The Sandy Bottom Orchestra: Talking about the book.

by: Christine Dvornik
What does The Sandy Bottom Orchestra have to do with you? Find out as we look into the topics this story presents from our own lives.
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The Sandy Bottom Orchestra: Talking about the book.

Sandy_Orch.gif Dominant themes in children's literature are easy to identify: a need for love and companionship; a search for self-awareness and growth; and a need for hope and truth.

You can find these themes in The Sandy Bottom Orchestra. The story's heroine, 14-year-old Rachel Green, faces the same issues that today's teen's deal with. She feels alienated by her parents and most of her peers. She is unsure of who she is and where she fits in.

In this story, Rachel, like most teens, wants a "normal" life. She wants to fit in but isn't sure where. She has few hobbies other than playing the violin, which she excels at. Music is her passion and also her escape.

Most of us have some form of escape, be it playing music, going to the gym, or just reading a book. How do you escape? And what is it that you escape from? In Rachel's case, as in many other's, her escapism is a healthy way to relieve stress. But there are times when people's escape patterns can be destructive; for example, if they turn to drugs or alcohol.

How do you know when you, your child, or someone you care about is "escaping" too often? Or if they are no longer trying to relieve stress, but instead feeding a bad habit? Do you confront them and help them deal with their problems in more constructive ways, or do you let them live and learn?

Another theme that is presented in The Sandy Bottom Orchestra is the evolution of relationships. We see several relationships change throughout the story, from the relationship between Rachel and her parents, to that of Rachel and her best friend Carol. These relationships start and finish on opposite ends. While Rachel's connection to her parents deepens, she becomes more withdrawn from Carol.

Do you think Rachel and Carol will have a lasting friendship? Think about your own relationships. What qualities do you look for in a life-long friend? What differentiates a casual acquaintance from a true friend?

In the first part of the story, Rachel's parents embarrass her. While she cares about them, she clearly doesn't have a close relationship with them. Mr. and Mrs. Green aren't like most people in Sandy Bottom, and Rachel, wishing for normalcy in her life, would like her family life to be like that of other kids.

Do you think that Rachel's relationship with her parents changes toward the end of the story? Think about your relationship with your parents during your teen years. Could you have related to the way Rachel felt toward her parents? Did you feel that same compulsion to withdraw from them? Did you wish they were more like your friend's parents? How did that change as you grew older?

Rachel's mother is an eccentric and demanding character. She expects a lot out of people and doesn't tolerate the mundane. In the story she states, "I am fed up with people who can't color outside the lines."

What does that statement mean to you? Do you feel that society has created too many "lines" for us? What kind of person do you think you are? Do you ever "color outside of the lines"? How would you explain to your children when it is and isn't okay to venture outside of those lines?

14-year-old Rachel Green is going through the same experiences and changes that most teens do. She has problems with her family and friends, and is searching for her own niche. You could say she's "coming of age."

What changes do you see in Rachel throughout the story? Think back to your own teen years. What feelings and experiences do you remember going through to "find yourself"? How did your feelings, thoughts, and behavior change as you matured? How does this compare to what your teen is now facing?