Shmoop: CliffNotes for a Media Savvy Generation
Ernest Hemingway earned the name Papa at the ripe old age of 27. His parents hated his writing. In a literary duel with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway gave Fitzgerald’s critique a three word brush-off: “Kiss My Ass”. Like MTV or “E”, Shmoop appeals to the quick moving, often purient interests of digital aged kids. Hence, the Hemingway synopsis is pithy, insightful and full of memorable tidbits .
Shmoop may be one of the dumbest product names I’ve ever encountered, but it’s a pretty brainy take on summaries, study guides and synopsis of classic literature, poetry and histroy. Like CliffNotes (which offers a far wider selection of course materials) and SparkNotes (which is a much edgier subject review), Shmoop is meant to augment (not replace) the textbook and also instill a love of learning and reading. Of course anyone who’s been around kids long enough knows that these sorts of review sites often create accidental (or not) plagarists and are often accused of spoonfeeding kids a summary of literature so that they’ll never need to crack the real book.
Created by a bunch of dedicated PhD’s who couldn’t imagine that kids wouldn’t want to read the book, Shmoop gets its name from a Yiddish word that means “to move forward.” Schmoop is available free of charge and it includes analysis, study questions, audio and video links, cram sheets and even lightening paced quizzes to help students master the classics. Shmoop summaries are also available for the Amazon Kindle and as iPod/iTouch apps.
Once a kid understands that Hestor Pryne is a just another single mom, ostracized by society. Or that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner might explain a lot about why they’re doomed to disobey their parents may spur them on to read and study. But even if they just read the Shmoop, they’ll have an interesting and modern take on literature,.