Category Archives: The Reading Pros

The Reading Pros Recap: Biographies

DSC02824In the picture above, a Reading Pro shows her admiration for President Lincoln by reciting the first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address (from memory).  Lincoln was one of the subjects we discussed at this month’s biography meeting.  The other fascinating subjects were Ben Carson, Rick Riordan, Henry Hudson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Louisa May Alcott, Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, and Ghandi.

After sharing a little about our subjects, we wrote autobiographies in the style of Mad Libs.  Who knew so many kids from Maine had learned to roller-skate on the ceiling before they were 3 years old???  (Full disclosure:  these may have not been 100% factually accurate, but they were pretty creative!)



We topped off the meeting with a healthy snack:


What do Graham crackers, Monterey Jack Cheese, and many types of apples have in common?  They are all foods that were named after people!  Thanks to Ginny for thinking up a theme for this month’s snack 🙂

Next month is National Poetry Month, and we’ll be discussing Love that Dog by Sharon Creech!



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The Reading Pros Recap: Cosmic

January’s book club meeting was out of this world!  Not literally, because we couldn’t replicate the once in a lifetime amusement ride featured in Cosmic (a real rocket ship that blasts off to the moon), but it was a pretty great meeting, anyway.


I was lucky enough to stumble upon this great blog, Talkin’ ‘Bout Books, and used their questions and snack suggestions.  The main character, Liam, is obsessed with World of Warcraft (WoW) and tends to interpret his real life through his video games.  We had an interesting conversation during this meeting about video games and how they impacted “real life” friendships.  Most book club members who are into video games said that it decreased their number of friends and their online friends didn’t replace them because you don’t really know online friends.


I loved this book and had heard it was a good choice for boys because the protagonist is male and it’s an adventure sci-fi story that features a lot of cool inventions and gadgets.  Several of the boys in the group were not too impressed with the book, but the girls loved it, which surprised me (to each his/her own, I guess!)

Even though we couldn’t go into space, we did have a chance to find out what it feels like to be weightless.  Try this neat trick (I found this one on a site with space themed birthday party ideas):

1.  Stand inside a door frame and push the backs of your hands against the inside of the frame, applying pressure.

2.  Count to 30.

3.  Take one step forward, so your out of the frame.  Your arms should start to rise up, like there’s no gravity holding them down!


Next month, we’ll discuss Two Old Women, an inspiring folktale by Velma Wallis.

I’ll end this post with a wonderful quote from Cosmic that one Reading Pro pointed out:

“There is no point trying to hide from fear.  Fear will find you.  You have to look fear in the eye, say hello and keep walking by.  Remember, Fear is the Enemy of Courage.”



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The Reading Pros Recap: Island of the Aunts


Where would you find mermaids, stoorworms, and selkies?  These magical creatures can be found on the Island of the Aunts, of course!  The Reading Pros met on Friday to discuss this book by Eva Ibbotson.

To change up the discussion portion of our meeting, we played Book Club Jenga.  I got this idea from many librarians’ blogs:  take a Jenga game and add a symbol (or a question) to each block.  When the player pulls out a block, he/she must answer the question.  If you choose to use symbols on the blocks, you can come up with a list of questions that correspond to each symbol.  I chose to do it this way because I can use the game for other groups at the library and come up with a set of questions for each age group.

Don't let the tower fall!

Don’t let the tower fall!

The object of Jenga is to try to remove blocks from the tower without tipping it over.  When it inevitably did tip over, the group did a “physical challenge” (like, jumping jacks or push-ups).  The favorite by far was a game called “freeze dance”:

Dance, dance, dance!

Dance, dance, dance!

We danced in place (without music, unfortunately) until I said “stop!”  It was a good way to release some energy 🙂

One of our book club members had a birthday, and he offered to bring in a themed snack.  I was having so much trouble trying to think of an appetizing snack that had something to do with the book (I even considered serving porridge, but the wise Reading Pros advised me not to).  So, I was very grateful to have help with the snack this month.  Here’s the big reveal of our mystery snack:

DSC02490Drumroll please…

DSC02491It’s stoorworm cookies!  For those of you who are not familiar with this month’s book, a stoorworm is a long, worm-like,, wingless dragon who lives off shore of the island.  This picture doesn’t show the cookies very well, but they were long and twisty, just like a stoorworm.  Thank you to the Deeny family for this inventive, delicious snack!


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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: Gone-Away Lake

Ellsworth has been so hot, busy and crowded this week, I wouldn’t mind escaping to the solitude of Gone-Away Lake–the fictional secluded village in Elizabeth Enright’s classic book.  Gone-Away Lake is the story of two cousins who only get to see each other during the summer.  The book takes place in the late 1950s and recounts Julian and Portia’s carefree months exploring the woods and catching rare butterflies.  Their summer changes when they stumble across the abandoned village of Gone-Away Lake.  It’s not completely abandoned because there are two people still living there “in hermitude” as one character put it.  The children form a bond with these older, grandparent-like figures and discover the history behind Gone-Away Lake.

We discussed what it would be like to live at Gone-Away.  What would it be like to live with only one other person for company (and a bunch of chickens and goats)?  What would we miss the most about living in society?

Some book club members said they would appreciate the quiet atmosphere.  Most would miss technology (especially video games).

We ate our snack (“homemade bread”-from the bakery at Hannaford with homemade raspberry jam and watermelon) and played Uno.  The older couple in the book plays cribbage to pass the time, but I didn’t have enough time to teach the kids how to play.  Uno was fun although I forgot what a long game it can be!

In closing, I just wanted to mention that Maine St. Andrews did a wonderful job last night at the library.  Here’s a picture of Kate (one of our Reading Pros!) playing alongside her mom, Susan.

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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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