Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things 2nd Grade Boys like

Since I abandoned this blog to the cold winds of internet neglect, I've started officiating some book clubs for kids. One of them is a group of 2nd grade boys who vary wildly in reading level, so aside from the fact that planning a discussion for a handful of 8 year old boys is kind of like trying to choreograph cat herding, we also struggle to find books that every one can relate to. Below, are the books we've read so far.

I started us off with The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes. It was originally titled The Iron Man: A Story in 5 Nights, but the title was changed when the superhero superceded Hughes' novel in popularity. Now there's a movie, which is AMAZING and every one should watch it, but is totally different than the book. And even if you've seen the movie (which I agree, is awesome) you should still read the book and hopefully you'll like it even a fraction as much as this group of boys did. I started off the discussion simply, by asking what their favorite parts were. The boys then clamored with their answers, revisions to their answers and dramatic readings of their scenes of choosing. It was the perfect book to get us started. Fun, simple, full of startling and direct symbolic imagery, The Iron Giant is a great book for reluctant readers obsessed with Star Wars and the kids who can already read Harry Potter (with a parent). I decided NOT to bring up the fact that Hughes wrote it to comfort his children after his wife, Sylvia Plath, had a run in with her oven.
the current edition since changing publishers
 Second, we read Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson, the first in the Pals in Peril series (previously called MT Anderson's Thrilling Tales). Anyone who's listened to me blather about books knows that MT Anderson's basically my favorite, and I was really excited to have a chance to force his book on a bunch of kids subjected to my literary whims. Unfortunately, the sense of humor was a little beyond a few of our readers, and while we still managed to have a lively discussion rich with dramatic readings we also spent a lot of time clarifying vocabulary and plot points for some. Jasper Dash's character, particularly, who speaks in a hilariously outdated vernacular, left some of group behind. But I was really pleased to find that the kids who could keep up with Jasper and his chums loved the book, and took to the absurdity nicely. One of the readers has even continued on with the series on his own, and had already completed the second book by the time we met. And, being the group's only Jew, I was pleased to explain what gefilte fish is to the general disgust of all our members.
the new cover, which no longer features Peter Sis's illustrations
Despite the horror most of the mothers expressed to me over the title, I still assigned Sid Fleishman's Newbery Winner, The Whipping Boy. Though it was a struggle to get the boys to focus on this particular meeting date, we still managed to get some of the most insightful discussion we've ever had from this book. Toward the end of our discussion I asked if the boys could think of any examples in which, like in the book, someone or something is punished for misdeeds committed by another. Initially many examples of wrongful accusations among siblings and household pets were offered, but eventually one boy gave the following example, which I thought was not only apt, but very thoughtful: "It's like," he said "when someone lets go of a balloon, and they think it's really funny to watch it float away, but then eventually it pops and it lands in the ocean, and then a turtle eats it, because it thinks it's a jellyfish, but it's not. And then the turtle suffocates and dies."

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For January

For February

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