Co-op Book Club, 2013-2014 (Part II)

Book Club semester II, 2013-1014

See Part I here

Book Club 2012-2013 here

Our co-op is called Learning Around the World, and our literature selections from various locales reflect that theme. During the second semester we read books which took place in Spain, India, North Africa, and an oceangoing adventure. 

January: Stories of Don Quixote (James Baldwin) 

You've heard the saying, "Tilting at Windmills." But do you (and your children) know what this peculiar phrase means and where it originated? Even if you do, you should check out this retelling of Cervantes' Don Quixote written for children by James Baldwin.

James Baldwin (1841-1925) was a Hoosier teacher, author and editor who wrote numerous books for children on everything from mythology to biography to literature. According to The Baldwin Project, at one time about half the books used in U.S. schools were either written or edited by Mr. Baldwin. We enjoyed  Stories of Don Quixote, a highly readable version for children.

For something different, our Book Club activity for this selection was a dramatization of two of the chapters in the book, "The Adventure of the Monks" and "The Lost Helmet." Each of the families had brought costumes and props that we thought might be helpful, and we cobbled together outfits for all the characters. Our Book Club lead mom wrote a script based on these selections and modified to fit the number of boys (6) and girls (2) in our group, and then the kids performed it as a readers' theatre for another group of children.

Coach with two lovely princesses in need of rescue (or not!)

Don Quixote (before he sadly lost his helmet)

Even with a very short time for rehearsal, the kids pulled off a nice performance, and the audience enjoyed Cervantes' humor in these vignettes.

February: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Jean Lee Latham) 

This month we read the 1956 Newbery winner, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. This book tells the inspiring true story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mostly self-taught navigator and mathematician whose seminal book The American Practical Navigator is still in print  more than 200 years after it was first published.  
As the children entered class, they heard sea chanties playing, and then they settled in for a good discussion of the book, talking about some of the characteristics that helped Nat to achieve his goals even when events seemed to conspire against him. Who (or what) was the antagonist? the children debated among themselves. Was it nature?  Nevil Maskelyne who had an alternative method for calculating longitude at sea? Clouds which made taking lunar calculations so difficult? (This is the kind of discussion that seems to happen almost without any prompting as time goes on and the kids get used to thinking about these kinds of questions. It is pretty exciting watching them argue for their point of view and sometimes changing their opinions to something they hadn't thought about previously. )

Anyway, after sitting for a while, it was time for some action, so we moved to the gym. Our church's gym (aka sanctuary) conveniently has a concrete floor which is laid out in a large grid pattern. Perfect for a game of "Longitude/Latitude!"  

For each round, one child was "it" and they were blindfolded. Quickly the other children took a blanket which represented an island and moved it to some location in the gym. The goal for "It" was to find the island before time (3 minutes) was up. The child was told the latitude of the island, but not the longitude. The child started by encountering a hurricane (spinning by an adult) and then set off. Every time he or she reached a different latitude (one of the horizontal lines), the rest of the kids would shout the number of the latitude. However, somewhere on the same latitude as the island, a pirate was waiting. The pirate was not allowed to move from his spot, but he could reach out and try to tag the sailor before he reached the island. If the sailor was tagged, he had to eat hardtack. (One of our sailors ended with a bloody mouth from the very HARDtack.) If the sailor successfully reached the island, he was able to enjoy a treat of oranges.

Extra: For adults, a wonderful, short book to go with this study is Longitude by Dava Sobel. And a children's book which tells the same story is Sea Clocks: The Story of Longitude by Louise Borden.        

March: Just So Stories and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (Rudyard Kipling)

Everyone read "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi", but the children were able to choose which Just So Stories they read. This made discussion a bit different, and we focused Kipling's background plus some of the characteristics we saw in Kipling's writing, especially his wonderfully creative use of language and his delightful characters. 
Then we had the joy of having a beloved woman in our congregation talk to the children about her experiences growing up in India in the mid-20th century. She had fascinating stories and objects to show the kids, and she was also able to tell us about a fellow classmate of hers who has gone on to become a world-renowned snake expert. Snakes were much on our minds after reading Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!

After reading Kipling, we challenged the children to write and illustrate their own Just-So-Like stories which they brought to later co-op meetings. Each one incorporated aspects of Kipling's style and were delightful to hear. One of the moms assembled all of the tales into a book she titled Just Like Just So Stories and reproduced for each student as a keepsake.

April: Star of Light (Patricia St. John) and Book Club Finale 

Patricia St. John was a missionary in Morocco for many years. When her mother's health began to fail, she returned to England to care for her, and she found time to write many books for a young audience. Many of my children have greatly enjoyed Miss St. John's fiction, and Star of Light is no exception.

Because of the Christian themes of this book, the children discussed how an author goes about writing an evangelistic story. Where did she succeed and where did she miss the mark? Interesting thoughts from the readers!

Instead of doing activities based solely on this book, our Book Club mom crafted a brilliant treasure hunt which served as a review of ALL the books from the past two years of Book Club. She had the children solving crazy riddles and puzzles, running in and out of the church, and generally putting their noggins to work to reach the final goal.
Putting heads together

To read each clue the kids had to solve a puzzle based on one of the books

He's trying to retrieve a key from a bowl of water - no hands allowed

The group consensus? Book Club was so much fun, we should continue during the summer! So we are meeting twice over these months. I'll post on those events in a month or so!


Nicole Bailey said…
Would Longitude be appropriate for an interested middle school student?
Anne said…
Yes, I think so. I can't remember anything that would be inappropriate for a young reader, though I wasn't thinking about that as I read. Maybe you'd want to peruse it first? It's very short and quite enjoyable.

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