Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
By Paul Fleischman
About the Book
Assigned to write an autobiography as his senior thesis, high school student Rob Radkovitz finds that, for him, looking back means listening, tuning in to the influential voices that have shaped his experience. There's his trilingual mother, his devoted aunts, his literary grandmother (who loves to read aloud) and his professorial grandfather. But the voice that's missing is the one that's most resonant; it belongs to his father, a radio DJ whom Rob's never met. With a single recording as his guiding light, Rob rides the airwaves in search of his father but what he finds is a deeper understanding of himself. Described by Booklist as "quirky, comic and poignant" and "groundbreaking" by SLJ, Seek's pastiche of past and present voices emerges as an insightful symphony of sound.
1. Rob's English teacher (Mr. McCarthy) explains that the autobiography "should probe the themes in your life, [analyze] signal events and [chart] the influences of family, community and your historical era on your development." What themes, events and influences shaped Rob? How? What themes, events and influences have shaped your life and in what ways?
2. "I grew up in a house built of voices," writes Rob. "Each person not only had a voice but brought others into the house." To whom do the voices in Rob's house belong? What does Rob mean when he says they bring others with them? What effect do the voices have on Rob? What voices fill your house? How do they influence you?
3. Rob explains that his father's "missing voice seemed to outweigh all those that were present" and because of this he was determined to track his father down. In what ways does Rob attempt to connect with his father? How does his search change over time? How does Rob respond when his father finally contacts him? Did you expect him to react this way? Why or why not? How would you have responded?
4. Because Rob is so preoccupied with finding his absent father, he is unable to truly appreciate the family that are present in his life, namely, his mother, grandparents, and his new stepfather, Andy. At what point in the story does Rob make peace with his past and change his attitude towards his family, particularly Andy? What does Rob later say to his father that indicates he is content and is no longer seeking to fill a void?
5. Why does the author choose to tell Rob's story in a collage of past and present voices? How does this style effect the mood of the story? What style would best suit your autobiography? For example, would it take the form of a traditional narrative or would the story of your life best be told through a play, dance, song, rap, or other format? Why?
6. Can you picture settings for the ongoing dialogue in Seek? Describe what you envision.
7. In one of his radio programs Rob's father says that music "brings back the old times and the old folks. Makes the wallpaper change right there on the wall to what you had when you were a baby;" his mother tells him that the song "Little Black Eyes" was playing when she and his father met. What music holds memories for you? If you were to create a soundtrack of your life what music would you include? What memories do you associate with those songs?
Activities & Research
1. Stage a reader's theater performance of Seek. Begin by requesting permission from the publisher. Then, start casting. As Fleischman suggests in his closing note, a performance could be staged with as few as 15 players (nine in the primary roles; six playing multiple parts). Publicize your performance. Create posters or fliers taking into consideration the images and text that will best convey Seek's message. If radio and television advertising are a consideration think about what sound bites and images will intrigue the audience. (Even if you're not planning an actual performance this is a good way to explore media literacy.) Create a timeline of the important moments and/or milestones in your life. Note the people involved. Then, write an autobiographical scene based on one of those moments, modeling your work on Seek.
2. Explore the power of words. Interview three people, asking them to recall a pivotal moment in which words from a friend, family member—even a stranger—changed the way they viewed themselves or influenced the direction of their life. Turn your research into a news article and submit it to your school newspaper or craft one interview into a short story, poem, or play.
3. Visit the Federal Communication Commission web site (www.fcc.gov) to learn what it takes to surf the airwaves. Type in "amateur radio service" for information about examination, licensing and operating requirements. If your school has a radio station find out how you might become involved.
4. Research radio's influence on popular culture from Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fireside Chats to Orson Welles's 1938 "War of the World's" broadcast to modern-day FCC regulations about appropriate on-air content.
5. Tune in online. Radio Australia, the BBC World Service and All India Radio are just a few of the radio stations Rob picks up with his shortwave radio kit; you can find them on the World Wide Web. Type the station names into your browser or search for others using the key word "radio." Live audio broadcasts allow you to listen to programs around the world.
About the Author
Paul Fleischman makes his home in Monterey, California, where he once hosted a classical music program on local radio station KAZU. He has written more than 25 books for children and young adults including Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, winner of the 1989 Newbery Medal; his novel Graven Images was named a Newbery Honor book.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.