Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Deconstructing Penguins





It is a bit ironic than a former medic ends up running a book club but that is what has happened. In many ways, it is a bit like the enthusiastic blind leading the blind who are, amazingly, also enthusiastic. Anyway, delving for meanings and literary analysis are distinctly at the border of my skill set so when I heard about Deconstruction Penguins, I knew that I had to read this book.

Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone is subtitled Parents, Kids and the Bond of Reading. The book is the product of several years of book groups for parents and children (I object to the word kids which refers to baby goats) in the US. Using children's literature for examples, the Goldstones teach about protagonists and antagonists, setting and the climax of these books as well as showing us how to detect a contrived ending. There is a chapter about poetry with examples and some chapters including more books. The main question that they are trying to answer is why the author wrote the book.

Is Deconstructing Penguins useful? I think so although there were times when I thought that I wouldn't be able work any of this out for myself and I was left wondering whether many books don't have a classical antagonist and protagonist as well as trying to fit this model round a couple of Dickens' novels. 

 Have you ever been annoyed by worthy books which don't really have a story to tell or by twaddle from the library?  Using these techniques also makes books with a thin plot more obvious.

It isn't always easy to see whether a book is a suitable read for a child. Sometimes, it is obvious that it passes or fails the Philippians 4 verse 8 test:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

But sometimes it can be more difficult to peel away the layers to what lies behind a book. At this point, Deconstructing Penguins and its principles becomes helpful.


Recommended for parents who want to understand the literature which their children are reading and want to provide recommendations for them.

Disclaimer: I purchased Deconstructing Penguins for my own use. The opinions are my own.

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4 comments:

  1. I have a copy of Deconstructing Penguins, but have only gotten about half way through it. I've got plans of someday having a book club with some homeschool friends, and I'm sure this will come in handy then!

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  2. I am interested that you don't like the word kids for describing children. My grown up children were definitely kids and remain unconverted. CS Lewis (with all his faults) gets it right in the lion witch and wardrobe as the kids change to lambs only at conversion

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    1. Heather, I hadn't thought of the use of the word kids in relation to children in a spiritual context merely, that they aren't baby goats!

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