Ideas for reading group discussion topics or for using my YA novels in a classroom setting:


I drew from my own Southwest Missouri surroundings in order to describe the Avery Theater in my latest YA, SPARK. The following video can be used in your classrooms to introduce the concept of local color to your students, and to get them revved to do a local color piece of their own:


 Regardless of the genre or age category, my work tends to run on something of the lyrical side. I frequently use metaphor in my descriptions.

But my latest YA, SPARK, takes metaphor to a new level. Instead of using the device in order to flesh out description, I use it in the plot, as a way to drive events.

About SPARK:

Acclaimed author Holly Schindler writes a compelling contemporary tale with a dash of magic. The theater comes to life in this story of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.

The local Avery Theater was just a run-down building to Quin—until her mother told her about the tragic love that played out on the theater’s stage many years ago. Quin is convinced it’s the perfect story to re-create for her drama class. And when she does, the Avery begins to magically regain its former splendor, clearly setting the stage for her classmates Dylan and Cass to relive the romance from a time before. Quin can see the spark between them, but it’s up to her to make sure her friends—and the Avery—can both be saved this time around.


Ultimately, SPARK also asks readers to determine for themselves what actually transpired: readers can debate, in class, whether they believe the magical events of the book are to be taken literally, or are to be read on a more metaphorical level, as the work of the protagonist’s “writerly imagination” (and have only played out in the theater of young Quin’s mind). Did the Avery Theater magically regenerate? Did Quin's friends get a chance to see themselves without their flaws? Or has everything that has transpired on the pages actually a metaphor for the power of the theater? The way the theater allows us all to escape--whether we're in the audience or onstage? 

Maybe the best widely-known example of using metaphor to shape the plot is FIELD OF DREAMS (one of my all-time favorite movies): Did those magical events really happen? Did Ray Kinsella actually plow up his corn, allow the spirits of historic ball players another chance to enjoy the game? 
Or is the entire storyline a metaphor for a man trying to mend the fractured relationship with his father?

SPARK can open your students' minds to thinking about metaphor in a new way--as something that not only fleshes out line-by-line writing, allows a reader to see a character or setting in vivid detail, but as a device that can also help shape the events of the book as a whole.


SPARK features two characters who have obvious "flaws": one has a birthmark, another a stutter. 

This topic lends itself to great high school class discussion... 

We all have things about ourselves that we wish we could change. (If only, we all think, I were prettier, taller. Or, I wish I could make my nose smaller, get rid of the scar on my chin, not have such frizzy hair, clear up my skin…) If your fantasy could be granted, and what you perceive to be your biggest flaw was magically erased, how would it change you? Would you behave differently? Would you finally talk to your crush, go out for the lead in the play? Would you step into the spotlight? Would you finally be brave enough to make your mark?

Students can discuss the depiction of the external in SPARK--this includes costumes that appear throughout. They can also discuss the external vs. internal lives of the characters--and even of themselves. After all, sometimes, the best way to connect and interact with a book is by seeing connections between the text and the "real world." 

Children are always being told the inside of a person is the most important part--and it is! But what are the barriers to getting to view a person's interior? How do our own opinions of our exterior, our perceptions of our own "flaws" keep people from seeing our own insides?

Are you a teacher using SPARK in your classroom? Contact me at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com for a Skype.

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