Book Bears is my library reading group. These second and third graders read a book each month, and we have a discussion about the book. We talk about everything. Everything! Let me tell you, this group is terrific. Everyone is different. I sit back and watch as they talk and laugh. The best part is that I’m included in the group. Reading is a magnet.
In September, our first meeting of the year, everyone brings their favorite book they read over the summer. Me, too. I brought Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. Frankly, I think it’s the book of the year. Fingers crossed for a Newbery nomination.
I picked a random page to read aloud, and I watched the children as the words went into their ears. Oh, those words were hitting their brains. They were wide-eyed and silent. Finally one child asked, “So who is Bob?”
I had hit the trigger to the brain. They had no idea the trigger to the heart would come later.
Bob is the story of a girl, Livy, who travels with her family to visit her grandmother in Australia. The problem is, Livy is eleven years old, and the last time she visited her grandmother in Australia, she was five. She doesn’t remember much, and when she finds Bob in the closet, she certainly doesn’t remember him.
He remembers her. And the story unfolds. The back of the book cover reads:
- Counted to 987,654,321. Six times.
- Built a Lego pirate ship. Sixty-three times. In the dark.
- Played chess against a Lego pirate monkey and still lost most of the time.
- Tried to do the hokey pokey like Livy had taught me, but there’s not much room to turn oneself around in this narrow closet without hitting the walls.
- Cried. But only once.
- Okay, twice. Each day. But only for the first year.
- Thought of all the reasons that might explain why Livy didn’t come back for me.
The chapters alternate between Bob and Livy, in their own voices. Each one has a story to tell, and reasons for remembering and not remembering. The story line is gripping and real, and the writing is so well done that putting the book down is nearly impossible.
The Book Bears decided that at the end of each meeting they wanted me to read aloud Bob. And I am doing just that. They know when it’s 4:30, time to finish and go home. We decided together that at 4:25 I’d read Bob. Five minutes.
Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. By 4:20 the clock watchers get ready and start to bang the table, chanting “Bob! Bob! Bob!…” in the best of ways. That is the most genuine testament to a good book! Of course I keep reading, and those five minutes turn into fifteen or twenty, all in what feels like an instant.
“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats-