Booktalk for TELL ME by Joan Bauer

tell-me-2Twelve-year-old Anna is sitting outside the library in her grandma’s town when an old van pulls up. A lady wearing a bright pink shirt gets out. There’s a man in the driver’s seat and a girl about Anna’s age looking out the back window. The woman and man start shouting at each other in a foreign language. Anna knows how the girl must feel—her own parents have been fighting a lot lately too. It’s why she’s spending time this summer with her grandmother.

Finally, the driver lets the girl out of the van, and the woman walks her over to Anna to ask where the bathrooms are. The girl has really big eyes, Anna notices, and she seems nervous. On their way out of the library, Anna sees that the woman has a tight hold on the girl’s arm.

Moments later they’re back in the van, and Anna watches them pull away. But they’re going too fast in the parking lot and nearly crash into a car. The van screeches and stops.

Suddenly, the side door slides opens. The girl jumps out and starts to run.


Genre: realistic fiction

Grades 4-7.


Anna’s take on it:

Sometimes I start my booktalk for this title by saying, “This book is about a girl named Anna. My name is Anna. Therefore this is a good book.” That generally gets a laugh. Although the students don’t buy my logic on that particular reason to like the book, this was one of my most popular titles last year. I originally planned on using it just in fifth grade classes, but the booktalk got such a good response, I started taking it to sixth and even seventh grade classes with similar results. I used it in the spring with fourth graders too.

When I cut off with the line “The girl jumps out and starts to run,” the room is usually completely silent for about five seconds. And then the moans begin. “Wait–that’s it? That’s not fair!” Everyone wants to know what happened. Kids come up after my presentation to ask about the girl. One seventh grade boy tried to bribe me with $100. “Just tell me what happens to her. Please?!”