In anticipation of Community Read Week 4-8 January students and teachers in the Middle School received a copy of the book Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements in December.
The community read concept endeavors to entice and encourage our students to read more. In addition, the book and the accompanying activities in a community read serve to bring a sense of unity and common understanding amongst students and faculty. Activities during the week included book discussion groups, a Skype with the author, a raffle, and neon home clothes day as a finale.
Things Not Seen is a heartwarming story that helps teenagers that feel unnoticed realize that they are not really invisible. There is someone in everyone's life who cares about, loves, and misses them when they are gone. Things Not Seen is a coming of age story that changes the life of not only the main character, Bobby Phillips, but also of everyone that comes into contact with him. It teaches everyone that you should appreciate what you have, but also be flexible enough to adjust to situations as circumstances change. In addition, the novel reinforces that you should not judge people by external appearances.
We met with Middle School Librarian Mrs. Harris to discuss the week.
What is the main theme from the book?
There are many themes: belonging, self-discovery, family, courage, friendship, trust, and justice. There is an awareness that the author is trying to bring to kids. The idea of a "superpower" of invisibility is always exciting to think about (to all ages). What Mr. Clements does in this book is to make the reader stop and realize its real-life implications, and the decisions that would have to be made. The main character of Bobby had to face some realizations about his family and find the courage to speak up, make big decisions on his own, take action, and navigate relationships to determine trust.
A big takeaway message is that invisibility isn't just physical. Invisibility can be a feeling - a person can feel alone and unnoticed in a crowded room. This type of invisibility isn't always good.
Why did you choose the book as the MS read?
I read this book purely for pleasure early in the 2014-15 school year and absolutely loved it. I immediately saw its appeal to MS students (being invisible!) I loved how it not only captured the cool things you can do but also tackled the other, more serious matters to take into consideration should you find yourself invisible! It occurred to me that this might be a good MS Read book.
After last year’s MS Read, we sent a survey out to the students which included questions about what they'd like to see in the future. Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Dystopian were the hands down genres of choice. From past experience, the MS READ Committee also knew it was important to find a storyline that would appeal to both boys and girls (boys being less open to female protagonists). Additionally, it needed to be easy enough for 5th graders to read but not too easy/juvenile for our 8th graders.
How have students reacted to the text and lessons?
I've asked a few students and teachers in passing this week and the response has been mostly positive. It seems everyone has liked the book but to varying degrees. Everyone loved the idea of someone becoming invisible, and reading about the things Bobby was able to do because of it. There were some who could have done without the romantic (albeit tiny) storyline. Some found the scientific bits too confusing, but others, who LOVED the science. Others expressed disappointment about his stealing information from a company's computer (which initiated a conversation about if it's ever okay to break a rule), while some loved the scene where he snuck about the company building. However, even if someone didn't like some parts, in the end they liked it overall.