And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst

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what i love about judith viorst’s (2014) and two boys booed was its realistic portrayal of the difficulties kids often experience at school. tackling both bullying and overcoming fears of performing in front of others, two boys booed is a participatory read-aloud that will have parents, teachers, and kids cheering for the male protagonist. the strength of the writing in this children’s book is the build-up to the big moment at the talent show viorst creates. writers can learn much from how she progressively builds tension and excitement for the talent show, most especially for the narrator’s singing performance. how do the increasing number of words on each page add to the intensity of the story?

reader engagement is another asset of this text. i can imagine a class full of students reciting along with the repetitive, refrain-like lines viorst writes in order to create anticipation for the young boy’s singing performance. in addition to the actual language engaging readers, there are other techniques that facilitate reader participation: bold words which allow viorst to play with words while symbolizing the young boy’s nervousness and movable flaps on particular pages. interestingly, the bolded, out-of-order words and movable flaps urge readers focus on word order – and perhaps more acutely feel the little boy’s nervousness. such moves break traditional text boundaries and urge readers to consider – or reconsider – what the qualities of an effective children’s book are.

the use of first-person narrative is also a way for viorst to position the young boy who sings in a position of power versus, say, the two boys who boo him. discussions around how the book’s title might be a bit misleading, especially considering it is more of a story of the narrator than the bullies. the topic of narration may be a powerful discussion topic. does the narrator of a story have power? how might the story differ if it were told from the perspective of the teacher, the fellow talent show participants, or even the two boys who booed? this could be a wonderful writing exercise!

i can only imaging the boisterous clapping one would hear after a read-aloud of this truly interactive book. Not only does the young boy in the book learn to drown out those who boo but viorst makes sure readers also engage in the dismissal of those who try to silence our voices. a loud clap for and two boys booed! 

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