March 1, 2010
Have you ever thought of inviting someone other than the author of the book you read to your book club meeting? When you think about the topics covered in your book and who may be able to give you more information about them, you open up a world of possibilities for guests to invite. For instance, when the members of a mother-daughter book club near Chicago read the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, they invited a naturalist from a nearby forest preserve to attend their discussion. He brought a real, live owl, and was able to talk about owl habits and habitats.
Why would you want to bring in an expert? One reason is to learn more about a topic you found interesting when reading your book. It’s also a way to liven up your normal routine every now and then as well as keep your book club meetings dynamic. And there are typically many more experts to be found who can address a topic from your book than there are authors you can get in touch with.
A club in Arizona found that to be true when they read The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. Wharton died in 1937, but her words continue to inspire readers in many ways. The book club moms and girls took a topic from the book, formal manners popular in the late 1800s, and turned it into an opportunity to invite someone to their meeting who was an expert on manners. At their group meeting the girls and moms organized a formal tea party, and their guest had them play games that helped them learn manners, including how to set a formal table and how to introduce one another properly. Everyone in the group loved the meeting, and it brought more depth to the stories they had read.
Here are a few ideas for other book/expert match ups to help you get started on your own brainstorming exercise:
- Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce—the curator of a local art museum
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George—someone who can teach wilderness survival skills
- Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang—a history teacher who can talk about China’s Cultural Revolution
More ideas for how to find experts and invite them to your meetings can be found in Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs.
Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs
February 4, 2010
Booklist is a great source for finding reviews on all kinds of books. The magazine publishes a blog called Book Group Buzz that’s worth checking out occasionally to see what they are recommending. Recently, I cam across this post on how to use book reviews in your book club.
To this list I’ll add my thoughts. When I’m looking for a book to recommend to any of my reading groups (both mother-daughter book clubs and a discussion group I’m in with my husband), I get recommendations from book store personnel or librarians. I look at book reviews in magazines and newspapers. Then I start to look for reviews online. I post my own reviews to several sites in addition to printing them here. Those are the sites I also check out: Amazon.com, Powells.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com, and GoodReads.com. I look for the best reviews and the worst. The best help me get a feeling for what the book is about. The worst reviews help me see what people don’t like about it. Even if there are lots of negative reviews, it doesn’t mean I won’t choose that book. It depends on what the reviewer says about why he didn’t like it.
I can easily see how Booklist’s suggestions for using reviews to help your book club choose a book and discuss it can be helpful.
January 27, 2010
I’ve recently discovered the LitLovers website and blog, and I have found both to have lots of helpful information for book clubs. Today, for instance, the conversation is titled Old Wine in New Bottles and it’s about sequels or prequels to classics written by new authors. While the books in this post are mostly for adults or those in high school, in general there are lots of good ideas about book club activities, food and more. I’m adding a permanent link to my blog here and plan to visit frequently.
October 20, 2009
Emma, Jess, Megan and Cassidy are back for another year of reading in their mother-daughter book club in Heather Vogel Frederick’s new book, Dear Pen Pal. Cracking this third book in the mother-daughter book club series is like reconnecting with old friends. The girls are in eighth grade this year, and they’ve learned a lot about friendship and family relationships.
In their ever-evolving lives, as it is with most of us, just when they figure out how to handle one challenge, another pops up. This time the challenges include dealing with a mean-spirited boarding school roommate, changing family dynamics when new family members move in and others move out, and navigating relationships with boys.
The girls are reading Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, and Frederick once again seamlessly weaves in storylines that somewhat match those of Webster’s classic. The girls and moms learn fun facts about Jean Webster as they gather for book club discussions. The book club members also connect with a pen pal club in Gopher Hole, Wyoming, and it’s fun to read little snippets about the lives of these new girls and their moms through their letters.
I can’t wait to see what the whole gang will be up to in the fourth book of the series when the girls start high school. I highly recommend this whole series for members of mother-daughter book clubs with girls who are 9 to 13.
P.S.—Reading Dear Pen Pal got me to thinking that real life mother-daughter book clubs may enjoy connecting with pen pals too. It seems like a fun way to learn about girls and moms in a different part of the country. So I’ve started a pen pal registry at Mother Daughter Book Club.com, where club members can sign up if they wish to meet members of another club.
See the website page or my previous blog posting for all the details. You can also read what Heather Vogel Frederick has to say on the topic at her blog.
April 8, 2009
April is National Poetry Month, and it’s a good time for mother-daughter book clubs to consider selecting poetry for a meeting.
There are many ways you can enhance a book club poetry meeting to extend to the whole family. My book club chose to read poetry for a month a few years ago, and everyone in the family got into the act. First, we all headed to our local library to pick out books of poetry that we wanted to read (in addition to our assigned book). My husband and I went for some of the classic poets that we read when we were younger, because we wanted to remind ourselves of some of our past favorites. We chose Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and others. We also added a few poets we weren’t familiar with, like Langston Hughes.
Our daughters both chose books with poetry that would make them laugh. They liked Jack Prelutsky’s A Pizza the Size of the Sun, and It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles. We took turns reading our favorites out loud over the dinner table each night.
We also tried our hand at writing poetry. I can’t say that anything profound came out of our efforts, but it was a great creative endeavor, and we wrote poems we could be proud of. When it came time for our group meeting, we had a great time reading some of our favorite poems out loud and sharing some of the work we had written as well.
Check out some of these titles of poetry that kids may enjoy if you plan to have a poetry meeting of your own:
• Kenn Nesbitt—Revenge of the Lunch Ladies, My Hippo Has Hiccups: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up, and several other collections of poetry.
• Jack Prelutsky—A Pizza the Size of the Sun and It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, plus more titles of poetry.
• Robert Louis Stevenson—A Child’s Garden of Verses.
• Emily Dickinson—The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.
March 12, 2009
Looking for an idea to liven up your mother-daughter book club meetings? Here’s a bit of inspiration from Kate Levin, who is in a book club with her teen daughter in New York. Kate says:
“We found out that a professional production of Our Town is opening here, so we read the play and got tickets to see it (using a group discount). Although we have lots of theater possibilities here in New York, this kind of opportunity is certainly possible elsewhere, since there’s lots of great professional theaters all over the country (this production of Our Town originated in Chicago, actually). People could also see what’s being performed at the local colleges as well. Usually schedules are published in advance, so people could see what’s coming up and plan ahead (which is what we did).”
To Kate’s comments I’ll add a few of my own. Some of our most memorable mother-daughter book club meetings have been the times we have tied our book into another activity: seeing a play, going to a movie, visiting a museum. The extra event helped us get another perspective on what we read and enriched the discussion we had afterward. No matter the age of your girls, you can probably find something that fits just right for them. Theater is good for younger girls too, and you can check local children’s theater productions up to a year in advance to see what they may have in store for a season.
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 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.