By GWEN OREL
The two 9-year-old girls were so thrilled to see each other they hugged. It had been a whole day, and to see each other on Saturday was a treat.
And even though Sydney Emmons’ twin, Alex, complained that it was like school, clearly it wasn’t. Jump ropes were given out. Collages were worked on. And the glee with which the 13 children in grades 4 to 6 discussed “A Wrinkle in Time” at the book club at the Montclair Public Library led by third-grade teacher Regina O’Connor from Edgemont Montessori Public School felt like play.
There were no grades to achieve, just the hope of a prize. A grown-up book club would envy the deep preparation: many of the kids had paperbacks covered with Post-it notes. “How many Post-it notes is too many?” one girl wondered. “What is the setting?” O’Connor asked.
“The place and the time,” Alex answered, and got a “you go!”
In an interview earlier, O’Connor said she loved working with this age group because of the
curiosity and enthusiasm. And, she said, “In Montclair the kids are quite cultured,” so she’s not surprised at the insights.
At the first meeting two weeks earlier, 9-year-old Dorothea Cook had answers for everything. “But I will catch her with this book now,” O’Connor said with a laugh.
The group will meet four more times, and see the movie together in March. Though some details of the book, which came out in 1962, may change, it won’t change the integrity of the story. What would, O’Connor asked the group?
Story M. Walker, 9, said that if Charles Wallace said, “I’m not a moron,” for example. Because it’s important to the story that he’s much more intelligent than people realize.
The group discussed the genre and the point of view of the classic, Newbery Medal winning book. It was filmed for TV in 2003, and a movie featuring Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling is scheduled to come out in March.
An element of fantasy are the horses with wings, “Like in Harry Potter, centaurs!” cried Jasmine Troutt, 9. Other elements of the book, particularly its examination of the fourth and fifth dimensions, put it in the science fiction genre.
The group discussed the protagonist, who, as O’Connor said, you’re rooting for, and each child named a trait. There was some debate over 12-year-old Brendan Ng’s adjective, “secretive,” until Story M. Walker, 9, said, “I feel like she’s kind of a brainiac.”
O’Connor said, “You just proved his point.” The character is very smart, but at school they are talking about leaving her back a grade. She hides her intelligence, because she doesn’t want to do math problems the way they teach her to, O’Connor said
At one point, O’Connor talked about internal conflict, using jump ropes to illustrate.
O’Connor said she once led a Harry Potter book club and said that while children follow the story, and can tell you what happened, “ There’s so much of it that would go over their heads if they don’t have someone to sit with them and say, ‘Wait a minute, you know when he says this you know what is he saying literally and what is he saying figuratively and why is this important?’ they’re missing so much of it.”
Working on a collage is more fun than a journal. There’s a “Wrinkle in Time” board game, and a “Wrinkle in Time” game of Bingo. “There’s even a Jeopardy ‘Wrinkle in Time’ where you can say, ‘I’ll take characters for 100,’” she said.
This book club filled up right away, but there will likely be others.
And she still uses Post-it notes to mark “aha” moments herself. “I still use highlighters,” O’Connor said. “We have connections that we make and if it’s a good book it makes you think about those connections.
“And in this time… at the end, the thing that defeats the Black Thing is love. And to be reminded of the power of love, I think even adults can gleam something from it. And that’s why it’s timeless.”