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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?