Monday, February 15, 2010

The Unnameables

By Ellen Booream
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-15-206389

FROM THE FLAP: There was that feeling again, blowing through his brain like a spring morning.
The feeling scared him. It wasn’t real, wasn’t right, had no Name. He stifled it, tamped it down to a murmur, something he could control.
And then he acted on it. He ignored all the messages sent by the better part of his brain. Disgust, for example, because he’d promised himself he’d never do this again. Resignation, because he’d known he would. Terror, because someone might find out.
Joy, because he could do it at all.
They call him Raggedy, Plank Baby and Nameless because of his scraggly hair, the plank he was tied to when he washed up on the shore as an infant, and his meaningless last name. Nobody expects much from a foundling called Medford Runyuin.
On this neat, orderly, puritanical island, known simply as Island, where everything (and everyone) is named after its purpose, useful names are what count the most.
And Medford’s got a terrible secret. A secret he hides under his bed and everywhere else it will fit. A secret that even his best friend, Prudy Carpenter, doesn’t know. He just can’t risk telling her.
His secret is Unnameable.
Unnameable makes you get banished.
But a strange creature is about to arrive on Island. His first stop will be Medford’s house, where the secret will be out before Medford can blink twice.

KATE’S TAKE: If you want to promote creativity, challenging the status-quo, and staying true to one’s self, this novel is a must.

ISLAND LIFE SNIPPETS (Interpersonal, Verbal/Linguistic)

With a partner, ask students to write a new scene with dialogue that could occur on Island.
Have students act out their scenes in front of the class.

NATURALIST SKETCHES (Naturalist, Visual/Spatial)

Nature inspires Medford’s carvings. At the end of the book, the townspeople discover that one of the Island’s most respected families, the Learned’s, have an ancestor who sketched. Take students outside and ask them to sketch a natural object of their choosing.


Island is stuck in Puritanical times. Ask students to research a different historical era, and write a story about an Island stuck in that time with those values.

STRANGE WINDS (Bodily/Kinesthetic)

Goatman brings uncontrollable winds to the island with the touch of his finger. Ask students to spread out around the room and pretend they are trees. They can grow from a seed to a tall tree. Then, have the leader act out the tree’s movements during one of Goatman’s winds.

UNNAMEABLE SCULPTURES (Bodily/Kinesthetic and Visual/Spatial)

Turns out at the end of the novel, that righteous Prudy’s mother, also has an unnameable passion. She sculpts. Give students clay or model magic to sculpt an object. Further the “useless” fun by letting them paint the dried sculptures.


-11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
-Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
-Steal Away Home by Lois Ruby
-The Giver by Lois Lowry
-When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

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