For the upcoming June, July, and August discussion books, visit the CLN website.
This month’s Chapter & Verse Book Club selections were One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge (Hyperion) and Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (Delacorte Press). CLN member Lita Judge, author and illustrator of One Thousand Tracings, provided an interview for our facilitators, talking about her family’s history, how and when she was inspired to write the book, and the process of working with her editor, Namrata Tripathi. A question sent to Rob Buyea via e-mail revealed that his name is pronounced Boo-yeah and that of his fictional teacher is pronounced Tare-upt. Mr. Terupt found his name because “it’s a dollar word”! Reports were filed by four of our participating book clubs.
From Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin:
One Thousand Tracings
Illustrations: Lots of movement, authentic feel, collage of actual items give a sense of the past. The photos used on the end papers put a face to real people affected by the war.
Text: It reads like a story. It’s a great way to learn and get a sense of the past and historical eras. Very emotional. It gives a sense of how important letter writing was then compared to our communication today. It also required patience.
The power of the story is in its brevity.
The fact that the parties continued a pen pal relationship and a lifelong friendship speaks to the power of reaching out to help others.
It shows what we take for granted. It is a story of gratitude and would be good to use at Thanksgiving.
Because of Mr. Terupt
Most agreed that it was hard to keep the characters straight at first, especially if you put the book down and then came back to it later. Some felt it seemed at first that the boys had less of a distinct personality and perhaps a little stereotyped – the brain, the clown, etc. Their chapters were generally shorter so perhaps the author intended to show the girls as being more verbose and the boys were more inward. The different voices were annoying to some at first but eventually found that it was those voices that gave the story energy and it would be hard to see it working any other way.
This demonstrates how important belonging is to learning. We explored the idea of using this as a staff book club pick. The teaching strategies, setting up the room, Mr. Terupt’s manner and style would be worthwhile to examine in more depth. Plus the behaviors, group dynamics, etc., could be a good springboard.
Much of the story is of universal nature and would be of interest in diverse cultures. We got to know the characters first in their school setting before the home life emerged. This was an effective way to get to know the kids and have their circumstances unfold gradually. There is a bit of innocence about them. The closed community to outsiders or those with different values is universal as well. The line about “we won’t try to change grandma’s opinions but we don’t have to adopt them” is right on. Demonstrates the ills of triangulating and manipulative behavior, bullying, judging those who are different. On the positive side is forgiveness and compassion.
Even with the cover of the book being what it is, we didn’t see the injury to the teacher coming. The cover doesn’t convey the power of the snowball and its turning point in their lives. It’s a very low-key cover. We knew tragedy was coming but we all had different anticipations of what it was.
The book speaks to the power of a teacher. Give the book to a special teacher with an inscription.
The differing values of families are a good discussion point.
This book is ripe for a sequel.
Students who have read the book thought it was great. They could see themselves in the behaviors and they appreciated the hopeful message.
Good for all readers including the reluctant reader.
This would be a great reader’s theater adaptation.
Chart the characteristics of the characters and decide who would be your friend.
Dollar words – We played with this trying to make dollar words using our names. Some of us had to use first, middle, and last to get close. Others did it with just last name.
Techniques and classroom strategies that were effective.
Structure of the book – by month, by character.
Moral comes across pretty strongly.
Topics we didn’t get to: Literary references in the book including Summer of the Swans. Time period: When did it take place and would today’s technology change some of the interaction?
Other discussions: Three Cups of Tea as a humanitarian effort. Both books use chronological order as format and follow from month to month. Both deal with ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Redbery Books (Report filed by facilitator and bookstore owner, Beverly Bauer)
There were mixed reactions for Because of Mr. Terupt. One person couldn’t put it down, one thought it was very predictable and contrived, another was underwhelmed, particularly after the John Irving testimonial. We wondered about testimonials and how they are solicited.
Keeping the names straight proved difficult at first, but the front jacket and the fonts for each individual name helped if you associated something with the font. For example, Danielle’s was a fancy font which reminded us that she was artistic. We didn’t think the characters rang true for 5th graders, especially with regard to some of of their expressions. We thought they sounded too mature at times: “no stranger to trouble,” and “sweaty palms and dry mouth syndrome.” We thought their level of compassion was fine, but we wondered about the other kids in the class. So few were mentioned. We thought the Collaborative Classroom was represented authentically, but wondered why it was in the basement.
We thought this would be a good book for a discussion group for grades 3-5.
It would also be a good read aloud or reader’s theater with the different voices and short chapters. Some of the things that would be discussed would be speculations about Mr. Terupt. Why does no one know anything about him? Where is his family? Was he running away from something tragic? Perhaps one of his wrestling opponents died. We think some of these things will be revealed in the sequel. We also think a new student will appear and Mr. Terupt will have a romance and reveal his history.
We were all impressed with One Thousand Tracings. We passed around lots of material from Lita Judge’s website. We liked the color palette which was somewhat somber and muted which matched the tone and the time. With regard to time, we thought there was a dearth of children’s literature set in the late 1940s, early 1950s. A little research revealed only three titles: Bat 6, Harris and Me, and In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.
We enjoyed the juxtaposition of photos of real items from the time period with the illustrations. One item was a list of articles sent overseas. It listed one “sloppy joe” and we didn’t know what that was. I looked it up and it was defined this way: “Sloppy Joe Sweater—long, baggy pullover sweater, commonly worn with blue jeans. Typically worn by teenage girls in highschool or college.”
The format of the book as a picture book in free verse (?) worked well.
Red Balloon Book Shop (Report filed by co-facilitator and St. Catherine’s University instructor, Heidi Hammond)
Everyone agreed that One Thousand Tracings is a moving and inspiring story that could be shared in many ways with a variety of ages.
We all felt there is a need for books like this one that feature pure human kindness. Another suggestion for a companion book is Six Million Paper Clips: The Making Of A Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand (Kar-Ben Publishing).
Because of Mr. Terupt was less unanimous. Most people agreed that the voices of the children were, for the most part, authentic, although some teachers disagreed strongly about that. A few teachers were bothered by the emphasis on “blame” and “fault” in the story. The librarians felt this was realistic.
We discussed whether the story itself felt authentic. For the most part, the teachers felt that the teacher was too lax, They also felt that a whole class would not visit a teacher in the hospital and that there would be counseling from the outside for such a serious accident. The teachers said they’d be uncomfortable reading the book aloud because of scenes such as the one where Mr. T says, “tie it in a knot” or where the principal slips.
The librarians weren’t bothered by those aspects. They felt it was a good story with strong characters. We all agreed that having a special ed class in the story and in the “healing” was a very strong aspect of the book.