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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tales of the 5th/6th Grade Book Club: As Brave As You-- Week 3

Yesterday the group met to discuss Chapters 5-7 of As Brave As You.

Below I will recount what we discussed and how the meeting went without identifying any of the children, but please note that this is merely 1 of multiple meetings over which we will discuss the entire book. To access the full series of posts, use the 5th/6th gr book club tag.

Now on to the discussion:

  • Last week the kids were noticing that they had many more questions than answers, so this week a kid was ready to start off off by saying,  “these chapters answered a lot of our questions.”
    • The biggest question that was answered was how Wood died and why Grandpop and Genie’s Dad have a strained relationship.
    • We talked about Wood dying in Desert Storm, how he wanted to be a firefighter but Grandpop forced him to join the army, and how Ernie Sr. tried to stop Wood from being forced to join up. Ernie Sr became the firefighter instead.
    • One kid said, “Why didn’t Grandpop listen to Ernie Sr.” I tried to explain it in their terms. I asked her if she had a big sibling. She said a sister. So I said, ok if your parents were forcing your big sister to do something and you didn’t agree with them, would they listen to you? She thought they might, but we talked about it and decided that in the end, the little sister probably couldn’t change the parents’ minds. That helped a little.
    • What this section did do was explain exactly why Ernie Sr and Grandpop still have trouble getting along. There is a lot of anger and guilt along with sadness here.
  • A participant read the section where Genie notices that Grandpop is scared of thunder and doesn’t like the storm.
    • It was barely noticeable but he grabbed the table for a second. Genie was surprised because Grandma said they get big storms all of the time. Shouldn’t Grandpop be used to them?
    • Is it PTSD from the war?
    • Wood was born on a rainy day and they buried him on one too. Are storms still hard for Grandpop?
    • I reminded the kids that the author put that short but memorable line in the book for a reason. We agreed to file away this information in case it comes back later.
  • Everyone, including our narrator, Genie, was surprised that when Genie by mistake broke Wood’s firetruck model that Grandma was the one who was more upset than Grandpop.
    • It was the last thing Grandma had that Wood made with his own hands. And it was the firetruck. He wanted to be a fireman.
    • Grandma has been the even tempered one so far. It was surprising. There must be more about this to come.
    • Why wasn’t Grandpop upset? Guilt? He is still so sad? Or, maybe he understands what mistakes and accidents are. He made a big one forcing Wood into the army. He can forgive others more easily than he can forgive himself.
    • The wheel is still missing! Genie has looked for it once. We predict he will keep looking and eventually it will be found.
    • My son said, maybe when the boys get home, the wheel will be found and Grandpop will  send it in a letter to Genie-- the first letter he ever sends to them.
    • This led to more people making predictions that by the end of the book Grandpop will get better at being more involved in the world. He will go outside and maybe even start communicating directly with Genie and his family again. 
    • He needs to get over his big sadness and live again. The boys coming will help make that change happen.
    • We talked about Grandpop’s feelings. Why does he hide them all of the time?- someone asked. Answers: He doesn’t want to appear weak. He doesn’t want people to know how hurt and sad he truly is. He doesn’t want help. He is still to sad to deal with his feelings.
    • [Becky’s note: in general I was really proud of the kids here. They have noticed that Granpop is hurting and still grieving. It is implied but not obvious. They expect this month long visit to help him heal.]
  • Someone mentioned how the flies being drawn to the zapper and its description from the previous section came back here as Tess’ dad, Crab, brings the dead flies to Grandpop to feed his birds. She then said those flies being drawn to the zapper is like when you want something so bad you don’t care about the consequences. This could be a big theme for the whole book.
    • This led us back to the Grandpop-Ernie Sr issue. Grandpop wanted Wood in the army so badly he didn’t care that it meant he might die. Ernie Sr. doesn’t think the consequences were worth it. He never did. He is still upset about it.
    • We are filing this observation away for later. We all think the metaphor can be applied again.
  • And then we were off talking about Grandpop’s “outside room.” It is a weird thing so they had a lot to say about it.
    • We were right! Grandpop is afraid to go outside because it is not a known place. He can’t count steps. He might fall down the cliff. He has made a fake outside, inside.
    • Seeing the room through Genie’s eyes, it is kinda silly. Very fake grass, bird poop everywhere-- dirty and smelly. It is not like the real outside at all.
    • He can’t clean it and Grandma won’t help. She hates the birds. Why? They will eat her precious peas.
    • But, someone asked, is there more to Grandma’s hatred of the birds. Hmmmm. We again noted to file this question away after we read more. Maybe?
    • Genie can barely stand the smell. And, as someone notes, Grandpop for sure can smell it too. Why does he put up with it? Maybe he likes it because he never smells the outside anymore. This is a lot but it connects him to the outside. Someone else said the smell is worth it to him because it is from the world he can’t visit anymore.
    • But if he accepted help, he could go outside. The kids were frustrated by Grandpop’s choices here. We decided that the room must have more significance and we will see eventually.
  • Crab! Tess’ Dad. He is introduced in this section, and as I said to the kids, you thought Grandpop was a bit sketchy before-- Crab is definitely sketchy!
    • I reminded the that the name itself is “sharp.” I made little crab pinchers with my hands to illustrate. Names matter in books because the author picks them. A crab is prickly and pinchy-- not cute and cuddly. Let’s remember that.
    • My comments fell a bit on deaf ears though. The kids were very intrigued by Crab, as they should be. He waltzes in with cash for Grandpop so he can hunt on Grandpop’s land-- for squirrels? And he brings alcohol and dead flies (for the birds). And the cash is a secret from Grandma. He is an intriguing addition to the story.
    • It seems Crab is one of Grandpop’s only friends. I asked them if they wanted a “crab” for a best friend? They said yes at first, but I told them to really think about that. You are supposed to be a little wary of Crab. Keep that in mind.
  • Why is the money secret?
    • Grandpop says it is for his private rainy day fund.
    • The kids thought this use of the phrase “rainy day fund” was interesting considering the conversation Grandpop and Ernie had during the storm [which we talked about above].
    • On page 142 though, Grandpop says the wants the money to buy a smart phone to use if he can ever see again.
    • This could be an important statement. And, I told the kids that I was impressed with them. They kept being suspicious that Grandpop could see and I dismissed them as being overly suspicious. But, we also talked about Glaucoma as a treatable disease last time. Is Grandpop using the cash to get secret eye treatments? Does he plan to see in the near future? Can he see a little bit already? This one line really got all of us thinking-- kids and adults.
    • Our last chapter ends with Grandpop and Genie setting up a secret meeting at 10pm. What can that be about? And why did Granpop use military time to call the meeting. We will have to wait and see what happens next....

That's all for this week.  Next week we will discuss chapters 8-11 [pages147-211].

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