We had great discussions at our last meeting, combined with delicious pizza, since that played such a big part in our novel, Bang, by Barry Lyga. We all liked this book -- some of us more than others. We agreed that there were some interesting plot twists, and we liked the portrayal of the relationship between the 14-year-old protagonist, Sebastian, and his new friend Aneesa as they produced a pizza-making online video log. We thought that felt very natural and realistic. Some of us felt that making her a Muslim might have been a bit grauitous, given the times we live in, but we agreed that it was dealt with in a positive fashion without being 'preachy'. We talked at length about what it means to keep a big secret, as Sebastian did in the story while he planned the exact moment of his (possibly impending) suicide as the guilt of accidentally having shot and killed his baby sister when he was only four years old consumed him. We also talked about the necessity of communication, which seemed to be missing in Sebastian's life until he met Aneesa, and we were especially struck by the scenes in which Sebastian and his mother, and then later, he and his father finally let all of their emotions out, including the enormous guilt that each felt. The only thing we unanimously didn't like was the inclusion of an essay that a teacher had assigned -- against Sebastian's wishes -- where he asserted that his thoughts and feelings were nobody's business. We felt that essay added nothing to an otherwise gripping read, and a heartfelt glimpse into the mind of a troubled young teen. We also liked the addition of resources at the end that could possible be helpful to young readers in a similar situation.
We didn't agree on our picture book, Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue, and illustrated by Pamerla Zagarenski. A couple of readers didn't like it at all. They thought the illustrations were terrible, and would not be appealing to young children, and they thought the story was dull, not really saying anything, and not so much fun to read. Others however had a different opinion: that the story was an almost perfect circle as the little girl who 'wasn't sleepy' asked her parents about how various animals went to sleep, and then mimicked the same actions as she fell asleep also. We liked that the illustrations showed that all of these animals were actually her own toys. We agreed that this book wouldn't be so great as a read-aloud to a group, since the illustrations would be difficult to enjoy from a distance, but that an adult sharing it with a child at bedtime could help the child notice various nuances in the pictures which were more visible close-up. Mixed feelings and opinions always make for a good discussion.