This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers
Yes, I have already written about March "Book" Madness before, but yesterday we had our first big time "Bracket Buster". Think VCU, Butler, or George Mason. Think Gus Johnson giving us an "HA! HAAA!" or Bill Raftery dropping "Onions!" on us.
Faced with the decision of choosing the apparently best selling children's book of all time or the little graphic novel that could, my class went with Sidekicks by Dan Santat.
"HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!?!?!?!?"
Honestly, I am not too sure. My class this year is ridiculous when it comes to reading. To a child they have met or exceeded all of my possible expectations. They are thoughtful, they read a variety of books, they read voraciously. But Sidekicks beating Harry Potter. Wow. That's about all I can say. Wow.
To be fair, I book talked Sidekicks earlier in the year and nearly every child has read it. I had to buy another copy because the first one is now toast. What I somehow missed is that nearly every single one of them loved it. I should have had a feeling when they were talking in paris and threes before the vote. I heard of lot of stuff like this:
"I really like Harry Potter, but Sidekicks rules."
"I've only seen the movies for Harry Potter. But I read and loved Sidekicks."
"I'm not really into to fantasy. But Sidekicks was amazing. The art ... Roscoe and Fluffy. Fluffy is soooooo cute."
And I only heard a little bit of stuff like this:
"Harry Potter is the best book ever. How can you vote against it."
"Harry Potter could beat all the characters in Sidekicks with one spell. C'mon!"
"I wish I could go to Hogwarts!"
When the vote was over, you would have thought the kids who voted for Sidekicks had just won the lottery. A legit cheer erupted. Interstingly enough, there were only a few kids who were truly disappointed that Harry Potter got beat. Most of them also really liked Sidekicks, but just liked Harry a little more.
Later in the day one of the boys who was disappointed asked, "Why was Harry only a 3 seed. Seems like he should have been a number 1."
I answered, "Well, Harry was in the bracket because only one of you submitted that title on your cards. Based on that he should of been a lower seed. I put him there because it didn't seem right to have such a great book be a lower seed."
"OK. But I still think Harry should have won."
"I know how you feel. It is one of my all time favorite books."
But the more I thought this "upset", the happier I became. I started this crazy idea for the kids. I haven't voted once and I have tried really hard to be very straight faced and objective. Before the quick sharing and votes I praise the positive attributes of both books and tell the class, "Man this would be a hard choice for me, glad I am not voting." And for most of this group of kids, Sidekicks resonated with them in a way that Harry Potter didn't. When I think about my favorite books of all time, I don't really care what anybody else says. I will argue the virtues of books that nobody else seems to like. And when you are a guy who teaches elementary school, that can happen a lot. When I realized that the kids were doing what anybody who is excited about books does, my opinion shifted from "WHAT?!?!" to "Way to go guys, you went with the book you loved, not the book that everyone loves."
So, I decided to be the voice for the majority afterschool yesterday. I got on twitter and posted this little nugget.
I got some responses from my tweeps, which was cool. It is great to get feedback from my friends. And for the most part my twitter friends are kind of like me. Teacher-book nerds who tend to get giddy about stuff like, "are you Team Bear or Team Rabbit?" But what really blew my mind was this repsonse:
After a few more tweets, Dan Santat is thanking me for the kind words about his book. When really I should be thanking him for creating a story that won the hearts of so many of my students. So thank you very much Dan Santat!
Sidekicks has a tough run to make it to the Final 4. It will have to beat Diary of a Wimpy Kid and most likely Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder. Both have been huge books in my class this year. We even Skyped with Laurel Syder. Because of the Skyping, I figured Breadbox would have been the odds on favorite to win the whole bracket. However, when I quickly showed my class the screenshots of the twitter chat that happened between Dan Santat, me and a few others, they were floored.
"You mean Dan Santat knows Sidekicks beat Harry Potter?"
"Yep he does, and I think he thinks that is pretty cool."
So, eventhough I thought Sidekicks had no chance of beating Harry Potter, I wouldn't be totally shocked if it wins some more. In fact, I am really hoping it takes down Greg, Rowley and the rest of Jeff Kinney's gang.
If by chance you do read this Dan, my class really wants to know when the next adventure of Captain Amazing and his wonderful band of Sidekicks is coming out.