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?