoscenti and children who are miserable in school might appreciate, but I doubt it would contribute anything to a reasoned dialogue.  Even though the heavy-handed stereotyping is admittedly important to the plot, and the unhappy German school experience has clearly autobiographical elements (and therefore can't be entirely dismissed as false), the extreme negativity about school (and German school authorities) disqualifies the book from the outreach role I had hoped for it.  Not that the author doesn't have reason enough to feel strong negative emotions about the German school system!

My own hopes for it aside, The Gobblestone School was actually a fun, quick, and easy read, much better than most in its genre, though that's not exactly high praise.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 10:05 am | Edit
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