105 Ways to Give a Book

Book Hooks

I think I am a good booktalker. I qualify this statement with “I think” after seeing too many American Idol auditions in which the kid proudly states that he is the best singer in the world. Invariably, we then see him mangling a popular song. So, I will not fall prey to that overconfidence. This would be a great post for some of my peers at work to comment and back me up on my booktalking ability. I’m just sayin’.

I like booktalking. I like having a captive audience. I like having a “reason” to read the books. I like that the kids greet me in the library by saying, “You came to my school!” It makes me feel like an American Idol.

Today I booktalked to seventh graders. The middle-school booktalking always looms large on my schedule. I prepare about 15 booktalks to cover a day at the school. And when I say “prepare,” I mean that in the vaguest sense of the word. I never write anything down. I never rehearse. I usually have at least four books I do on the fly. I like to keep things fresh. I put most of my effort — again, a word I use loosely — on my first sentence, my hook. And this is what I will share with you today, my favorite “hooks” from today’s booktalking sessions. You are on your own to set up the book.

Uglies“All teenagers under the age of 16 are ugly. [Long pause.] That is the premise on which the book Uglies is based...”

Malibu Carmie“How well do you really know your mother? You’ve lived with her forever, but what do you know of her life before you came along? [Malibu] Carmie knew her mom as someone who was always depressed and tired, but one day...”

Monsoon Summer“Is anyone going anywhere special this summer? [Let a few kids answer.] Anyone going to another country? [Let a few kids answer.] Well, in Monsoon Summer, Jasmine finds out she is going to India for the summer, not that she wants to...”

The Diary of Ma Yan“I have a pen. And in the time it takes me to tell you about this pen, I will have earned the money to have paid for it. So, I can keep it, or I can give it away. [Here I give someone my $0.10 Bic pen.] It’s not important. But if I had to go without much food for two weeks so I could save the money from the family food budget to buy a pen, it would be very important to me. That is one of the things this girl does to further her education in this biography, The Diary of Ma Yan.”

Mummies“Does anyone know how the ancient Egyptians prepared bodies for mummification? [Let someone explain if they want.] Basically, they’d stick a long hook through the nose, swish it around in the skull, and let the brain drip out like a strawberry milkshake. [Lots of ewwws.] Then they made an incision in the torso and pulled out all the guts and vital organs. Think you would want that done to your body? Well, this man donated his body to science so modern day scientists could try to replicate the techniques of the ancient Egyptians. And this is just one of the things you’ll read about in Mummies: The Newest, Coolest, and Creepiest from Around the World.”

And this is my favorite. The best booktalk I have ever given, often without telling a thing about the book.

Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love“You’ve all heard of book banning, right? Sometimes adults will believe that a book isn’t appropriate for a school or public library and will fight to have it removed. Generally, it’s the content of the book that is in question. But this is the first time I have ever heard of a movement to have a book banned based entirely on the title. I know it’s based entirely on the title because I read the book, and it’s very innocent. There is nothing inappropriate in this book. The author writes a blog, and she’s surprised that someone would move to ban it, because she knows that there is nothing inappropriate in this book. Now, do you want to know what is this title that is so destructive to today’s kids? [Here’s the reveal of the book.] Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love.” (After the kids went wild about me saying the word “sex” in school, I told them the premise of the story. Sometimes I talked about this book right to the bell, and revealed the title just before the bell with no further explanation.)

Feel free to use these intros in your own booktalking — though I am going to see if I can copyright the Sex Kittens booktalk.


Anonymous said...

Ok, you've convinced me that I need to read the Sex Kittens book! (Had been eyeing it when I saw it on the new bookshelf before I left.) And I hope you don't mind that, after hearing it on Friday, I've borrowed your booktalk for The Diary of Ma Yan for the rest of the booktalks that I have left this month. Thanks for being a wonderful role model for booktalking! --KJ-- :-)

Little Willow said...


You know what I wish we could do? Synchronize a book talk - school or library event - where all of the children's lit bloggers could be booktalking simultaneously... Maybe something at public libraries or schools that could have a webcam or chat to link everyone up!

If not that, then a blog or reading group where we're all reading the same book at the same time.