Children's Literature (all forms)

Two Boys, Two Dads, One Book, and a Librarian

by Steven Engelfried

Last week was the first meeting of the new “Father-Son Book Group” at the Hillsboro Public Library, where I work as a substitute Reference Librarian and, starting now, as a once-a-month book group host.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far: 

It will take a while to get going:   Our first meeting drew only two dads and two sons (both age nine).  We had many people asking about the program and checking out the book of the month (Frindle), but it will be a challenge to actually draw them in on a Saturday morning.  All four promised to return next month, and their homework is to find some more people to bring along.    

Reading is not as uncool as it used to be:   I was all prepared to get things started with my sad childhood stories of how I never talked about reading with anyone but my family because it was so uncool to be a boy reader…but it wasn’t really necessary with this bunch.  These four all had no problem being reading males…as one of the boys said:  “you can’t lose at reading.”  We just need to find more guys like them. 

Harry Potter rules the world:   Our Frindle discussion was peppered with references to Harry Potter (one book that I didn’t include on my Frindle Read-Alikes handout).  The HPs provide common ground to so many diverse readers.  Dads and kids all knew them well, and used them as reference points.  “Did the illustrations of Nick match your imagination?”  “No, and neither did Snape in the Harry Potter movies.”  “There wasn’t a lot of life or death action in Frindle, but was it exciting?”  “Yes, but not in the same way as the Harry Potter books.”  “Did Nick or Mrs. Granger change through the events in Frindle?”  “Yes, just like Harry and company.”  I’m exaggerating the abruptness of the transition….we really did talk a lot about Frindle, and HP provided some useful context that helped us define and think about the book we just read. 

Dads and Sons See Things Differently:   I really enjoyed the way both fathers were willing participants in the discussion, rather than leaders or facilitators. And the generational perspectives were clearly evident.  Mrs. Granger reminded one boy of a teacher he knew about who was known for being very strict.  Dad, on the other hand, added that this particular teacher was also one of the best at his son’s school, despite or because of that strictness.  Which is a great example of the two relating the book to their different perspectives on shared experiences.  

Dads and Sons See Things Similarly:   One boy didn’t see why the neighborhood entrepreneur made a fortune from Frindle products, when it was all Nick’s idea.  I expected the older and wiser fathers to mention something about the crucial role of marketing in a capitalist society.  But instead, one of the dads totally agreed that the money that guy made was unfair, then shared his own irritation at modern hip hop musicians who lift samples from the works of truly creative musicians, and then get all the credit.     

Don’t Forget the Donut Holes:   Our snack choice was donut holes, and I bought more than enough, since I didn’t know how many people would show up.  It was pretty impressive how many of these the four participants (especially the two younger ones) managed to put away.  Providing snacks is one of my least favorite program related tasks, and I felt a bit guilty about not coming up with some clever food that relates to the book somehow, but I think I’ll be okay.  I don’t foresee any complaints from these readers if it’s donut holes every time. 

It’s Nice to Have Room to Grow:  Our attendance was low, but the participants were so enthusiastic that I can’t help but think that we’ll grow.  There doesn’t seem to be many book groups like this, but there might be soon.  Author Marc Aronson started one at the Maplewood Library in New Jersey a few years ago and wrote a nice article about it and the Geneva Public Library in Illinois has “The Round Table,” which is for boys plus an adult of any gender.  And Scott County Public Library’s “Pig Skulls” book club looks like terrific fun, as you can see from their blog.  As for our Hillsboro group:  no catchy title yet, and we’re a ways away from a blog, but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what the guys think about Weasel next month.     

One comment

  1. Teresa Walls

    What a wonderful start! And based on your sample of the discussion, I have no doubt the group will soon have new members. As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with donut holes.

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