Sunday, October 21, 2012

Program + Review: beTWEEN the lines

My last post regarding my beloved book club for tweens posed some questions about how to get more kids coming to the program. Maybe the secret is simply in the books chosen. Our October meeting was tied as our most successful (in terms of attendance numbers) to date - five kids showed up, including two boys. I didn't really do anything differently in terms of publicizing the club, though I may have gotten the information on our website earlier than in months past. So, I'm inclined to believe that the number of attendees has more to do with the title we picked rather than the publicity options utilized. The title in question: Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander.

Due to my ascension to full-time status a mere two days before our meeting and the change in responsibilities that accompanied, I was a bit under-prepared for our meeting. I still had a list of discussion questions (actually, it was quite an extensive list) but I hadn't prepared an extension activity. I usually like to do some sort of craft or extender for the last fifteen minutes of our meeting. I batted around a few ideas for this book, but couldn't come up with anything I really liked that I thought feasible in the limited amount of time I had before our meeting. So, we spent nearly the whole house in discussion. The girls talked much more than the boys, which I think is true of most situations with mixed company, but everyone seemed to enjoy the discussion and everyone definitely liked the book. We spent our last few minutes voting on our December title (we are voting two months out) and signing out copies of our November book. All the kids took a copy, so hopefully they will all return for our next meeting!

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, book 1)
By Suzanne Collins
Published 2005 by Scholastic

Gregor is sad to be stuck at home watching over his baby sister instead of at summer camp, but he understands it's just the way things work now. So, when little Boots disappears down a vent in their laundry room, Gregor has no choice but to follow. What they discover will lead them on a thrilling and life-threatening adventure and may hold the key to their father's mysterious disappearance.

I've been wanting to read this one for a while, having heard good things about it and knowing it was popular with kids. So it was partly for selfish reasons that I chose the title for our October book club. I'm certainly glad I did now, as it proved a popular choice. However, my experience with the book was less than ideal. I was frazzled and stressed, frantically trying to get the book read in time for our meeting and I found it much slower reading than I had anticipated (I think that when I get stressed about reading, it slows me down, which is the reason I get stressed in the first place - VICIOUS CYCLE!). That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book - I actually really loved the Underland and all the characters. Gregor is a reluctant yet thoughtful hero and Boots is much more than just a burden that Gregor has to bear on his journey. I liked that Collins used creatures typical of the underground - these creatures are not usually thought of as ones you'd like to be around or read about, but they are humanized here. The pacing was good, though, as I said, it felt like a slower read than I expected. The twists and turns of their adventure were exciting and kept me interested in the book. I also liked that Collins didn't shy away from the dangers inherent in questing. We've been recommending this series to kids whose parents don't want them reading The Hunger Games yet and I actually think it's a suitable readalike, now that I've read both series. I definitely want to pick up the next book and see what other adventures are in store for Gregor.

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