`Will's Choice' is the selection

Book club

April 22, 2004

An interview with Margaret Cooper, facilitator for the Elks Jr. Book Club at the Elkridge library.

What is your club reading for its May session? We're reading Will's Choice by Joan Lowery Nixon. Our date has changed from what's printed in the Great Expectations. We're now meeting May 13.

What is Will's Choice about? Will's father is a circus performer who has decided to give up his son while he travels with the circus. He puts Will on an orphan train to go live with a foster family. Will grows to love his foster parents. When his father's circus comes to their town, Will must decide with whom he will live.

Why did you choose this book for 7- to 9-year-olds? I try to choose a variety of books, ones that both boys and girls will enjoy. This one is historical fiction, which we haven't done this year. The kids have a hard time believing that orphan trains really happened. They can't believe that parents would give up their children. It's sort of an eye-opener for them.

What book has generated the most discussion in your group? This year, we have a great group of children who like to discuss all the books. But, in October, we read Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It was about a 10-year-old girl who had alopecia areata, a disease that caused her to lose her hair, and it was about the difficulties associated with that. Anya was very embarrassed about it. One of Anya's classmates had her hair cut and donated the hair to Locks of Love and tried to encourage the other children to do that to support Anya.

How did the group members respond to this book? They all loved the book and were very interested in learning about the disease. The story didn't make them feel sorry for kids but instead helped them to have empathy toward other children that they know who may be having difficulties.

Do you have room for more participants in this club? Yes, although we will just meet one more time before summer break. In September, we'll have an orientation and talk about the books we'll be reading for the following school year.

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