Co-op Book Club: 2014-2015

Students toss eggs as part of our Around the World in 80 Days book club

Book Club, Book Club - oh how we love you!

Once a month instead of having our regular co-op activities, we meet for Book Club. This past year we again had two levels: older students from  5th  -8th grade and younger ones from 4 years-3rd grade. (Books for the younger ones are listed at the end of this post.)

We're about to start in on Year 4 of Book Club, so I figured it's high time I write a bit about Year 3.

As always, Book Club provided excellent discussions about everything from the meaning of real courage to  plus plenty of active fun!

Does the idea of leading a literary discussion intimidate you? It does me at times! This summer a few of us have been going through Adam Andrew's excellent Teaching the Classics seminar. We chipped in together to buy the DVDs, and then each one purchased her own workbook. If you need help in knowing how to lead book discussions and using literature to inspire deeper thought and analysis, this is a great course! If possible, watch it with some friends. That way you can share not only the cost, but also have the opportunity for some great discussions yourselves.

OK, here's a rundown of where the older group has been this past year. We were finishing our second year of a 2-year world geography course, so again our books have something of an international flavor.

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
1957 Newbery Honor book

I love this heartwarming story set in China during WWII. We follow the travails of Tien Pao (and his pig - Glory of the Republic!) as they become separated from his family in Japanese-controlled China. An American airman befriends Tien Pao, but there are many heart-wrenching ins and outs before all is resolved. This is based on true story of a young boy adopted by a squadron of American flyers though in real life things weren't quite as neat and tidy as in the book.

Activities included taste testing some of the foods Tien Pao survived on: leaves, grass, and dirt. Yum. The kids also had a contest to see who could consume a portion of rice most quickly.

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry
This short book set in Polynesia features Mafatu, a Polynesian boy who fears the ocean. The 1941 Newbery winner, this short book led to a good discussion about whether or not Mafatu showed courage in leaving his home and sailing out to the unknown.
Our children then watched the Disney movie based on this book and mostly laughed at it, especially when they noticed silly "extrabookular" details like goggles made bones.


The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell

A historical fiction piece, The King's Fifth tells the tale of Esteban de Sandoval, a young 
mapmaker with Cornado. Esteban, writing from prison, tells how he and six others had 
set out in search of treasure and the famous cities of Cibola in the American Southwest. 
Characters include an Indian girl, Zia, and a desparate gold-hunter, Captain Mendoza. 
Over time, readers will see the bitter fruit that comes from greed in the lives of each of 
the characters except for Zia.

Our students sampled homemade beef aspic (muleskin stew) and were surprised to learn that stock made from animal bones takes on a gelatinous consistency. To wash away the taste of the beef gelatin, they then had a delicious berry crumble. Esteban was a cartographer, so the students tried a craft which replicated the way he signed his maps. We made bookmarks by painting designs on thick paper, and then drying the egg white with a hair dryer, sprinkling cork ash on top, and rubbing it all with wool.


Pearl Buck story: Christmas Day in the Morning

In December we gathered all the children together to listen to this short story written by Pearl Buck. 

Grade 3-5-Originally published in 1955, this story has been illustrated and brought to life for a new generation. A man remembers a great discovery he made when he was 15 and living on his father's farm. A few days before Christmas he overhears his dad saying how much he hates having to wake his son at dawn for morning chores. As a special gift for his father, the boy gets up at a quarter to three on Christmas morning and does the milking by himself. Buehner illustrates these scenes, many taking place at night and illuminated by lanterns or by moonlight, with a sturdy, folksy, old-fashioned solidity. The hard life on a farm, the struggle to keep the family and animals warm and fed, is reflected on the parents' faces. Moving and tender, this is a fine choice for reading aloud or family sharing.-S. P.

We played a number of parlor games including a shadow guessing game. One child was chosen to be the guesser and sat in front of a suspended bed sheet. All the other children stayed out or sight around a corner. One (or two) were chosen to stand behind the sheet, making some kind of silly actions which would disguise the identity of the poser. The guessing child had to try to determine who was behind the sheet. Great fun!


Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle

Howard Pyle is best known as an illustrator, but he also wrote a number of wonderful books including Men of Iron, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, and Otto of the Silver Hand, all of which are set in the Middle Ages.

Pyle's books are all public domain, so it is easy to find free ebooks. However, since his illustrations are top-notch, make sure to find versions with the pictures or just go with a print copy. Often you can find reasonably priced old hardbacks.

Discussion this time focused on when exactly did the climax occur? Who were the protagonist and antagonist? (After watching some of Teaching the Classics lessons, we realized that "it depends." There can be a number of different conflicts within a given piece of literature. And each separate conflict might have a different climax.) Anyway, this was one of those books which led to a vigorous, involved back and forth between the students, which is always great to see!

And what did we DO? Make silver hands, of course!

From what? What else than duct tape!

Showing off their removable silver hands


Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Shipwrecked by Rhoda Blumberg]

This month we had two related titles. Both tell the true story of a young Japanese sailor, who in 1841, along with several sailing companions, was shipwrecked and washed up onto a tiny island far from their homes. An American whaling ship rescued the men, and Manjiro eventually ends up living in New England as the adopted son of the American captain who found him.

Eventually Manjiro ends up returning to Japan and he was instrumental in the opening of Japan to westerns. Absolutely fascinating story!

What do my sons remember from the activities this book club? Throwing "harpoons" into snowbanks!


The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig

Yet another true story, this one tells what happened to Esther and her family when
they were arrested and taken to Siberia in 1941, leaving behind their very privileged 
life in Poland. From 10-14 she lived with her mother and grandparents in harsh conditions, 
but as the book progresses, Esther learns how to do more than merely survive.

During Book Club, the children learned more about the author and watched a documentary 
based on her life.

I'm getting long-winded, so I'll finish this summary off in a bit with one more post about our last two books.

Books the younger kids enjoyed:

Lionel and the Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald 
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Brisley
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren  
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame

Links to posts about previous years' book club meetings:

Homer Price, Survival books, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Snow Treasure, Peter Pan, The Enchanted Castle, Bears of Blue River

Part I :Twenty-One Balloons, Betsy-Tacy, Red Hugh, House of Arden

Part II: Stories of Don Quixote; Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; Just So Stories + Rikki Tikki Tavi; Star of Light

Part III: A Wrinkle in Time

Part IV: The Hobbit


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