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Interview with Phyllis Davenport

Author of Rex Barks & Retired Teacher

Although I have never met Phyllis Davenport in person, and we "virtually met" only a few weeks ago, she has played a big role in my life.

Phyllis wrote the book that got me hooked on sentence diagramming. The book is called Rex Barks: Diagramming Sentences Made Easy, and I cannot say enough good things about it.

It is written in a logical order, it gives clear information, and it offers great exercises along with an answer key.
One thing I love about the book is that Phyllis' personality shines through the pages. As you read Rex Barks, you feel like Phyllis is right there in the room with you, and she will be sure that you learn this stuff!

I was delighted to find Phyllis, and even more delighted that she allowed me to ask her some questions about Rex Barks.

english grammar book

1. Where did you learn to diagram sentences?

My grandfather taught me to read out of a phonics book about the three little pigs when I was four or five years old. I got the decoding device established in my head.

Later I spent four years in a plumbing-free country school where there was lots of basic ed drilled into me.

Then I spent four deadly years in a private girls' school where Miss Chalfant made us diagram till my head tried to explode, but it didn't, and the logic and beauty of our language hung on.

2. How did you get the idea to write Rex Barks?

I was teaching in a school system that suddenly chose to abandon a solid English curriculum and go to 9-week thematic units.

Since the great Warriner's Grammar and Composition books were "old," they were carted off.

So there I was, trying to teach the stuff they told me to teach AND what I knew they needed. I began to wonder what I could produce to replace Warriner.

3. How long did it take you to create Rex Barks? What was the process like?

In three weeks during the summer I pounded it out on a standard typewriter.

I got a publish-it-yourself paperback that said give a commercial artist $50 to design a cover, rent a Selectric typewriter, and produce the copy.

Of course, I couldn't do the diagrams on the typewriter. The original has a distinctly home-made quality.

4. How was your book received after you published it?

September came, and I took a copy to my department head, with three questions.

Is it OK to use it with my students at my own expense?

If a student loses it, may I charge the $3 price?

If a student wants to buy one, may I sell it to him?

Yes, it can be a supplementary material. No. No.

I found a little bookstore nearby willing to carry it, but I don't know if my students bought any.

I don't know if her students bought it either, but I do know that years later, Rex Barks continues to sell quite well.

Thank you, Phyllis Davenport, for creating this great resource, and for being so darn cool!

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