We first met Ira and Reggie in Ira Sleeps Over (Houghton, 1977 ISBN 0-395-20503-4). Waber waited eleven years to tell us more and, while the boys are hardly eleven years older, they have grown some. Their friendship has grown as well and the boys have been inseparable. Now, however, the unimaginable is happening and they are to be separated permanently, for Reggie is moving far away and it's Ira's bratty sister, who hasn't changed a bit, who tells Ira the sad news gleefully. Ira is despondent, but Reggie, much to Ira's horror, is overjoyed.
Talk about accenting the positive! Reggie is looking forward to the move to Greendale where, he says, everyone and everything is fun, fun, fun. He isn't even upset that their turtles, Felix and Oscar, are also to be separated. Ira can't stand it. To say the least, he identifies with the turtles' friendship and insists that, if Reggie takes Oscar away, he must take Felix as well.
We don't find out about Reggie's real feelings until the moving van is loaded and the families are saying goodbye. Then, to Ira's amazement, Reggie bursts into tears and Reggie's father tells Ira how much Reggie has been dreading this day. The move is on, however, and the two friends have to part, but there are overnight visits back and forth in the very near future, which bring us back very nicely to the first book.
There's so much to talk about here. Stay within the book for a while and talk about the signs of friendship: the turtles, two member club, the magic act and secret hiding place. How about that sister? Doesn't she have any friends? I think we know why.
Look at signs that the two boys are older now. How old do you think they are? Are the parents older? Is the sister? How many years do you think have passed between the stories? Brainstorm for things that must have happened in between the books.
Remember the "Uh-huhs" in the first book? They're here, too. Try saying it different ways to mean different things. Count the number of times it is said and by whom and, speaking of repeated phrases, count the number of times "Isn't that great?" is said and by whom.
Whatever happened to TaTa and FooFoo? Which one is in Ira Says Goodbye?
The boys fight to cover up what they really feel. Who is most in touch with his real feelings? Which character are you most like? Speaking of feelings, how do Ira's and Reggie's parents feel toward each other? How do you know?
The boys have named their turtles after two famous characters. Find out about them.
At the end of the story, Ira's packing up to go to Reggie's house for an overnight. List the things he might take and compare the list to the things he took on his first overnight at Reggie's house.
There are other stories of moving away, of course, and they ought to be found and read and compared. What made the characters in each book feel better about moving; what would help you? People in the class who have moved should try to explain how they felt and what helped and what hindered their adjustment. Maybe a committee can be formed to make future newcomers feel welcome.
Children should look for other friends in literature: Wilbur and Charlotte, Frog and Toad, George and Martha, Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat, and on and on. After listing the friendship pairs, decide what makes that friendship strong.
Go from this book to a look at the story of friendship we did last month in Marilyn Sadler's Elizabeth and Larry. In both cases, friends move away from each other, but the solution is different.
When Reggie is pointing out the good things about moving to Greendale, he is behaving exactly the opposite to the narrator of Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie W. Sharmat (Macmillan 1980 ISBN 0-02-782450-0). That little boy is sure that life and friendship in Texas is going to be terrible, while life and friendship in New York City was wonderful.
Ira and Reggie are fast friends as are Rosie and Michael (Macmillan, 1974 ISBN 0-689-30439-0), whose friendship also has its ups and downs.
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