Keeping in Touch With Your Children Through Books

July 22, 2008

My daughter Madeleine comes home tonight after spending nearly a month in Paris on an exchange program. We’ve been trading messages about the things she’s seeing and what she’s eating…and what she’s reading. She took along several books that are previous favorites of mine, including Creation by Gore Vidal. She told me she’s been trying to describe it to her host family as she makes her way through it, and she can’t wait to talk to me about it when she gets home.

Reading with your children is a great way to keep in touch, whether your kids live in the same house with you or have moved out on their own. In an interview with last year, author Frank Cottrell Boyce talked about books bridging the distance between him and his son who was living far away.

This is what he had to say, “I think sharing books with someone can be really special. I’ve got a son who is living in rural Peru at the moment on a project for poor people. And I’ve decided to read all the books that he is reading – he took great big fat books with him because he has no phone, no tv, no radio and is living with a family. So once a week we email each other about where we’re up to. It’s hard to keep up with him but I’m loving trying. That’s why I’m reading War and Peace. I don’t think we’ll ever forget doing that together.”

Books have always been a bridge between me and my daughters, connecting us in ways that would be difficult to connect otherwise. Summer is a great time to read to or with your kids, or even parallel to what they’re reading. I’m reading Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain to Catherine now, and when Madeleine comes home, we’ll be reading Lincoln by Gore Vidal. It’s not too late to get started on a good book to read together this summer.

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

July 5, 2008

My book club with my daughter, Catherine, just read The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. It’s a great science fiction title for young adult readers 14 and up. The issues are complex, and they make for a great discussion with mother-daughter book clubs. It brings up questions in bio-ethics for plants and medical ethics for humans. During our discussion we talked about what makes a person human, how much of who you are is your soul, and what would you do to save someone you love. It was very meaty and revealing of both the moms and the daughters. I highly recommend it for clubs with teen girls.

Here’s a review written by one of the girls in our book club. Here’s my review:

Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma she’s been in for over a year. She doesn’t remember anything about the accident that put her there or her life before, and she has many questions that aren’t being answered by her parents. As she begins to build a new life, she watches videos of her younger self and slowly her memory returns, bringing with it a horrible truth that she must address. Set some time in the future when the second woman has been elected U.S. President and a government-watch-agency determines how much medical care individuals can receive, The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a mystery that slowly unfolds while addressing major issues that should provide much to talk about in your mother daughter book club and compare the answers from the two generations. What makes us human? What would you do to save someone you love? Just because science makes something possible, are there reasons we shouldn’t do it anyway? Can parents adore their children too much?

Interview with Heather Vogel Frederick, Author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club Novels

July 5, 2008

I just posted an interview with Heather Vogel Frederick. Heather is the author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club, a delightful book about a fictional club that forms with middle school girls in Concord, Massachusetts. She’s also written The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, The Education of Patience GoodspeedSpy Mice and the series of books. Here’s an excerpt from the interview. To read the complete interview, click here.

You’ve written historical fiction, fantasy and current fiction. Why so many different styles?

HVF: They all seems to have connections to my life. There was the family connection with Patience. Spy Mice was an homage to my misspent youth, because I spent a lot of time watching spy-fi TV. The Mother-Daughter Book Club is set in my hometown of Concord, Massachusetts.

Do you feel a particular resonance with middle grade readers?

HVF: There’s this magic window for kids between eight or nine and maybe about 12 where you still have their attention before they get off into young adult and adult fiction. My books can be read by kids who are younger, they can be read by kids who are older, but I think there’s something about 11 year olds that’s great..

Why do you think it’s important to write for that age range?

HVF: There’s such a push in our world today to thrust our kids further than they need to be. Whether it’s in pop music or fashion or what they’re seeing in movies. I’m really whole heartedly for defending our kids, and maintaining that sense of purity that comes with childhood without being in such a rush to push them on. Let them still be kids.

I understand you have two sons. What inspired you to write a book about mother-daughter book clubs?

HVF: The spark for the idea was from my editor. She called me up one day and said there are mother-daughter book clubs all over the country and wouldn’t it be fun to write a book about one. You could set it in Concord, your home town and have the club read little women. It sounded great to me.

So how did you take the idea and make it into your own story?

HVF: I was one of three daughters. I mined our rich childhood vigorously. I had a world class mother too, so there are strong mother/daughter connections there. But it is at the height of irony that I wrote a book with a pink cover.

A List of Classic Books in Three Age Groups

July 1, 2008

If your mother-daughter book club doesn’t meet in the summer, this may be a good time for you to pick up a classic, either to read on your own or for a book club meeting scheduled for the fall. For most clubs, this is the one time of year you can devote to reading longer novels, and there may even be more time for moms and daughters to read a book together. This can be an advantage since many classics were written long ago and may not be as easy for young readers to grasp. Most titles will be readily available on the shelves of your library, where you’ll find yourself anyway if you’ve signed up for a summer reading program.

Here are some thoughts for classics in different age groups:

Younger readers

Caddie Woodlawn–Carol Ryrie Brink
Charlotte’s Web–E. B. White
Little House on the Prairie–Laura Ingalls Wilder
Matilda–Roald Dahl
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle–Betty MacDonald
The Boxcar Children–Edith Nesbitt
The Indian in the Cupboard–Lynne Reid Banks
The Secret Garden–Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Trumpet of the Swan–E. B. White
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz–L. Frank Baum

Middle Readers

A Wrinkle in Time–Madeleine L’Engle
Anne of Green Gables–L. M Montgomery
Little Women–Louisa May Alcott
Peter Pan–J. M. Barrie
The Call of the Wild–Jack London
The Hobbit–J. R. R. Tolkein
The Jungle Book–Rudyard Kipling
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–C. S. Lewis
To Kill a Mockingbird–Harper Lee
Treasure Island–Robert Louis Stevenson

Older Readers

A Tale of Two Cities–Charles Dickens
David Copperfield
–Charles Dickens
Dracula–Bram Stoker
Huckleberry Finn–Mark Twain
Jane Eyre–Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice–Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility–Jane Austen
The Count of Monte Cristo–Alexandre Dumas
The Hunchback of Notre Dame–Victor Hugo
Wuthering Heights–Emily Bronte