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The Making of My Book Club

Several months ago, I was approached by a favorite mom: She asked if I would start a book club. Her daughters are good readers and she thought they’d enjoy a book club at the library. She even volunteered to run it, if I didn’t want to. But of course, I did want to. If I had to pick a group of kids to work with, it would be school-aged children. Unfortunately, these kids are often too busy to come to the library other than to get books to complete assignments. So, while I really wanted to start a book club, I had to make sure my efforts wouldn’t be in vain.

I decided to try a “direct marketing” approach. I went through two years of summer reading lists, selecting kids who were active in summer reading and at the grade level I choose. I figure, I love getting things in the mail, so let me send each of these kids an invitation to join. And the results were terrific! I sent out 30 “you’re invited” flyers and about 16 kids responded. Other kids picked up the same flyer at the library. On the response portion of the flyer, I asked them to rank, in order, the best meeting times from those I offered. The nearly unanimous response was Saturday morning. Now that I had a group of interested kids and a time, I send postcards with the first meeting details.

That meeting was held Saturday, April 20 with 17 kids attending. During the meeting, we went over the rules (all three of them: respect one another, listen to one another, read the book). I explained how we’d meet once a month, and at that meeting discuss one book and the pick the book for our meeting two months from then. I also wrote this all out so they could show their parents. My handout also included “things to think about while you’re reading.” We then named our group (they voted on The Book Worms – though the Cookie Club was a close second due to the fact that I served cookies at the meeting). Each kid got the first book (to discuss at our May meeting) -- a paperback copy of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This is theirs to keep as a gift for joining the book club. Finally, I gave them a list of suggestions for our June meeting. And they picked our next book.

It all went well. Many of the girls (and it’s mostly girls) are talkative, but in a good way. There was lots of giggling too. And while there seem to be some leaders already, they weren’t too pushy--except when it came to deciding on the next book, and that’s my biggest concern.

I listed 13 books to choose from and I forgot to take one of them off the list – not because I think 13 is an unlucky number, but because I decided this one book might be too difficult (the group is comprised mostly of 3rd and 4th graders). As these things happen, that’s the book they selected. 

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff is a fine book. And I enjoyed reading it. But it is a tangle. The story takes place in a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent. Eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake-baking. During the course of the tale, Cady is sort of adopted by a man (the adoption can’t be finalized until the woman in charge of the adoption is sure they’re right for each other – that’s her Talent). Cady’s story gets a bit complicated: It involves a lost-luggage emporium, an old recipe for peanut butter, a family of children discovering their own Talents, and a Talent thief. But the story comes together well at the end, once you untangle the relationships.

Soon after I read A Tangle of Knots, I read a slightly similar story in premise: Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley. In this book, nearly everyone is remarkable, naturally. All except for Jane Doe (and her grandfather). Jane’s younger sister is a math genius, and her older brother paints photorealistic paintings. Their father writes best sellers, and their mother is the best architect ever. The town of Remarkable is celebrating the installation of a new bell tower, but not everything is going as planned and it’s up to unremarkable Jane to set things straight. As I was reading Remarkable, I thought, oh, I should take A Tangle of Knots off the list and replace it with this book. But, alas, I neglected to do that in time.

The kids will probably be just fine with A Tangle of Knots. I’ll make a handout drawing links and listing characters to make our discussion go smoothly, and I can even suggest to them Remarkable as a book we can read together for another time, or a book they can read on their own. The goal is to have fun reading and talking about the books. after all, and I want the kids to have some say in what they read.


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