I haven’t blogged because I’ve been busy planning a mother-daughter book club. I was hung up on the guest list–not wanting to exclude anyone who wanted to be included, but worrying that it would get too big, worrying about different girls’ different reading levels, little sisters, etc. My new plan: I’ve simply invited every girl (and her mom) from Amelia’s fifth grade class and not any others. This way, they are all the same age, they all read on an advanced level, and no one is included or excluded on the basis of popularity.
I've been feeling like the library's best customer recently . . .
I assume that not all 12 girls and their mothers will want to participate, but a group with 12 mother-daughter pairs would be too large anyway. I think just 4 mother daughter pairs would be enough to make it a success, so I hope we will get that many.
If we were a well-established book group, I think it would be best to have the girls help choose the books. But since this group is just meeting for the summer at this point, and we need a jumpstart, I decided to just pick the six books (we will meet twice a month this summer) and let the girls and moms sign up if they were interested in reading those books.
I was surprised how difficult it was to pick the books! Each book needed:
1) to be relatively short, because we are meeting every two weeks
2) to provide good material for discussion
3) to be interesting and well-written
4) to be in print and available at both our local library and as a cheap paperback at Amazon
5) to include only material that was appropriate for 11 year olds to read and discuss.
(A further stumbling block was that my 11 yr old didn’t want me to plan any books she had already read–and she has read a lot. I ended up planning to read The Giver despite her wishes for new material).
The mix of books I came up with is heavily weighted toward realistic fiction; I struggled to find fantasy and science fiction books that met all of my criteria. These books have some challenging (yet appropriate) topics, but they won’t be a challenge in terms of reading skill. I figure it is better to err on the side of too easy rather than too difficult. These books are also a little on the heavy side–you can’t escape the “life is full of adversity” message in these books–I’m not sure if that comes along with the “good material for discussion” criterion or if the list turned out that way by chance.
Anyway, drumroll please! Here are the books I selected:
Listening for Lions Gloria Whelan (National Book Award winner), 2005
Rachel has lived in British East Africa her entire life, but when the flu epidemic of 1919 leaves her an orphan, she is forced to leave the only home she knows. Scheming neighbors coerce her into pretending to be their deceased daughter and send her to England. Can she undo their web of lies without hurting others? Will she ever be able to return to Africa? Will the mission hospital her parents worked so hard to build ever reopen?
Cousins Virginia Hamilton (Newbery Medal winner), 1990
Cammy loves her brother, mom and grandma—but has a father she doesn’t know and a cousin who is an enemy rather than a friend. She makes a terrible wish that she doesn’t intend to come true, but when it does, her family must help her learn how to heal.
The Breadwinner Deborah Ellis, 2000
Parvana lives under the harsh restrictions of Taliban rule with her family in Afghanistan. When her father disappears, Parvana is the only one able to get food for the family, but she must transform herself into a boy and risk her own safety to do it.
The Bomb Theodore Taylor (author of The Cay) , 1995
Sorry Rinamu lives on Bikini Atoll at the end of World War II. The Americans liberate Bikini from the Japanese, and life is good until the Americans select Bikini as the best place to conduct atomic tests. Sorry and his fellow Islanders are asked to relocate. Will they? Can the tests be stopped?
Out of the Dust (1998 Newbery Medal) Karen Hesse, 1997
This novel is written in free verse. Billie Jo lives in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Her father’s crops fail again and again, dust seeps into their food, their truck, and their piano, and it seems like things can’t get any worse. But then an accident takes her mother and baby brother and Billie Jo’s hands are left burnt and useless. How will she and her father find hope when life seems hopeless?
The Giver (1994 Newbery Medal) Lois Lowry, 1993
In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world. (Summary from Amazon.com)