Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Clubs: Historical Fiction

Every month, I have run two book clubs: Reading Rangers for grades K-2 and Pagemasters for grades 3-5. We talk about what books they are reading, read a book, make a craft, and make a snack. The theme varies from month to month, but the kids are not required to read anything specific before the club. I don't even give them the theme beforehand - I ask them to guess it based on the books I've put out for them to look at.

I start each group by putting out 20-30 books on the rug for them to look at while they wait for the program to start.

This month in our book clubs we tackled Historical Fiction. I recently weeded my intermediate chapter books and my J Fiction and I noticed that if a book was historical fiction it was much more likely to be a candidate for weeding based on circulation alone. This bums me out, so I thought I would highlight the books we have left!

Talking 'bout books and the Theme

The Reading Rangers (grades K-2) and I talked about historical fiction and why The Magic Tree House doesn't really count as historical fiction even though they travel to the past.

Then we read Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst.

This one was longer than I would usually attempt at this age, so I abbreviated a little as we went. I was worried they wouldn't really be in to it, but when someone in the book says "quilting is only for women" one little girl said "no it isn't!" And the whole group gasped when the quilt fell in the mud.

The Pagemasters (grades 3-5) and I read John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith which I find hilarious. They found it less so, though they were interested in identifying each historical figure before the book gave away who they were.

I still think this book is hilarious, but I'm starting to doubt its audience. The younger ones wouldn't know who these people are (even the older ones struggled with John Hancock) and the older ones didn't seem to enjoy the humor. But, since I think it's an awesome book, I'm going to chalk this up to my inability to read it properly. 

Both groups did the same craft and snack. We made candles from crayons and made our own butter. 


I pulled out my much maligned toaster oven (poor thing just doesn't work well for my cooking programs) while the kids peeled broken crayon bits and put them in aluminum muffin tins. 

I popped those in the oven until the wax melted, pulled them out and added a wick, and then waited for them to harden. Fortunately, crayon wax hardens quickly. 


 I got this idea from a coworker who uses it during a silly cow storytime. I used Talenti gelato containers that someone donated (the kids always want to know if I ate all that gelato by myself) and dice.

Pour some milk into the container. Add a pinch of salt. Add two dice (or marbles if you have them). SHAKE!!!

First you get sour cream: 

Then you get whipped cream: 

Then finally, once the water (buttermilk) separates out, you'll have butter. 

Spread it on bread.


It takes a lot of vigorous shaking, but the kids mostly enjoyed that part. I put on "Shake it off" and, if I were to do it again, I would probably make a CD of shaking songs for motivation. 

The younger set mostly made it to whipped cream (which is totally spreadable as whipped butter and it was enough to make them happy), but the older set took great pride in opening their jars for me and having me proclaim "BUTTER!!" 

As an extra bit of butter on the bread, one of the moms sent me a photo of their dinnertime that evening with candles for ambiance and butter for deliciousness. 

I always encourage the kids to take the books I've brought to continue reading on our theme at home. 

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