[It’s October, which means you’ll be seeing 31 Days of ________ series popping up all over the blog world. I’ve never attempted a 31 Days series in all my 8 1/2 years of blogging, so this is a new experience for me. Let’s see if I have the perseverance…]
Several years ago, I was introduced to the idea of a parent-child literary analysis book club by the inspiring book Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading. After my first read-through, I was itching to begin my own book club, but I felt deeply my lack of experience with literary analysis. Sure, I could try to reproduce the fascinating discussions laid out in Deconstructing Penguins, with the specific books recommended by the authors, but I simply didn’t possess the confidence.
Some time later (a little over four years ago, to be exact), I had the opportunity to sit through a practicum using the Teaching the Classics DVDs and Syllabus. A fire was lit. I finally had universal literary analysis tools that could be used to discuss any piece of literature, from simple picture books to Hamlet.
Armed with these new tools from Teaching the Classics and the “book as mystery” concept from Deconstructing Penguins, my sister and I launched our very own Book Detectives parent-child book club with 12 kids (ages 5-10) and 10 parents. [You can read about our first meeting here.]
We all learned together by trusting the process and discussing books with each other. We started with picture books and then began to throw a few simple chapter books in the mix. I’ve shared some of our discussions here on the blog. [Scroll down to read the early discussions.]
Since then, I’ve led various Book Detectives groups, with various kids at various ages in various quantities, and they have all been a blast! I’ve discovered that picture books are magic, an accessible portal into the world of literary analysis for any age. I have been astounded at what I’ve learned from a focused look at simple books such as Brave Irene or The Real Thief, even if I had read them numerous times before.
I’ve found other helpful resources for literary discussion, as well. We’ve used the “ANI” chart from The Lost Tools of Writing to discuss whether a character should have performed an action in the book. [Example discussions here and here.] I’ve participated in a fascinating discussion of a picture book with other adults using the 5 Common Topics (also introduced in The Lost Tools of Writing or explained well in The Question by Leigh Bortins). The 5 Common Topics have become one of my favorite general discussion tools, whether for literature or life.
Honey for a Teen’s Heart is an excellent resource for discussing books with teens, including worldview questions that can be asked of any piece of literature.
A year ago, I was a guest on Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival Podcast. We had a delightful time chatting about Book Detectives there. [Lawrence Goldstone, author of Deconstructing Penguins, and Adam Andrews, author of Teaching the Classics, also appeared as guests on the podcast.]
Sarah then asked me to do a video master class (over an hour of video!) on leading a Book Detectives group, and that can be found at the Read-Aloud Revival Membership Site along with a plethora of other master classes and read-aloud goodness such as author events, podcast extras, printable resources and quickstart guides, and more.
And now, for the next 29 Days, I will be sharing literary analysis notes and plot charts for Book Detectives, a book a day.
I am not an expert at literary analysis, and there is no official answer key, but I hope my notes will encourage you all to start your own Book Detectives groups! The last day of the series will be reserved for final thoughts and a list of all the book post links.
Stick around, put on your detective hats, and let’s uncover some book mysteries together!