Sunday, July 7, 2013

Program + review: beTWEEN the lines

So, I mentioned before that for the summer edition of beTWEEN the lines, my tween book club, I was planning on changing things up a bit. In the initial incarnation of the book club (which I've been running for about 15 months with a break last summer), everyone read the same book. This was good because we all had the same starting point. We were, in theory, able to have deeper discussions about the issues relevant to that particular book. I did say in theory, though. In actuality, we spent little time discussing the particular book and more time talking about whatever struck our fancy. I'm not complaining, just stating. The bad about running the program this way is that it was expensive - I was buying ten copies of each title so that the kids wouldn't have to fight over copies - they could just borrow one and return it at the meeting. Additionally, I was spending a lot of time coming up with discussion questions that we would either not discuss or discuss very briefly. Overall, it didn't seem like the most effective way to run the program.

So, for summer, I decided to revamp it. The kids were very resistant to the idea, but I'm hoping to make it a permanent change. We will see at the end of the summer how we feel about it. Our first meeting was in June and we entered into our genre book club by discussing mysteries!

I'm not terribly surprised, but I only had one new face for the first summer meeting. I'm hoping I'll get a few more in July or August but since the first book club meeting happened before our Summer Reading Club even kicked off, I expected I'd just get my regulars.

I had us all introduce ourselves again, even though we only had one new face (I'm almost positive the kids still don't remember my name, which should be the easiest since I'm the only one who wears a name tag). Then each kid told us about the book they read before our meeting. Here are our titles:

The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (my review)
Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry (a Bluebonnet book for the 2013-14 school year)
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
The Zombie Zone by Ron Roy
No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko
Room One: A Mystery by Andrew Clements

I asked each kid a few questions about their chosen book (why did they choose it, did they like it, would they recommend it). I was amazed that only one kid read The 39 Clues, for the meeting or otherwise, so I told them all they should read it. As expected, the kids pretty much couldn't give summaries of the books without ruining the endings, but nobody seemed bothered. In fact, they got mad at me when I wouldn't tell them how my book ended. I told them they'd all have to read for themselves to find out what happened! The book I read was...

The Calder Game
By Blue Balliett
Published 2008 by Scholastic
Petra, Tommy, and Calder have been friends for a while now. In addition to being friends, they've solved a few mysteries together. But this time, things are a little different. Calder and his father are going to England, leaving Petra and Tommy behind. Petra and Tommy are not really friends - they only try to get along for Calder's sake. Without Calder around, what will happen to them? And when a mysterious sculpture appears and is then stolen in the small town where Calder is staying, can Calder solve the mystery? What happens when Calder himself goes missing?

This is the third story of Petra, Tommy and Calder (my reviews of the first two are here and here) and I think this one is my favorite. As much as I enjoy seeing the dynamic between the three friends play out, I liked what Balliett did here - splitting them apart and seeing how that would change their friendships. Additionally, I think the mystery is even more complex in this one - and I loved having no idea what would happen next. I was pleasantly surprised that a couple of my longest-standing members remembered that we had read Chasing Vermeer for an earlier book club and seemed interested to know that there were more adventures they could read. I was very surprised by the inclusion of Banksy in this mystery, but I thought it was great. And as much as I enjoyed reading the Chicago details, I liked that Balliett took the characters to a new place in this mystery. I think these are fantastic mysteries for middle-grade readers, and I definitely will continue to read Balliett.

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