105 Ways to Give a Book

Summer Book Club: Happy Kid!

It was another great Summer Book Club session, complete with unhappy-face sugar cookies in honor of the cover of the book Happy Kid! by Gail Gauthier. Just like Shug, the book drew mixed reviews as some of the girls admitted that they weren’t thrilled with the realistic fiction genre. But even so, they all had interesting things to say about our second title of the season.

One girl liked how Kyle was so unsure of himself, but grew more confident during the course of the book. They all liked the book-within-a-book concept, and how that internal book was driving the story forward. We thought it was interesting that the powers of the self-help book weren’t explained — it didn’t come through a magic portal or arrive sprinkled with fairy dust — it was an ordinary thing that happened to be extraordinary. One of the girls who didn’t like the book thought that there were too many extra details and conversations that dragged the story down. Another girl liked the characters and the humor, but was annoyed by Kyle’s obsession with Chelsea and couldn’t get past it.

I asked the girls what they thought of the use of humor in the book. The girls didn’t find the humor in the forefront for them as much as it was for me. As I reminded them of certain excerpts or parts, they thought they were funny, but before I mentioned those selections they weren’t thinking of it as a funny book. That surprised me because I see it as a very amusing book, though in a subtle way.

We all thought that the use of a book-within-a-book was a creative idea. I asked if they thought that the author was poking fun at self-help books or not. The consensus was not really. We had a good discussion then about the various “excerpts” from the self-help book and how useful they were both in moving the story forward and in teaching lessons to readers at the same time. One girl mentioned how after the “Say Hello” excerpt, the selections read “less dorky” and that they added to the suspense of the book. She went on to mention how in the beginning, the “magical” book seems to give Kyle a push by making him follow the instructions, but later Kyle is actually seeking out the guidance of the book and taking active control.

I asked why the author used taekwondo in the book, and they mentioned another current book that uses the martial arts — Generation Dead. (Haven’t read it, so I can’t comment here.) Some girls talked about taekwondo being a great outlet for Kyle in releasing tension and focusing energy elsewhere. The idea of turning your energy on something outside yourself took us to one of the excerpts of the self-help book, “Get Over Yourself,” and how that related to our own lives.

Overall, it was a great discussion. Some of the girls decided that after talking about the book, they actually liked it better. For everyone, it provided a great entrance to discussion about thinking positively and taking action. They had some good questions for the author, and I’ll post that interview next week. Probably next week.

I had originally intended to select only realistic fiction for the summer book club, in the interest of talking about issues of transitioning to middle school. But there are some girls who are not crazy about the genre, so we’re taking a break into fantasy for the next book. We’ll be reading The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman, for our July 30th meeting. Any idea for a related snack?

9 comments:

Robin Brande said...

I love that you're hosting a kids' summer book club--is that you, personally, or through the library?

And I just know you made those cookies from scratch . . .

MotherReader said...

I'm hosting it for my seventh grade Girl Scout troop. I have 15 in the troop, and expect about half at each meeting. The girls have really enjoyed it - so much so that we may continue through the school year with one book a month (instead of every two weeks).

I bought the sugar cookies, but I did make the icing and decorate them. That was surprising enough.

TadMack said...

Ooh, The Dark Hills Divide? Boy, that sounds like two scoops melon ball sized scoops of dark chocolate ice cream on a big cookie... dark hills, you know...

TrulyBookworm said...

I hadn't heard of this series, I'll have to check it out. Have you read Tamora Pierce - her Circle of Magic series is fantasy, but the main characters also have to make decisions that affect their future.
Anyhow, for snacks you need travelling food - trail mix or granola bars.

gail said...

The sugar cookies were a fantastic idea! And your readers' feelings about realistic fiction--very interesting.

I've received my questions and hope to have answers for you by tomorrow night.

MotherReader said...

Thanks Gail. I've also been finding the responses interesting. Especially as it always seems that the thing that someone mentions as why they didn't like a book is often the same thing that someone else did like. The thing I've really understood from this book club so far is that there is no one book that appeals to everyone.

Barbara said...

Hi MotherReader, I am an author illustrator of some really good books and would like to be part of your community. I can't figure out how to email you, but if you could email me I'd love to send you a copy of my latest from Random House Children's Books, Thumbellina, Tiny Runaway Bride. Thanks in advance Barbara@barbaraensor.com

Charlotte said...

Or, following Tadmack's line of thought, chocolate covered strawberrys? (mountain like, if you hold them pointing up....)

Kelly Fineman said...

Dude, you can decorate cookies? You so rock.

M (13) is streaky on her choices. She'll read nothing but fantasy for a while, then nothing but historical fiction, then nothing but contemporary fiction . . . So my guess is that some of the kids might even like it better than they thought they would.

You're so right on there not being one book for all readers, though.