Reading Nancy Drew in Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

nancydrew.jpgA few years ago, Madeleine and I read a Nancy Drew mystery for our mother-daughter book club. Each mother-daughter pair picked a different mystery, then we talked about the similar styles and things that seemed to hold each of the books together.

The moms remembered Nancy as the pioneering spirit she was for the time we were growing up. We saw her then as someone who wasn’t afraid to take on challenges and stand apart from the crowd. But we were surprised to find that the daughters saw her as too dependent, and they derided her for getting her boyfriend or other friends to tackle some of the more difficult challenges she faced. We had an interesting discussion on cultural changes from generation to generation.

On June 15 the Nancy Drew movie hits screens around the country, providing a great opportunity for mother-daughter book clubs to read one or more of the traditional Nancy Drew mysteries and compare it to the movie. If the trailer is any indication, this Nancy Drew is totally hip in her old-fashioned ways and very independent.

You can choose more than one Nancy Drew mystery, as my group did, or have everyone read the same novel and discuss it in relation to the movie after you’ve seen it. Then send in your comments to let others know how you think this female character has changed over time.


List of Great Authors for Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

Favorite authors are those who inspire you to read everything they’ve written. You anxiously await new works they publish and decide you want to own their books permanently in your personal library.

Often, books we read in our book clubs don’t live up to our expectations, so finding one that inspires us to read more by the author is exciting. With that in mind, I’ve created a new list of Favorite Authors for mother daughter book clubs to explore.

And here’s an idea for your meeting: have each mother daughter team pick a different book by the same author to read and see if your discussion brings insight about the writer as well as what he’s written. Or split the group in two and read two books by the same author. Instead of focusing discussion on characters, you can talk about messages and themes in the books and delve a little more deeply into what you think the author is trying to say with his work.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite authors and books they’ve written to get you started:

  • Richard Peck: A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, Fair Weather, The Teacher’s Funeral
  • Sharon Creech: Bloomability, Chasing Redbird, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
  • Kate DiCamillo: Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux
  • Frank Cottrell Boyce: Millions, Framed, Cosmic
  • Cornelia Funke: The Thief Lord, Inkheart, Inkspell, Dragon Rider
  • Roald Dahl: Boy, Going Solo, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Paula Danziger: P.S. Longer Letter Later, Remember Me to Harold Square
  • Meg Cabot: The Princess Diaries series
  • Susan Fletcher: Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, Dragon Chronicles series
  • Jennifer Holm: Our Only May Amelia, Boston Jane

Check the reviews category here to read more about many of these books. And don’t forget to send in your comments so I can add your favorite authors to the list.

Structuring A Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting

By chance, both of my book clubs with my daughters were scheduled for the same week recently. Typically I don’t like several evening events scheduled for the same week, but this provoked just the opposite reaction in me. I was really looking forward to two evenings of fun during the week without the worries of events I “had to” attend.

I think that’s because book club is about so much more than the books. Both of my groups follow a similar format. We start off with pure socializing time where the girls head off for a play room and the moms congregate in the kitchen. For the mom’s that usually means conversation time about what our daughter’s are experiencing at home or school and to get advice from the others in our group. We also talk about our work and volunteering jobs as well as family issues. Over the years we’ve supported each other when one of us has gone through breast cancer treatment, the death of a parent or other life struggles.

After social time comes dinner and more socializing. We’re still in separate groups of girls and moms, and I find this is when we start to share ideas about the book we read with our peer groups; usually it’s something the moms don’t want their daughters to hear and vice versa. It’s a way we have of taking the pulse of what others thought before we settle into our group discussion.

When the group finally gets together, we sit in a circle, but we don’t necessarily voice our opinions by taking turns. The hostesses usually lead the discussion by starting off with a  question or two, and then one topic often leads into another. For instance, our recent discussion on The Crucible started with the beliefs of early American settlers, and several girls expressed amazement that people then so readily believed charges of witchcraft. But we quickly morphed into talk about how “witch hunts” can happen in general, and several people contributed fairly recent examples. When we modernized the idea, it was easier for everyone to see how a witch hunt mentality can take hold of even sensible people.

Interaction between group members is what makes this part so much fun. One idea leads to another leads to another. We usually say goodnight reluctantly, all of us aware that the alarm rings early in the morning.

Do you have things that you find work particularly well for your group or a structure you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments about your club.

Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. Photo by David Kinder


Book Review: Stolen Voices, Edited by Zlata Filipovic and Melanie Challenger

stolenvoices.jpegMy seventh-grade daughter, Catherine, and I read this collection of war diaries from World War I to Iraq for our book club. We read it aloud together, and I’m glad we did. It gave us a chance to talk about the historical times each of the wars was set in and discuss the difficulties each of the diarists experienced. Particularly interesting were the views expressed by young people writing in Israel, Palestine and Iraq, since those conflicts are current events.

During our group discussion we sat in a circle and each of the girls and moms talked about the diary that lingered in their minds the most. Not surprisingly many of us chose Inge, a Jewish girl sent from Austria with her sister to stay with an English family during World War II. Since the girls are the same age Inge was when she was writing, the anguish she experienced at leaving her parents and her home resonated particularly with us.

I worried that the subject matter would be too intense for middle school girls, because some of the descriptions are particularly strong. And not all the diarists survive. But during our discussion it was quite clear that the girls had learned a lot from reading the book, and they highly recommended it for other girls their age. In fact, one of our members had not read Stolen Voices before our meeting, but said she couldn’t wait to start after hearing the rest of us talk about it.

I think Stolen Voices is an important book for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for the young. And I think it’s a great book to read with a group.

The diary of Zlata Filipovic, one of the editors, is also included in the collection. A line from one of her entries sums up the sentiment that was a common thread among many of the diarists, “I simply don’t understand it. Of course, I’m ‘young’ and politics are conducted by ‘grown-ups.’ But I think we ‘young’ would do it better. We certainly wouldn’t have chosen war….”

Click here to read an interview with Filipovic.

Millions: Read the Book, Watch the Movie

millions.jpegMy daughter, Madeleine, and I decided to try something different the last time we picked a book for her mother daughter book club. We chose to read Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce, which is also available to watch as a movie.

The girls are all in high school, and it’s sometimes a challenge for them to read books for pleasure, because they have so much reading homework for their classes. We thought they would look forward to watching a movie together and if one or two girls hadn’t found time to read the book they could still participate in the conversation.

We moved our meeting night to Sunday evening so we could gather earlier than usual and spend more time together. After dinner we settled in to have dessert and watch the movie, and when it was over we were able to talk about ways the book and the movie were different. We talked about changes we liked or disliked, and how the pictures of the characters we formed in our minds while reading lived up to the characters on screen.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Millions is about a boy named Damian who believes a bag of money that drops from the sky onto his playhouse came from God. He wants to give it to the poor, but his brother Anthony wants to invest it in real estate. The boys’ mother has recently died, and they and their father are adjusting to life without her. Millions blends humor, mystery, adventure and heart-warming moments all into one beautiful little book. And the movie is a wonderful adaption, probably in no small part because Boyce was the author of both.

Our blended book/movie talk was a nice break from our regular routine, and Millions was a good choice for both reading and watching. School Library Journal recommends it for 4th—8th grade, but I think it’s a story that anyone can love.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffin Recipe—Great to Serve at a Book Club Meeting

My kids love these muffins and so does everyone else I’ve cooked them for. They’re great to serve at your book club meeting, to have for breakfast, or to eat as an after-school snack. And they’re easy to make too, since everything mixes together in one bowl. Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1-2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tblsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add pumpkin, eggs and melted butter. Mix together and spoon into muffin tins lined with baking cups. Fill cups about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes.

A Youth Librarian Comments on The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Here’s a guest posting about The Higher Power of Lucky from the youth librarian at my local library:

As Cindy has described, over the past few weeks, the blog-o-sphere has been abuzz over The Higher Power of Lucky, this year’s winner of the prestigious 2007 Newbery Award. You may know the John Newbery Medal, the “Oscar” of juvenile fiction, is awarded “…to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” by a committee of librarians in the American Library Association (ALA). Shortly after the medal winner was announced, a few school librarians objected to the book’s use of the word ‘scrotum’ and the brouhaha was on.

As someone who HAS read the book, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. This is a sweet, humorous, and loving story about a young girl’s search for her place in the world. Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California, a small desert community of ramshackle buildings and eccentric neighbors. Since her mother died, she’s been cared for by her father’s former wife who came all the way from France to be her temporary guardian. But all Lucky wants is to find a permanent home. After eavesdropping on the community AA meetings, Lucky wonders if a “higher power,” whatever that is, could help her find a home. With the help of her dog, a good friend, and her neighbors, Lucky’s questions get answered.

So, what does this story have to do with the word scrotum? Not much. It’s a word, an anatomically correct word, which apparently pushes some people’s buttons. But in the grand scheme of this book, it was used in a humorous way to catch a child’s interest—kind of like the title of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series.

If you want to know more, Susan Patron, author of the book and a librarian with the LA Public Library, wrote a beautiful explanation, “‘Scrotum’ as a children’s literary tool,” published on Feb. 27, 2007 in the Los Angeles Times, of why she used the word scrotum.

And just so you know, I’m a youth librarian, employed by one of the best—Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, Oregon. Although I know that many of my colleagues share my feelings about this book, the comments above are just that…MY feelings and should not be construed as representing the opinion of my employers. That said, I am proud to say that MCL has a long history in support of Intellectual Freedom, the right of everyone to choose what to read, including books that use the word scrotum. MCL currently owns 65 copies of the book, all of which are checked out, and as of this moment, has 71 people waiting for a chance to read it. — susansm

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The Higher Power of Lucky cover imageThe buzz at mother daughter book club with my high school daughter a couple of weeks ago was about The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. A middle school brother of one of the girls has been assigned to read it in class. Several moms heard it was controversial, but none of us has read it. It’s a Newbery Honor Book that School Library Journal lists as appropriate for 4th through 6th graders.

As I understand it, much of the controversy centers around the use of the word “scrotum” in the first page of the book. There is also mention of 12-step programs and a higher power. Even the New York Times weighed in on the controversy, with an article (click here for link) about the uproar the book has created among school librarians who decide whether or not to shelve it at their schools.

Our girls are obviously older than the target audience, and they have certainly learned appropriate anatomical vocabulary in health class by now. But we’re considering reading it along with The Crucible for our April meeting and discussing what’s considered questionable for younger audiences. Stay tuned.

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