Monday, October 23, 2006

YA Book Discussion Blog

Welocome! The first book we will be reading and "discussing" is Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. We are hoping to begin our online discussion of this book on November 3rd...look for the "starter" blog to be posted shortly before that date.

Happy Reading!


RKennedy said...

Test comment.

Jim West said...

I am on chapter 10 of the book already, and so far I have really enjoyed it. I like the fact that the swim team is made up of a bunch of kids who are "less fortunate" in different ways. The feeling of the book, in my opinion, is that these kids will rise to the occasion, and shine above all the other students that think themselves above everyone else. If the swim team gets the letter jacket, I'm sure it will knock the others right off their high horse!!! Go Swimmers!!!

Cathy said...

I cans see how kids would identify with TJ. The book is full of the anti establishment- Teachers even the Adored English teacher abusing their power. ( English teacher using grades to get TJ to join the team even knowing the grades meant nothing to TJ).
I had thought that the atmosphere of sports being "god" and having their players as "demi gods" was over but I have since learned differently. IT is the old boys club starting young.
There were several things I liked about the book. 1. the use of the counselor-its ok to get outside help 2. the under dogs winning 3.TJ's girlfriend's beating the abuse cycle. and the other cheerleader going out with one of the swim team after being abused by the football player.4 I hope that this book will help stop racism with readers identifying with TJ and feeling sorry for the little girl. How could anyone feel they had to scrub their color away?
There were several things I disliked about the book. 1. The idea that if a person is an abuser that it will end violently. TJ's mother said you can not confront them, they only go home and justify what they do and then repeat and become worse.I guess it is a good warning and the mother was tyoical of going back to someone who is abusive. I just would have liked them to have a safe house available other than TJ's because there was already conflict there. 2. TJ's counselor says that TJ tries to help and does not let his girl friends learn to cope for themselves. I think he does that with Chris. He becomes an idol to the team and like Chriis' big brother but he will not continue the role after school. There should have been something showing what Chris will do after TJ. I thought it great that he stood up for him and started the swim team but when he put Chris up against the football player without talking to
the team that could have backfired. It could have had the same ending as with TJ's father. When the abused feels he has lost power , he reverts to violence. 3 I also did not like the theme that the school sdministraton was so out of touch with the actions of his students and that winning was the only goal. I would like to think that all student would feel comfortable with their treatment by administrators and teachers.
I see this book as a good teaching book. It would lead to great discussions on many topics.

chris klafehn said...

I finished the book this weekend and I really liked it. I think this would be an easy book to read and discuss with students. I liked the fact that the underdogs used the concept of the swim team to get Chris his own letter to wear. I could not understand why the "jocks" were so against him wearing his brother's jacket to keep his brother close. Especially since he was one of those "jocks" that appeared well respected. I did like the fact that even as kid himself with a difficult past, TJ helped others when they needed him. I was very troubled about Heidi feeling she could scrub away her color. I agree with Cathy, how could anyone feel they had to scrub away their color? Even in the end, the inability for Rich Marshall to control his behavior was difficult to understand. Why is it these behaviors of certain individuals can be allowed to continue for so long? TJ learned a lesson about not seeking revenge and ended up with a brother he was able to connect with to keep his father close. However, the Rich Marshall's of the world never learn, they just get put away.

Amanda said...

I thought Whale Talk contained alot of characters that a variety of students could identify with. One lesson this book teaches as shown by the issues of violence and the structure of the school's politics is that the only thing you have control over is your own actions and reactions to other people and situations. A person who is abusive cannot be forced to not be a violent person any more unless they choose to be. This lesson is difficult for many of us to accept, especially adolescents. While there may be a feeling of hopelessness because there is so much we can't control, there is power in knowing that you can control your own thoughts, actions, and conceptions of others.

I thought T.J.'s parents were a nice addition to the story. They provided wisdom and insight that made me think more about the people who are abusers and the relationships they have had in their lives. This just shows how important it is to break that cycle somehow.

I was sad about T.J.'s dad dying, but also felt some sort of peace for him, since that was the only way he could forgive himself.

RKennedy said...

I enjoyed the book Whale Talk and agree that there is a wide arrange of characters for the students to relate with. I think it was impressive how many different situations were covered in such a short story. However, at the same time I sort of feel like this book tried to take on too much at once.

I think it could have benefited to focus more on certain relationships and indulge more into the individual characters. One that still bothers me is the "invisible" student on the swim team, I can’t even remember his name. They mention him multiple times but for all the reaching out these characters seem to be doing, no one really attempts to talk to the invisible boy. There are other boys on the swim team that they mention various problems and never seem to go into them (i.e.- mother drinks, abusive homes, etc.) I think they may have been presented in order to paint the picture that everyone has their own problems, and not to judge a book by its cover, but with some of them I felt like they were left sort of hanging.

I think that this book paints a good picture of High school and the “cliques” that exist. I don’t know how realistic it is however, to show a student standing up to these social stigmas, which is why I think this story, is so powerful. It shows students going against the grain and uniting in their differences. This is not something you see every day. It is good for students to realize that everyone is different and that they should learn to look outside their social circles instead of limiting themselves to a finite set of friend possibilities.

cvanslyk said...

I wrote a whole big response yesterday and for whatever reason it didn't post. This is very frustrating so this will be much shorter until I am sure it will go through. I really enjoyed this book. I loved the way Crutcher developed the characters. T.J., his mom and dad were all so likeable. Hearing about the way Chris Coughlin was treated was heartbreaking, especially by the fifth grade teacher/minister Sanford Davis. He was basically abused by everyone until T.J. took an interest in protecting and helping him. T.J. also worked with Georgia to help Heidi. Her story was just horrible. The fact that she actually tried to tear off her skin to change its color was a sad statement to the environment she was exposed to. T.J. had great parents but was a great person himself. He knew what was important in life and was able to emphasize with others. This was shown all through the book. He didn't mind befriending kids that were outcasts and getting them to join his swim team. I think many of my students would love this book and also be able to identify with many of the characters.

Kim Seeley said...

Ok, well, I am going to be the black sheep of the group. I did not care for this book and had a hard time getting into it. I had to force myself to read it. There were too many characters and I wish that Crutcher would have limited his focus when talking about the swim team. I felt like it was unrealistic, drawn out, and things just don't happen this way in schools. It would be great if they did, but I thought that the idea of TJ recruiting kids to be on a swim team, in a tiny pool was a poor idea to write a book about. So, to me, it was fluff. But, I am just one person. ;)