Booktalking Ideas

About Booktalking

Am I Blue?
The Catcher in the Rye
The Chocolate War
The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The Outsiders
The Ruby in the Smoke
Sixteen
The Trouble With Lemons
Weetzie Bat
Where Harriers Dance
Woodsong

More booktalking ideas


Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence. (Edited by Marion Dane Bauer)

"Love is tough. Being a teenager is tougher. In these sixteen stories, meet a wide range of teens dealing with life and love, and discovering who they are and what they want." (Karyn Silverman)

Idea One - Based on "The Honorary Shepards"

Key passage: "To satisfy your curiosity first: yes, this is a story about two boys who sleep together. Eventually. Not genitally, or anyway not at the time of this writing. But focus, liberally as you like, on the picture of it. Two teenage boys on a single-size futon, under a fraying tangerine-colored afghan reeking of mothballs. Two guys. Warm, scared. Unbelieving. Alive. Cautious. Too alert, too new to each other to giggle or wisecrack. They are both beautiful, at least to each other. The casting department of a film company might not agree." P. 65

Approach: Mood-based

Notes for Booktalk: First, let me note that I would booktalk this in a collection of teen-angst stories. Some funny and some serious, and at least one collection of funny love stories for teens (perhaps If This Is Love, I'll Take Spaghetti) and including Annie on My Mind, as well as at least one wrong-side of the tracks (heterosexual) love story. Call it Tough Love Books. This is to partially play down the theme of homosexuality, so that students see this (and Annie) as just books on the teenage experience, because an approach that takes homosexuality as the entire theme might alienate some readers, and this collection is crucial for anyone-for readers who are or might be homosexual, this will show that they are not alone; for readers who are bothered by the mere thought of homosexuality among their peers, this will show them that it is not something that makes people different, it's just another facet of the great mystery of love and life.

The talk: For the last decade and more, there has been a lot of talk about the fact that great literature has a tendency to have been written by dead white guys, and that despite the fact that we live in a cultural melting pot of a world, much of it remains voiceless. This is a story about two boys who want to rewrite the myths of their world-Lee is Puerto-Rican, Polish, and Hispanic, and Pete is half-black, half-Chinese. They are bursting with life and a mixed bag of cultural identity, so they tackle the oldest book of all, the Bible. Not in an angry or judgmental way, but in a manner that respects the original and attempts to give voice to everyone, everywhere, of all sexes and sexual preferences, of all cultural heritages. Lee and Pete are in love, and they want to share their love for each other and for the world that has created them with everyone they know. The story follows them through a year of discovery under the tutelage of a wonderful teacher and each other.
Now, if this story doesn't suit your tastes, don't worry; Am I Blue also a story featuring the first ever fairy godfather, and stories about first loves, death, and friendship-there are straight and gay characters, funny stories, sad stories, and even some fantasy stories. So check it out; there's something for everyone in here, and each story is wonderfully written and full of surprises. (Karyn Silverman)

Idea Two - Based on "Holding" by Lois Lowry

Hook: "Would you come and be with me, Willie? Just for a few days?" my father asked me on the phone. He hadn't called me Willie since I was maybe four."

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk: Am I Blue? is a collection of stories dealing with gay and lesbian relationships and tendencies in the lives of teens from a variety of lifestyles. One story in the book is "Holding" by Lois Lowry. In this story, Will, a seventeen-year-old boy from California, flies to New York to be with his father after the death of Chris, his dad's significant other. Will's mother fully supports his trip and still cares for Will's dad. During his visit, many people come and go from the apartment including Amanda, an unsuccessful actress with lots of hair. However, after the funeral is over, Will and his father are left to deal with the grieving process on their own. They go running, rent movies and eat pizza, ignoring the grim reality that Chris is gone. Ultimately, Will's dad breaks down one evening and lets out the tears he was holding back. Will holds his father and rocks him until he can cry no more. Upon Will's return home and to school, Jon, Will's best friend keeps referring to Chris as Will's dad's 'wife.' Will reminds Jon, yet again, that they were not married. However, Will finally breaks down and admits to Jon that Chris was a guy. His father is a homosexual and Will had mislead Jon and everyone else in California for nine years. Read Am I Blue? to discover more stories dealing with this sensitive topic! (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Three -
Based on "We Might As Well All Be Strangers" by M. E. Kerr

Hook: The stories are written by authors whose names will be familiar to young adults.

Approach: Scene based (p.19-26)

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Alison is sixteen years old
  • She has a lesbian relationship with Laura.
  • Her mother doesn't understand her, saying things like "I can kiss grandchildren good-bye, I guess, if you persist with this choice."
  • Alison's mother tells Alison not to tell Grandmother the truth about her homosexuality, saying Grandmother would never understand.
  • But Alison's mother has Grandmother all wrong.
  • "Strangers take a long time to become acquainted, particularly when they are from the same family." (Sandra G. Gollop)

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The Catcher in the Rye. (J. D. Salinger)

"What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff…I'd just be the catcher in the rye." (p. 173)

Idea One

Hook: Character of Holden Caulfied - First person narration of "this madman stuff" he experienced. Holden is complex, but his honesty and vulnerability, his fear of growing up and all that that entails, make the reader clamor for his story.

Approach: Character based - (Holden Caulfield)

Notes for Booktalk: Salinger's famous (or shall we say infamous) novel has been the subject of controversy since its publication over 40 years ago. The book has been banned, yet it is one of the most widely read novels in modern American Literature. The story of Holden Caulfield details two days in New York City after he has just been expelled from prep school. Holden is confused and very cynical. He rants and raves about all the "phonies" he encounters, and has some sarcastic or caustic comment on everyone and everything.

Yet Holden is more complex; His cynicism covers a deeply troubled soul, a young man hanging precariously on the edge of adulthood. Holden's story can be funny at times, but is ultimately poignant.

To find out what all the fuss and controversy are really about, you must read this one yourself. (Barbara Gillen)

Idea Two

Hook: Teenagers can identify with Holden

Approach: Character based - (Holden Caulfield)

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Think of a clever lead in (perhaps a question)
  • Introduce Holden Caulfield, a teenager from the late 1940's who is not so very different from many kids today. (His favorite phrases: "That killed me." "I didn't feel like it." "You have to be in the mood for that kind of stuff.")
  • Talk a little bit (30 seconds) about his day (the world at that time) (Sir Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper, Lynn Fontane, no Internet, his school had to rely on regular mail, records instead of CD's, etc.)
  • Holden was a complex guy with many opinions, for instance: The world according to Holden - Select certain very short passages to read out loud: (P. 27, paragraph one - Holden on his friends Ackley and Stradlater; and P. 35, Chap. 5, paragraph one - Holden on his school.
    (Daphne Jorgensen)

Idea Three

Hook: "I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy." (p. 1)

Approach: Character based - (Holden Caulfield)

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Holden Caulfield sixteen-year-old boy who has just been kicked out of his third boarding school.
  • He is angry at the world and everything in it after the death of his younger brother.
  • He loses the fencing equipment on the subway in New York City.
    Holden Visits his History professor who tries to convince him to buckle down and make something of himself.
  • He deals with his roommate and the guy in the room next door, but Holden hates them both.
  • Ultimately, he gets fed up with the whole school situation and high tails it for New York City the weekend before school is to let out on Wednesday for Christmas break.
  • He finds himself on a self destructive path until the inevitable happens! (Robin Sitarski)

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The Chocolate War. (Robert Cormier)

"Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?" (p. 97)

Idea One

Hook: P. 1 "They murdered him." - (Immediately piques reader's curiosity and foreshadows martyrdom which awaits Jerry later on.)

Approach: A combination of plot and character based (Jerry)

Notes for Booktalk: Like Elliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, Jerry Renault asks: "Do I disturb the universe?" Jerry learns that every action has its consequences, when he dares to defy the powers that control Trinity Prep. Searching for meaning in his life after his mother's death, Jerry must summon every ounce of courage to say "no" to Brother Lean and the Vigils, to finally stop being a "Peter" who had heard a thousand cocks crow in his lifetime. (p. 8)

Cormier eloquently conveys man's inhumanity to man through the brutally realistic story of Jerry's refusal to sell Brother Leon's chocolates. Throughout this complex and dark novel, the author truthfully depicts the harsh reality of a teenager trying to be true to himself and coping with the pain this often brings.

Although Cormier would never condescend to his readers with a television-style happy ending (human nature and real life are too complex for that), Jerry does achieve a certain amount of self-knowledge from his ordeal. The reader can close the book on a somewhat hopeful note that this young man will be all right. (Barbara Gillen)

Idea Two

Hook: "They murdered him." This is the first sentence in the book and makes the reader want to continue reading to find out what is happening.

Approach: A combination of plot and character based

Notes for Booktalk: The Chocolate War is about this kid named Jerry Renault who, after the death of his mother less than six months ago, is trying to decide who he is. He is a freshman at an all boys Catholic High School and tries out for the football team. Although he makes it, Jerry isn't very good and always gets pummeled by the other players. Then there is the problem of the Vigils, a secret society at Trinity High, and the Annual Chocolate Sale. Archie Costello, the head of the Vigils, singles out Jerry for a special assignment. At role call each morning, each student must say aloud how many boxes of chocolates they have sold. Jerry's assignment is to refuse the chocolates for ten school days, then, on the eleventh day, accept the chocolates and sell them. However, when the eleventh day arrives, Jerry refuses. At first Jerry is hailed as a hero…then things begin to change. Read The Chocolate War to see what happens to Jerry as the Annual Chocolate Sale culminates one dark evening. (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Three

Hook: What will happen to Jerry as he stands up to these bullies. Does he dare disturb his universe - the little world that exists at Trinity?

Approach: ANY of the approaches (plot, character, scene or mood based) would be an interesting hook for this book.

Notes for Booktalk: The following is an example of a combination of scene and plot based:

  • Introduce Jerry Renault
  • Tell a little about his school, the Vigils, Brother Leon
  • The assignment not to accept the chocolates for ten days.
  • A theme throughout the book "Do I dare disturb the universe?"
  • Read chapter seventeen (pages 88 & 89) - the chapter where Leon thinks Jerry will be accepting the chocolates for sale but instead Jerry refuses. It's very powerful.
  • What will happen to Jerry as he stands up to these bullies? Does he dare disturb his universe - the little world that exists at Trinity? Tell them to read the book to find out more. (Daphne Jorgensen)

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The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan. (Jennifer Armstrong)

"Where these my dreams? Where these then my brother's dreams? Was I my dreams?" (Taken from Prologue.)

Idea One

Hook: "So who can say if they happened or no? They're true enough that I swear. They're woven tight and strong as any story's woven, thread following thread, the patterns emerging, the knots broken, the stitches dropped and reclaimed, the loose ends left or tied, the way we weave our own lives. They are stories. I'll tell them." (p. 1)

Approach: Scene based (p. 77)

Notes for Booktalk: Mairhe's brother Michael has joined the Union Army. Mairher decides she can't go it alone, with her father having had a mental breakdown and leaving her with no home but the tavern. Mairhe says,
"So after all the grieving and despair I'd known, watching in silence while all around me fell to pieces and I not lifting a finger to stop them, then at last I decide what course to take. A pass I must secure, an official pass from a military authority, an office of the government. The government was all around me, but I'd no more notion to go than a cat does."

To find out what happens to Mairhe as she tries to get her brother home, and what happens to her beloved Mike, you'll have to read the book. (Leslie Cunningham)

Idea Two

Hook: The hook is that is is great historical fiction: how an ordinary girl and her family were affected by the Civil War. What it did to her life, how people change, etc. Making it more relevant for the teens: How would their life change if war broke out and their brother needed to enlist?

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Read first three paragraphs of page five
  • Introduce Maire, an ordinary girl. Talk about racism.
  • Briefly talk about the plot of the book and its appeals (Daphne Jorgensen)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. (Maya Angelou)

"When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed "To Whom It May Concern" that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson, Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson." (p. 1)

Idea One

Hook: Quote cited above

Approach: Character based (Maya)

Notes for Booktalk: In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Marguerite Johnson, re-named Maya by her brother Bailey, arrives in Stamps, Arkansas at the age of three to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson. Over the next few years, Maya and Bailey come to view their grandmother as their mother and begin calling her Momma. Life in Stamps is hard, and Maya must learn to deal with segregation and racism. She also must deal with cruel school children the KKK. Momma has strict ways of doing things, such as always washing before going to bed. Momma says, "Wash everything that isn't prudent, then was prudent." Maya world abruptly changes one day when her father, Bailey Sr., drives up to Momma's store in a shiney car and soon wisks her and Bailey away to St. Louis, Missouri to live with their mother and her family. You'll have to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to find out about Maya's adventures in St. Louis and eventually San Francisco. (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Two

Hook: Reads like a novel.

Approach: Character based (Maya)

Notes for Booktalk:

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings paints a vivid picture of how difficult growing up can be for Southern black females.
  • At the age of three, Maya is sent with her brother Bailey, to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their grandmother.
  • Maya realizes early in life that a clear distinction exists between African Americans and whites in her community.
  • Momma establishes strict standards for her grandchildren, and Maya must work hard. Maya loves books and reads with eagerness.
  • Several years later, Maya and her brother move to Saint Louis to live with their mother. While there, Maya is raped, her uncles murder the rapist, and Maya slips into a self-imposed silence.
  • Maya and Bailey return to Stamps, and Maya is helped out of her silence by Mrs. Bertha Flowers, who uses books as a vehicle to coax and encourage Maya.
    After eighth grade, Maya and Bailey move to California where Maya endures a difficult relationship with her father.
  • At the book's conclusion, Maya gives birth to a baby boy. She is a young, single mother.
  • Reader, come to your own conclusions about why caged birds sing. (Sandra G. Gollop)

Idea Three

Hook: Maya draws the reader in with her rich poetic narrative.

Approach: A combination of character (Maya) and scene based

Notes for Booktalk: Read pages 1 - 3 (preface); Introduce Maya, telling a little about her (can use key passage); who she is today; where she came from and some of the hardships she endured (rape, silence, racism, rejection, etc.). I do not want to go into detail because it spoils the story. I would just wet their appetite and draw them in using Maya's words. (Daphne Jorgensen)

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The Outsiders. (S. E. Hinton)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Frost

Idea One

Hook: Conflict between the greasers and the socs culminates one night when things go too far.

Approach: Combination of Plot and Character based

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Ponyboy is a fourteen-year-old orphan from a rough neighborhood.
  • After his parents were killed in a car accident, Pony's brothers quit school and work to support and take care of each other.
  • Daryl, his oldest brother and legal guardian, is tough on Ponyboy and feels this is the way to raise Pony. He, on the other hand, sees Daryl as a resentful brother who doesn't love him.
  • He and his brothers are part of a gang, the Greasers, consisting of a close knit group of friends from the same neighborhood on the rough side of town.
    They stick together for support and protection from the socs, the west-side rich kids.
  • One night, after falling asleep in the lot and coming home late, Daryl strikes Pony across the face.
  • That night, Pony and Johnny, his best friend, have a run in with the socs, and things go too far.
  • Ponyboy finds himself running away, not only from his overbearing older brother, Daryl, but from a murder wrap. (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Two

Hook: What happens to Pony Boy and Johnny after they run away from the fight in which Johnny killed Bobby?

Approach: Scene based - Dramatizing the scene in which Johnny kills Bobby. Pages 61-64, until "I think I'm gonna be sick."

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Brief Introduction of the book.
  • Incorporate the key passage ("Nothing gold can stay.")
  • Dramatic telling of it. Relive the scene.
  • Draw the audience in. The audience should experience the fear/panic of Pony Boy and Johnny.
  • Leave them wanting more. What happens next?

Out of all the options, I prefer the "scene based" because if done right, it provides more of a "hook" for teenagers. As one of my co-students pointed out in the first class, it is not enough to just entertain. We should provoke the audience to want to go out and get the book. Read on for more ideas using the various approaches to booktalking. (Daphne Jorgensen)

Idea Three

Approach: Mood based - Pages 55-60 Portray Pony Boy's dreams contrasted with his reality.

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Brief Introduction of the book.
  • Incorporate the "sunset" passage with its meaning (the social inequalities and yet how both the rich and the poor look at the same sun.)
  • Tell in the first person of Pony Boy.
  • Get the audience to feel the hurt, anger, and disappointment Pony feels as he flees his home.

If I were doing the booktalk in a predominantly female setting (all girls' school), the mood based idea might be just as attractive to them. Or if I am doing a series of booktalks in one sitting and want variety in the approach, the mood based idea would be a viable option. (Daphne Jorgensen)

Idea Four

Approach: Plot based - highlighting social conflicts

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Brief Introduction of the book.
  • Incorporate the "sunset" passages with its significance (the social inequalities and yet how both the rich and the poor look at the same sun.)
  • Tell in the third person
  • Highlight the social conflicts, family love and loyalty.
  • The plot based is my least favorite, but might be a good approach for an integrated social studies through literature class. (Daphne Jorgensen)

The Ruby in the Smoke. (Philip Pullman)

"Beware of the Seven Blessings…" (p. 11)

Idea One

Hook: What is the meaning of "the Seven Blessings" and what does it have to do with the opium trade, a stolen ruby and the death of Sally Lockhart's father?

Approach: Scene based

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Begin with reading the scene on pg. 33 "I have an enemy, Miss Lockhart, and that enemy is now yours, too."…and ending on pg. 35 with "Is this enemy watching?
  • What is the meaning of "the Seven Blessings" and what does it have to do with the opium trade, a stolen ruby and the death of Sally Lockhart's father?
  • Show book cover; read title/author (Lou Ann Stewart)

Idea Two

Hook: "Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man." (p. 3)

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk: In The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally Lockhart, a sixteen-year-old girl from nineteenth century London finds herself at the center of a deadly mystery. Soon after the death of her father, Sally receives a note saying:

"SALI BEWARE OF THE
SEVEN BLESSINGS
MARCHBANKS WILL HELP
CHATTUM
BWARE DARLING"

Sally, being a precocious teen, is determined to find out what the note means and what it has to do with her father, who was killed when his ship, the Lavinia, sank of the coast of Asia. Her first stop is her father's office at the shipping agency he owned. Once there, Sally inquires about the "seven blessings" and the results are deadly. She realizes that she has entered a world where almost no one can be trusted, not even the police. Along her way, a few people, such as Jim, the office boy at the shipping agency, and Frederick, a photographer she meets on her way to see Marchbanks, befriend Sally. She also, much to her dismay, comes in contact with and is hunted by such characters as Mrs. Holland, a dreadful old woman who will stop at nothing to solve the mystery before Sally. Who will solve the mysteries first? Read The Ruby in the Smoke to find out how the opium trade and the mystery of the Ruby lead to suspense and a surprising conclusion. (Robin Sitarski)

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Sixteen. (Edited by Donald R. Gallo)

"Gary couldn't wait for tenth grade to start so he could strut his sentences, parade his paragraphs, renew his reputation as the top creative writer in school." (Taken from "Future Tense" by Robert Lipsyne, p. 60)

Idea One

Hook: Variety of genres and topics.

Approach: [Depends on which story you choose]

Notes for Booktalk: Mention the variety of genres and topics and then focus on one story as an example. (Donna Cifarelli)

Idea Two- Based on "Future Tense" by Robert Lipsyte

Hook: The title "Future Tense" has multiple meanings and piques the curiosity of the reader right away.

Approach: Plot and character based (Gary)

Notes for Booktalk:

  • To teenagers, it often seems as though the adults in their lives came from another planet.
  • Nobody understands them or appreciates them.
  • What if you discovered a teacher actually was an alien?
  • What if you had the skill and power to expose the alien?
  • Find out what Gary does in a situation like this in Robert Lipsyte's "Future Tense." (Barbara Gillen)

Idea Three - Based on "Do You Want My Opinion" by M. E. Kerr

Hook: "Last night I dreamed I told Lauren Lake what I thought about John Lennon's music, Picasso's art, and Soviet-American relations. It's getting worse. I've tried putting my head under the cold-water faucet." (p. 93)

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk: Sixteen is a wonderful collection of short stories covering a variety of topics. My favorite story is "Do you want my opinion?" by M. E. Kerr. In this story, John is a high school student in an alternative universe where affection and sex are totally accepted, but sharing thoughts is taboo. One day, John wakes up after having dreams of exchanging thoughts with Lauren, a girl at his school. His father lectures him not to get serious with girls and to keep his thoughts to himself. When he gets to school, he can't help but remember what happened in Thought's class last week. Lauren brought up the idea of an alternative universe where sharing thoughts is totally acceptable, but touching was a special thing. The class had laughed at her answers and the teacher told her to keep her thoughts to herself. John longs to spend an evening exchanging ideas with Lauren, but knows he shouldn't ask a girl out when he is only interested in one thing! (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Four - Based on "Priscilla and the Wimps"

Hook: The dynamics between Priscilla, Monk and Melvin. What happens when Priscilla clashes with Monk?

The key passage that augments this hook: "Listen, there was a time when you couldn't even go to the restroom around the school without a pass."" ("Priscilla and the Wimps," p. 42)

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk:

  • To introduce the students to this anthology, I would read "Priscilla and the Wimps, acting it out with enthusiasm, keeping eye contact, etc. It is so funny and engaging that the teens will love it. It is also short enough to tell. (Normally, we are not supposed to give away the ending of a story in booktalking, but when booktalking an anthology, I read that it is okay to tell one of the stories in its entirety.)
  • Then, I would encourage the kids to get the book to read the other fifteen great stories. There is something for everyone here! (Daphne Jorgensen)

The Trouble with Lemons. (Daniel Hayes)

"Lymie told me we'd be sorry if we went. Which I didn't listen to, seeing how Lymie was the kind of kid who thought you'd be sorry if you got out of bed in the morning. Besides, nobody every really listened to Lymie. Not even Lymie. But this time he was right." (p. 1)

Idea One

Hook: "Lymie told me we'd be sorry if we went." (p. 1)

Approach: Combination of plot and character

Notes for Booktalk: The Trouble With Lemons is the story of Tyler McAllister, a.k.a. "Lemon," and his experiences during his eighth grade year at a new school in a new town. Tyler gets off to a rocky start because both his mother and his brother are famous movie stars. As a result, most people refer to Tyler in relation to them, and he becomes an outcast. This all begins to change one night when Tyler and Lymie, his best and only friend, sneak out and go swimming in a quarry just outside of town. This in and of itself isn't so bad, but add to it the gruesome discovery of a dead body floating in the water and you have yourself one good murder mystery…or was it? Tyler and Lymie, who anonymously report the body to the sheriff's office, must piece together clues only they know about to find out the truth before the truth finds them! Along the way, both boys grow up a bit and learn some of life's lessons. Read The Trouble With Lemons to see what happens to the boys in this mysterious yet heartwarming story. (Robin Sitarski)

Idea Two

Hook: Friends sharing an adventure.

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk: The situation Tyler is in is what will capture the young teen reader so emphasize the dead body he and Lymie find and how they are determined to find out what happened. (Donna Cifarelli)

Idea Three

Hook: There are several hooks, because when one hook is resolved, another one takes its place, making this a page turner. Who are the killers? Will the killers catch up with Tyler? Will authorities believe him?

Approach: Scene based: Selected readings from Chapter one when Tyler and Lymie found the body.

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Read the first and second paragraph of chapter one, starting with "Lymie told me we'd be sorry if we went."
  • Then read paragraph four of page one up till, "I couldn't believe my eyes."
  • Page 3, paragraphs 3 & 4
  • Page 4, paragraph 4 till page 6, "You're the one that started talking, dirtbag."
  • Page 6, paragraph 4, "We tiptoed forward," till page 7, "We coulda got sued."
  • Page 10, paragraph 4, "Lymie hopped out of his clothes…" till page 12, "Lymie! Lymie! OH MY GOD, LYMIE!"
  • Who was that body? Were the men in the car the killers? Do they know who the boys are? Read the book to find out what happens next! (Daphne Jorgensen)

Weetzie Bat. (Francesca Lia Block)

"Weetzie was pregnant. She felt like a Christmas package. Like a cat full of kittens. Like an Easter basket of pastel chocolate-malt eggs and solid-milk-chocolate bunnies, and yellow daffodils and dollhouse-sized jellybean eggs." (p. 58)

Idea One

Hook: The unusual characters and vivid descriptions in the book.

Approach: Character based (Weetzie)

Notes for Booktalk: Weetzie Bat is feeling isolated as many teens do - until she meets Dirk and although theirs isn't a typical romantic relationship, they connect in a way that all people want to connect to another. Find ways to relate the joy of living Weetzie has. Perhaps use some props that evoke Los Angeles - like a poster of Marilyn Monroe, a fake palm tree, pink sunglasses. (Donna Cifarelli)

Idea Two

Hook: Will Weetzie find her fairy tale man and live happily ever after?
Approach: Scene based with a focus on Main Character: Weetzie Bat on Pages 7 to 9

Notes for Booktalk:

  • Introduce flamboyant Weetzie, a girl with similar desires as them. She is a loyal friend to Dirk and dreams of the "forever after" kind of love for both of them.
  • Read the wacky scene on Pages 7 to 9, as one of the crazy adventures of this zany character. Start with, "One night, Weetzie and Dirk and Slinkster Dog were driving down Sunset in Jerry…"
  • These are just one of the many adventures awaiting Weetzie and her friends in Weetzie Bat. Will she find her Secret Agent Lover man? Read to find out.

However, I would never promote this book to any children I have any kind of influence over. (Daphne Jorgensen)

Idea Three

Hook: "The reason Weetzie hated high school was because no one understood." (p. 1)

Approach: A combination of plot and character based (Weetzie)

Notes for Booktalk: Weetzie Bat is a story of Weetzie, a high school girl from Los Angeles. She and her good friend, her only friend, Dirk are inseparable. They understand each other like no one else can. However, Weetzie and Dirk each want to find a duck, or man. They decide that there are all sorts of ducks in the world and set out to find their own special duck. When Dirk's grandmother Fifi dies, she leaves her cottage to Dirk and Weetzie. They move in and soon after, Dirk finds his duck…named Duck. Duck moves in with Weetzie and Dirk and they are happy, but what Weetzie really wants is to meet her secret agent lover man. Finally, she does, and he too moves into the cottage. Read Weetzie Bat to discover how this most unpredictable family pulls together in good times and bad and ultimately discovers that love can conquer all.

(I did not care too much for this book.) (Robin Sitarski)

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Where Harriers Dance. (Dean T. Spaulding)

"He continued to look through the binoculars, and then something happened, something he never expected. The dust dots moved. The dots were alive! The thousands of dust dots weren't dust after all. They were hawks! Thousands of them, high in the sky, moving toward them." (p. 123)


Idea One

Hook: Did you ever think bird watching could be exciting? Even interesting? Find out how a troubled teen makes an unsuspecting connection with the hawks flying about Cape May.

Approach: Plot based

Notes for Booktalk: At the start of this story, Bryan, a bright, but misunderstood teenager, is forced to move to Cape May, New Jersey. He must live with his older brother, Sean, because their mother has been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, again. Bryan couldn't be more upset because not only must he begin a new school, but he must accompany his brother to the bird watching platform where Sean is head bird counter, a job Bryan is sure could not be more boring.

As Sean tries to create some sort of relationship with his brother, Bryan is determined to be better at anything his brother does. Bryan decides to rebel by getting good grades in school, but even better, he plans to be the best bird watcher Cape May has ever seen. Bryan befriends a grumpy old man he meets in the swamp, Jack McCabe, and makes a deal with the man. Bryan will do Jack's errands and fix up his house if Jack will teach him to count hawks as well as his brother.

As the two work on their deal, and Bryan learns about responsibility, a first year harrier named Pale Face is on a journey of his own. He must survive all alone, using his instincts, and make the Big Flight south. His journey and adventures coincide with Bryan's experiences at Cape May.

Eventually Bryan and Pale Face's worlds collide, but only in time for one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Cape. Can Pale Face survive? Will Bryan be able to make a relationship with his brother and prove that he is more than just a troubled teen? You'll have to read to find out. (Britt Costa)

Idea Two

Hook: The hook of this novel is the parallel between the boy and the bird.

Approach: A combination of plot and character based (Bryan and Pale Face)

Notes for Booktalk: Where Harrier’s Dance is two stories told parallel to each other and at times, interacting with each other. It is the story of a boy, Bryan Kingsly, and a bird, Pale Face. Bryan is forced to leave his home in New York after his mother has yet another nervous breakdown to go live with his older brother in Cape May, New Jersey. Pale Face, on the other hand, is left along on the northern plain of his birth. Abandoned by his parents and unsure of what to do next, Pale Face must follow his own instincts and fly south for the winter. At the same time, Bryan must also use his instincts to come to terms with his new life in New Jersey. Bryan must deal with his hatred and jealousy for his brother, Sean, and his resentment at both his father and mother for leaving him to fend for himself both mentally and physically. Read Where Harrier’s Dance to see what becomes of Bryan and Pale Face the night a hurricane threatens not only them, but their families and friends as well. (Robin Sitarski)

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Woodsong. (Gary Paulsen)

"I was standing in the driveway facing the woodpile and saw Hawk launch herself like a speckled red missile. She hit Russel in the back of the head so hard cat hair flew out in a circle. Then she hung on and rode him out of the yard, raking his sides like a professional bull rider." (p. 46)

Idea One

Hook: "Grilled by Disney and others, I believed Bambi always got out of the fire. Nothing ever really fot hurt. Though I hunted and killed it was always somehow clear and removed from reality. I killed yet thought that every story had a happy ending… Until a December morning…" (p.2)

Approach: Mood based

Notes for Booktalk:

  • In chapter four, Paulsen writes about fear in reference to his encounter with a bear. (Taken from page 39)
  • "Fear comes in many forms but perhaps the worst scare is the one that isn't anticipated; the one that isn't really known about until it's there. A sudden fear. The unexpected.
  • …nothing draws bears like burning food. "Scarface" had been gone for two to three days and the breeze was right, so I went to burn the trash. I fired it off and went back into the house for a moment - not more than two minutes.
  • When I came back out Scarface was in the burn area… He was having a grand time. The fire didn't bother him… He was trying to reach a paw in around the edges of the flame… he had torn things apart quite a bit - ripped one side off the burn enclosure - and I was having a bad day and it made me mad.
  • I was standing across the burning fire from him and without thinking - because I was so used to him - I picked up a stick, threw it at him and yelled, 'Get out of here!'
  • I have made many mistakes in my life and will probably make many more, but I hope never to throw a stick at a bear again."
  • To find out what happened, you'll have to read the rest of the book. (Leslie Cunningham)

Idea Two

Hook: What happens to Gary when he interrupts the wolves at their deer kill and they notice him? P. 7

Approach: Scene based

Notes for Booktalk: I would do one of two scenes, depending on the group and if I wanted something serious or humorous. I would tell a little background about the story first.

Serious:
Do the scene about the wolves killing the deer - p. 6 ("Two wolves held the deer by the nose…") to p. 7 ( "…the wolves stopped dead and turned to look at me and the dogs.")

  • Read the book to find out what happens next.

Humorous:

  • Tell about Chapter Five - - the Paulsen's humorous summer of terror with their banty hen, Hawk, who was a fiercely protective mother. A laugh-out-loud funny chapter.
  • If I did humorous, I would make sure they know that not everything in the book is that funny. Emphasize man's relationship with nature. (Daphne Jorgensen)

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This page last updated May 11, 2001
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