Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan. Candlewick Press, 2013.
Bluffton was an actors’ colony just outside Muskegon, Michigan, established in 1908 by Joe Keaton to give Vaudeville performers a place to relax during the summer months when theaters were too hot to draw an audience. For Joe’s son, Buster, Bluffton was a place where he could be a kid, pursuing his love of baseball and hanging out with kids his own age instead of starring in his parents’ act. A graphic novel spanning three summers is told from the point of view of Henry Harrison, a fictional boy who lives in Muskegon. He becomes Buster’s summer friend and dreams of being a performer himself. Life in Muskegon is anything but glamorous, but to be on the stage! Everything is wonderfully understated in Matt Phelan’s storytelling, from the color palette to the dialogue to the way he fills in Henry’s life between each of the summers with several brief, elegant, wordless page spreads. A handful of years can bring maturity and new depth of understanding, and just how Henry changes, and how his relationship with Buster affects and reveals that change, is gracefully told. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Discussion Questions for Bluffton:
1. How does the author use pictures to convey Buster’s family and life situations? How does the use of text add to that?
2. What do you think Henry is trying to achieve by telling Sally that Buster has only been to school once in his life?
3. Buster Keaton was a real person who eventually went on to act in movies before they had sound and actors had to rely more on actions rather than words. Have you ever seen a silent movie? Explain how Buster Keaton’s physical talent of learning how to fall, flip, and roll would be important in silent movies.
Poison by Bridget Zinn. Hyperion, 2013.
Potions master Kyra is on the run after a failed attempt to assassinate Princess Ariana, heir to the throne. The fact that the princess is also her best friend doesn’t deter Kyra from wanting to succeed at her self-imposed mission. Krya’s had dire visions in which Ariana causes the complete destruction of the kingdom. With the princess now in hiding, Kyra ends up in possession of a pig with special hunting abilities to track her down. The small creature has an endearing disposition that Kyra tries to resist, not to mention a soft spot for dog biscuits. And then there’s Fred. Handsome and friendly, this wanderer Kyra meets in the woods is really the last thing she needs. But he did provide the dog biscuits, along with a name for the pig (Rosie), and a helping hand at a desperate moment. So when Fred is later accosted, Kyra comes to his aid, although she risks revealing her own considerable fighting skills, making it hard to maintain her disguise as nothing more than another wayfarer. She doesn’t want a traveling companion but seems fated to have found one in Fred—a proposition she finds both vexing and pleasing. Bridget Zinn’s buoyant novel brims with adventure, mayhem, intrigue, humor, and romance, along with surprising twists and revelations right up to the end. (Bridget Zinn, a former CCBC student employee and Friends of the CCBC board member, died at the age of 33 in 2011. Anyone who knew Bridget will sense her spirit on every page of a novel that is full of charm, exuberance, optimism, and plenty of pastry.) (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Discussion Questions for Poison:
1. Kyra and other characters have different perspectives on why Kyra attempted to assassinate the princess. How does this build tension in the story?
2. What reason does each character have for concealing their identity? What does Kyra learn about herself from having two identities?
3. Throughout the story, Kyra resists an emotional attachment to Rosie the pig? What do you
think Rosie symbolizes in the story?