This week in my Multi-Cultural Lit. for Young Adults graduate course, we had a read and react assignment that involved writing a first-person booktalk on one of three possible YA novels. (A booktalk is, in general terms, a spoken word performance meant to entice people to read a particular book). Booktalks come in several forms (e.g. first-person booktalks and excerpt booktalks). A large focus in this booktalk assignment is getting young adults to take interest in reading.
I wrote a first- person booktalk for Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, by: Sundee T. Frazier. I used the model from R.E.C. Clark’s article, “Becoming the character! First-person booktalks with teens.” Instead of using the voice of the narrator/main character from the novel, I decided to take the first-person voice of a secondary character examining the main character of the novel. (I wanted to be different, lol! ^^)
“Hi, I’m Khalfani! And one day I’m going to become a Tae Kwon Do master! My best friend’s Brendan Buckley. He’s been my friend since we were little. He can be sorta bossy sometimes, but he’s a good guy. He asks a lot of questions and he’s really into science. Sometimes he gets way in over his head though. Like the time he experimented in his basement with his mom’s extra-garlic garlic bread. (Now it smells like our locker room after gym class, if you ask me). Since we’re adults now, we get to do all kinds of cool stuff. Like detective work! There’s this one big case, the mystery behind his missing grandpa, that we plan to crack really soon! He’s always wondered why his grandpa’s never around even though he lives close by. We think it has to do with his dad being black and his mom being white. It really gets under Brendan’s skin so we’re going to get to the bottom of it!
Honestly, I never really thought about it until he pointed it out. The race thing I mean. It was natural to me… him and his mom. But I guess for other people it may seem weird. Don’t get me wrong. I know his mom’s not black. It just never really mattered to me. She’s Mrs. Buckley and she’s a really nice lady. ‘Nough said.
Seems like it’s tough for Brendan sometimes… having to deal with people. And they can be rude when they want to. (He told me about what some kid said about him and his mom not looking alike after Tae Kwon Do practice one day. I knew Miss Gladys would tell them off!)
Stilll… if only they were alike… A matching pair instead of an odd couple. If him and his mom matched, maybe they wouldn’t get such strange looks and stares.”
And here is an excerpt from the book to give you an idea of an ‘excerpt booktalk.’
“You know, Miss Gladys, I’m not black,” Mom said, laughing again.
“More Caucasian people got black in ‘em than care to admit it.”
On the way home, I thought about being black. I don’t think about it all that much. Until something happens like that kid saying my mom and I don’t match. Then I remember that my skin makes me stand out in some places- like with my mom.
Truthfully, I hear more about how tall I am or how good I am at science than anything about what race I am. But I know I’m black and I’m glad to be that, because that’s what Grandpa Clem was and Dad and Gladys and Khalfani are.
If I ever wish something were different, maybe it’s that Mom was black, too, or at least had brown skin like the rest of us. Then I wouldn’t get asked about what I am all the time at school. Seems like things would be simpler.
And there’d be no questions about whether we belong together. (Frazier, 2007, p. 40-41)
At first, writing in the voice of an 11-year-old boy was difficult. But I will say that it was much easier than writing in the voice of say a six-year-old child. While completing class assignments that required that I write annotations for children’s books, I found it very difficult to write for a younger audience (i.e. elementary level). The young adult category seems to encompass more age-groups than I initially anticipated (or at least in my grad. course it seems to cover a broader range). *shrugs* Regardless, it’s good practice as far as my writing skills are concerned.
1.) Clark, R. E. C. Becoming the character! First-person booktalks with teens. Library Media Connection v. 26 no. 2 (October 2007) p. 24-6.
2.) Frazier, Sundee T. (2007). Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.