Animas – C.R. Grey
Our newest book that we are reading is Animas. It was one of several recommended books on another blog. I took a gamble by not pre-reading it and assigned it to all the kids, however, in only a few chapters I knew the book would be fine. If you have read the Harry Potter series this book is along those lines with a little bit of the Familiar series tied in to the storyline. With that said, I felt it really was very similar to Harry Potter and was concerned our Harry Potter fan would be disappointed by this book, however, both she and her mother loved the book. This storyline is not as detailed as Harry Potter and it was a little hard to follow at the beginning. Once the plot line became clear it was smooth sailing with this book. We have an new member of our group who is a little older, 13, and who is more into science fiction, he was the only one who was not a huge fan of the book. On a side note, he is taking some virtual school classes and his mother wisely asked that this book be included in his required reading list and they approved it…kudos to mom.
To give you a short synopsis of this book, children are selected to attend Fairmount Academy where they learn more about their animas, their animal they are connected to, though various studies. The main character, Hal, has not yet discovered his animas. You join in his quest to find his animas, however, there are opposing forces abound seeking to change the animas bond he is desperately seeking.
I have divided this book into three meetings. Our first meeting we discovered what our animas is through a test I found at http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/find-your-inner-animal, The kids all took the test and read the description of the animal they were paired with for the other kids to determine if they thought it was a good match…most of them were pretty good matches.
I provided all the kids with a small notebook from the dollar store as I wanted to start introducing literary devices. We started discussing the exposition. The kids decided the main characters in the book are Bailey, Hal, Tori, Phi, Vivianna, Prof. Tremelo, Gwen and the Elder. We then discussed each character and narrowed in on their background and potential importance in the book. We used a worksheet, Story Plot Terms, from http://www.dailyteachingtools.com/free-graphic-organizers.html#3 for our discussion. There are some really handy forms available on this site. We continued with the exposition looking at the setting. One of the kids made a great comparison to Gotham City, comparing the city, Gray City, in the book to it. We then moved on to discuss the rising action in the book. The kids all determined it was Bailey’s search for his animas. The kids were all asked to illustrate something from the book for the next class – it was their choice what they choose to illustrate.
For our second class each child showed their illustration and explained why they chose their particular illustration. We continue discussions on rising action at this meeting. This turned into a great discussion as there were several parts of the book where were rising actions happening. It was interesting to see what each child selected as the rising action in the book. I then had each child do some research on their Animas from our first meeting. They then had to present to the group a short synopsis about their animal and what type of class they thought should be taught at the school for their animas.
We ended the class with finishing up discussion on climax, falling action and resolution, discussing the difference between denouement and catastrophic endings. The kids really seemed to get into this discussion on what was the climax and if the ending was happy or tragic. As a fun twist I asked them to delete one of the main characters from the book and tell how it would have changed the book. I loved the person/people “L” deleted. She removed the people in the bar out of the book. In the bar, our main character, Bailey learned a lot of information and without the people in the bar we all questioned how the “mystery” would have been resolved. Each of the kids selected different people or persons to remove and it was interesting to listen to why they removed the person and how the book would have played out without that person. I did request they write a short paragraph regarding the person they removed, however most of them just jotted down some notes and explained their selection.
I love sitting around the table with the kids and giving each one an opportunity to speak. This group has great discussion and each one of them gets a little practice in public speaking without realizing it.