Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Shusterman, Neal.
New York : Dutton Children's Books. 2004.
ISBN 0525471820

(5 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews
Booktalk #1

Anthony Bonano, or Antsy to those who know him, is your typical 8th grader living in Brooklyn. Antsy’s father works for a plastics company and frequently brings home new products for him to “try out” by seeing how indestructible they are. One fateful day while trying to destroy a mannequin with his friends, Antsy finally notices the kid they call the “Schwa” who he didn’t even know sat next to him him all year in science class. Calvin Schwa goes so unnoticed that he is pretty much functionally invisible. Antsy and his friends decide to run a series of experiments they call the Schwa Effect to see just how unnoticeable the Schwa is. In one experiment, the Schwa wears a cat costume, a sombrero and sings “God Bless America” at the top of his lungs in the boys bathroom. After these experiments Antsy and the Schwa become business partners as they arrange bets with other students to dare the Schwa to go unnoticed in various places or take things and put them back without being seen. But now Antsy may have gone too far with a dare for the Schwa to go into Old Man Crawley’s and retrieve one of the dog dishes from his fourteen reportedly vicious Afghan Hounds. When Crawley turns out to be much more observant than Antsy and the Schwa counted on, they are in for a punishment that is more than they bargained for.  (Shawn Crosby, Des Moines Library, Des Moines, WA)

Booktalk #2

How many of you have classmates that are there everyday, but nobody notices them, no one remembers them, it is as if they were invisible. Calvin Schwa is notoriously invisible. He so badly wants to be noticed and jumps at the suggestion of Anthony “Antsy” Botano, who wants to make the Schwa’s invisibility, which he calls the “Schwa Effect” into a money making venture. At first successful, their last venture forces them into servitude for old man Crawley, a rich recluse that uses his power and influence to get his way. Their job is to walk Crawley’s fourteen Afghans, named after the seven virtues and seven sins, daily. A relationship grows between Antsy, the Schwa, and old man Crawley. Crawley assigns them a second task - to entertain Lexie ­ Crawley’s visiting blind granddaughter. The friendship between the four characters becomes strong and influences change in their lives. Funny yet heartwarming, the Schwa’s story will at once make you feel guilty about all those classmates you allowed to disappear, and at the same time force you to start taking notice of those that you see everyday.  (Mark Bobrosky, LMT, Walter Reed Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District)

Booktalk #3

Antsy and his friends use Calvin Schwa’s ability to go unnoticed for their own monetary gain. The boys call this the “Schwa effect” and dare Calvin to appear out of nowhere in order to fool their classmates and teachers. When someone places a bet that dares the Schwa to break into the apartment of the town hermit, Mr. Crawley, the boys are finally caught. Their punishment is to walk his dogs and to take his visually-impaired granddaughter out on a date. Underneath the humor and joking of male adolescents lies a boy who longs to fit in and be noticed.  (Jean B. Bellavance for Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards, 2006-2007)

Booktalk  #4

Anthony, also known as "Antsy," is fascinated by "The Schwa Effect"--the fact that no one ever sees Calvin Schwa. Even when acting weird and dressed like a total freak, The Schwa is only barely noticed. The two boys form a partnership and get away with all kinds of mischief, from conducting experiments at school to confounding opponents on the basketball court. When The Schwa senses that even Antsy is beginning to lose sight of him, he vows to do something that will make him so visible, no one will ever forget him. Any kid who's ever felt unnoticed will identify with Schwa and Antsy and their quest for notoriety.  (Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award 2008)

Booktalk #5

Is there someone in your class who seems nearly invisible to everyone, including the teacher? If that classmate stood in the bathroom wearing an orange sombrero, wearing a cat costume and sang “God Bless America,” do you suppose people would notice? The Schwa was Here is about that kind of person: a student who might be waving their hand wildly because they know the right answer, but the teacher does not even notice them. It is a hilarious story about an outgoing boy, Anthony Bonano, who makes friends with the very quiet Calvin Schwa. At first, Anthony, also known as Antsy, start with crazy experiments to see what the Schwa needs to do to get noticed. The experiments and dares get more outlandish until it backfires and the Schwa and Antsy end up in Old Man Crawley’s apartment with 14 large Afghan dogs.  The Schwa was Here is full of funny situations, larger than life characters and surprises on every page.  (Melissa Bowman,, Armstrong Middle School,  Lone Star Book Award nominee, 2006-2007)

SUBJECTS:     Self-perception -- Fiction.
                        Friendship -- Fiction.
                        Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Fiction.


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