My daughter, Catherine, and I went to see Gennifer Choldenko when she spoke at Powell’s Books in Portland on Monday. She gave a wonderful presentation, and she talked about how she writes her books as well as gave details about Al Capone Does My Shirts and her new book, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. She also read the first chapter of the latter book.
Three of the six girls in our group made it to the reading. They loved it! They got to meet one of their favorite authors and have her sign copies of their books. They asked questions, and they got to know a little bit about the person who created the story they had read and loved so much.
It was interesting to hear Gennifer say that she writes about middle school, because she remembers those years so vividly. “Anything can happen, because everything is changing,” she said. “I give my characters a lot to deal with because life is scary sometimes.”
Indeed. Here’s a group photo we took that night:
Attending an author appearance makes a great outing for your group. Check listings in your local paper, or look for flyers at your favorite bookstore to find out about upcoming appearances. You can also check the author’s Web site, which often lists places where she will be talking.
Have you ever considered bringing an outside expert into your mother-daughter book club meeting? Inviting a guest can energize your group and get everyone excited about your upcoming gathering, but how do you decide whom to invite?
The author is the most obvious answer, and with just a little research you can probably find the author of a children’s or young adult book who lives near you or may be traveling in your direction. Some authors even say they are willing to talk to Mother Daughter Book Clubs by phone. Contact local writer’s organizations to check for authors who live nearby.
But you can also bring in others who may also enhance the reading experience. For instance, if you read a book on historical fiction like Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm, you could ask someone from your local historical society to join you for the discussion. She could possibly even bring along pioneer tools or other implements from the time period that can help bring history to life.
Youth librarians are usually very good at helping people dig to get a greater understanding of what they’ve read. Hold a special meeting at the library to tap into the resources there if you regularly meet at home.
With just a little thought, you can probably come up with someone to invite as a guest for most books that you read. It’s just a question of deciding when your group may need a little boost or would enjoy the change of pace that a guest can bring to your meeting.
Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. Photo by David Kinder
The kids are back in school, book club meetings are on the calendar again, and class reading assignments are being made. Fall may be a particularly difficult time for girls to find time to read book club books, because of all the new obligations that usually come when school starts. Sports, homework and music lessons often top the list of activities that keep everyone running during the week and on weekends.
If this is a problem for the girls in your club, check out the class reading assignment list, particularly if everyone in the club goes to the same school. Many of the books assigned in class are classics that are easy to get at the library. If your meeting is held before her book is due, she’ll have the advantage of having a group discussion on it already before she’s tested on what she learned.
Another option is to choose a light-hearted book that’s fun to read. My youngest daughter’s group just read All American Girl by Meg Cabot. Many girls will relate to the everyday problems Samantha has while they have fun thinking about how their lives would change if they did something heroic. Time spent reading it makes a great break from homework.
Other selections that make fun, light reads include A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, Boy by Roald Dahl, Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot, and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. These books have lots to think about and discuss during book club meetings, but reading them won’t feel like an extra assignment to your daughters.
If you have other suggestions for the list, please comment and let us know about them.
When last I wrote I was preparing for a weekend trip to the Oregon Coast with my oldest daughter’s book club. We started this tradition of spending weekends away three years ago, and the trips keep getting better every year.
There are twelve of us, so it can be a challenge finding a place to stay, but it’s worth the effort. This year we reveled in a sunny, warm Saturday at the coast, not always a given in Oregon. The nice thing about our retreat is that we get to spend time with the whole group as well as one on one with other members.
Some of the fun to be had this weekend:
- Walking on the beach
- Building sand castles and playing in the surf
- Yakking in the hot tub
- Watching Chocolat
- Playing pool, ping pong, scrabble and rummy
- Hanging out, eating good food and talking
Oh, and there was solitary time to read or nap or sunbathe for whoever wanted it, too. Somebody made the comment that this year one of our major topics of discussion was the girls’ having driver’s permits and learning how to drive. Next year we expect to talk about their plans for college. Every year it seems to be a different right of passage.
Here’s a picture of our group sitting down for Saturday night dinner.
Do you have a favorite mother daughter book club actvity? Send in your comments and let us know.
Madeleine and I have both read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, but not with our whole mother daughter book club yet. I can’t wait until it’s our turn to pick the next book so we can suggest it. My husband has read it too, and we all thought it was one of the best books we’ve ever read. It’s a tall order for three people whose taste in books doesn’t always match.
The Book Thief deals with heavy subject matter—it’s set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by Death—but the story is so compelling I found myself savoring every page and reading slowly so it wouldn’t come to an end. I’ve never read a fictional book about the daily lives of ordinary people in Germany during World War II, and that is certainly part of what made The Book Thief so interesting.
The main character is Liesel Meminger, a 9-year-old girl sent with her brother to live with foster parents when her father is arrested for communism and her mother expects she will soon follow. Her brother dies on the trip to the foster home, and Liesel steals her first book from the man who digs her brother’s grave. She settles into the household of Hans and Rosa Hubermann and makes a new life in a town very near Munich.
War is everywhere around them—from book burnings, to Hitler youth meetings, to Jews marching through the streets on their way to concentration camps, to food rationing to bombing by Allied planes. And Death narrates the events of Liesel’s life dispassionately, but with wonderful details and with the kind of foreshadowing that made even the hardest events of the book easier to read.
The Book Thief is a rarity among books—a truly original tale that I intend to read again and again. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with high-school aged daughters.
Click here to read an interview Madeleine and I conducted with author Markus Zusak.
Uglies was on the list for both my daughters and me this summer, and somehow I got it first. I was transported into the world of main-character Tally immediately. Tally is about to turn 16 and can’t wait for the day she goes for the surgery that will make her pretty for the rest of her life. Her best friend Peris has already changed, because he’s a few weeks older than she is, and Tally is lonely waiting for her turn.
Then she meets Shay, who takes her on adventures outside their city. Shay claims to know of a place where kids run away to before they become pretty. And she’s unsure of whether she wants to be pretty or not.
This futuristic world had lots of innovations it was fun to read about—hoverboards for transportation, holes in the wall that spit out new clothes—but it also had a controlling dark side. I recommend it as a good book to generate discussion about the importance of beauty and conformity in any society. You should probably pick it up with the intention of reading the whole series though. Uglies sets up the sequel, Pretties, which also sets up the third book, Specials.
These brownies with a peanut butter surprise have been a hit at more than one mother-daughter book club meeting. Be sure to have lots on hand when you serve them.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Place the chocolate into a double boiler with simmering water. When the chocolate is nearly melted, stir in the butter, cut into small pieces. When melted, stir the mixture until it’s smooth. Transfer the top of the double boiler to a cooling rack and let the chocolate cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a 9 x 9″ square cake pan. Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
Combine the sugars in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and beat until well blended with an electric mixer on medium speed. Blend in the vanilla extract; add the cooled chocolate and mix until blended.
Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
Make peanut butter filling by combining the following ingredients in a medium sized bowl:
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1-1/2 ounces soft cream cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup sugar
Beat with an electric mixer until evenly blended.
To assemble the muffins:
Line 18 to 20 cups of a standard muffin tin with bake cups.
Fill each muffin cup about halfway with brownie batter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter filling into the center, pushing it down a little into the batter. Cover the filling with another spoonful of batter. The cups should be about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until well risen and cracked on top. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.
My daughter Catherine and I recently attended our book club meeting to talk about Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It was a delightful book that got the approval even of the readers who don’t much care for fantasy. The concept of taking a known story like the fairy tale this is based on and creating a whole story-behind-the-story is very well done here.
Here are some of the discussion questions we touched on:
- How did Ani find the confidence to be the person she was supposed to be?
- Could she ever be a ruler like her mother?
- When did you start to think that Geric may not be a guard at the palace?
- How did Ani/Isi’s experience being a goose girl help her become more confident?
- If you had written this book, what would you have changed about any part of the plot?
Catherine and I enjoyed Goose Girl so much, we went to the library right away and picked up the sequel, Enna Burning. We like it a lot too, and we’re looking forward to picking up the third book, River Secrets.
It’s interesting reading the series, because one book doesn’t pick up where the one before left off. Instead they each build a new story based on a different main character, someone who may have been fairly minor in a different book.