Like people, books can be complicated. A quick glance at the cover and an opinion is formed —“Now that’s a book I’d like to read, or Nah, I’m not into . . .” Time spent within the pages can confirm or change the reader’s initial impression, surprising them as the book’s message is revealed and imprinted upon the reader.
At first glance, Andie Powers’ book, I am QUIET, A Story for the Introvert in ALL of Us might lead the reader to think, “I am quiet, too.” Another reader might think this seems like the kind of book that might teach me about introversion. After a quick peek inside, phrasing such as, “On the inside, or On the outside,” written in the main character Emile’s handwriting might make a teacher think it’s the perfect mentor text to support their teaching of character in their narrative reading and writing units; specifically complications and traits. All of this is true and yet . . . remember books can be complicated.
Upon a closer read, I am QUIET, A Story for the Introvert in ALL of Us is also a book that will nudge students to do the deeper work of both a reader and a writer.
As a reader, my students quickly identified with Emile as different grown-ups in his life expressed their different opinions of him based on what they saw on the outside. Heads nodded in as I read, “Mr. March in his rose garden tells me, “Someday you will come out of your shell,” and conversation erupted as I asked students to share with each other the opinions adults have placed upon them based on what they see of them on the outside. If readers can connect the work we do as readers to the way that we form and build relationships with each other in the real world, they will be better able to transfer their learning to the books they read. Looking inward, students can apply the work they are doing around character in their independent reading books to themselves as they think about their own complications. For me, their teacher, this book provided me with another window into how some of my students see themselves.
On the inside, I’m crazy like an explosion, but on the outside, I’m calm like a cat.”
On the inside I am a pro gamer, but on the outside, I”m talkative.”
On the inside I am very loud, crazy, energetic, excited and wild, but on the outside, I am lonely, quiet, do not talk, super lonely.”
On the inside I’m adventurous, but on the outside I’m confused.
Students can also use this book to do theme work and think about the various perceptions of the word “quiet” from the grown-ups who tell Emile, “Don’t be shy” to Emile who believes strength can be quiet. This work can push into the work that we do around trait words, thus challenging students to think about the best words to use to describe their character.
As a writer, a few of my students immediately recognized this work from when they were writing narrative stories. “This is just like when you taught us when we were writing stories that our characters had complications,” exclaimed Costa. Other students noticed some of the visual craft moves Andie Powers made. For example, the “On the inside,” pages are double-page color spreads revealing the inside of Emile’s imagination. The reader sees a smiling Emile riding a dragon, dressed as a valiant knight, and captain as a ship, whereas in the transition pages to the “On the outside,” pages, the reader sees a quieter-looking Emile in a stark white double-page spread.
What initially started as a means of looking at character, turned quickly into a deeper look inward toward ourselves. My class this year is full of introverts and I am always looking for ways to help them reveal themselves to me and to each other.
Like people, books can be complicated.