Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Mills, Claudia
New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997
IL 3-6  RL 4.2
ISBN 0374346615

(3 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Ethan Winfield and Julius Zimmerman think of themselves as 6th grade losers. They aren't good students. They aren't good athletes. Things change for Ethan when Ms Gunderson begins her student teaching. She's beautiful and seems to think Ethan has more to offer than he's been showing. Ethan decides to work as hard as he can to impress his student teacher. Will he risk losing his best friend in the process? Follow Ethan as he finds that you don't always have to be a loser.

Booktalk #2

In love with beautiful Ms. Gunderson, student teacher!  Loved by Lizzie Archer, class nerd!  This is Ethan's predicament! His determination to impress Ms. Gunderson with the best science project and the best book report on the longest book, threatens his status in Losers, Inc., an exclusive club founded by him and his best friend Julius. The teasing about Lizzie is so unbearable that Ethan does something very mean to her.  Afterwards, he is too ashamed to admit he did it, even to his best friend.   All of this puts his relationship with Julius in jeopardy.   Compounding his problems is the fact that he must compete with his "perfect" older brother for his parents' and teachers' admiration and respect.  But 12-year-old Ethan is smarter than he thinks he is, has a good sense of humor, and uses a lot of common sense.   It is fun to see how he uses these qualities in his struggle to grow up.  (Jeannie Bellavance for Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards)

Booktalk #3

Hi! My name is Ethan Winfield.  I'm a sixth-grader at West Creek Middle School.  I'm just a regular kid.  You know, the kind of kid who, when a book report is due and the teacher says the minimum number of pages is 100, you go to the library to find a book that has no more than 103 pages.  I don't even care what the book is about, just that it is short!  When science fair time rolls around, my projects usually involve food samples and surveys.  Hey, you can make one of those really cool charts and bar graphs to display your results and I figure that's something close to science.
You see, I have accepted my role as a minimum effort kid; in fact, I was kind of born to the position.  I have an older brother.  His name is Peter, he's in eighth grade and he is the school star.  He is one of the smartest kids in the school.  He wins the science fair every year, he excels at every sport that counts and he is popular with the teachers and the girls.  How can someone live up to this?  I've given up trying.  The worst part is that Peter is a really cool brother.  I mean I really like the guy and he is great to me.  See, he's even perfect at that!
One day, my friend Julius and I decided that the only answer to our status at school was to dignify it with a certain kind of recognition.  So, we formed Losers, Inc., a really exclusive club dedicated to maintaining the status of true losers!  We figured every school has its group of losers, why not recognize it and band together.  We were set, no school assignment was to be completed without that loser motto "I only did the bare minimum."
But then it happened.  Miss Gunderson arrived at our school as a student teacher.  She was gorgeous, stunning and when she spoke, her voice was soft, low and a bit husky (sigh!)  Miss Gunderson spoke to our class about the "beauty and wonder of science".  Coming from anyone else I would have gagged, but from her (sigh, sigh) it was something special.  A call to honor.  A challenge to make her proud of me and notice me.  I would have to create the most awesome science project of the year.  I would have to be the WINNER!  This year I would do even better than Peter, and why not.  I had a new motivation.  But there was this problem.  this would violate everything that was sacred to Losers, Inc. and I was the president!  I could see that Julius was not happy with my decision, and we have been friends forever.  But, then there was Miss Gunderson.  What am I going to do?

If you have ever felt like a loser in your school or family, or if you would just like to find out what happens to Ethan, read LOSERS INC. by Claudia Mills. (New Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee)
SUBJECTS:     Schools -- Fiction
                        Self-perception -- Fiction
                        Friendship -- Fiction
                        Brothers -- Fiction


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