Category Archives: book club

You are what you eat

What does the food you eat say about who you are?  The Reading Pros tackled this question and discussed What the World Eats by Peter Menzel at this month’s book club meeting.

Cover of "What the World Eats"

Cover of What the World Eats

We started out the meeting by sharing what we ate for breakfast.  Here are the results:

Bagel is clearly the winner this morning.

Some countries featured in this book have eating habits that are similar to ours (Mexico, China, and Australia were all mentioned) and others have very different customs (Chad was the most talked about here–they sometimes eat the same dish three times a day).

How much do you spend when you eat lunch out?  Maybe seven or eight dollars?  That’s more than the monthly food budget for people living in Chad!  We talked a lot about different traditions around the world and where we would most like to visit (China, Egypt and Chad topped the list).

Watching a video on how to open Ramune (a Japanese soda).

To end the meeting, we played a game about etiquette called “Don’t Gross out the World”.  It’s a fun, challenging game about eating habits in other countries.  Click here to play!

The snack for this meeting was difficult to narrow down–so so many options!  We had hummus with pita bread, carrots and cucumber, dates, and Kinder chocolate from Germany and fruit candies from Italy for dessert.

Thinking about planning your next trip around the country’s menu?  Here are a couple of suggestions from the Reading Pros:  go to Bahamas to try the dumplings, or Tanzania for the ugali.

Where would you go just to try the food?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!



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The Reading Pros: Wonderstruck

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When I’m planning a book club meeting, sometimes the book is so multifaceted and amazing that it’s difficult to figure out what we should do.  Wonderstruck is one of those books.  We only have an hour and a half to discuss the book and do some sort of activity.  So, for this meeting, should we create our own mini museums, like Ben does in the book?  Should we learn about New York City, where part of the book takes place?  Or, should we learn to sign our names using American Sign Language?  Perfect.

Two of the characters in Wonderstruck are deaf and sign language is featured prominently in the book.  What a great opportunity to learn a new language and gain a better understanding of deaf culture.  We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker for this meeting, Nancy Litchfield Thane.  Nancy has worked with hearing impaired students for thirty-two years.

She started out the meeting by showing us a picture of some teens having fun at an amusement park.  She asked if we could tell who was deaf in the picture.  Everyone had a different answer:  “she might be deaf because she’s covering her ears”, or “he might be deaf because he’s not throwing his hands up in the air like everyone else.”  It turns out, everyone in the picture was deaf.  It was a great way to demonstrate that it’s not always so easy to judge someone’s situation based on appearance.

Then, we took a spelling test from the perspective of someone who is hearing impaired.  The syllables seemed to blend together and all of us had a hard time determining exactly what was being said.  This was an effective way to really get a feeling for what it would be like to not be able to hear.

We learned to sign the alphabet and practiced signing our names.

Learning to sign the alphabet.

Referring to the alphabet hand out.

We also learned some animal signs, which was a lot of fun.  If you’re interested in learning some animal signs, check out this video:

We learned that most idioms in English (like, “let’s hit the road” or “dressed to the nines”) are “translated” into their meaning for sign language.  By this, I mean that you wouldn’t sign the idiom word for word, but instead you would get across the meaning (for example “let’s hit the road” would be signed as “let’s go”).

Nancy taught us another interesting thing about idioms.  ASL has it’s own sayings that wouldn’t make sense if you translated them directly into English.  For instance, “you missed the boat” or “you’re too late” is signed as “train-go sorry.”

Wonderstruck is one of my favorite books and this meeting has been one of the best so far.  Thank you, Nancy, for teaching us so much this afternoon!


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The Reading Pros Recap: The Penderwicks

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall has everything I’m looking for in a juvenile fiction book.  It is well-written and features a cast of characters who may sometimes do or say the wrong thing, but their hearts are in the right place.  The book harkens back to the classics…I’ve heard that Jeanne Birdsall was inspired to write about four sisters from Little Women.  It’s a story about everything that can happen in a summer and I’m sure that most kids will relate to the crazy situations that Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty find themselves in.

It was definitely a good choice for book club this month because the story takes place during the summer (who wants to read a school based story during vacation, right?).  We had a great time in book club today, and as usual, the snack was everyone’s mind from the beginning of the meeting.

I had sent out an email reminder about book club and told the members that today’s snack would be something that was featured in the book.  Here were some guesses:


Cold blueberry pancakes

Burned cookies

Rabbit (they were pets in the book, and no one eats them!)

The answer was none of the above.  We had gingerbread (which was delicious) with whipped cream and strawberries.  Here’s what we did with the leftover whipped cream:

Laurel was our librarian guest (she’s the one on whipped cream duty).  Thanks for stopping by today, Laurel!

In other news, I had a very special flower delivery:

A beautiful summer bouquet.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!


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A Day in the Life of a Youth Services Librarian

I always enjoy reading Abby the Librarian’s A Day in the Life of a Children’s Librarian posts, so I thought I would give one a try.    This is what yesterday looked like, broken down by the half hour.  I may have left a couple of things out, but I did my best to keep track of what I did all day.  Here we go:

8:00-8:30:  Arrive at work, shelve a few books and look through the mending bin.  Check the books that were mended yesterday (most of them needed to be re-mended).  Mend the books and place them back in the bin to dry.

8:30-9:00:  In anticipation for the incoming books for book club, rearrange some space on the book club shelves downstairs with the help of a coworker.  Now, all of the books that we will use in the next few months are readily accessible and the others are hiding behind the puppet theater.

9:00-9:30:  Go over the new schedule for Laptime.  Write the new song (“Charlie Over the Water”) on the whiteboard so everyone can follow along.  Re-read the books I will read to the kids (Pond Babies by Cathryn Falwell and Llama, Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney).

9:30-10:00:  Check email.  Google “Teen Summer Reading Programs” to find out how other libraries determine the grand prize winner.  Compile a list of favorite policies to go over later with YS Department.

10:00-10:30:  Laptime!  The changes to the schedule seem to go well.  The toddlers are receptive to listening to two books instead of just one.  Today’s big hit is definitely the bubbles 🙂

10:30-10:45:  Continue research on Teen SRPs.

10:45-11:00:  Break.  Reply to comments on the blog and update my gravatar.

11:00-11:30:  Grab copies of Saffy’s Angel for this afternoon’s book club.  Visit Cathryn Falwell’s website to look at her downloads for kids.  Check email.

11:30-12:00:  Cover large pieces of cardboard to use for a poetry project during book club.  Get the rest of the materials ready for this afternoon’s meeting.

12:00-1:00:  Lunch.  Hang out with Dad while I eat lunch and then head to Mike’s for atomic fireballs.  Run into Shawn on the way back to work.

1:00-1:30:  Make copies of tax forms for a patron.  Make copies of Saffy’s Angel discussion questions for The Reading Pros.  Check books out, check books in, answer the phone, answer questions, etc.

1:30-2:00:  Grab everything I need for book club and put it in the kitchen (which is right off the meeting room).  Go upstairs and get four copies of each new book (Wonderstruck, Love that Dog, Small as an Elephant, and What the World Eats).

2:00-2:30:  Book club!  My favorite part of the day.  The kids show up (13 of them today) and they play an epic game of Giants, Wizards, and Elves (similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors) that turns into Rock, Paper, Scissors when no one can remember the rules to the other version.  This game is lots of fun to play with a group, but it can get loud very quickly.  Meanwhile, I kept myself busy by cutting our Jackson Pollock inspired painting into 16 equal squares (so we could each take a piece home).

Cover of "The Dragons Are Singing Tonight...

Cover of The Dragons Are Singing Tonight

2:30-3:00:  We sit down and talk about The Dragons are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky.  With a large group like this one, I just ask them to tell us their favorite part about the book and their least favorite part.  This way, everyone gets to share at least one opinion.  The book is a popular one…a common complaint was the book was “too short.”  I get the snack ready while the kids start on our project of the day:  two giant group poems.  One has the words “Reading is…” at the top and the other begins “Dragons are…” (suggested by a Reading Pro, and it was apropos, considering our book today).  We eat snacks while we work (pink lemonade, graham crackers with Nutella, and pretzels).

3:00-3:30:  We make an effort to clean up the table.  After much debate, we devise a method to determine who gets to choose a piece of the painting first (the people who actually made the painting should choose before those who did not participate).  I explain to the kids that we were able to buy new books next year thanks to a grant, and they literally cheer when I show them the books.  We have a fabulous time posing for pictures with the books:

Some kids were too busy reading to pose:

3:30-4:00:  Clean up and say goodbye to the kids.  Put everything back in the storage room and put the new books back upstairs.

4:00-4:30:  Download pictures from the camera and make folders on the desktop for them.    Chat with a coworker about an unusually large book donation that came in this morning.  See the bag of atomic fireballs I bought earlier at Mike’s that I was supposed to give to the kids.  Kick self.  Write the book club members an email to say “next time you stop in, ask for a dragon related treat.”  I also include a link to one of my favorite poems that I meant to share during the meeting.

4:30-5:00:  Finish up on the computer with a couple of emails and make sure the pictures are labeled correctly.  Turn off everything in the staff lounge and go upstairs.  Take name tag off, and head for home!

Do you have a “day in the life” post on your blog?  I would love to get a link in the comments 🙂


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The new books for The Reading Pros have arrived!

I just spent a lovely afternoon going through the new books that just came in for The Reading Pros book club.  We have ordered five new titles:  Small as an Elephant, Wonderstruck, What the World Eats, Love that Dog, and Cosmic!

This purchase was made possible by the Rose and Samuel Rudman Library Trust through the Maine Community Foundation.  Thank you so much to everyone on the selection committee.  It truly felt like Christmas morning to open all those boxes of brand new books 🙂  I look forward to discussing these titles with The Reading Pros in the coming months.

(Cosmic is not pictured because it is on back-order)

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Tween Tuesday: The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret of Platform 13 is a fun fantasy story set in London, England.  Platform 13 contains a secret passageway that opens once ever nine years.  On the other side of the doorway (called the “gump”) lies a magical world full of mythical creatures and adorable mistmakers- sort of a cross between a seal and a puppy.  This idyllic Island is thrown into chaos when the infant prince is accidently taken through the gump and is kidnapped by someone on the other side!  For nine years, the Islanders mourn and then they pull themselves together and find an unlikely team to rescue their prince.

The style of this book reminded me of books set in the 1950’s (much like Half Magic by Edward Eager).  And, much like Half Magic, it was a hit with the book club members.  When I discussed it with them, they said they thoroughly enjoyed it and that the setting, characters, and plot reminded them very much of Harry Potter (although The Secret of Platform 13 was published several years before Rowling’s series).

I liked the book more than I thought I would, to be honest.  The characters are unique and lovable and the plot moves quickly.  I also liked the message of the story:  anyone with a good heart can be a hero, even if it seems unlikely.

I would recommend this book for tweens who love to read fantasy books.  It would be a good choice for tweens who have read the first few books in the Harry Potter series but may be too young for the dark themes in the later books.

Rating: 4 out of 5 lupines.

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The Reading Pros

The Reading Pros is a group of young library patrons who are passionate about reading.  We currently have members in grades 3-6.  We meet once a month to discuss the book selection, play games, do activities centered around the book, and eat themed snacks.  My goal for the group is to encourage reading in a fun environment.  I plan to post a short recap of the meetings each month.

(The Reading Pros building Lego houses for the movie)

In January, we met to discuss The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson.  Most of the meeting was devoted to working on our long-term project:  a short film that the students wrote.  Originally, it was meant to be a stop-motion movie using Legos, but due to time constraints, we have had to change the plan a little.  The movie will probably be a combination of Lego stills and live action, but we are still in the planning stages, so who knows what the final cut will look like.  So, the book club members spent time going over the story outline and working on the backgrounds.

(From left to right:  Some Reading Pros working on the pool set for the movie; the mountain set; and the Lego mountain)

For the last half hour, it was back to normal book club business.  We discussed what we liked and didn’t like about the book.  There were nine book club members in attendance for this meeting.  To stay focused and allow everyone a chance to say something, I usually ask each person, ” What was your high for the book?” (meaning, their favorite part) and “What was your low?”  (the least favorite part).  This seems to work well because everyone knows that they will eventually get a chance to share something.  We ate our (high anticipated) snack of ice cream sundaes and hot chocolate.  This is more sugar than I would usually give them, but ice cream sundaes are featured in the book and after working hard for the first hour on the movie project, I figured they deserved a treat.

The next two book club meetings will be devoted to filming and editing our movie (which I will hopefully be able to share with you on the blog!)  In April, we will return to our regular structure (which has more emphasis on the book of the month).

Youth Librarians:  do you have a book club for kids, tweens, or teens?  Which books have you used in your groups?  Do you have any brilliant ideas for activities that you would be willing to share?  If so, please leave a comment.  I am always looking for ways to enhance our group.


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