Story Time

Last updated Thursday, September 22, 2005

Author: Edward Bloor
Date of Publication:
ISBN: B0006BD924
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2005

Synopsis: A book filled with social satire, black comedy, fantasy/humor, and extreme situations. Eighth-grader Katie and her brilliant Uncle George, a sixth grader, find themselves mysteriously redistricted and assigned to Whittaker Magnet School, which focuses entirely on excellence in standardized testing. The regimented kids are taught by regimented teachers in the basement of a haunted old library building and the school is run by a strange family obsessed with its own achievements, whether they are earned or not. All sorts of things are amiss at Whittaker, where elitism reigns; where dramatic deaths are hidden nearly as carefully as the dark secrets involving the building, the town, and the people who live there; and where appearances are paramount. Back at home, Kate lives with her agoraphobic mom, who has mysterious ties to the library, while George lives next door. Kate wants only to return to Lincoln Middle, where she could play Peter Pan and be with friends, while George tries to make the best of what is a monstrously warped situation. The Whittaker family goes to extremes to impress the visiting First Lady, creating an atmosphere ripe for catastrophe-as well as for redemption.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book that you won?t be able to finish. Aim to read through the end of chapter 3 (although you do not need to reach that point), and tell the children that the book will be placed into their library if they would like to check it out and read the rest. If you can get to the end of chapter 5, there is a bit of a cliffhanger.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you read any books by this author before? Who is your favorite author?
•  Do you think buildings can be haunted? Why or why not?
•  Have you ever had to go to a new school? What do you think that would feel like?
•  What do you think this book will be about?
•  Do you take a lot of tests in school? What if you had to take more?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How is Kate flying around the yard? Can you picture what the contraption looks like? What?
•  Do you have any unusual family relationships like Kate and Uncle George? What do you think that is like?
•  How are George?s parents different from Kate?s Mom?
•  What is a ?magnet? school?
•  Why do you think Kate?s mom is not as excited about the Whittaker Magnet school as George?s parents? Is she mad or scared? Why?
•  Why doesn?t Kate want to go to the magnet school?
•  Why is Kate so mad at her mom?
•  What is ?clogging??
•  What is so unusual about the lines for the Whittaker school district? Why do you think it?s that way?
•  What do you think happens next?
•  What do you think is the mystery about Whittaker School?
•  If you could make your perfect school, what would it be like? Teachers, classes, building, everything.

Craft ideas:
•  Make a brochure for the Whittaker Magnet School. Emphasize its spooky aspects.
•  Make a bookmark decorated for your school (or favorite college, or the ?perfect school?) featuring school colors, name, mascot, activities, etc.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!