Great Books

with Dachelle McVey

We believe in the power of story.
“When you read a book, you are in a mind-to-mind encounter with its author, whether he lived 1000 years ago or lives today. This is the wonder of real books—all kinds of books, not only the serious and factual. Your mind grows through these encounters.”
—Dr. Ruth Beechick
We’re excited to introduce you to our new Great Books columnist, Dachelle McVey. Dachelle is a working, homeschooling mom of three.

She is also the author of dozens of online book clubs for kids from preschool to high school at her site:

High School
Animal Farm
Exploring Allegory & Satire
Based on Animal Farm by George Orwell
Book Description:
Animal Farm is both satire and an allegory written at the end of World War II. It begins in an ordinary barnyard. Yet, the animals have decided that they are not happy with their living conditions. They feel that they do all the work, so the farmer should treat them with more respect since he benefits from the situation. Soon, they take part in a coup and run off the farmer and all the employees.

The leaders of the coup, the pigs Snowball and Napoleon, begin to convince the other animals that the pigs are more intelligent and should be listened to and followed. Initially, things go well and the animals have a productive harvest, but things do not stay this way for long.

Soon we see that Napoleon is power hungry and does not want to share the leadership. Secretly, he has been building an army of ferocious dogs that he uses to run off Snowball. For the rest of the book, everything that goes wrong is blamed on Snowball so that Napoleon is never seen as responsible for any wrongdoing.

Without spoiling the plot, the book spends considerable time exploring the inner thoughts, needs, and desires of the animals. Napoleon uses different types of propaganda to keep the animals obedient. Throughout the book, he writes and rewrites the rules for the animals while convincing them that the rules have never changed. At the end, we see a surprising turn of events that only Orwell could write.

Why You Will Want To Read This Book:
Orwell did not write with the intention of creating novels that would last through time.
“I write it because there is some lie I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
– George Orwell, Why I Write
His intentions with Animal Farm were to shed light on the authoritarian governments that were taking over countries one-by-one. Specifically, Animal Farm follows the Russian Revolution and eventual takeover by Stalin.

Orwell was staunchly against Great Britain, his home country, forming an alliance with Russia not because of the need to end the war, but because of how the British viewed Stalin. He was considered a hero, but Orwell considered him just another replacement for a dictator who claimed to be “for the people” but was not.

As an interesting aside, the CIA used Orwell’s book as political ammunition and had it translated and dropped by balloon over the countries of Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.

It’s important for students to read this book, not just for the historical aspects, but because of the very real and very current trends in politics and world leaders. Power hungry leaders will always exist. The average person will forever be lied to and used for political and monetary gain. None of this is new and it often repeats itself. Being aware of the politics of Animal Farm can help students become critical thinkers and not so easily swayed by a pretty word.

Discussion Questions:
This book has so many great areas to discuss with your students. How were the lives of the animals changed from when they lived under the rule of Farmer Jones and then the pigs? In what ways did Major, and later Napoleon, persuade the animals to go along with their ideas? What do the personalities of the animals show us about the types of people in the world? Why do you think the windmill takes such an important role in the story? Does the ending make sense? Would you change the ending?
More Books Like This:
Animal Farm is one of the most famous of George Orwell’s novels. You may also enjoy his book, 1984. You’ll also want to check out Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
For more fun with our literary adventure, check out the Animal Farm Online Book Club for Teens from Literary Adventures for Kids.
Dachelle McVey

achelle McVey is a working homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. She is the owner of, a blog about her adventures in homeschooling and parenting. She is also the author of dozens of online book clubs for kids from preschool to high school at her site Literary Adventures for Kids. You can often find her reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. ;)

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Activity Guide
Find fun, hands-on activities for each of the Great Books in our Spring Activity Guide!
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