In addition to having an excellent title, Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Gladstone is well worth reading. It is an account of the authors’ experiences leading book groups for children and their parents at the local library. In the first chapter, they give a very funny account of their first attempt at discussing Mr. Popper’s Penguins hence the title of this book. As the book progresses they weave together their own experiences and the answers they received from children and their parents with their interpretations of the books they used. And they go through quite a number of books, most of them well-known.
I learned a lot from this book. Though I consider myself reasonably well-educated, I had never thought of approaching books as they do. They go through common terms like setting, plot, protagonist and antagonist, but along the way they also manage to ferret out the deeper meaning the authors have hidden within their works. Indeed, their approach is to tell kids each book is a mystery and their job is to solve it.
Not only did I feel more educated after reading this book, it made me really want to do these book groups with my kids. I am still contemplating how to do that and if I want to try to start a homeschool group in my area to do so. This book is not set up as a user’s manual per se but it is written in a way that I think would make it reasonably easy to follow in the authors’ footsteps and to try to recreate what they did. If I do attempt this, I suspect I will let you know about it here.
Deconstructing Penguins is definitely a book I would recommend for teachers, librarians, and parents (especially homeschooling ones!).