Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Seek by Paul Fleischman

Title: Seek
Author: Paul Fleischman
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date: March 2003
ISBN-13: 9780689854026

Plot Summary: Rob Radkovitz was an only child raised by a family of adoring adults – his mother, grandparents, and aunts.  In spite of the support and love he has always received, Rob feels a void that was left by the father he never met, a radio DJ who took off when Rob’s mother was pregnant.  Inspired by his father, Rob becomes fascinated by the radio and spends his nights slowly turning the dial, surrounded by a crowd of voices.  He starts to search for his father through the airwaves, investing in equipment that lets him listen to more and more distant stations.

After his disappointing thirteenth birthday, at which Rob was sure that his father would appear, he abandons his beloved radio equipment and throws himself into the interests of his mother – language and writing.  It isn’t until Rob comes to peace with the absence of his father that he is able to pull his radio back out.

In his senior year of high school, Rob is asked to write his autobiography for a class assignment.  Thinking back over his life, Rob finds that it comes back to him in sounds and dialogue – and writes out his life story in the form of a radio drama.

Critical Evaluation: Seek, written as a script for a radio drama, is one of the fascinating books that I’ve read.  The first few pages seem confused – lines of dialogue that don’t seem to address each other, sound effects without any context, exclamations in foreign languages – but once the connections start to appear and the story begins to emerge, it becomes hard to put the book down.  There are no acts or scenes, the entire book is one continuous conversation.  If you’re forced to put it down, there is no natural stopping point, but it is a quick read and could easily be done in one sitting.  Writing it as a radio drama doesn’t seem like just a flashy technique, since radio is an integral part of the plot it seems like a fitting format.  Fleischman handles it well, using well placed pauses or interjecting lines of dialogue to create humorous moments, while setting somber moods in other parts.  It would be interesting to hear this book performed.

Reader’s Annotation: Rob Radkovitz only knows a little bit about his DJ father who left before he was born, and uses his radio as a means of tracking him down through the airwaves.

Author Information: Paul Fleischman, son of author Sid Fleischman, is the author of several books for children and young adults.  He often writes works that incorporate multiple points of view, sometimes in a play format.  Having once considered a career teaching history, Fleischman often sets his works in historical time periods.

When asked to give advice to aspiring writers, Fleischman said, “First, read. Writers are usually self-taught. Books are our classrooms, other authors our teachers. We’re lucky–we get to pick our teachers, and when and where to go to class. Second, write. As with learning to ride a bike, there’s no substitute for actually doing it. I never took writing classes or read books about writing. I wrote, and learned from my many mistakes and false starts.” (Source)

Like Rob in the book, Fleischman once owned a shortwave radio and used it to listen to stations scattered across the globe.  The boy on the cover of Seek is a picture of the author at about age 10.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Drama

Curriculum Ties: Autobiography, Drama

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss to what extent Rob’s interest in radio was because of his father, and what made him interested in it for himself.
2) How would this book have been different if Rob’s father was involved with film?  Or the internet?
3)  Was Rob influenced more by the absence of his father or the presence of his mother and grandparents?

Interest Age: 15 and older

Challenge Issues: some allusion to sex

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I participated in a book club when I was in high school, and this was one of the books I remembered reading and really enjoying.  Although radio is not the most advanced of technologies, I don’t think that this book will become dated.

Extras:

Paul Fleischman’s website.

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February 27, 2010 - Posted by | Books |

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