Book Club Discussion: Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger

February 27, 2007


Last night twelve moms and daughters gathered for our February book club meeting. This is my book club with my younger daughter, Catherine, who is in 7th grade.

Our hostesses planned a lively evening with activity ideas from the book. Remember Me to Harold Square is about a high school boy from Wisconsin who spends six weeks one summer in New York City with friends of his parents, who have a high school daughter and a middle school son. The four parents have devised a six-week-long scavenger hunt for the kids to help them experience the best of the city and stay busy for the entire visit.

We started off with a mom-devised scavenger hunt that had all the girls working together to find the clues they needed to put together a message about their prize: a special English trifle for dessert. The game was quite a hit. When it was over we all enjoyed bagels with cream cheese, lox, and veggies—one of the many meals the book’s characters tried during their adventure.

This book generated lots of great discussion. We talked about whether it’s an advantage for girls to be friends with boys before they start to date them and the difficulties of getting seriously romantically involved with someone when you’re still young. None of the daughters are dating yet, or even plan to, so it was a good way to talk about dating issues theoretically.

We all liked the idea of creating a summer scavenger hunt for museums, parks, food, etc. in our city. The moms voted to put together a list for the girls by the end of school so they can plan summer time together.

Our next selection: Stolen Voices by Zlata Filipovic. We’ve been to two separate readings in Portland with Zlata and are excited to dive into her newest book.

Easy Recipe—Only Three Ingredients for These Peanut Butter Cookies

February 24, 2007

If you like peanut butter, you’ll probably like these cookies. And this has to be the easiest cookie recipe I’ve ever made. I got if from a vice-principal at my daughter’s middle school and tried it out on my writer’s group last night. It was a universal hit.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Mix all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Roll into small balls and place on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 – 9 minutes.

These are really yummy, and I even had a couple with my coffee this morning.

Book club discussion: Driver’s Ed by Caroline Cooney

February 23, 2007


Mother Daugther Book Club with my oldest daughter, Madeleine, was last night. It was a bit chaotic, with girls and moms arriving late and leaving early because of sports and homework commitments, but none of us wants to miss a meeting unless there’s no other option. Our group has been together for more than six years, and we often don’t see each other outside of book club.

Our selection this month was Driver’s Ed by Caroline B. Cooney. All the girls have either recently gotten their licenses or drive with a permit, so they had strong opinions about both the teens and adults in the book.

One mom described the book as having a storyline perfect for “an after-school special.” It involves a senator’s son, a girl from an unconventional household, teen love, a burned-out teacher, death, a horrible secret and facing the consequences of one’s actions.

Most of our book club members thought the characters in Driver’s Ed were two dimensional, and everyone agreed that both moms in the book were unrealistically portrayed. But we had a good discussion about actions that turn out to have dire consequences even though they seem harmless when you choose to do them. And we all got a chance to talk about our current experiences, with moms weighing in on frightening times in the passenger seat and daughters talking about parents “freaking them out” and making them nervous behind the wheel. It was fun to realize that most of our stories were similar.

I would recommend reading Driver’s Ed for the discussion it prompts rather than for the book itself.

Interview with Laura Whitcomb

February 22, 2007


Our mother daughter book club with Laura Whitcomb (back left).

I interviewed Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light, for last week. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Q: The subject matter of A Certain Slant of Light is a bit mature, and it’s recommended for an audience of 9th grade and older. Did you have a young adult audience in mind when you were writing?

LW: “Actually I was just trying to write the best story I could think of in the best way I could tell it. My agent sent it out to both adult and YA editors. After it sold as YA, it made sense to me – even though the ghosts were in their twenties when they died, the bodies they took over were teens. The characters had to deal with teen life.”

Q: You’ve attended a Mother Daughter Book Club meeting where A Certain Slant of Light was being discussed. What was it like hearing readers’ comments about your book?

LW: “It’s always interesting to hear people talk about something you wrote. I was impressed by the sophistication of the questions and comments from both generations. It feels great to have your work be the fuel for such lively conversation.”

For complete text check out her interview on

I met Whitcomb a year ago when she came to a meeting for my Mother Daughter Book Club. At first it was a little awkward for everyone, the group members because we had never talked about a book with the person who had written it before, and Laura because she hadn’t attended a meeting where people she didn’t know were talking about her book. But Laura was truly charming and before long we got comfortable and started chatting about the characters and the story line. It was very interesting to hear her reasoning behind certain plot lines and to get a feeling for her idea of the characters’ personalities.

I’ve since heard Laura speak at the monthly meeting for Willamette Writers about her non-fiction book as well as A Certain Slant of Light and I continue to be impressed by her down-to-earth demeanor and her approachability.

It’s definitely worthwhile to see if there are children’s or young adult authors in your area who would attend a meeting to discuss the book with your group members. Some authors may not be open to this, but you may be surprised how accessible many of them are.