A note of explanation: The evening of the June C&V meeting was the night of the horrific Flood in Duluth, Minnesota: the group didn’t meet. They’ve had some catching-up to do.
Five people attended our group at Fitger’s Bookstore this evening and had a rich and lively discussion about C & V books from May, June, and July.
We all sang the praises of The Fault in Our Stars. We were struck by the fact that the book was not “about cancer” but rather about deep relationships. We loved the humor, the pathos, and the characters. We compared notes on when we each figured out what the ending would be. We noted how well the hints were given along the way. It’s a book we all recommend highly.
We agreed that When I Was Your Age would be particularly useful for teachers. We thought students would find an author’s story especially interesting if they’d first read a book by that author. We commented on the variety of stories–some quite sad, others funny, others thought provoking. The teachers in our group hope to use stories from this book in their classrooms. One member of the group brought in This Family is Driving Me Crazy: Ten stories About Surviving Your Family. It, too, is a collection of stories written by authors and looked like a good read as well.
With a Name Like Love spurred an interesting discussion about whether a Christian book is appropriate to use in a public school setting. Since all our teachers work in public schools this seemed like an important consideration for this particular book.
A Butterfly is Patient was especially appealing to our group because of the wide variety of butterflies covered, the choice of factual material included and also for the beautiful illustrations. A kindergarten teacher had read the large text on each page to her class this spring. She then paraphrased the denser text. She said her children loved the book. She also said she read them Not a Buzz to be Found, Insects in Winter and that they loved that one as well.
One Cool Friend was a favorite of the group. We felt that the surprises and humor would appeal to elementary age kids. We also enjoyed looking back at the illustrations and finding hidden clues to the clever and most satisfying ending.
There Goes Ted Williams appealed to our group as well. We thought the focus on perseverance and drive was very well done. We commented on the fact that the author/illustrator chose not to include Ted’s temper in the story but did include it in the author notes. As adults, we found that an interesting addition to the character of Ted Williams but agreed that for young readers it was appropriate to leave it out of the main story.
—Summary submitted by Linda Glaser, author and book club facilitator
The Secret Box: We had a fascinating discussion with lots of ideas of what this book was about. Everything from time travel to ghosts, orphanages to schools. The adventure and the simplicity of the illustrations give it a timelessness of the adventures in childhood. Students could create their own secret time capsule. Older kids are a better audience for this book. It’s interesting how the box contains just regular things that lead to discovery. We didn’t understand the illustration that has the three kids with their hands as if they are signing. Knowing the signs would unlock the mystery of the book, we think. The design of the endpapers to give the appearance of opening the box is creative.
The Flint Heart: We had mixed reactions to this book. All agreed that it is a beautifully packaged book—the illustrations, the paper, the heft, the white space to text. We felt that we would not have connected it to Katherine Paterson had we not seen her name on the book. It’s so different from her other books. It seemed more like a Kate DiCamillo book.
DR said it seemed distant emotionally to her and she didn’t connect with the characters but loved the illustrations. B liked the humor, the turn of a phrase. It felt a bit like an allegory with lots of possibilities for discussion with upper elementary students.
The main story was about the misuse of power. The discussion turned to overtones of politics today. We think Governor Walker is the current owner of the Flint Heart.
We had 7 participants this evening.
Our discussion of Lighthouse Christmas led to a discussion of other lighthouse books including Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, The Stormy Adventures of Abbie Burgess, and Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter. We agreed that all these books give readers a fuller understanding of the difficult and lonely life of those who live in lighthouses—especially the children.
Our discussion of The Flint Heart led to a broader discussion of Katherine Paterson’s books. We shared our favorites. One of our members read us a passage from Spying Heart by Katherine Paterson. The group as a whole felt that Flint Heart wasn’t a “true” Katherine Paterson book and most weren’t as fond of it as others of hers.
However, some liked various aspects—the humor, the language, etc.
We then took another look at the Caldecotts for this year since one of our members, a kindergarden teacher, had read them to her students and asked for them to vote for their favorite. As it turned out, most of the children voted for Blackout. In that discussion we talked about ways to read a wordless book—A Ball for Daisy. Some of us admitted that we find it challenging.
We compared the illustrations of John Rocco in Blackout to his illustrations in The Flint Heart. It was inspiring to see his versatility—especially since both books were published the same year.
[submitted by facilitator and author, Linda Glaser]
The Bookcase of Wayzata, Wayzata, MN
We began our discussion of The Flint Heart by each choosing one word that described the book for us. That led us to a round-the-table of explaining our reasons for choosing those words. PH felt that the book was all about finding the lost. She felt the story was told in a legendary way. MHH thought the language, the book’s physical appearance, the story, the characters were all “scrumptious.” SM thought the book was “odd” in the sense that it was weird, not like most books we see today. AP felt the characters, the story, the magic was “mischievous.” We all agreed with WW that the language was “lyrical.” VP felt the book was so different in its language and appearance that it was “astounding.” SP found the feel of the book and the story in the book to be “smooth.” Later, he decided the story was told in the “bardic” tradition.
None of us took the time to search out Eden Philpotts’ 1910 version of this story, but you can find different formats here.
We commented on the high quality of the book: the varnished pages, the trim shape, the saturated artwork in this illustrated book, the gilt on the embossed boards, the crisp black line of the fonts. It’s an incredibly heavy book but we all felt special for holding it and experiencing the texture of the reading.
We all agreed this is an ideal read-aloud book … referring back to the Bardic Tradition. The language is so lyrical and carefully crafted that there was no sense of getting tired of the humor and cadence, which sometimes happens in other books that use a particular voice.
Would we recommend this to kids? You bet. It will probably work best as a read-aloud (TRY THIS AT HOME) but kids who like “weird” books would respond well to this. Kids who understand the hero’s journey (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) would recognize it here. It’s an exploration of evil and many kids will resonate with that. It will fit into the gamers’ sphere of interest.
Read this New York Times review and insight.
Next up, we discussed the wordless book by looking at and attempting to interpret Barbara Lehman’s The Secret Box. We all agreed that you’d have to have a copy of the book for every two kids if you’re going to use it in a class or library. Young kids will not get this book, we felt, because it’s fairly complex in its deciphering of the story.But from fourth grade and up, this will be an ideal book for examining, discussing, and writing. A good way to show that people look at the same thing and everyone will write a different story.
In examining the illustrations, we wondered about the brick building that doesn’t change throughout the book. Is it a boarding school, a hospital, an orphanage, a school for the deaf? MH said it reminded her of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. SM brought The Red Box by Barbara Lehman, which she said she has used very successfully with her students in the library. We felt that the palette of The Secret Box illustrations is more sophisticated than the palette for The Red Box. We liked it.
How fascinating that a wordless book can engender this much discussion.
[filed by Vicki Palmquist, facilitator]
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.