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Deconstructing Penguins
Cover of Deconstructing Penguins
Deconstructing Penguins
Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading
Borrow Borrow Borrow

"Books are like puzzles," write Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. "The author's ideas are hidden, and it is up to all of us to figure them out." In this indispensable reading companion, the Goldstones--noted parent-child book club experts--encourage grownups and young readers alike to adopt an approach that will unlock the magic and power of reading.

With the Goldstones help, parents can inspire kids' lifelong love of reading by teaching them how to unlock a book's hidden meaning. Featuring fun and incisive discussions of numerous children's classics, this dynamic guide highlights key elements--theme, setting, character, point of view, climax, and conflict--and paves the way for meaningful conversations between parents and children.

"Best of all," the Goldstones note, "you don't need an advanced degree in English literature or forty hours a week of free time to effectively discuss a book with your child. This isn't Crime and Punishment, it's Charlotte's Web."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

"Books are like puzzles," write Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. "The author's ideas are hidden, and it is up to all of us to figure them out." In this indispensable reading companion, the Goldstones--noted parent-child book club experts--encourage grownups and young readers alike to adopt an approach that will unlock the magic and power of reading.

With the Goldstones help, parents can inspire kids' lifelong love of reading by teaching them how to unlock a book's hidden meaning. Featuring fun and incisive discussions of numerous children's classics, this dynamic guide highlights key elements--theme, setting, character, point of view, climax, and conflict--and paves the way for meaningful conversations between parents and children.

"Best of all," the Goldstones note, "you don't need an advanced degree in English literature or forty hours a week of free time to effectively discuss a book with your child. This isn't Crime and Punishment, it's Charlotte's Web."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    PENGUINS 7, JETS 0

    How We Got Started

    The day we picked to hold our first parent-child book group at our local public library was Sunday, January 10, 1999. Like everything else about the book group, this date and the time--3:30 in the afternoon--had been carefully chosen after months of planning. The first Sunday in January seemed ideal because, as the school vacation had just ended, families would be home and the children would be refreshed. We chose late afternoon to minimize potential conflicts with the other myriad activities in which Connecticut second graders participate. We knew, for example, that the basketball league held its games on Saturday, ice-skating lessons were Sunday morning, the Sunday dance rehearsals for the Nutcracker were over, and soccer practice wouldn't resume until early April.

    It turned out, however, that we hadn't thought of everything. The hapless New York Jets, a team that had not made the NFL play-offs in eight seasons or finished with a good enough record to host a play-off game in two decades, had that year miraculously achieved both. The young and hungry Jacksonville Jaguars were coming to town on, when else, January 10, and the winner would then meet the Denver Broncos for the right to go on to the Super Bowl.

    Interest in the game approached the fanatical. The Meadowlands drew the second-largest crowd in the history of the stadium. (The largest had been for the pope.) Kick off was set for one p.m., which put the start of our little book group somewhere in the middle of the fourth quarter, when every living creature in the New York metropolitan area would be frozen in front of a television set.

    At the last minute, however, it appeared that the fates might yet be with us. The game had descended into a rout and the Jets held a 31--14 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. By the time we piled into the car to head for the children's department of the library with our books, markers, large writing pad, and enough cookies and juice to ensure the loyalty of our audience, we had brightened substantially. "No one needs to stay and see the end of that," we said.

    But no sooner had we backed out of the driveway--with the radio tuned to the game, of course--then Jacksonville scored a touchdown. During the five-minute trip to the library, they scored again. Before we could unload the car, the Jets had been intercepted and the potent Jacksonville offense had the ball once more.

    "Hang on to your hats," trumpeted the announcer. "This is gonna be a wild finish."

    With indefatigable if slightly forced good cheer, we trudged in and dragged our paraphernalia up the stairs to the meeting room. We set up an easel for the pad at the front of the room, laid out the snacks, and waited. Ten minutes later, we were still the only people in the room.

    Finally, the door opened and a librarian stuck her head in. "Someone named Katherine's mother called to say that they can't make it this time but they'll be here next time, and one of the other parents called to say that neither the father nor the son had read the book and did that matter?"

    At 3:27, a mother and daughter walked in, looked around at the empty room, and wordlessly sat down. Soon another mother and daughter arrived and then, astoundingly, a father and daughter. They were followed closely by another father and his son. The first father and the second father exchanged a glance, the meaning of which was all too clear. Soon, we had ten second graders, each with a parent, four of whom were distressed fathers. When the last of the fathers entered, he gave the final, damning report.

    "Down to a seven-point lead. Still four minutes to...

About the Author-
  • Lawrence Goldstone is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies. One of his novels won a New American Writing Award; another was a New York Times notable mystery. His work has been profiled in The New York Times, the Toronto Star, Salon, and Slate, among others. He lives on Long Island with his wife, Nancy.
    Nancy Goldstone has written and coauthored several books, including Four Queens. She lives with her husband and co-author Lawrence Goldstone in Westport, Connecticut.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 2, 2005
    The benefits of learning to understand rich, layered narratives extend "far beyond the scope of fiction," say the authors, who lead a renowned book group for children and their parents at their small town library and who have written several other books on the subject of reading (Warmly Inscribed, etc.). Competing against Superbowl Sunday and countless other activities, their first attempt at a reading group was stacked against the odds. But because of their unusual ability to make reading fun and meaningful, their program has become a standard for parent-child reading groups around the country. This book, meant as a guide for those who want to set up their own reading clubs, offers a fantastic reading list beginning with Mr. Popper's Penguins for second graders and ending with The Time Machine for fifth graders. Many of the actual library sessions are discussed in detail, demonstrating the authors' terrific techniques for helping kids and parents see and debate the layers underlying the story, plot, characterizations, point of view and themes. "The highlight of almost any discussion is the discovery of what the author has implanted at the core of the book," they say. A distinguished work full of humor and wisdom, their book suggests that by encouraging children to read and talk about the mystery of complex, substantial books, parents and teachers can greatly expand young peoples' worlds and ultimately their life choices. As a lesson in how to enrich child-parent relationships, this book is great.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2005
    Even though many librarians around the country are already running successful book-discussion groups, the Goldstones have mapped out an approach that merits librarians' and teachers' valuable reading time by translating sophisticated concepts into accessible ideas and user-friendly strategies. By turning books into puzzles and suggesting that "the author's ideas are hidden," children are guided to go beneath superficial readings and initial responses to more in-depth discussion. Youngsters are encouraged to express their opinions with a single caveat -"interpretation must be consistent with the facts." The authors recycle traditional literary questions and tools with incredible clarity as they help kids address questions of who the protagonist/antagonist is until, ultimately, they discover what the book is "really" about. It is a thrilling journey. This wise, insightful book empowers readers, young and old, to engage more deeply with literature and shows with clarity the rewards for doing so. It is also a pleasure to read." -Judith Rovenger, Westchester Library System, NY "

    Copyright 2005 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from May 9, 2005
    The benefits of learning to understand rich, layered narratives extend "far beyond the scope of fiction," say the authors, who lead a renowned book group for children and their parents at their small town library and who have written several other books on the subject of reading (Warmly Inscribed, etc.). Competing against Superbowl Sunday and countless other activities, their first attempt at a reading group was stacked against the odds. But because of their unusual ability to make reading fun and meaningful, their program has become a standard for parent-child reading groups around the country. This book, meant as a guide for those who want to set up their own reading clubs, offers a fantastic reading list beginning with Mr. Popper's Penguins for second graders and ending with The Time Machine for fifth graders. Many of the actual library sessions are discussed in detail, demonstrating the authors' terrific techniques for helping kids and parents see and debate the layers underlying the story, plot, characterizations, point of view and themes. "The highlight of almost any discussion is the discovery of what the author has implanted at the core of the book," they say. A distinguished work full of humor and wisdom, their book suggests that by encouraging children to read and talk about the mystery of complex, substantial books, parents and teachers can greatly expand young peoples' worlds and ultimately their life choices. As a lesson in how to enrich child-parent relationships, this book is great.

    Copyright 2005 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Mel Levine, M. D., author of A Mind at a Time

    "This insightful book can be immensely helpful as we strive to resurrect literacy among children. With Deconstructing Penguins, kids and their parents can share in the enlightened adventure of active interpretation during reading. As a result, they will become more avid and able interpreters of their own life experiences."

  • Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook "Not just the single best book on leading a book discussion group, Deconstructing Penguins is also about how to dig a tunnel into the heart of a book. In my ideal world, every reading teacher would trash that boring classroom text and adopt this book as a curriculum bible."
  • Sally G. Reed, executive director, Friends of Libraries U.S.A. "This wonderful, easy-to-read guide will be a tremendous resource for librarians, teachers, and parents who want to help kids experience the joys of children's literature."
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Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading
Lawrence Goldstone
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