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Topic: Deconstructing Penguins - Literary Analysis of Children's Books (kinda long

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Subject: Deconstructing Penguins - Literary Analysis of Children's Books (kinda long
Date Posted: 2/2/2008 10:15 AM ET
Member Since: 10/26/2005
Posts: 438
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I've just read an amazing book called Deconstructing Penguins.  The authors share their parent/child bookclub discussions on such children's classics like Mr. Popper's Penguins and Charlotte's Web among others.  The authors present every book as a mystery with clues that help you figure out what the book is really about, ie. Theme.

They talk the parent/children groups through protagonists/antagonists, climax, setting, plot, etc. as a way to unearth the underlying message.  There is obviously some subjectivity here as not all groups come to *exactly* the same conclusions (the authors have been doing this for 6 years) But on the other hand the authors already have a preconceived idea that they are guiding the group towards.

I *love* the vision that the author's give for taking literature to the next level.  I love to read and I read a lot but I don't read at this level.  I had two memorable teachers (one in highschool and one in college) that made literature come alive in this way but I did not learn how to analyze any book I read on my own.  I only learned underlying themes for the handful of books that were part of the class.

I want to have these kinds of discussions with my kids about the books we read out loud.  I started with Sarah Plain and Tall because it's short and because Scholastic has a free BookFile on this title (kind of like Cliff Notes for children's lit)  Protagonist wasn't that difficult to come to, antagonist is eluding me and the climax is a toss up.  The theme I came up with is a bit different than what Scholastic came up with and they thought of things I never would have.  So I'm glad for the crutch...though it doesn't talk things out in quite the same way as Deconstructing Penguins.  But I would eventually like to learn to do this without the crutch.

Are there any literature teachers here who could share some ideas for learning how to analyze a book?  I've used literature guides in the past but I want to move past comprehension questions, diorama type activities, and even what does this book mean to you type questions.  Is there a good series of guides that help you focus on what the author was trying to say?  Scholastic Bookfiles are great for this but there are only a dozen or so titles.  Where to go from here?


Rebecca W.