I had a phenomenal reading conference with a student today. She read The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox and I had told her that I wanted to conference with her about it when she finished. She finished last week but we did not get a chance to chat until today. I told her that I found the book to be very disturbing and other students had read it and been ashamed of our country's history. This girl did not agree with either feeling and was able to back up her opinions quite well. She did talk about being surprised by certain characters and said that the author positioned her to like one who turned out to be a bad seed. (We've been talking about how writers position readers.)
We then began discussing The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. I brought it up as a recommendation because she had enjoyed The Slave Dancer. She had read Avi's book last year and mentioned that she was surprised by characters in it too. We talked about how carefully the endings of both books had to be constructed to keep the readers happy.
She ended our discussion talking about Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor which she had just finished. She had been disappointed in the ending, feeling that it focused too much on a character who had been fairly unimportant. She reread the ending and decided that it is really a metaphor and just as powerful as the rest of the book. I left her looking at two other historical fiction books, Across Five Aprils and The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, to think about as her next book. She had said that she prefers historical fiction or fantasy because they are deep and give her a lot to think about.
It was one of the best reading conferences I've had all year. She truly wanted the chance to discuss books with another reader.