Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook


Most of my Boys & Books groups have been 3rd-4th graders, but I had a solid group who graduated and still wanted to meet.  This was my trial 5th-8th grade group, and it was a lot of fun.

Program Plan:

Discuss the book while snacking on cookies and fruit punch.  Then use the iPads to record interviews between family members.

What Happened:

After everyone got a chance to say what they thought about the book, we passed around the discussion questions and let them discuss.  Everyone liked the book, but the moms really liked it – they agreed that it was more fun to be reading YA books with their kids than kids’ books.  A lot of the boys were Sci Fi readers in general – a lot of Rick Riordan and Piers Anthony Xanth fans – but the boys liked this book as well, even though it was out of their preferred genre.

For the recording, I considered using the StoryCorps app, but it looked like everyone would have to create an account, and I wasn’t clear whether you had to publish the stories or could leave them private.  To get us started, I let them listen to a StoryCorps interview between a mom and her child who was born in prison.  I also handed out some questions from the StoryCorps list of recommended questions (although I took out some categories that I didn’t think would be useful.)

Then, we used the iPad cameras to do the interviews.  After the program, I uploaded everyone’s interviews to the Library’s YouTube channel.  I let parents decide whether they wanted the videos to be unlisted or private.  Private videos can only be viewed by people specifically granted access, while unlisted videos can be viewed by anyone who has the link, so families who wanted to share access might prefer the unlisted option.

This was a lot of fun.  We had four families attend, which is a small group, but I think I’ll try again in the spring.


Possible questions for discussion:

  1. Perry thinks of the residents of Blue River as family.  Does someone have to be related to be a family member?  What makes a family?
  2. Mr. VanLeer thinks it is wrong of the Warden to allow Perry to stay at Blue River.  Should Perry have been raised by a foster family instead?  Why?
  3. Why do you think Brian’s attitude towards Perry changes?  Do you think it was realistic?  Can people change?
  4. One of Big Ed’s mottos for residents is “Eye on the end.”  What’s one of your personal goals right now?  What are you doing to make it happen?
  5. What is your “Win-Win” for today?  What has gone well in your day?  What have you done to help someone else?
  6. Do you think Perry did the right thing by hiding Mr. VanLeer’s award?  Why or why not?  Can you think of any examples from real life of doing something that might be wrong in order to bring out the truth or make things better?
  7. Perry points out that Jessica and Mr. VanLeer might have more in common than they think.  In what ways are they alike or different?  Which character seemed like a better person?  Why?
  8. Jessica says that being a neighbor means feeding someone’s dog while they’re away, even if you’re mad at them.  What do you think it means to be a good neighbor?  Can you think of a time when you did something nice for someone you didn’t particularly like?




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