Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teens Read book club: summer '10, session 1, Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen

Long-time readers of this blog may remember this post from way back when, where I talked about the wonderful experience I had doing the Guys Read book club for boys in grades 4 through 6. This summer, I'm not only running another three Guys Read sessions, I'm also running three Teens Read clubs for guys and girls in grades 7 through 9. I just did the first session last Tuesday, and I consider it to be another grand success.

The book we read was Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen, which I chose for a very specific reason. The story is pretty simple: it's about a boy and a girl who live next door to each other, and how their relationship changes from when they were in second grade all the way up into eighth grade. The gimmick of the book is that the chapters are told from alternating perspectives, one from the guy, one from the girl, so that you get both their views on events. Since this group is made up of guys and girls both—who may each have gone to the book clubs for the earlier grades and thus be used to hanging out mostly with others of their gender—I thought it would be a good way to start off this club, with a book that forces all readers to consider events from the other side.

Did it work? Maybe. The guys (three) and girl (only one, unfortunately, but at least she was talkative) got along fine, but I don't think it was due to an especially enlightened choice of book. I think it was more just that I had a good bunch of kids. We had an excellent discussion about the book, especially about the two main characters and their interactions. In fact, the readers were unanimous in agreeing that the girl in the book was, at times, pretty creepy in her pursuit of the guy—a view which, frankly, I agree with. (In fifth grade, she gets excited because she gets to sit directly behind the guy, and thus gets to smell his hair. I'm pretty sure you can get a restraining order for that.)

We also watched the trailer for the upcoming film version of Flipped, directed by Rob Reiner. We didn't take a lot of time to talk about the adaptation and what they'd changed—for example, the book takes place decidedly in the modern day, but the movie is set in an idyllic '50s America—but it did spur some more conversation. (Also, in viewing the trailer, one of the kids noticed the Avatar: the Last Airbender sticker I have on my laptop, which brought us to that topic for a short while.)

Frankly, I'm really excited for this group. They're eager to talk and share their opinions, and they're old enough now that they can focus on the book (for the most part) for forty-five minutes or more. Distraction is a constant problem with the younger group, which is grades 4 through 6—about whom I'll say more in my next post.

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