Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Surprise! Mediocre Books = Great Book Club Discussions!

Last week my small book club (one10th grade boy, seven 9th-10th grade girls) discussed James Patterson's The Angel Experiment, the first in the popular Maximum Ride series. The students and I loved the book - so much action, such great characters, such imagination! But we agreed that the writing wasn't fabulous, and the characters were sometimes unbelievable, like when one would suddenly and just in time realize she had a special power that would save the day. But now my students are fighting for the sequels and devouring the series.
 So, what made this a great discussion? We made a list on the whiteboard of all the characters, their powers so far, and if those powers were positive or negative. The hilarious discussion that ensued (like about the character Gasman - guess his special power), made my day. I often try to find literary, critically acclaimed books for us to read (Our next selection is The Book Thief). Now I know that sometimes it is great to dissect books that are really just fun. The conversations that arise about what makes a great story, or what makes a book literary (or not) are just as valuable when discussing a mediocre book as when discussing a masterpiece.

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