Friday, January 15, 2010

Teenage Book Group

I am involved in a secondary school book group as one of the required adult supervisors to any teen activity. What that actually means is that although the students pick the books to read I try to bring something to the meeting that they may not have thought of in connection with the chosen book in an effort to get them to 'think out of the box' - their English teacher brings chocolate brownies (Guess who's more popular!)

This months book is Mark Haddon's 'Boom' a tale of two boys who discover that two of their teachers are aliens who have a fiendish plot to take sci-fi fans and repopulate their world with them. It would be a great book for 9 - 12 year olds or those slightly older who are reluctant readers. Unfortunately I suspect the discussion on the book will not last the full hour we have available to us as, although humorous the book is not complex. I have therefore been casting about for ways to make the meeting more interesting and began to think about that other great alien invasion book H. G. Well's 'War of the Worlds'. There are at least two films of the book but far more interesting is Orson Welles' 1938 radio production which was broadcast on the night of 30th October 1938 - Halloween.

The production took the form of news bulletins which interrupted a programme of dance music and seemingly caused panic among the population. The original production is available on Youtube (in segments) and I have collected several newspaper headlines of the time not only dealing with the panic but, in an effort to try and put the public's reaction into context, of the surrounding political and world situation - the Australian Anschluss and the capitulation to Germany of their demand for part of Czechoslovakia and the unofficial war between China and Japan. The Americans of the time thought they were being invaded. The public had no TV and were not media savvy. All news was obtained from the radio or newsreels in cinemas and, if they missed the opening introduction, listeners had no way of knowing if what they were hearing was true or not. The task at the meeting is to get these 12 - 14 year old to imagine a world without TV where war is being openly talked about in a society that does not want to get involved in another European conflict.

I'll let you know how it goes!

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