Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe
by Charlotte Gill (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation, 2011)
Invite students to explore and analyze the author’s distinctive voice, tone, and style in the first section of chapter 1. You could suggest the following questions to begin the discussion about the literary excellence of Gill’s style, but encourage students to add their own questions as well.
• What effect does the author’s use of the present tense for so much of this first chapter have on readers (e.g., a sense of participating in the story in the present moment)?
• Why might the author have decided to use “we”—the first-person plural pronoun—as the narrative point of view (e.g., it emphasizes the “tree-planting tribe” who are the actors in the drama and who are mentioned in the subtitle of the book)?
• What do all those short, uncomplicated sentences—and even incomplete sentences—contribute to the author’s distinctive voice and style (e.g., they convey the immediacy of the storyteller’s experience and hold readers’ attention)?
• How do the figures of speech (e.g., “muddy bands circle our waists, like grunge rings on the sides of a bathtub” and “The sun comes up with the strength of a dingy light bulb”) convey the tree planters’ experience and contribute to the mood of Gill’s story?
See the teaching resource for more lesson ideas.
Cross-curricular Suggestions: Geography, Social Studies, History
Students could study Eating Dirt to extend their understanding of the interactions between human systems and the environment—ways that people affect their environment through their decisions and activities. Reading Charlotte Gill’s book will deepen students’ appreciation for one of Canada’s most important natural resources and the relationship of that resource to the country’s economy.