For the upcoming August, September discussion books, visit the CLN website.
This month’s Chapter & Verse Book Club selections were Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse) and The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert (First Second). This month’s theme was “steampunk,” a movement that has a firm grip on a large number of people. You can see more about steampunk on Wikipedia, at Steampunk.com, and at Steampunk Magazine. Scott Westerfeld’s website has been re-designed in a steampunk fashion. Reports were filed by four of our participating book clubs. We feel The Professor’s Daughter fits the theme because it’s all about Victorian England and the morés of the time, along with an anachronism (Monsieur Imhotep IV).
We had 6 participants last night–2 librarians, 1 teacher, 3 writers. Most of us agreed that we wouldn’t have picked up either selection on our own. However, we were glad we read them.
We enjoyed The Professor’s Daughter very much. Some comments were that it was clever, funny, and appealing. We had a discussion about graphic novels and concluded that, from the selections we’ve read, we can now understand why they have a large following. We also discussed being a visual reader vs. a text reader and how that affects our enjoyment of graphic novels.
After reading Leviathan, one participant said she has decided she’s a steampunk fan. Most of us weren’t familiar with the term and she explained it. Most of us fully enjoyed the book.
We talked about the various themes in the story—including environmental. We thought the author did a good job of showing two cultures both thinking that theirs was better. Most agreed that it was interesting to present an alternate history. One history buff said her knowledge of history added depth to her enjoyment of the book. Some found the jump from one character’s point of view to the other somewhat jarring. We also agreed that the illustrations were extremely well done.
Interestingly, the book spurred a lively discussion of current technology—especially focusing on e-books vs regular books.
—Report filed by Linda Glaser, facilitator and author
We had great attendance (seven) for such a warm evening, and we had a new member! Her name is Sheri and we are delighted to welcome her to our group. We miss Ann who moved to Kansas City, and we wish her well.
We spent a little time talking about the State Fair Alphabet Forest and the Ann Rockwell and M.T. Anderson visits to the Twin Cities. Heidi related her trip to ALA in New Orleans. You can view a video of the 2011 Caldecott Committee celebrations with the illustrators.
The Professor’s Daughter
Our Minnesota nice response to the book: interesting. Other responses included crazy and bizarre. We wondered if this was dry French humor that we didn’t quite appreciate. Perhaps kidnapping Queen Victoria and throwing her in the river is funny to the French. There were a lot of outrageous events! It seemed like a melodrama, yet we were surprised there was so little emotion when the father died and the family viewed him as a mummy.
The plot starts immediately without providing background information. We liked the setting and the illustrations were fun. Had this not been a graphic novel, much more information would need to have been provided, but that’s the nature of graphic novels. The illustrations convey as much or more than the text.
We knew this was a love story, a strange love story. But, we didn’t think it would appeal to Twilight readers. We felt this was a book for high school students and young adults who liked offbeat stories.
A recent high school graduate, one of our member’s daughters, happened to be in the bookstore during our discussion, so we asked her to read the book. She read it right then and there and graciously provided us her feedback. She did not find the book interesting. She saw no point in the story, no moral value. She did not think it was humorous but found it weird. She didn’t think this was a book for the vampire audience.
At this point we had a surprise guest visitor! Derek Anderson stopped by with his lovely wife and told us about a new book he’s working on, written by Jane Yolen. It’s an illustrated poem titled Waking Dragons and Derek said, “It going to be a really cool book.” Then he showed us his book Story County and talked a little bit about it. He asked us to say “hi” to Steve and Vicki.
We liked that both the male and female main characters were strong. There was a reversal of gender roles, though. We are presented with a klutzy prince who cries. How much would that appeal to young boys? We also wondered about the cover art and whom that would appeal to.
This is very different from Westerfeld’s Uglies series and it reminded one member of Airborne. But, while it was steampunk, and it provided an interesting world, we didn’t think it included enough detail. It seemed to need the illustrations to understand some of the beasties and Clanker machinery. We would have liked more information about the philosophy of the Darwinists and the Clankers. We did appreciate the author’s note to explain that this was alternative history; some of it was accurate and some of it was fictional.
This almost seemed like a screenplay, a movie waiting to happen. There wasn’t a complete story arc. Rather, the reader was left with a cliffhanger. One member who had listened to the audio version of the book (and needed the book, also, to view the illustrations) was eager to begin the second book in the series, Behemoth. However, once she started, she found she didn’t really care about the characters any longer, and she didn’t finish the book. Perhaps it was all the war. Another member mentioned that the book seemed to glamorize war, and we felt bad about a quote she found: “Nothing important ever happened to common people.”
We couldn’t think of a treat related to either story, so Natasha brought a delicious cheesecake that we enjoyed very much.
—Report filed by Heidi Hammond, co-facilitator
We had a large crew on hand to discuss steampunk in the guise of Leviathan and The Professor’s Daughter.
A number of our members really enjoyed Leviathan and were looking for the follow-up books, Behemoth and Goliath. The last title isn’t available until the end of September. We discussed alternate history, the number of authors who write that type of book, and how it works. People were fascinated by the Darwinists, wanting to know more about the genetically engineered creatures. We felt strongly that anyone who is interested in military strategy and machinery would find this book exciting. The female character was strong, and the sheltered male character became stronger.
This prompted a discussion of both steampunk and trilogies. People find trilogies frustrating when the story in the book doesn’t have its own arc. This book had quite a cliffhanger, which is good if you’re the publisher and want to generate sales, but bad if you’re the reader. Steampunk intrigued a number of people and the list of websites to look things up (see above) interested them.
The Professor’s Daughter bewildered people. They didn’t quite know what to make of it. We talked about French humor and a taste for the absurd. Thinking about Jerry Lewis, Donald Duck, Ionesco, and Moliere, all of whom are honored in France, started to put things in perspective. Everyone agreed that Sfar’s watercolor illustrations were beautiful. It was felt that young people could be introduced to this book with a discussion about other cultures and humor … something we don’t often have a means of studying. That would certainly work well for an English class.
—Report filed by Vicki Palmquist, facilitator