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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tales of the 5th/6th Grade Book Club: As Brave As You-- Week 7

Yesterday the group met to discuss the end of the book, Chapters 18-21 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 FINAL discussion:

  • It was Pi Day [3/14] the day we met. Thankfully we had a pizza pie planned to enjoy for the final meeting.
  • While we were eating our pizza, but before the official discussion began, one of the girls talked about reading the acknowledgments and learning that the author’s grandpa was named Brooke like the grandpa in the story. We then had a nice talk about the fun of reading acknowledgements after finishing a good book. A few kids had never thought of reading the acknowledgements before and were excited to try.
  • Once we began the discussion in earnest, one boy wanted to start with the last few pages, the ending and the title.
    • The book ends with Genie confessing about the bird, MJ, being dead and Grandpop forgiving him. The kid who started said this made him understand the title so much more.
    • It is more brave to confess and admit to your mistakes than being brave about shooting a gun.
    • Grandpop has made a lot of mistakes. He is not a bad person. He tried to be a good person but made many awful mistakes.
    • At the start of the book Genie wishes he can be as brave as Ernie but then he realizes that confessing and owning up to your mistakes is a very brave thing to do.
    • Genie could have very easily gone home and then called Grandpop to confess, but that is much less brave.
    • His bravery is rewarded too. By going back in, he is able to find the missing piece of the wheel!
    • Bravery is not about actions. A kid shard this thought. We talked about how that is a concept that only older kids can begin to understand.
  • Prediction: Genie will be more brave and strong when they get back home. He will not longer just be Repeat to Ernie’s Pete.
  • The kids wanted to talk about Dr. Binks and the teeth some more
    • Some were still grossed out by the fact that Dr. Binks was selling teeth for good luck.
    • Others were mad that he was probably lying about whose teeth they were.
    • But then a few kids said it didn’t matter if the teeth were really from famous people or not, all that mattered was that people felt like the teeth brought them luck.
    • We then talked about the Placebo Effect in general.
    • This led to people sharing that they were surprised that Ernie was actually excited about the Bruce Lee Tooth that Genie got for him.
    • Previously Ernie thought the whole teeth things was gross. But there were signs that Ernie was feeling better and more confident about his teeth situation, so when Genie offered the good luck charm, Ernie was in a better place to be appreciative.
  • The ending came up again. A girl said, I liked the book, but the ending made me want to know what happened next. I want a sequel.
    • I explained how this book did not have the traditional everything is all tied up and neatly resolved ending that a lot of younger kid books do. It is important to note that Reynolds had previously written more for a teen audience.
    • I explained to the kids that this book is a great bridge book for them. It is still for middle grades but it is more mature and expects them to think for themselves more.
    • One girl said the open ending made her feel uneasy.
    • The other mom jumped in and said, I think it was supposed to make you feel that way. Life is a series of struggles. We saw in the book that many mistakes are made, but everyone, but you have to be brave to show up for life. That’s a grownup thing to learn.
    • The Dad and Grandpop started to make up but who knows how that will go. The Dad has a lot of anger that he has held in for years. It doesn’t just magically disappear now that the book’s last page is turned.
    • I also talked to them about how fiction in general can teach you a lot about life. Life doesn’t tie up neatly. I asked them, just because a day ends and you go to sleep, does that mean that everything going on in your life-- good and bad and in between-- finished up completely at the end of the day. No, they all agreed. This book is like that. It’s more like Life than other books they have read up until now.
    • But it was sorta predictable that the wheel which is lost at the beginning magically shows up at the very end.
    • Yeah, the apology and confession by Genie was predictable too.
    • But, we all agreed that is okay because it closed parts of the book up in a circle. We needed some of that. Besides, its fiction so the author can do that. He can make the pieces fit a little bit. He’s in charge.
  • Crab shows up at the end again. 
    • I didn’t like that he came back. I would have been fine to not see him again.
    • Well, but everyone is starting to heal at the end and Crab is trying just as hard to own up to his past mistakes.
    • One girl said, I didn’t like Crab because he is always talking about things that I didn’t know about. Stuff him and Grandpop did years ago. It was annoying.
    • I suggested that Crab did those thing to show that Grandpop has depth and a life beyond the story we know. 
  • This led to an overall discussion about the fact that at the end everyone is starting to heal.
    • You have to be brave enough to get better and improve yourself.  Everyone is trying and learning from the steps each of them is taking.
    • Grandpop gave away his rainy day fund. He let it go. Gave it to Genie and Ernie. He doesn’t need it any more because he is healing emotionally.
    • Grandma threw out the gun that has been Grandpop’s obsession. He let it go.
    • Grandma gave up Wood’s model. It is better for Genie to have it and appreciate it than for her to stay sad over it.
    • Ernie is literally healing. HIs mouth will be fine.
    • Genie is growing up. He learned so much in 1 month.
    • Tess’ Mom is making progress with her debilitating hypocondria 
    • Even the Dad is letting go of his anger. 
    • The mom looks less tired. She has had to carry Ernie Sr’s anger and it made her marriage suffer. We don’t know if the parents worked things out on vacation but the book seems to hint that since everyone is making progress toward healing, the parents will probably work it out too.
    • Forgiveness is important if you want to heal. Dad has to forgive Grandpop and Grandpop has to forgive himself. Among other forgivenesses. These are the two biggies though.
    • No one is perfect. Everyone has to accept that but also own up to their mistakes.
  • We could have kept going but we were running out of time. So I stopped the kids and asked them to tell me how they would recommend this book to a friend WITHOUT giving away any of the plot details. [By the way, they were GREAT at this].
    • It is a really good book with a deeper meaning than you see at first
    • Read it if you want a book that talks about a lot of different people’s feelings and emotions.
    • It was good. It could be confusing and mysterious at times but I liked how it makes you think about real life. It is not a fairy tale.
    • You can read it on two levels. First the plot is fun to follow. It is exciting. But there is a deeper meaning that is also good. Oh and it is funny too.
    • It looks boring from the cover but it is about guilt and confession which are not boring at all! Just read it. You’ll see.
    • Don’t read the flap. Just read this book.
Thanks to everyone for following along. I cannot stress enough how leading a kids’ discussion when you normally only lead adults is one of the best continuing education exercises you can do for yourself. 

I hope you enjoyed this interlude in the regular blog content. Sadly, I think this might be my last formal chance to lead a kid book discussion as my son is moving on to Jr. High. We will see though. I will still be volunteering at the elementary school library next year. Maybe I can figure something out.

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