by DANNY PARKER & BETHANY MACDONALD
change | transition | family | collage | paper | resilience | self-development
This story is inspired by the author’s personal experience as a child during a period of familial transition, but the sentiment of the book is easily translated to many challenges in life. Danny has used metaphor to infold a story of bouncing forward when faced with adversity. The core message of this book is easily relatable for people within a number of contexts, and creates a great launching pad for learning about growth-mindedness and resilient thinking skills.
When a boy and his family move house, he notices not all their belongings are unpacked at the new home. Then he sees that some of their most precious objects have cracks in them. He feels inexplicably sad as he struggles to make things better and to plaster over the cracks in what is clearly his parents’ unhappy relationship. Eventually he comes to terms with the changes in both the family situation and his own understanding of himself, and embraces the ‘him’ that he has become as the result of his experience.
REASONS TO STUDY PAPERBOY
STUDENT AGENCY: Create an opportunity for students to share their voices, to direct their own learning, and to draw on their collective strengths.
ADAPTIVE AGILITY: catalyse the development of a new mindset amongst students by teaching them resilient-thinking skills that they might draw upon when experiencing change or personal challenge. Encourage students to identify direction, goal setting and obstacles that may exist in the pursuit of a given path. Explore and find ways to use strengths.
POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE: expose students to the importance of spotting the positive , and in identifying resilient-thinking skills when faced with a challenge.
TOPICS: coping strategies, thinking resiliently, optimism, gratitude, nurturing relationships, emotions, triggers, reactions.
QUESTIONS | ACTIVITIES | OPPORTUNITIES
Read the book together. Pause for initial reflection and guide thoughts and ideas.
The story is a METAPHOR – many thought-provoking stimuli are to be found throughout the text using the imagery of PAPER. Which forms of paper has the author made reference to? To which emotion does he link each type of paper?
How and where has the illustrator added to the kinds of paper in the overall story? Which kinds of paper products has she added that are not mentioned in the text? How does each of these additional paper types add to the understanding of the story?
There are many other forms of imagery in the text. For example, we see Paperboy snuggled in a box holding a heart. What might this represent? Is he reflecting? Is he savouring? Why glass? Is this simply an object owned by the family, or a deliberate choice by the author to suggest something deeper?
Nothing exists in a picture book by accident. Look closely at the backgrounds – can you find ‘hidden’ shapes on some of the pages? Sometimes things are happening in our lives, but just out of focus, or behind closed doors, or when others think we are asleep. This ‘background noise’ can start to compete with our thoughts and feelings. What ‘hidden’ things can you see happening in Paperboy’s life?
Overcoming the challenge of change sometimes involves understanding how your responses to the situation can inspire new opportunities for behaviour and thinking. Paperboy clearly believes that by working through situations he can find better times. Paperboy chooses a creative pathway in the face of practical obstacles to reach his goal of contentment. How do we see him working through situations? How is the metaphor of paper used to demonstrate this in words and in the pictures?
The spare and unadorned writing style of Paperboy lends itself to the creation of short affirmation statements. Try replacing existing text in the story with positive statements to your choice of images. A positive statement could be about hope, or gratitude, or contentment.
When I was 11 or 12, my Mother and Father separated. As the youngest child ( of 6) I was the only one at home – my older siblings had either moved out, or were old enough to stay elsewhere much of the time. We lived in a house that my folks had saved from demolition – a property built in the 1620’s - and renovated almost single handedly by my father. It was an old place, full of character. Lots of creaky, un even floors, oak beams and unusual nooks and crannies.
Lots of things happened at this time, things that were confusing and that made me realise that Mum and Dad were just people, and that they hurt, and cried and shouted and argued. I remember late-night arguments, shouting from the street outside, and the front door banging so hard that it seemed to shake the whole house. When I look back on that time I realise that the events changed me, and the world was somehow different. I felt I had to do things on my own a little more, that Mum and Dad were complicated. Maybe all parents were. Maybe all adults. The writing of Paperboy began with this understanding, but it quickly developed into a literary metaphor. There is no suggestion that Paperboy’s parents come back together.
Having worked for many years with young people, I know that many parents do not “give it another go” and I wanted to write for these children. I wanted my Paperboy to do as I had done – to survive this difficult time and to grow. To persist, create, develop and, above all, to have hope.
Initially the text was divided into sections by headings describing a range of different paper types: newspaper, fly-paper, crepe paper, folding paper. This structure stayed with the story until late into the edit, and was changed only when the illustrations started show what the words no longer needed to tell.
he’s I think Paperboy is a type of phoenix-from-the-ashes story: Paperboy becomes himself out of the effects of his past experience. All his feelings, his creativity, his sensitivity, and the experiments and opportunities taken, come together in the final collage. His life experience isn’t necessarily all of his own choosing, not necessarily proud of it all – but his experience is his. He is Paperboy.
We are all Paperboy!