I posted last month about our new parent-child literary analysis book club. Several people have expressed interest in more information because they are hoping to start their own book club. I won’t post every month’s analysis, but will keep you updated on how things are going. I’ll share this month’s book, though, in case anyone would like to see another book presented.
I reviewed our book detective mission with the group. We talked briefly about the definition of ‘genre,’ how we are treating all fiction as mystery, that we have to look for clues to find out what the author is really telling us, and that listening ears are our most valuable detective tools!
My sister read The Bear That Wasn’t by Frank Tashlin.
I drew the story analysis diagram on the white board. (I’m rewriting all our notes in a large tablet after the meeting so we have it for our records. The white board was much messier that this. Wry grin.)
We had the kids try to remember what each circle represented.
First up: Exposition. We asked the ‘W’ questions. Who? What? (What did he look like? What did he say?) Where? When?
Next: Rising Action. What was the problem? (We asked several questions here.)
Then: Climax. (One mom (a really fabulous CC tutor who is used to making things memorable for kids) suggested that we climbed to the top of our mountain to use our ax.) We clarified with another mom that the climax isn’t the height of the action, but rather the first moment that we realize the conflict is going to be resolved, for better or for worse. It is the turning point of the story. The climax doesn’t happen at the same place in every book. Sometimes it is in the middle. Sometimes it is at the very end, and the denouement and conclusion are only one or two sentences long! When do we know the bear is still going to be a bear, no matter what others have told him he is (a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat)?
Denouement. What happens next? What is the result of the climax? What loose ends are tied up?
Conclusion. How does the story end? Was a lesson learned?
Theme: What was the author really trying to tell us about? Is there something we can take away from this story? What is the universal idea behind the story?
A mom pointed out that the bear is actually TRYING to be himself throughout the whole story. We kept it simple and wrote the theme as ‘be yourself’ but discussed the idea of perseverance in believing in who God created us to be—even when we are a fish out of water, and even if/when we aren’t (ever) able to convince those around us.
We decided to introduce the idea of conflict this month. We talked about the main character. Even though he was a bear, he was given human traits (as was the mouse, Anatole, in our story last month). Conflict is expressed as Man (protagonist) versus something else (antagonist). We wrote the options on another white board and briefly discussed them. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self. Man vs. God (or Fate/Destiny). Man vs. Nature. Man vs. Society. (We didn’t talk about Man vs. Machine/Technology or Man vs. Supernatural.) This is often posed as a question: Will the factory men (society) be able to convince the bear (man) that he isn’t a bear?
Our meeting lasted about an hour, which is our target time-frame. Holly and I have a picture book picked out for our next meeting, but after that we plan on offering the other families a chance to chose the book and lead the discussion (either one or two moms or a parent-child team) if anyone is interested in doing so. We’ll stick to picture books for a few more months and then try our hands at a chapter book to be read ahead of time.
And that is about it! Feel free to ask questions in the comments.