Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Booktalking Once Again (Yay!)

On Monday I got to do one of my favorite things and booktalk to a class at a local elementary school. The class we were visiting is a 3rd-5th gifted reading class and the teacher has us over about twice a year to do booktalks. They're great readers and great kids and I've been looking forward to going for a couple of weeks now.

I won't give you the whole list because we brought quite a few, but I will give you the highlights. Probably my favorite of the books I brought was The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin. I knew from past experience that many of these kids have read and loved The Westing Game. Winston is a great book to recommend to fans of TWG. First of all, it's about a treasure hunt. Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? Secondly, the book itself is full of puzzles that you can solve as you go (and the answers are provided in the back of the book). So much fun. You know, I thought that I didn't like mystery books... but I keep finding books like Winston and Shakespeare's Secret that might make me change my mind...

Another book that was super fun to booktalk was The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (review here). We had passed out a handout with the titles and blurbs of books that we had brought. Then we let the kids pick which ones they wanted to hear about. This is what I wrote in the blurb for TNOTBIS: "I can’t tell you much about this book. Well, I could, but you’d regret it. You’re much safer not having read this book. Don’t read this book." For the booktalk, I continued in that line asking "Are you SURE you want to know about this book?" and warming them at the end that if they found themselves in mortal danger because of this book that they couldn't blame me. It's a bit gimicky, yes, but it worked well enough.

Another favorite was the wordless graphic novel that my cohort talked up, Robot Dreams by Sara Varon. At first the kids were just pleased that it had no words, but as he talked about the story, they were intrigued. A lot of them came up afterwards to look at the art. (I haven't read it myself, but it's definitely on my list.)

The Boys' Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Dominique Enright and Guy MacDonald was another hit. Yes, it's the American knockoff of The Dangerous Book for Boys (but we can't keep that one on our shelf). My cohort booktalked this one and impressed everyone (me included) by tying a knot with one hand and tying a knot without letting go of either end (both tricks that are covered in the book). This one's super easy to booktalk, too. All you need to do is read out some of the things that the book teaches you how to do and the kids are instantly hooked.

So, there you have it. Highlights of our booktalks. I'm FAR from being the best booktalker ever, but I do have some tips for decent booktalking. I always try to write a little review of everything I read. Sometimes I write a long review, but most often it's just a few lines detailing what I liked about a book (or what I didn't like). This makes it easy for me to go back and see what I've read that might be good to booktalk. I use LibraryThing and GoodReads to keep track of the books I've read.

For formal booktalks, such as the one at this class, I will write down my booktalks and at least read over them a couple times. When I did a booktalking assignment in library school, I practiced them out loud until I pretty much had them memorized. This is not necessarily the way you want to go and I haven't done that since. Making sure you know what it is you want to say about the book and where you want to end so that you don't say too much... even a little practice can make a big difference.

And the last thing I'll say is that I always like to bring a handout with a list of the books I'm booktalking. Sometimes it's just a list of titles and authors, sometimes it's call numbers, titles, authors, and a blurb about each book. I think it's helpful for the kids and teachers to have something to write on and something to remind them which books they liked during the booktalks.

All that said, I know that everyone has a different way of preparing for booktalks and programs. This is what works for me and I'm continually trying to improve upon it. Ask me again next year and I might tell you something completely different. ;) Above all, I think booktalking should be fun. For me it is. I love books and I love kids and I love talking to kids about books. And when you booktalk, that's basically what you're doing.

My job rocks. :)