We chose to read Ender's Game as one of our book selections for the end of October. Ender's Game is one of those books that really hits home with kids. The protagonist is a misfit who is brilliant and gifted, the adults in the book are manipulative and, well, demented, and the lesson to be learned from the book is valid. The discussions in book club were fantastic.
Because the adults in the book manipulate the children, we spent quite a bit of time discussing whether or not this is justifiable. And you know what? The students claimed that it was. The adults, according to the students, are justified in their manipulation because in the end, they are simply trying to build an adequate general to fight off the buggers.
We also discussed how far Ender goes to protect himself. In two different situations within the book, Ender fights another boy, and fights him to the point where he knows the boy won't come after him again. This brought up issues of bullying and many of the students at our little charter school have been bullied. The students claim that again, Ender did the right and justifiable action; otherwise he would have been severely hurt himself. I have to admit, I was on the other side of this one and didn't agree, but I was voted down.
Lastly, we discussed the ultimate message of the book. Is it okay to destroy another species (or culture) simply because we are unable to communicate with them, and why do humans seem to react in this way so quickly and often? We sited many examples from history where wars were started due to lack of communication, and where a culture was decimated because another culture didn't understand them. This is a profound and honest look at who we are as human beings and it makes us examine our priorities and aggressive techniques.
This is a great book to discuss with adolescents. So many of the issues relate to their lives in some way and many of the themes contain multiple points of view. Thanks, Orson Scott Card, for developing a book that teens relate to on a personal level, but also brings them to a level of thinking that goes beyond black and white.
Well, the October meeting for the teen book club was a very interesting meeting. About half of the students had read 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, and the other half had read The Princess Bride by Goldman.
Now, if you've ever seen the movie of The Princess Bride, you know that the story has a good deal of off-beat humor and pretty hysterical characters. The book is no different. In fact, the movie follows the book very closely, but only the story of Buttercup and Wesley. In the book, there is a whole other story that makes a superficial appearance in the movie. It is the story within a story.
This is where it got interesting in book club. Because the book seems to walk a line between fiction and non, the students debated how one should read the book. Obviously the story about Buttercup and Wesley is fiction. There just aren't any ROUSs around. But the story built around Buttercup's story is partially true. Goldman includes himself in the book, along with his son, wife, grandson, publisher, contacts in Florin and Stephen King. Some of his included life seems to be true - Goldman really did work on the screen play for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and we all know that Stephen King is alive and well. But what about his son? What about the wife he writes about who isn't terribly affectionate and overanalyzes his every move? Are they real? And if not, how do we know what's real in the book and what's not?
Here's what the students decided: Believe what you will.
We debated for a good twenty minutes on the differences between reading fiction and non. When these particular teens read fiction, they don't care about honesty, research or truthful telling. They just want a good story. But when these teens read nonfiction, they want the truth. They want it well documented, they want to be able to look up the information and confirm authenticity, and they want honesty. Somehow, this book walks the line between fiction and non. And you know what? The teens in my book club did not care. They LOVE this book. They love the story in a story; they love the reference to Stephen King; they love the background story of Fezzig. When I informed the students that Goldman doesn't actually have a son, but has two daughters, one of the girls screamed in frustration and told me I'd ruined the book for her. She decided that she would believe what she wanted and if she wants Goldman to have a son, then that's what she's going to believe.
And I decided that I wouldn't tell her that Stephen King does not actually have any relatives in Florin.
Teen Book Club for the 2013-2014 school year is underway! We met in September, we chose our books, and we've had our first meeting. I love book club.
This is how our book club works. Students sign up for elective credit through our small charter school, they agree to the terms (read a book a month, attend the meetings to discuss, post discussion questions to the discussion board), and they completely control the books we read. We throw up about fifty books on the board (all suggestions from them) and then we choose two to read per month. As the facilitator, all I do is sit back and count the votes. Trust me, they can get upset if their book doesn't make the list!
I was pretty surprised by the book choices this year simply because they didn't seem to have a main theme. Last school year was the year of the zombie and we read more zombie books than we've ever read before. This year seems to be the year of the books - about-to-come-out-as-movies. Because we usually take a field trip to go see the movie of a book we've read, I think the students were trying to get as many on the list as they could. Here is the list:
The Princess Bride
A Series of Unfortunate Events (#1)
Artemis Fowl (#1)
The first two, 100 Cupboards and The Princess Bride were the books chosen for October. And now we march forward and read the books. Stay tuned for The Princess Bride discussion!
I have had a few jobs in my life that I didn't enjoy: detassling corn, working in a small motor parts factory, framing pictures, serving food, and rejecting bad eggs in an egg factory. Today, I take part in a book club for teens and I love every minute of it.