Book Clubs

The Girls' Book Club Anne Picnic

We began, in the Fall of 2005, with the Boys’ Book Club, a colleague and I, and met every week at lunch time with about thirty boys in Grades 4, 5 and 6. After touring records books, monster books and books about superheroes, we decided, in the late Fall of 2006, to move to a more traditional Book Club format. We started with Ulysses Moore: The Door to Time, and thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of our three heroes, as well as exploring secret codes, learning about Ulysses and drawing complicated maps of that old house on the cliffs and the twisting passages beneath. The boys then chose The Devil, the Banshee and Me, a wild romp of a tale that led to some very hilarious acting out of scenes and a long debate about “points of departure” on the highway of life.
Since that first year, the boys and I have read Wolf Pack, which won the Silver Birch prize, Hatchet and Baboon, two terrific books about survival in the wilderness, Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan,  Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, and Eric Walters’ Camp X, to name but a few.
What will we be reading during the 2011-2012 year? With anniversaries on the horizon, I think we will tackle books about the Titanic and the War of 1812.  Of course, we will also read the titles nominated for Silver Birch, and anything else the boys recommend!
In January of 2007, the Junior girls at my school went to the principal with a petition demanding their own book club. I confess I rather challenged them to this when they began to complain. So was born the Girls’ Book Club. If managing the boys can be described as trying to herd mules, then meetings with the girls can only be compared to running after stampeding horses. The nearly forty girls were off and running with ideas for books and activities before we ever held our first meeting. We read three novels in the following months – first Diary of a Fairy Godmother, then Bridge to Terabethia and Freak the Mighty. Nominated, discussed and voted on by the girls themselves, these three books were wonderful and inspired lots of great discussion and not a little soul searching.
Since that first year, we have tackled Dusssie, Dancing Through the Snow, The Royal Woods, Molly Moon: Micky Minus and the Mind Machine, The Thrilling Life of Pauline Lammermoor, The Frog Princess, Peter and the Starcatchers and Prophecy of the Stones.  We read that classic of Canadian children’s literature, Anne of Green Gables and capped off one year with a wonderful Anne picnic in High Park! We have argued about Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Rick Riordan’s book The Lightning Thief, The Odds Get Even, The Curse of the Evening Eye, and the stories of Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Last year, we merged the Boys’ and Girls’ Book Clubs, just to see how things went, but numbers dropped off and, at the end of the year, everyone agreed we’d go our separate ways again this year.  I think, though, that the theme of Canadian history will be a major focus for both clubs.  With the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 approaching, we are going to focus on the early 19th century in Toronto, and go from there, hoping to cap off this year’s reading with an overnight trip to Fort York with all of our readers.  I know that the girls will start with That Scatterbrain Booky, a great book in which Beatrice travels to many landmarks in my school’s neighbourhood, and then explore other Toronto books.  Of course, we will also read the Silver Birch books, and attend the awards celebrations at Harbourfront in May!
Once the first term is safely done, I’m going to take a second go at a Primary Book Club.  We ran a three-month club two years ago for children in Grades 2 and 3, and were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of our young readers.  We were ready to run another program last year, but our books didn’t arrive until June, too late to get started.  Fortunately, I have a box of Featherbrain by Maureen Bush, and a group of terrific Grade 7 and 8 students ready to help, so we will be starting in November!
In October of 2007, I started the Intermediate Book Club for students in Grades 7 and 8. Though our numbers were small, the members were all intelligent, articulate and extremely well read. We chose as our first novel Deborah Ellis’ Sacred Leaf, then went onto Eric Walters’ Sketches.  The following year we read The Amulet of Samarkand, the Red Maple novels, and The Book Thief, and spent many wonderful lunch hours arguing about books and just about every other topic. Our Book Club wiki was home to lots of good debate and excellent student-written reviews!
In the past few years we have read and argued about Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant, Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard, Dennis Foon’s Dirt Eaters, books by Janet McNaughton, and read, and hotly argued, the Red Maple titles.  It has never been easy to agree on books we want to read for Intermediate Book Club, so we have a rule: if you don’t read one of the books we’ve chosen, then you have to talk about the book you read instead. In this way, I learned about, and read, The Hunger Games, Wanting Mor, and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, to name but a few. Last September, one of my former Intermediate Book Club members dropped in after her day in Grade 9, and told me, with a smile, that, in the past couple of years, we’d read in Book Club ALL of the novels assigned for her Grade 9 English class.
Thrillingly, our numbers for last year’s Intermediate Book Club started at about twenty and climbed steadily.  Readers came from every program in the school, including the Gifted, HSP and LD programs, and together formed a group that was as mutually supportive as it was diverse and funny.  It is rewarding to work with readers who know that reading can happen through the eyes as well as through the ears.
For 2011-2012, the Intermediates are also going to go with the Canadian history theme, since (as previously mentioned) those anniversaries are approaching. I’ve read three Titanic novels in recent months, and have started to hunt for books set during the War of 1812.  I don’t know if I can take all three book clubs to Fort York overnight all at once, but I dream of sitting around an open fire listening to ghost stories in the dark and watching the transfixed faces of my readers. I am glad that I get to take part in Book Club!
FernFolio Editor

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