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Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading Paperback – May 3, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970289
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I cannot recommend Deconstructing Penguins highly enough. I am a mother of three children and Penguins is the first teaching/parenting book I've seen that has offered me such fun and easy tools with which to analyze and share literature as a family. The Goldstones' conviction that even young children are quite capable of and even excited about discussing serious ideas through critical reading is refreshing and right on the money. Children relish meaty moral conundrums. They love to have long discussions on ethics with their peers and parents or teachers (particularly when those discussions pertain to fictional characters rather than to themselves). The Goldstones' book looks at plot, setting, antagonist and protagonist in a way that will have most parents thinking "I had no idea it was so simple," and most teachers and librarians thanking their lucky stars.
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Format: Paperback
"Deconstructing Penguins" empowers parents to believe they can have real debates about literature with their children right now, even as early as second grade! This is very exciting stuff. I can't wait to revisit some of the classic titles on the authors' reading list, such as Babe and Charlotte's Web, from a totally different perspective. For anyone who wants to start a parent-child reading group, this book is a god-send. Moreover, "Penguins" presents the most cogent approach to reading groups for adults or kids. In the years I've participated in book groups, including Great Books, I've always felt something was lacking from the discussion despite lots of bright people asking bright questions. After reading "Penguins," I now know what was missing: a unifying theme or framework for analyzing the book's true meaning. "Penguins" gives you that framework and a whole lot more. The authors show they understand great literature, as well as the minds of children. If only more libraries could be as leading edge as the authors' library in Westport, Conn.!!
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I have been a fan of the Goldstones since reading their books on book-collecting, e.g. Used and Rare, Slightly Chipped etc. This book is different, it is about how to approach book discussions for both young and old. I am the parent of a two year old girl, and books are a big part of our lives [I am a book collector myself]...although this book may still be too advanced to put into practice with my little one, it really gives me great ideas on how to go about discussing books in a more interesting manner, and sets me up with great guidelines for beginning a parent/child book discussion group a couple of years down the road. I look forward to more enlightening works by the Goldstones.
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Format: Paperback
As a teacher, this book gave me a fresh perspective. The authors walked their groups through a few main concepts: sntagonist, protagonist, climax, and point of view. They were able to take these basic ideas and turn them into excellent and thoughtful discussions. In a test heavy culture, it is refreshing to see that there is another way to teach reading comprehension
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As a fourth grade teacher I am dismayed by how many students are already disengaged by reading. A wonderful supplement toreadings about literature circles, this book changed the way I ran book clubs. It reminded me of the engaging mystery of quality literature - and the reminding is helping me bring that wonder to my students.

A great inspiration and model for parent-child bookclubs, but also a model for all teachers that I have not found anywhere else.
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I originally bought this book for myself. I read a selection from it to my daughter to help her understand what to put in a book report, and she loved it and begged for more. Reading it together has been fun, inspiring and rewarding; my daughter has really grasped the concepts covered in the book and been able to apply them to other books she's reading, and to her writing as well.

When I first read the book I couldn't imagine how I would share it with my daughter. It seemed odd to read a book about a book club, but thanks to the way it's written, it turned out to be really a lot of fun. The authors pose a question, then share the responses of the other book club members, and then my daughter would respond with her own ideas--without the pressure of worrying what other kids might think. It's been like getting to sit in on the coziest, most convenient literature class you could imagine.
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I just started a book club for my 8 year old daughter. This is a fantastic book with many examples to help you analyze books with your children.
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Wow. The Goldstones have taken very complicated stuff, broken it down to its core, and made it so accessible to everyone. I read this book as though it was page-turning fiction because I loved their writing. When I finished it, I bought numerous copies for my children's schools. I had to drive to neighboring library system to get this book because my large system did not have it. How is it possible that my library does not know about this book? If you love reading to or with your children--even just picture books--get this book so you can learn how to bring stories to a new level for them. If you are a librarian or school teacher, please read this book!
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