January 30, 2009
Whether your mother-daughter book club has been meeting for years or if it’s just getting started, you can probably have fun with a get to know you game. Sometimes, the people we think we know best surprise us the most with answers to a series of questions. Here’s how to play:
Mix moms and daughters in pairs and have them interview each other. Each can spend about five minutes finding out favorites of the other: favorite color, movie, book, food, dessert, etc. Other questions could include: Where were you born? What is your middle name? How many houses have you lived in? What was the address of your first house? What would others be surprised to learn about you? Then you can take turns introducing each other to the rest of the group.
January 28, 2009
Readers who also receive my newsletter will know how much I like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, as I reviewed it in this month’s newsletter and recommended it as a gift in December. Here’s the review for blog readers not signed up for my quarterly newsletter. Here’s the review:
Arnold Spirit is a freshman at a high school on the Spokane Indian reservation in northwest Washington. All his life he’s been picked on because he looks strange: his head is large because he was born with hydrocephalus, he has seizures, too many teeth and he wears thick glasses. But Arnold is very smart, and he likes drawing. When a teacher counsels him to find hope in the form of attending a white high school off the reservation, Arnold makes a bold move toward a future he didn’t think was possible.
Through Arnold’s eyes we see the problems faced by many on modern Indian reservations: alcoholism, poverty, lack of opportunity and despair. Yet, we also find acceptance of the shortcomings among those we call family and a way to follow your dreams without denigrating those you leave behind.
Arnold’s story is for anyone who chooses to follow a different path than the one clearly laid out before him. Issues of race, friendship, love and community should provide great discussion for mother-daughter book club members.
After reading this book I look forward to discovering other titles by Sherman Alexie, including The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues, and Flight: A Novel.
January 27, 2009
Last week Madeleine and I hosted our mother-daughter book club for the last time with the group as it is! As our daughters are graduating from high school in a few months, after June we won’t be having regular meetings the way we have for the last eight years. Happily the moms all vowed to keep our book club going with the older generation, but it won’t be the same without our daughters at the meetings.
We had a great time catching up; most of us had not seen each other since before Christmas. I cooked a pot roast and added turnips, parsnips, potatoes and carrot. It was easy to accommodate our vegetarian member with a couple of baked potatoes and toppings. Such great comfort food for cold winter meetings.
We ate gingerbread cream cheese cupcakes for desert and talked about Jane and her times. Since we had paired up to chose different Jane Austen books, we talked a little first about her life in general. We learned that although she wrote Northanger Abby and Persuasion before Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion was published after the other two and Northanger Abby was published after her death. Mansfield Park, a sober work, may have reflected her own sober feelings of being unmarried and in her 30s during the English society of her time.
Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were the favorites of the group. I read Mansfield Park and Northanger Abby, then I picked up Emma. I had so much fun reading it I’m looking forward to revisiting the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow again.
Next up, our group is reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I don’t expect it to be funny, based on the movie trailer, but I hear it’s a very well written book and I’m looking forward to reading it.
January 23, 2009
Madeleine and I will be reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates for our book club next month. While we have no set date to see the movie that opens today as a group, we would like to make it a book/movie combo experience. Just last year that wouldn’t have been possible, since the movie is rated R, but this year all our daughters are 17 and 18.
Here’s the link to the movie’s official Web site where you can watch a trailer and find other information: http://www.revolutionaryroadmovie.com/.
I’ve heard wonderful things about Richard Yates’s novels, and I look forward to discovering this new author for me.
January 21, 2009
Mother-daughter book club mom Tamie Osterloh from Council Bluffs, Iowa, recently wrote in to share ideas for activities her group has paired with books they have read. Tamie’s club started just two years ago this month, and they have been on the go since. Here are some of the books they have read along with activities they’ve done to go along with the book:
- Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer—we went to the rink and went roller skating together.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett—we visited the botanical garden in town.
- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt—we went on a nature hike and had a sunset picnic together.
- Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists–Mary Cassatt by Mike Venezia—we visited the art museum in town to see one of Mary’s paintings.
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen—together we met for a bike ride on the bike trail close to our house (which is a converted rail road line and isolated).
- Yankee Doodle Gals by Amy Nathan and Eileen Collins—we toured the Strategic Air Command (SAC) museum and the girls got to ride on a flight simulator.
- Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Dodge—we all plan to meet at the end of this month to ice skate together.
Thanks Tamie for sending in your great suggestions.
January 19, 2009
The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater is a treat for mystery lovers, magic lovers and just general book lovers. Daphna and her twin Dexter are as different as twins can be. Daphna loves books and volunteers reading at the local retirement home. Dex skips school and doesn’t want to be anywhere near a bookstore. This puts Dex at odds with his father too, who finds and sells rare books.
But both twins are put out by their dad’s (Milton) latest scouting trip, which kept him away from home for six weeks in the summer. Their mother died when they were young, and they are cared for by her best friend. The mystery really starts when the dad returns home the day before the twins’ 13th birthday, and Daphna takes him to see the labrynthine bookstore she has discovered over the summer. Milton hopes to sell a strange book he has discovered, and when Milton shows his book to the old man who owns the store, Daphna hides behind a stack of books to watch what happens. She is surprised to see that her dad doesn’t negotiate at all. In fact, he gives the book away after agreeing that Daphna herself will show up the next day to work as the old man’s assistant.
Why did her father give away a book he wanted to sell? Why did he agree for her to work as an assistant, starting on her birthday? What is the significance of this book of nonsense that her father found?
Readers will follow the twins as they overcome their differences and work to solve the mystery, which leads back to their mother’s past and threatens their future. My daughter Catherine picked this book up the day it came in and didn’t put it down until she finished it. The mystery kept her turning the pages. And while there is some violence towards the end of the story, it should be appropriate for readers aged 10 and above.
January 16, 2009
Eleven-year-old Ignatius is the youngest of five sons, which is why everyone just calls him Brother. Growing up on a ranch in slightly populated Malhuer County, Oregon, Brother feels he has always been overshadowed by his older more capable brothers, who have always been around to do the hard work of ranching along with his dad and grandfather. But now his dad is leaving, his military reserve unit called to serve 14 months in Iraq, and the older sons are either away at boarding school, college or in the military as well. Brother will have to work with his grandparents to make the ranch run smoothly while his dad is gone.
Brother works hard at the ranch, but he’s not sure that ranching will be his life’s calling. He has always had a tender heart for animals that die, and working to keep things together will test him in ways he can’t imagine. Yet he’s determined to show everyone in the family that he can be counted on to hold things together while they are gone.
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry reveals the heart of today’s ranching communities and the values that keep those communities together: the importance of family, the church, love of and service to our country, and neighbors pulling together during times of crisis. Along the way Brother finds out what’s most important to him, and how to find his own path while honoring his family members’ commitments.
Even for those unconnected to the land, the story will resonate with it’s portrait of a boy working to go where his heart tells him. The story has appeal for both middle-grade readers in fourth grade and up, as well as adults.
January 12, 2009
Last night Catherine and I went to our mother-daughter book club meeting at Show-Ling and Jaeda’s house. We had all read Ireland, by Frank Delaney. At 560 pages it weighed in (literally) as more than the books we usually read, but we’ve been knowing our book choice since early November so we had a bit of time to read it.
Show-Ling made cabbage soup and baked potatoes with toppings as an Irish-themed-sort of dinner. Then we had yummy homemade apple pie for dessert. We all had so much to catch up on since we hadn’t seen each other for nearly two months that it was hard to break away and talk about the book.
Jaeda had a list of questions she wanted us all to answer during the discussion, and we went around in a circle talking about the two story lines that appear in Ireland: that of the storyteller’s tales of Irish history, and that of Ronan’s own story.
Most of us liked learning more about the history of Ireland. And I think a lot of us would love to be able to hear those tales as told through a storyteller like the one in the book. Listening to Ireland as an audiobook might enhance its enjoyment.
While many of were enchanted with Ronan’s story, we were less forgiving of how the novel progressed along those lines. We did discuss how Ronan makes a somewhat classical heroe’s journey throughout the novel, moving from childhood to adulthood along the way. But we didn’t like the secrecy that surrounded so much of his life and circumstances. I won’t spoil the plot with more details, as the readers know all along that something mysterious is happening in the background as Ronan searches for the storyteller through so many years.
All in all I would rate Ireland a good novel for readers in high school and older, but I don’t recommend it for a mother-daughter book club. While clubs can tackle longer choices, they don’t work in most situations, when clubs are meeting monthly or even every six weeks.