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Fun Ideas from Kids' Book Clubs

We’re pleased to share these terrific activity and recipe ideas from youth book clubs across the country. Please check back frequently, and if your book club has enjoyed an activity or recipe, please let us know!

Spidery Snacks

After discussing Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, the second and third graders in the Lit Blitz Book Club of Hoschton, Georgia, made and gobbled down their own "spiders."  Facilitator Pam Freed says this snack is easy to make and one of her favorites.

Fern's Spider Cakes

Pre-packaged chocolate cupcakes - 1 per child (Drake's Ring Dings work well)
Black string licorice, cut into 3-inch pieces - eight 3-inch pieces per child
Chocolate icing
Brown M&M's - 2 per child

Unwrap packaged cupcakes. Push four licorice pieces into either side of the cakes to look like the eight spider legs. Apply two dots of icing on the top of the cake, and stick on the brown M&M's to look like eyes. Enjoy!  

Pick a Theme!

A monthly reading theme can generate excitement around topics, holidays and other special events, and provide an opportunity for your club to plan field trips and related activities. Let these book club “theme” ideas inspire you!

From the Margaret Mace School Book Club, North Wildwood, New Jersey:

Members
Students in grades 4-8, members of the faculty and staff, parents, relatives, and community members

Selecting Themes
With input from members on topics of interests, facilitator Deborah Martinelli creates a list of titles accompanied by descriptions.  After discussion, members vote on the theme and accompanying book the group will pursue.

Selecting themes gives groups flexibility in choosing titles, especially helpful when the ages of group members vary widely.  Martinelli explains, “If the interests of the older and younger readers differ greatly, we split the group, each selects its own texts, and the adults participate in the group of their choice.”

Favorite Themes

World War II: A Child's Perspective
After reading A Boy at War by Harry Mazer (Scholastic, 2003), the group visited the Naval Air Museum, a training facility for Navy pilots during the war, and the U.S. Coast Guard Station, both in Cape May.

“Our club explored the effects of World War II in our county of Cape May, New Jersey,” says facilitator Deborah Martinelli. “Both facilities we visited actively guarded our coasts throughout the war. Members of our club were able to sit in planes and board different vessels housed at each facility. Through the information provided by our gracious guides, the students learned first-hand accounts of the part played by these facilities during WWII.”

Out of This World: The Influence of Star Wars
After reading The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film by J.W.Rinzler (Del Ray, 2007), the group visited the Star Wars exhibit at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute.

“The exhibit assembled by George Lucas was nothing short of mesmerizing,” says Martinelli. “The members of our club examined all things ‘Star Wars’: the actual scale models used in the films, the science of robotics, and the costumes and figures of their favorite characters. The trip was a fitting illustration of our reading.”

From the Backyard Book Club at the Lincoln Heritage Public Library in Dale, Indiana

Members
9 students, grades 2-5

Seleting Themes
Facilitator Rebecca Rau selects themes related to the seasons, holidays, or relevant to the daily lives of members (such as friendship).  Each member then selects a title related to the theme to readindependently, and  shares information about tthe book at the start of the next meeting.

A variety of reading levels and interests was making it difficult to select one book that was appropriate for all members, and acordint to Rau, this method proved successful. “It works well to choose a theme, and to let group members choose their own books within that theme,” says Rau.

Favorite Themes

Friendship

        Selected Books   
        Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case by Donald J. Sobol
        Jack and the Leprechaun by Ivan Robertson and Katy Bratun
        Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
        Best Friend Emma by Sally Warner and Jamie Harper
        Leo, Zack, and Emmie Together Again by Amy Ehrlich and Steven Kellogg

“Many children chose books involving friendship that came about in the springtime, so we did a flower mosaic craft activity,” says Rau.  “The children traced a die-cut flower and cut out small pieces of colored paper.  They then built their picture around the flower, creating mosaic suns and other shapes.”

Fall

     
Selected Books
     Clifford's Halloween by Norman Bridwell
     Boo…and I mean it! (Junie B., First Grader) by Barbara Park
     Makeup Mayhem by Kim Ostrow and Jim Durk
     Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate Dicamillo and Chris Van Dusen
     A Happy Halloween for Mr. and Mrs. Bumba by Pearl Augusta Harwood       

“In honor of Halloween, we played Go Away Green Monster Bowling with pins made out of soda bottles, and made Halloween paperbag puppets with yarn, markers, sequins, and other supplies," says Rau.   "We also played Author Bingo using facts about the children's authors they had read."

Learning about Vietnam

At the William Jeanes Memorial Library in Lafeyette Hills, Pennsylvania, the fourth- and fifth-graders of the Bookworms Book Club learned about Vietnamese culture when they discussed Carolyn Marsden’s When Heaven Fell, about a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl whose American aunt comes to visit.  Book club facilitator Beth Hargis shared her activities and crafts with us:

Activities

“We played traditional Vietnamese games, including an adaptation of ‘Bamboo Jacks,’ the game of squares, and Cat and Mouse Game. [See www.vietnamtourism.com for directions for games and other useful information.]  We also invited a local Vietnamese resident to talk with us about her country.  She brought in some Vietnamese food for the students to sample and taught us some Vietnamese words.”

Crafts

“We made jewelry with silver, gold and red beads because jewelry-making is a popular handicraft in Vietnam.  We also made paper fans, because in the book, Cuc’s mother sold paper fans in her shop.”

Harry Potter Treats for Muggles and Wizards

We’re savorimg Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and we've been hearing from book club members and readers across the country with a renewed interest in all things “Harry Potter”.

We asked Harry Potter aficionado Amber Lowery, who facilitates the Leaky Cauldron Book Club at the Lakeview Public Library in Peoria, Illinois, for treats to serve with a Harry Potter discussion. Lowery shared a few recipes from Magical Munchies for Muggles to Make, the cookbook she compiled for the library’s book clubs.

For more terrific recipes from the pages of the Harry Potter books, and to learn how to make sorting hats, potions, parchment, and more, see the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince chapter in The Kids' Book Club Book. Also see our recipe for Treacle Tart in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone chapter of The Book Club Cookbook.

Dandelion Juice

Hagrid offers Harry dandelion juice at his hut when Harry is grieving at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and dandelion juice appears in other Harry Potter books as well.

4 cups of pineapple-orange juice (or orange or grapefruit juice)
1 liter bottle of ginger ale

Pour juice into pitcher. Add bottle of ginger ale. Serve right away!

Yield:  8 (8-ounce) servings

 

Pumpkin Pasties

Lowery says, “Pumpkin pasties are a treat that Harry and Ron frequently enjoy on their
trips on the Hogwarts express. In the first year, after noticing that Ron only has sandwiches that he doesn't like, Harry offers him a pasty.”

Note:  If you’re not using homemade piecrust, make sure to buy refrigerated – not frozen – piecrusts.  Unlike frozen piecrusts, which generally come pre-formed in a pie tin, refrigerated piecrusts come rolled in a box.  Allow the refrigerated piecrusts to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before unrolling.

This recipe calls for pre-mixed pumpkin pie filling.  If you’d prefer to make homemade pumpkin pie filling follow the directions on a can of plain pumpkin.

1 (15 ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts (see note)
1 can pumpkin pie filling (see note)
Sugar
Cinnamon
Water

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. On lightly floured surface, unroll one piecrust (it should be 12 inches in diameter, about 1/8 inch in thickness.  If necessary, roll dough to these dimensions.)  With cookie cutter or sharp knife, cut out six 4-1/2 inch circles.  Repeat with second crust.
  3. Spoon one tablespoon filling onto the center of each circle.   Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Brush edges of pastry with water. Fold pastry in half, and press on edges firmly to seal.  With a fork, press on sealed edges to make decorative design, being careful not to pierce the dough. Place pasties on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes or until pasties are golden.  Remove pasties to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  12 pasties

Panning for Gold in California

When they read Karen Cushman’s The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, about a young girl whose family relocates from Massachusetts to California during the Gold Rush, the Reading Maniacs mother daughter book club of Los Angeles, California, wanted to try some activities related to the book.  Mom Nancypanning for gold Zimble placed small gold sequins in a tin of sand and added water. The girls swirled the tin to get rid of the sand and water and keep the "gold".  “This was to simulate how hard it would be to find gold,” says Zimble. The moms and daughters discussed how gold was discovered, what it was worth, and how few people got rich -- and how much they lost -- while trying. 

Stinky Snacks

At Loudoun County’s Ashburn Library in Ashburn, Virginia, the Guys Read book club discussed Jon Scieszka's Knights of the Kitchen Table. Club coordinator Tony Carmack shared his menu for the meeting: 

“Since Jon Scieszka also wrote, The Stinky Cheese Man, we had a 'cheesey' theme, with Ritz crackers with cheese and a taste ‘dare.’ I brought some Limburger cheese and had the boys try that if they were brave enough.  Boy, did it stink. But once the rind was peeled away, it was fairly benign--even mild.”