Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bluffton, a discussion

Brittany and I went to the ALA conference together and gathered many of the same advanced reader's copies while we were there. We were also escorted around by the fabulous Lynn Rutan and Cindy Dobrez of Bookends Blog.

That led to the inspiration of having conversations about the books we managed to wrangle at the conference. Granted, it won't be every book that we picked up most likely but there is hope that we'll be able to do this with some frequency.

Brittany blogs at Summerland Sushi, and her blog post about Bluffton can be found HERE.

In case you missed it, my blog about Bluffton can be found HERE.

In the following discussion, I AM THE GREEN COLOR. Brittany is THE BLUE COLOR.

There might be different colors amidst the paragraphs; that is us chiming in on what the other says. The colors should remain true to who said what.

This will undoubtedly contain spoilers about Bluffton as it's a book discussion. Please do not read on if you would like the book to remain unspoiled.

Without further ado, here is our discussion led by questions. We tried not to be repetitive with what we already posted in our original blogs.

What made you want to read it?

BRITTANY: Phelan’s “The Storm in the Barn” was a beautiful piece of work, not only because of the art, but because of the story as well. After we met him at ALA, I was very intrigued by Bluffton because it takes place in a town that I’ve actually been too. Muskegon has a very different reputation today, although I don’t know much about the Bluffton neighborhood. I would love to visit to see if it has stood the test of time.

LIZ: I really wanted to read it because the author was a very nice fellow and signed my book, and drew a face in it. Sometimes, that’s really all it takes for me.

Did you think the characters and their problems/decisions/relationships were believable or realistic?

BRITTANY: The story is such a short time frame - three summers over three years- and nothing much happens, so it was difficult to connect with the characters. They seemed real enough to keep my invested in the story but some of the events, such as Henry and Sally becoming an item, seemed to come out of the blue. Obviously, the reader misses huge gaps of time during the fall, winter, and spring months that could have better supported the idea of their relationship.

LIZ: I enjoyed the character of Sally because she seemed rather smart for her age and for the time period in which she dwelled, but not in an unnatural way. She was a good amount of proper and sass for me with how little we saw her.

Talk about the author's use of language/writing style.

LIZ: The author seemed to only use language to emphasize what was already happening amongst the pages. So much was told through facial expressions and the reaction of the characters; the body language of the characters was impeccable.

BRITTANY: I agree that spoken dialogue and/or monologue is only used to really bring home what is going on with the characters. It also serves as a great way to sum up the events that Henry misses while staying home in Muskegon.

Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?

LIZ: The characters did seem real and believable; I can kind of relate to Henry in the way that he really wanted to be able to be like Buster. To be able to take falls, perform with the vaudeville folks, and just be a star. I relate in the sense that I’d like to be author, maybe not a star author, but an author of some caliber. I can relate to his predicament of being capable of doing it, but having worry and hesitations. Although I have also run into a lot of teachers who will share their wisdom with me while Buster would not help Henry learn to be a performer.

BRITTANY: The characters seemed real and believable enough, but I didn’t find much to relate on. It was a just a good, entertaining story for me, which is one of my favorite kinds.

Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?

LIZ: I was uncomfortable with the way the Child Protective Services was brought up. As an adult, I understand that throwing a child around stage is a monstrous thing to do; especially if that child seems to become injured from it. However, through a kid’s eyes I can see that the CPS would be monsters for taking Buster away from his family and his life as a performer.

BRITTANY: I would be interested to learn more about the role CPS played in Buster’s life and what CPS was actually like at the time. Government agencies, especially in this period, were notorious for doing everything they could to get publicity, good, bad, or otherwise. We also have labor laws and unions in place now that serve to protect children in the entertainment industry. While I agree that working Buster as often as they did was not in his best interest, neither was tearing him away from his family and sending him to a boys’ home. Often, CPS doesn’t take into account what the child wants, even when that child is old enough to articulate their wishes.

Who was your favorite character? What did you appreciate about him/her?

LIZ: I’m going to surprise myself after some consideration and say that Henry’s Father was actually my favorite character. I really appreciated the gentle acceptance and patience he gave towards Henry. It seemed to bring a certain balance to the book.

BRITTANY: My favorite character is actually comprised of all of the background characters that made up the vaudeville troupe. They all seemed very close to each other and were not only supportive of kids in the troupe, but also accepting of all of the neighborhood kids. It seems like such a fun, open atmosphere - I would have loved to have seen it!

Happy book discussions!

(Again, the formatting might be a little odd on this as it doesn't translate well to copy it from a Google document into a blog post. I don't know why, it just isn't happy about it.)

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