Sob-O-Meter Display

sob-o-meterCindy: We all have those readers who enjoy books that are guaranteed to make them cry. When I served on BBYA, one of the members called hers “the crying girls.” I enjoy a good weepy book myself, so every few years we put our Sob-O-Meter on display and ask our teens to determine the level of sadness a book evokes in them.

The display is easy to build–start with a regular box of tissues and label it “sniff.” Cover a medium size box with colored paper and label it “weep.” Then do the same with a jumbo box but label it “SOB.” Use large tissue paper (or even better some stiff white paper) to make big tissues to stick out of a slit in the top of each of the larger boxes. Then you need to make a Sob-O-Meter sign (see our photo for an example). We position the boxes on a trio of display shelves we are fortunate to have, and then add a few of our favorite sad books to the display. The fun begins when the teens start adding their own and moving someone else’s “sniff” book over to the “sob” section or vice versa. They love to argue with each other about which book is the most heart-wrenching. We also provide half sheet entry forms to nominate titles in each of the categories and use them to create bibliographies of student favorites.

Lest you think that only girls enjoy this display, be forewarned. Boys have proven to be very vocal about sad books. One added Catching Fire to our display last week, and another placed Ann Bausum’s nonfiction title Freedom Riders in the “weep” category after reading it for a recent discrimination unit. He said it was embarrassing to read about how we had treated people in the past. My current favorite sad book is Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere about a girl grieving for her sister. What is yours?

Lynn: Back in the day, Cindy and I used to work together in the same middle school library and we had so much fun! We did lots of promotions, contests, events, PR and tag-team booktalks. Remind me to tell you about the 6-week Reading Olympic competition we had with two other middle schools sometime. This fun idea is one of the easiest though and still gets lots of enthusiastic involvement. I was in last week to volunteer and watched two kids arguing about the correct level of sadness for Kira Kira. You can do this display with any age level and our teachers loved it too. Extension activities are endless. As Cindy says you can create bibliographies, have kids create book trailers or have a school-wide vote for the saddest book in the library. Or – just sit back and watch the fun as the kids move books and to the display.

Don’t get me started on sad books. I try to avoid them if possible but two recent books that peg the meter for me are The Sky is Everywhere and Before I Die. SOB!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

12 Comments on "Sob-O-Meter Display"

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  1.' Brenda Kahn says:

    Wow, what a great display and debate/ discussion starter. I just love how the boys chimed in as well and to point out that informational literature can touch the heart. Bravo!

    Before I Die. Just typing those words evoke such strong emotions and memories for me. I can’t remember a book where I felt so angry and unsympathetic to a main character and then feel guilty over that reaction b/c she was dying for crying out loud! Of course, I was destroyed by the end. I listened to it first. Then ran out to get the book to reread it immediately.

    Oh. I lied. Yes I can come up with another book that evoked the same range of emotions – Going Bovine.


  2.' Laura says:

    I LOVE this idea – and it will work so well on my three-sided display! I’m definitely going to try this one out.

  3.' Barb says:

    Great idea and I am going to steal it!!

  4.' Betsy says:

    Just GREAT! I’ll have to send this onto our display committee. It took me almost 6 months to booktalk Left for Dead without completely breaking down… I hear the Crying Girls are onto nonfiction lately, too.

  5.' LaurieA-B says:

    What fun. What about meters for other types of books, like a Laugh-o-Meter or a Scare-a-Meter (books you shouldn’t read when you’re alone in a dark house)? Have you tried others besides Sob?

    My childhood sad book: Where the Red Fern Grows. More recent sad book: If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

  6.' vanessa says:

    Thanks so much for this idea–I just put up our version of it and have already gotten compliments! Great job!

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