Book Review: Deconstructing Penguins

Dear Reader,

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!).


9 responses to this post.

  1. […] reading Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (see my review here), I have been wanting to have a book group with my kids. For a little review, Deconstructing is the […]


  2. […] my kids. As I posted earlier, we are basing what we do on the book Deconstructing Penguins (review here) and are going through some kids’ classics with an eye to learning how to ferret out what […]


  3. […] whole enterprise on based upon the book Deconstructing Penguins which I really loved and reviewed here. Last link! — You can also read some thoughts I had on how we’re tweaking […]


  4. […] are based on the book Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone which I reviewed here. Our previous attempts were on Charlotte’s Web and Mr. Popper’s […]


  5. […] Form there we moved to the notes I had made from our guide book, Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. […]


  6. […] book Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. You can find my review of that book here and accounts of or earlier efforts at literary analysis here, here and here. Since we are going to […]


  7. […] We used as our guide Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (see my review here). The object of our analysis this time was Lost Horizon by James […]


  8. […] and Lost Horizon. All these studies I have based on the book Deconstructing Penguins (my review here).  We learn terms like protagonist, antagonist, and climax, but most importantly we try to see […]


  9. […] on how large trends in western thought have shaped culture. Another book I foudn quite helpful is Deconstructing Penguins. This is not a book for the student to read (though an older one certainly could). It describes a […]


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