John Horn High School

AP English 4 Summer Reading
Part 1: Beowulf
There is a great deal of information on this
sheet. Please read it thoroughly to save
yourself a lot of heartache. Follow all
directions to the letter. E-mail me with any
questions you have as often as you have
[email protected]
Obtain a copy of the epic Beowulf. Any translation is fine, but it must be translated in verse, not prose. The Seamus Heaney
version is by far the most accessible translation for modern audiences, and I urge you to use this one.
Produce a dialectical journal in which you respond to ten (10) significant character moments that correspond to the categories
 2 entries for the monster, Grendel
 2 entries for Grendel’s mother
 1 entry for the Dragon
 2 entries for Hrothgar
 3 entries for Beowulf himself, showing his change over time. A good way to ensure that you get a good look at his change is
to choose a passage that corresponds to each of his battles with the three monsters – Grendel, Grendel’s dam, and the Dragon – or
the periods just before/after those battles.
Entry Guide
You are free to write about any lines that you find significant for any reason. But some questions to guide you:
 What do we learn of these characters – their personalities, their reputations, their motivations for acting as they do,
their relationships?
 What significant images are associated with these characters?
 What might these characters reveal about the culture of the Anglo Saxons?
 What questions are raised by the descriptions of or actions of these characters?
 Are there details which make “good” characters unlikeable or which make “bad” characters sympathetic?
1. QUOTE the significant passage in its entirety, documenting the page and the line number. This is why getting the
Seamus Heaney version might be important; not all editions have lines numbered.
2. Include an in-depth discussion of why you find this passage to be significant – see suggestions below.
3. Remember there will be ten (10) total quotation/discussion entries.
Please follow these FORMATTING instructions carefully for maximum credit:
Type the journal. Single spacing is fine, but double space between the quotation itself and your discussion.
Number each entry.
One entry per page
Record entries in the order listed above – Grendel, followed by Grendel’s mother, followed by the Dragon, and so on.
Include a cover sheet that contains your name, the title Beowulf, and the translator of your version.
Entry 1
Page 2, lines 4-1
(The entry refers to a character I have not asked you to write about.)
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
As his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
And begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.
This passage reveals several things that seem important. First, the speaker clearly admires Sheafson, especially the
way he brought himself up from nothing (a foundling.) Furthermore, the irony of describing him in terms that bring
associations with “terror” and bullying – like calling him a “wrecker of mead benches” and the “scourge of many
tribes” – while finishing with “that was one good king” gives a strong indication that brute force is what’s admired in
this society. Shield Sheafson may have started life with nothing, but he didn’t end up there.
Journals are due: THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, so be sure you have it with you.
Grades are
based on:
-- Completeness, including adherence to category requirements (entries are worth 10 points each.)
-- Quality of the quotation chosen. Do they show that you understand the work?
-- Thought and insight found in your response
-- Following all directions concerning formatting the document
-- All work is your own. Any discussion that comes from Sparknotes, Wikipedia, or anything that
resembles those websites will result in the entire journal’s being rejected as plagiarized. Don’t risk it. You
should also note that the recent movie is NOT anything like the epic you’ve been assigned. Believe me, if Grendel’s mother had looked
remotely like Angelina Jolie, the epic would’ve ended much differently. Do not give me stuff from that movie, please.
Part 2: A Modern Novel
OK, “modern” may be pushing it; a couple of these are 50 years old.
Choose from the list of novel titles below. Read and annotate the text as you read. Then formulate at least 5 Open-ended
Questions and answers regarding the work.
Criteria for Questions
Open-ended questions are questions that, generally speaking,
-- have no right or wrong answers,
-- generate discussion,
-- create disagreement,
-- require close-reading of the text to be answered, but
-- can remain unresolved in spite of in-depth address.
-- They can also connect the text to other texts, ideas, or situations.
Stems to start good open-ended questions include Why, How, In what ways, [So] what. . . and other ideas like these.
Why does George continue to care for Lennie after all the trouble he causes? (Of Mice and Men)
Why does Hamlet treat Ophelia as he does? (Hamlet)
How does Ralph’s relationship with the others change by the end of the story? (Lord of the Flies)
How is Frankenstein similar to certain modern problems we face today? (Frankenstein)
What does Lord of the Flies tell us about human nature? (Lord of the Flies)
In what ways is Macbeth as much a victim as he is a villain? (Macbeth)
Formulate a minimum of 5 good, in-depth, open-ended questions regarding your modern novel. Then jot down your thoughts
about answers to these questions, including any text support you find for your ideas. The questions should be formulated as
clearly and with as much thought as possible. The answers may be short and much less formal. I only want to see that you have
some answer in mind. The questions are what will be judged.
Novels you may use – These were chosen for their appearance on the AP Literature Exam. If you want to deviate from this list,
you need to e-mail me with your choice and get my OK before reading something else. Note also that while these novels have all
appeared at least once on the AP Exam, I make no claims regarding their content; many of these I have not read. Research the
synopsis of any book before you purchase or read it if you’re worried about being offended by the subject matter.
All the Pretty Horses (McCarthy)
Atonement (McEwan)
Beloved (Morrison)
Bless Me, Ultima (Anaya)
The Blind Assassin (Atwood)
The Bluest Eye (Morrison)
Catch-22 (Heller)
Cat’s Eye (Atwood)
Ceremony (Silko)
The Color Purple (Walker)
A Gathering of Old Men (Gaines)
Going After Cacciato (O’Brien)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)
The Inheritance of Loss (Desai)
The Joy Luck Club (Tan)
The Kite Runner (Hosseini)
A Lesson Before Dying (Gaines)
Obasan (Kogawa)
One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver)
The Road (McCarthy)
Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)
Sula (Morrison)
The Things They Carried (O’Brien)
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Women of Brewster Place
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t choose a book you’ve read before for another class. Your previous
teachers and I do converse. I’ll find out if you read it in Burriss’s class previously. And please don’t insult my intelligence or
your own by copying questions from Sparknotes or any of those other goofy sites.
Please follow these FORMATTING instructions carefully for maximum credit:
Type the questions. Single spacing is fine, but double space between the question and your answer ideas.
Number each question.
You may put more than one question on a page, but leave sufficient space between them so that I can see the
distinction between them
You do not need a cover sheet for this assignment.
Put a full standard heading on the page, and TITLE IT “Open-ended Questions for _____________” (and insert the
name of your novel in the blank.)
Questions are due: THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, so be sure you have it with you.
Grades are
based on:
-- Quality of the question asked. See criteria above.
-- Thought and insight found in your response to the question.
-- Following all directions concerning formatting the document
-- All work is your own. Anything that comes from Sparknotes, Wikipedia, or anything that
resembles those websites will result in the entire assignment’s being rejected as plagiarized. Don’t risk it.
Part 3: The Modern Essay: Op-Ed
This assignment will be familiar to some of you. The fact that it’s being continued in your senior year should tell you something:
this represents an important skill that you really need.
Select ONE columnist who is affiliated with a reputable, major news organization. Do not choose a sports or entertainment
columnist, and stay away from bloggers. If you are unsure whether you are reading a reputable columnist, e-mail the name and
link to me and I’ll be happy to tell you. Following are some that I highly recommend:
Leonard Pitts
Kathleen Parker
Steve Blow
Nicholas Kristof
Maureen Dowd
Gail Collins
George Will
Thomas Sowell
David Brooks
Georgie Anne Geyer
Paul Krugman
Thomas L. Friedman
Charles Krauthammer
Ross Douthat
Eugene Robinson
If none of these appeal to you – and I suggest you read work from several writers before finding one to embrace – go to any
reputable, major online newspaper and hit the “Opinion” or “Columnist” or “Viewpoints” button and start reading. Again, do
not choose a blogger, even if he/she writes regularly for a major reputable news outlet. Bloggers just use a different style than the
one I need you to see/analyze/practice.
Your assignment is to
 Read five of the author’s columns
 Type this information on one page:
o The titles of the 5 columns
o Under each title, the date it appeared
o Under the date, the web address where I can find the column itself
 On the same page, following all titles/dates/web addresses, type a 250 word summary/reaction to the columnist’s work.
Some things to address
o Whom would he/she appeal to and WHY?
o Whom would he/she offend and WHY?
o What are your general observations regarding his/her style, the tone used, particular observations about diction
or sentence structure? Is he/she a “musical” writer, or more “encyclopedic?”
o Why did you settle on following this author?
Reactions are due: THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, so be sure you have it with you.
Grades are
based on:
-- Adherence to the criteria – choose a writer from a reputable, major source.
-- Thought and insight found in your response to the writer’s work.
-- Following all directions concerning formatting the document
OK, that’s the end of the stuff you HAVE TO DO. But if you read slowly, or if you are in a number of extracurricular activities,
you might want to take advantage of the opportunity to get a little ahead.
On the first day of school, I’m going to assign you to read Lord of the Flies. Relax; it’s a short book that’s very easy to read.
However, you’ll only have about a week to get it finished, so if you’re busy or if reading takes you a while, go ahead a start now.
I’ve posted study questions that will help you focus on plot, setting and the main character details online. There will be a
READING TEST over this novel during the second week of school.
Again, this is NOT required to be completed during the summer. But it’s there if you want to ease things up for yourself once
school starts.
Finally, but also important: College Applications/Scholarships
You need to begin thinking about this now, before your senior year begins. We will work this year on college and scholarship
application essays. If you have not already done so, this summer you should begin to scour websites for admission/scholarship
essay topics and information from the colleges you’re interested in attending. You should take a look at the Common Application
for Texas ( ) as well as common applications for other schools ( You’ll have to
register and get a login code in order to view the essay topics, but it’s not too early to start. (And it provides a handy comeback
when your mom asks you to clean your room – I can’t now, Mom. I’m working on my college applications. She will be
maximum impressed.)
You should also register at They have reliable information about where to find scholarships and how to
apply. And it’s a free site. Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to pay a search service to find you money for college. These
services are using the same internet that you use; they’re just charging you for what you can easily do yourself.
The first essay you turn in will be this kind of assignment, and the first draft will be due about the second week of school.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Also check out the handout on our website entitled, “General Guidelines for Asking For a Recommendation.” It details some
handy do’s and don’ts you need to know before asking your teachers to write for you.
Let’s Recap
Here’s what you owe me during the first week of school:
 A quotation journal on Beowulf due on the first day of class.
 5 open-ended questions over the modern novel (with answer ideas) due on the first day of class.
 A summary/reaction page from your following of one news columnist from a reputable source.
Failure to complete these assignments will have a negative effect on your average for the first six weeks. Please keep in mind that
your response to these assignments will constitute my first impression of your ability and dedication as a student. Don’t peg
yourself immediately as the kid who’s always looking for the easy way out. Besides, I’ve read the Sparknotes, Wikipedia
articles, and various other cheat-the-system resources for these books.
If you need to contact me over the summer, you can reach me at [email protected] I try to check this at least once a