Tween Book Club: The Lemonade War

They hated this book. Seriously: not one of them liked it. Apparently it was “the most boring book EVER.” A couple of them stopped halfway through (and they only got that far because they thought I would make the snacks contingent on their passing a quiz – something I’ve done before, because I’m evil). The rest finished it out of sheer determination, but apparently hated it the entire time. Oops. I thought it was cute. (Whatever – they voted for it, so they can’t complain too much.) With that said, the situations in this book yielded a lot of interesting discussion – everyone has opinions about siblings and money – so it was worthwhile anyway.

And for the record, they did like the math contest.

The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies

1. Why was Evan so upset about having Jessie in his class? How would you feel if your younger sister or brother skipped up to your grade?

2. Did either of them go too far in their attempts to win the contest?

3. What do you think about Megan? Is she a nice girl? Do you think she and Jessie will stay friends during the school year?

4. At the beginning of the book, Evan is good at making friends and talking to people, but not so good at school. Jessie is great at math and other school work, but doesn’t have many friends and has a tough time understanding people’s feelings. Do either of them change during the book? How?

5. Evan and Jessie try very hard to hide their fights from their mother. Why do they do this? Do you think it’s a good or bad thing that they keep their arguments private?

6. Evan puts his money into an iPod fund; Jessie decides to donate hers to charity. If you made $100 through your own hard work, what would you spend it on?


1. Comment cards! When Megan and Jessie become friends, Megan writes her a “comment card” that talks about what she likes about her new friend. Write some nice things about your assigned person on a comment card. Then we are going to SHARE THEM.

2. MATH PROBLEMS! This is a book all about math, soooo…we’re going to have a math contest. And you’re going to like it. 😀

Helpful stuff: There are a lot of teacher’s guides with discussion questions and activities at the book’s website, Houghton-Mifflin’s website, and some other random places.

Tween Book Club: Gregor the Overlander/A Crooked Kind of Perfect

This meeting was a little tricky, because these two books have pretty much nothing in common. Why did we read them both, you ask? Oh, the trials and tribulations of having kids with wildly divergent reading tastes!

A few times a year, I booktalk a few options to the kids and have them vote on what they’d like to read. There are usually some choices that are universally popular – we always want to read the latest Wimpy Kid book – and a few total flops. In our last voting session, something new happened: we had two books that were EXTREMELY popular with half the kids, and EXTREMELY unpopular with the other half. (Example: I have them write in their rankings from 1 (most want to read) to 8 (least want to read) and I had one girl write “800 TRILLION” underneath Gregor. Ouch.) Usually we get a combination of popular and neutral, or totally neutral, or totally unpopular, all of which are easier to deal with. This time, though, I had two groups of kids who would be seriously disappointed if I didn’t choose their favorite option.

So I chose both.

At the time, this seemed like a great idea. Everyone wins!

…not so much.

I hadn’t considered the logistics of actually running a meeting where the kids were discussing totally different books. At first I thought about breaking the kids into two groups and appointing one kid from each group as a discussion leader, but I’m not that optimistic. Discussions derail quickly enough when I’m the one moderating. Then I considered making each group write a booktalk to convince the other group to read their book. This worried me a little: since I never know who’s going to show up to a given meeting, I couldn’t be sure that each group would have kids who are comfortable writing and presenting. So what’s a tween librarian to do?

A trivia contest, of course! I love trivia contests for a lot of reasons:

1. They allow kids to participate as much or as little as they want to (provided you’re playing in groups, which I always do).

2. Success requires the kids to have actually read the book.

3. Everyone loves a little healthy competition! (Well, almost everyone. More on that later.)

When the tweens arrived, they split into teams. Because (miraculously) all of the kids had finished their books, I did end up having both teams summarize their books. It went better than expected, though I’m not sure anyone was convinced to read the other book. We then went on to the trivia contest, which the Gregor team won overwhelmingly. (Really overwhelmingly.)

The best part of the meeting, though, was something I’ve never tried before. We’ve gotten tons of new middle-grade books in the last few weeks, and they haven’t been getting as much attention as I’d like – our “new book” shelf is sort of hidden in the back of the room. I brought a bunch of the new books upstairs, then had each kid pick a book. They had five minutes to read the summary of the book and skim its contents (looking for illustrations, size of type, length of chapters, etc.), after which they each presented their book to the group. They actually seemed to enjoy doing it, and all of the books except one were checked out by a book club member, so I’m counting that as a success.

Tween Book Club: Graduation

At my library, there are two book clubs: Tween Book Club, for kids in grades 4-6, and Teen Book Club, for teens in grades 6-12. When I took over the Tween Book Club two years ago, my group was comprised almost entirely of fourth graders. The teens were mostly eighth and ninth graders. Things worked out swimmingly…for a while.

As my kids have gotten older, they’ve wanted more mature and difficult books to read. The same thing has happened with the teens. The problem, of course, is that the age ranges of these clubs are really broad. Tween BC originally included third graders – they got dropped last year because it was just too difficult to find material that was stimulating and appropriate for eight-year-olds and twelve-year-olds. (With the exception of the Wimpy Kid books, which everyone loves.) And now, four of the girls from my group have “aged out” of Tween BC. I can’t keep them – trying to accommodate seventh and fourth graders brings back the problems we had with the third grade kids – but they don’t all feel comfortable transitioning to the teen group, because most of the members are juniors in high school.

Last summer, we tried to start a middle school book club, but attendance was low and 100% redundant with the other two clubs, so we dropped it. Now I’m starting to think that we should reconsider. I would love for our third graders to have a book club again, for one thing. Plus, it would definitely ease the transition – it’s a pretty big jump to go from The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (our book for this month) to the five-hundred-page paranormal romances that are popular in the teen group. By adding a middle school group (thus making the grades for each group 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12), we would be better able to find materials that suit everyone’s skill levels and interests.

For today, though, my seventh-grade girls will get a very charming cardstock graduation cap, and we’ll send them off to the teens.

Book Club: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, by Wendy Mass

1. What did you think about Jeremy and Lizzy’s friendship? How do you think it will change as they get older? How did the arrival of the new neighbors, Samantha and Rick, change their friendship?

2. Do you think Jeremy ‘s dad really was destined to die before he turned 40? Did hearing the prophecy as a teenager make his life better or worse? What would you do if a fortune teller told you that you would die when you were 40 years old?

3. What do you think Jeremy learned from Mr. Oswald (the pawn shop owner)? What about the people he visited to return the items they had pawned? How did they feel about the decisions they had made?

4. Were you surprised to learn the truth about the keys and Jeremy’s quest? Do you think that the adults should have told him the truth earlier? What about Lizzy’s decision to keep the final key from him until his birthday?

5. Jeremy decides not to tell Lizzy the truth about her last playing card. Why? Do you think he made the right decision?

    Activities (from here and here – this second link is Wendy Mass’s ed guide, which is super helpful)

    1. When Jeremy finally opens the box, he finds a pile of rocks – each one signifying an important moment in his dad’s life. If you were to make a box of your most important memories, what moments would you put inside it? What items could you use to represent those memories?

    2. Imagine a situation in which you would have to sell your most prized possession. What would you sell, and what reason can you think of to sell it? Fill out one of Mr. Oswald’s pawn shop forms.

    3. Playing cards! OR Hula hoop contest! (They picked the hula hoop contest. Everyone was VERY happy.)

      Book Club: Vampire Island

      Vampire Island, by Adele Griffin

      Discussion Questions

      1. Who is your favorite character? Why?

      2. What do you think about Hudson’s crusade for the environment? Why did it make the other kids in his school so mad? How would you feel if someone like Hudson was in your class?

      3. Was Maddie right to go after the von Krik family? Or should they have been left alone unless they bothered Maddie’s family?

      4. When the Livingstones left the Old World, they gave up the chance to live forever. What do you think about that choice? Would you want to live forever?

      5. Why do you think Hudson might have kept his Old World powers when everyone else in his family lost theirs?


      By popular (and repeated…constantly) request, we played Mafia (called “Vampires” this month). I can never turn down a game of Mafia.

      Book Club: Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

      As my group gets older, I get to pick some longer, more complex novels (like Bone last month, and now Sammy Keyes). This is a lot of fun for me, as a would’ve-been English teacher. I think it’s fun for them, too. Challenge is good for us!

      Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin van Draanen

      Discussion Questions

      1. Who did you think the bad guy was? What clues were there along the way that led you to believe that person had committed the crimes?

      2. Did you solve the mystery before Sammy did? Do you like mysteries that are easier to figure out yourself, or do you like surprising endings to mystery stories?

      3. What do you think about Sammy’s family situation? What do you think about her mother’s leaving to pursue her own dreams? What about the apartment building she lives in with her grandma?

      4. For the most part, the kids in this book do things on their own. Many of the adults treat Sammy as an annoying kid and don’t believe her even when she does try to get help. Was Sammy right to continue working on her own, or should she have tried to find an adult who believed her? What could she have done differently to make Officer Borsch take her seriously?

      5. Sammy and Marissa come from very different backgrounds, and both envy the other: Marissa has lots of material things, but Sammy has a grandmother who loves her very much. Which do you think is more important? How do they deal with these differences and stay best friends?

      Solving a mystery from the publisher of Sammy Keyes.

      Book Club: Bone: Out from Boneville

      Bone: Out from Boneville, by Jeff Smith

      Discussion Questions

      1. Have you ever been far away from home or lost before, and not sure how you would get back home? How did it feel? What did you do?

      2. The cousins are very loyal to each other – Fone Bone and Smiley Bone leave Boneville with Phoney, even though they are not the ones who are in trouble. Once they get separated, they spend a lot of time searching for each other. Would you leave your town with your siblings or cousins if they got kicked out, even if they’d done something wrong? What are the limits to this kind of loyalty?

      3. Which of the Bone cousins did you like the best? How are they different from each other? What do they have in common?

      4. Fone Bone makes a lot of friends in this book. Why do people get along with Fone Bone so well?

      5. Does “Bone” remind you of any other stories you have read or seen?

      6. How is reading “Bone” different from reading other kinds of books? Do you like the pictures? Do they help tell the story, or do they sometimes make it harder to figure out what is happening?

      7. Because this is a comic book, we don’t get to find out what the characters are thinking. Do the pictures help us learn about the characters and their feelings? How?

      8. What did you think about the ending? Do you have any ideas about what will happen in the next book?


      Pick one…

      1.Using a learn-to-draw book (or not!), draw your own pictures or comics, using whatever art materials are out on the table.

      2.Pick a scene from the book, and try to write it out (or tell it to a friend) using only words. Is it hard to tell the story that way?

      3.Think about what might happen next in the story, then write or draw a scene that you think could happen in the next book.

      In case you were wondering…
      from Wikipedia’s page on Moby Dick

      Moby-Dick is a novel first published in 1851 by American author Herman Melville. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Very few whaleships know of Moby Dick, and fewer yet have encountered him. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

      Book Club: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

      Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney

      1. Greg starts his year off with a New Year’s Resolution: “to help other people improve”. He does this in ways that don’t make him very popular, like criticizing his parents’ eating habits. Write at least three of your own resolutions (they don’t have to be serious), then pick at least one to share.

      2. Greg and Rowley make a time capsule, to be opened in the year 2300 A.D. (or whenever time travel is possible). Think about 5 things you’d put in a time capsule, and imagine what people in the future might think about the stuff that we have today.

      3. So we know Greg is kind of a bad kid. If you were going to run his military school and try to make him act nicer, what kind of rules would you have?

      Book Club: The Witches

      The Witches, by Roald Dahl

      Discussion Questions

      1. Did you think this book was funny? What parts of it were funny? Did you think it was weird?

      2. Could you relate to anything in the story?

      3. What did you think about the grandmother telling the boy all these scary stories about witches? Was this mean, or was she doing it so that he would be prepared to meet witches? Would you have believed the stories?

      4. What do you think happened to Bruno (the other boy who is turned into a mouse)? Why weren’t the boy and his grandmother worried about him?

      5. Did you like the ending? Do you think it was weird that the boy didn’t mind being a mouse? What do you think about their plan to rid the world of witches?

      6. What other witch stories do you know about? How are Roald Dahl’s witches different from other witches you’ve heard about? Do you think there are real witches?


      First, we’re all going to write a super-short book review of any book (or comic, or whatever).

      Second, we’re going to play a game called “Witches”. I will explain it – it’s a little complicated so you have to pay attention. (Note: This was the game Mafia, but with witches instead of mafia members as the bad guys.)

      Third, we’re going to hand out the book for next month (you’ll like it).

      Book Club: Sideways Stories from Wayside School

      Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar

      Discussion Questions

      1. Who was your favorite character? Which story was your favorite?

      2. Did you think the book was funny? What made it funny? What was the funniest part?

      3. Could you relate to any of the characters, or were they just too weird? Do you know anyone who is like one of the characters? Would you want to be friends with any of the students in the book?

      4. If someone were going to write a story about YOU, what kind of quirks would they write about? (Joe doesn’t know how to count, Rondi doesn’t have front teeth, DJ smiles all the time…)

      5. What would your ice cream flavor taste like?

      6. Would you want to go to Wayside School? Do you think you’d learn a lot there? Do you think it would be fun?


      First: TRIVIA!

      Next: While we eat PIZZA, pick a partner and make a list of funny things that have happened at YOUR school, then tell a story about it to the rest of the group!