Shannon Hale’s Website

February 28, 2008

Fans of Shannon Hale’s books (Goose Girl, Enna Burning, Book of a Thousand Days) will find a lot to like on her website, where she shares great information about her books and herself. Just like with a DVD, you can find deleted scenes from several of her titles and discussion guides. There are also quizzes for the books that may be fun for your mother-daughter book club to take. Set it up like a Jeopardy quiz show with a bell to ring when someone has the answer.

Also on Shannon’s site is a list of her book recommendations broken down by categories like fantasy, adult, younger readers, and recommendations by her husband. Here’s the link to The Official Site of Shannon Hale so you can check it out.

Tell Me What You’d Like to See on Mother Daughter Book

February 26, 2008

I’ll soon be redesigning some of the features at Before I do, I’d like to hear from readers about what you’d like to see more of on the site or what you think would make a good addition.

  • Would you like more recipes?
  • A reader’s suggestion forum?
  • The ability to subscribe when changes are posted?
  • A monthly newsletter?
  • More links to other resources?

Please  send any suggestions to

Cindy Hudson. Photo by Jill Greenseth

Book Review and Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting Idea: Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens

February 21, 2008

Here’s an interesting and fresh idea that was passed on recently from a mom who’s in a book club with girls ranging in age from 12 to 15.

“One of the girls (in her group) likes drama a lot and has been reading a playwright she likes and whose plays she’s been in. We thought it would be fun to buy an anthology of one-acts, assign parts to read out loud like a readers theater, and talk about the stories. Most of us have been to theater performances but weren’t familiar with what a play looks like on the page.

“The anthology we read is Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens by Christina Hamlett, and we’re now completely hooked! This is a collection of 15 one-act comedies and each one is short enough that we could read several of them in each meeting. It was great fun to assign roles to one another, plus this experience was invaluable in terms of encouraging our daughters to speak clearly, enunciate, experiment with different accents…and not trample on each other’s lines! It was also a wonderful spotlight on our young actress in the group who led discussions afterwards about what it’s like to be in a play.

“The girls all loved “Lessons of Oz” which is a humorous take on what happens when Dorothy comes back and becomes a best selling author but her pals from Oz aren’t so happy with the gifts they received. With “Lessons of Oz” fresh in our heads now, we’re thinking of going as a group to see “Wicked” when it plays here. I recommend playreading to mother and daughter clubs who are looking for something fresh and fun to do and Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens is a great introduction to the world of the theater.”

What an interesting idea to liven up a meeting and let both girls and moms try something new. If you’d like to read the full reviews from Inez of Arizona and Marci of Hawaii, here’s the link.


Book Review: Amazing Grace by Megan Shull

February 19, 2008


Last night Catherine and I met with her book club (8th grade girls) to talk about Amazing Grace by Megan Shull. Amazing Grace is the story of a teenage tennis whiz/model/endorsement celebrity who wants to get off the roller coaster that her life has become and live the life of a normal 15-year-old. So her mom arranges for her to be whisked off to a remote island in Alaska to live with a friend under an assumed name for a few months until she can decide how she wants to continue.

Discussion centered around these questions:

  • How does Grace’s story of wanting to leave the celebrity behind strike you in relation to real-life celebrity stories of problems with alcohol and other issues?
  • What did you think about Grace’s romantic relationship with Teague?
  • What did you think of the advice Grace received from Theona?
  • Do you think you’d like to live in an isolated small town?
  • How do you think Grace should have handled herself at the party where she drank alcohol?

While no one in our group particularly liked the book, we didn’t dislike it either. Mostly we felt the characters weren’t developed well enough for us to know enough about them to understand them. We didn’t get a feel for the people or things they liked or disliked. But our discussion about the issues in the book was very interesting. We talked about the current events and woes of young superstars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. We talked about the reasons that teenagers drink at parties even when they know they shouldn’t. We talked about the benefits of having someone to talk to – like a counselor at school or someone else’s mom – when things in your life are difficult. We talked about romance, and being attracted to someone as well as being friends with someone you date. The girls and the moms both talked for over an hour, and we only stopped because it was getting late.

All in all it was a good book to discuss, and it was a good transition book for groups where the girls are about to enter high school. I’d love to hear from anyone else who read this book and has a different opinion or had a different experience.

Book Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

February 14, 2008


I just finished reading The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick, and I found it delightful. The structure of the fictional book club was very different from either of the clubs I’m in with my daughters, and I liked reading about how the girls and their moms worked to help their group gel. The book is told from the perspective of the four different girls who are in the club, Megan, Jess, Cassidy and Emma. The girls don’t all have good opinions of each other when their moms “force” them to create the group, and it’s very interesting to watch the girls and the moms deal with conflicts as the club continues. I found myself thinking, “I don’t know if I could ever handle conflict as directly at these girls and their moms do. And I liked the fact that the club chose one book to read for their first year, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. By reading a few chapters at a time, the book club members were able to go more in-depth into the book as they went along.

The stories relating events in Little Women to similarities in the lives of people in the group tied in really well, illustrating how timeless Little Women is. And I loved the setting—Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote. It made me want to pack my bags and drive through little towns all over New England.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club would be great to read with your own book club, because you can discuss similarities and differences between the fictional club and yours, as well as possibly find things you’d like to incorporate into your own group.

Book Review: The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

February 7, 2008


I just finished reading The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It’s been highly recommended from friends, and the recommendations are warranted. The Green Glass Sea is about two girls who live in Los Alamos in the closing days of World War II where their parents are working on a “gadget” that will help to win the war. It’s very top secret, and their community doesn’t even appear on a map. Dewey is a whiz at building gadgets of her own from scrounged parts that she finds in the dump and Suze is a budding artist. Neither fits into the inevitable hierarchy of kids in their community, and they don’t like each other either. But when they’re forced to spend time together, their relationship grows in ways that neither of them expect.

While the relationship story may be familiar, the way the girls interact and the way the story progresses is anything but formula. And the historical background of the story provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of Los Alamos and life in that desert complex. This book doesn’t shy away from tough issues dealing with family, friendship and the moral dilemma of the bomb. I highly recommend it.

Mardi Gras Fun for a Louisiana Expatriate

February 5, 2008

Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I grew up in Louisiana where Mardi Gras is a school holiday and revelers all over the state laissez les bon temps rouler if only for a day. I didn’t experience a New Orleans Mardi Gras until I started college, when my mom and I went together. Until then I only went to the parade that rolled through the little town of Addis, which always preceded the actual day of Mardi Gras by a week or two. I found out there’s nothing quite like Mardi Gras in New Orleans and every year I think of the fun going on not just in New Orleans, but all over southern Louisiana.

Even though I live far away from the merriment, I still love to celebrate a little every year. My daughters went to school this morning with beads to give away and wearing Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold. I’m wearing the colors too, and I wish you all a happy Mardi Gras


Cindy Hudson. Photo by Jill Greenseth

Book Review: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges

February 1, 2008


My daughter and I hosted the meeting for her high-school mother daughter book club a few days ago. We only host once a year, and it’s always in January. We switched to a lighter schedule when all the girls entered high school and more activities started claiming their time. So we try to make the most of the one meeting at our house each year.

We opted for a book/movie combination of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges. It was a great choice. It was interesting to compare and contrast the two, since both the book and the screenplay were written by Hedges. Here are some of the points that came up during our discussion.

1. The movie is a lot more sympathetic to the characters than the book. The characters in the book are gritty and flawed and repulsive and totally engaging as well as entirely believable. Most of the characters in the movie are nicer, and the plot line is nicer to them. Particularly to mama and Ellen, the teenaged sister. The exception is Mrs. Carver, who seems more neglectful of her children in the movie than in the book.

2. The extra characters in the book help to round out the story. We missed the presence of Gilbert’s two older siblings, Melanie, the receptionist in Mr. Carver’s insurance office, and the never-seen-but-talked-about deceased second-grade teacher.

3. Becky seemed older in the movie, which both girls and moms saw as a plus. In the book she’s 16, and the girls especially thought it was “gross” that she wanted to be with a 24-year-old man. (What a relief!)

4. Both the book and the movie were wonderful for very different reasons. Some of us preferred the movie to the book, and some of us were just the opposite. But most of us liked them both.

The biggest problem I had was deciding what to serve, as the book’s descriptions of mama’s eating habits were not very appetizing. In the end I decided it didn’t really matter what I served. There is so much talk in the book about food, that I figured anything I picked would work. So I opted for spaghetti with meat sauce, bread with butter and green salad. Madeleine made chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is charming to read and to watch, and I highly recommend it for high-school-aged readers and their moms.

Here’s my official review of the book:

The characters in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges are gritty and flawed and repulsive and totally engaging as well as entirely believable. It’s a great study of a young man seeking meaning for his life and trying to decide when he can put his own needs before the needs of a very dysfunctional family.

Gilbert’s day-to-day life in small-town Iowa is mind-numbingly realistic, and you can understand both his frustrations at the life he’s living and the limitations that keep him living it. Gilbert feels trapped by a family that needs him, and there is so much truth that goes unspoken between him and his mother and  his sisters it’s almost painful to read. Over and over Gilbert has to decide between doing what he wants to do and doing what his family needs him to do.

Since Gilbert’s father hanged himself in the family’s basement, his mother has not left the house and has become morbidly obese. His teen-aged brother is mentally disabled, and it falls to Gilbert to help him with most of his personal care. Tension is always present, but as long as Gilbert doesn’t think too much about his situation or analyze his prospects for the future, life can go on as before.

When a girl who is very different from anyone else Gilbert knows arrives on the scene, he begins to question everything in his life, with consequences both heart wrenching and hopeful. This is a great book to read in a mother-daughter book club of girls in 11th grade up or an adult book club and then to watch the movie. Comparing and contrasting the two is very interesting, particularly since author Peter Hedges also wrote the screenplay.