Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Henry and the Chalk Dragon Book Club

First of all, this book is a delight!  It is funny and insightful and is a great read-aloud!  It also made for a really fun book club!

For decorations, I cut stars and a few snowflakes out of colored construction paper and hang them as streamers from the ceiling (ending with a snowflake at the bottom of each one).  I also printed out some of my favorite quotes from the book to hang around the room.

The boys and I made some slime to be the giant slimy slug.  I really wanted to put it on our windows, but it wouldn't stick, so it ended up on some wax paper, which turned out to be fun because especially the younger ones had a fun time playing and poking and stretching it!

My son loves to make some form of drawing or banner for the book clubs.  He felt rushed on this one and doesn't feel it is finished, but I think it looks great.  It's the dragon when it is a boat sloshing through the halls of La Muncha Elementary!

Of course, the octagon ate the circles out of my welcome sign. ;)

I had some random colored scraps from cutting the stars and snowflakes that turned into perfect shapes and colors to scatter on our table.

My boys and I had also made these posters as we discussed the book, so we hung them up for the club.  (I suggested listing Henry's chivalry; the boys wanted to also make a list of Oskar's insults!)

My kids absolutely love the excuse to dress up for book club.  

The costumes didn't last very long because wearing raincoats covered in foil is actually tremendously HOT!

I had to include a few photos of some others from book club who got in the spirit of dressing up!

One of the moms wore a name tag that said "Sally (the) IV."  I love my clever friends!

 As the kids were arriving, I had a little area set up for them to take photos in front of the chalk wall (and add some art to it) and pose with a special smile that they wrote on a chalkboard.  I had lists of some of Miss Pimpernel's and the dragon's smiles they could use or think of their own.

That is, obviously, Oscar on the left, complete with button-down shirt, holding his pet octagon and making a "dragon" smile!

Once everyone had arrived, we gathered the kids together to share some "Unusual Pets."  I had asked them to think of these ahead of time, and we used the page from the curriculum guide available on Jennifer Trafton's website.  The kids had some fun pets to share!

One of the many fun things about this book is that is makes so many delightful references to other great classic and other fun literary works. So, we gathered in two groups and set a timer for 5 minutes to see which group to come up with more references from the book that were about other literary works.  (A mom was the scribe for each group to keep up with what was being said.)

Our main activity was to create our own artistic masterpiece--a dragon, of course!
Just as in the book the dragon got erased until it was down to very little of it left, I started us with a bumpy green shape that needed rescuing with our art!  (It was an old plastic tablecloth stuffed with newspaper and looked eearily like a human body bag as I was preparing for book club!)

Each family was assigned a part of the dragon to create from a stash of supplies.  It was a bit of glorious chaos for awhile (which I could embrace knowing I had help for clean-up!)...

...but it was definitely a fantastically fun masterpiece once we put it all together!  (Practical note: It would have served us well to leave more time for glue to dry somehow before trying to put the pieces together!)

A few close-ups of our work...

We had a wonderful discussion about the book, which I always enjoy doing with the kids!
The kids shared a ton of favorite and funny parts!  And, they shared about friendship and fears and characters they identified with.  With a younger group and lots of sharing, the one question that we didn't get to talk about that I think would be a wonderfully fascinating discussion is a quote from the book itself:  Are real and true the same thing?

And, last but certainly not least...FOOD!
Of course, we had to make pepperoni pizza our main course, which is not an easy task here in Nepal, but I found pepperoni to slice and made up some pizzas.  I did not catch any photos as we pulled them out of the oven!

Friends brought amazing vegetable art!
Carrot Alligators in a veggie swamp!

Veggie Rainbows!

My boys insisted that we needed to include some scrambled eggs since they were spooning that into the dragon's mouth in the book while they all prepared to remake him.

There was not much mentioned in the book in the way of desserts, but there are a lot of references to sunsets and sunrises and lots of mention of similes and metaphors, so I decided to make some sunset metaphor cupcakes.
Sunset seemed sort of tropical to me, so I used this recipe for pineapple cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting and roughly the idea from this recipe but much less precise in execution. ;)  I can't get cupcake liners here usually, so the outside of the cupcakes all got rather tan, but if you cut them open, you could see the attempted sunset.

We had a wonderful time celebrating this delightful book.  If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend it.  You can find it at The Rabbit Room Store.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wingfeather Costumes

Just another Wingfeather post to share the fun we had dressing up for book club!

When we first discussed the topic of dressing up for this book club, my younger son said he wanted to be Janner, and my older son said he wanted to be Tink, which was SO interesting to me, given that they fit the opposite characters in so many ways.

Anyway, I let it go, and as the time drew closer, the younger one really wanted to be Artham (after his transformation).  It took me some time, but he was really delighted with it.

 There are so many characters I adore in this series!  I relate most deeply to Janner, wish I was more like Nia, and am so delighted by Oskar!  I think I enjoyed Oskar even more on this second reading and decided to try to dress up as him.  My attempt at looking bald didn't exactly match, but I got a lot of good laughs when I greeted all of the kids at the door like this, spouting various, "In the words of..." greetings!  I even gave myself an "I like books" tattoo with an ink pen.

My older son decided on being Janner in his Durgan Guilding uniform.  It's such a perfect choice for him.  He is my serious kid and takes even his costume very seriously.  It never quite lives up to the ideas in his mind, but I think he looked pretty good, and I love that he takes on more than just a costume and really deeply ponders and engages the character.  
I used one of my husband's old dark t-shirts to cut into a cape and then cut holes out of one of the cut-off sleeve parts to make the mask.  I adjusted the directions for this hooded cowl to better fit him, though I wish I would have stuck with measurements closer to the original.  My kids have big heads!  I just used a bobby pin to attach the Durgan Guilding patch because I want to save it to put on a hoodie for him for the fall.  

These are old pictures from when we read the series the first time that were fun to remember:
The Florid Sword
Kalmar as a Durgan Guilding

Book Club

One of my favorite things in homeschooling (well, in life, but I am thankful for the extra opportunities homeschooling provides) is connecting with my kids through great stories!  My older son is a project kid and loves to make or draw things connected to what we read, and we all really enjoy making food connected to the books we read and sharing inside jokes or tidbits from the stories.
When I first found Greta Eskridge online, I was really struck by the wonderful book club she started with some friends to do together with their kids.  Living overseas, I am often tempted to think that we can't pull off things like that here, and I wrestle with sometimes feeling a bit extravagant in things that don't make sense to those around us.  But, I really felt inspired by Greta's enthusiasm, and I want to celebrate good and true and beautiful things with my kids and take delight in great stories and the wonder with which kids can engage them.  So, I decided to just jump in and go for it, whether anyone else enjoyed it or not.  Thankfully, I am privileged to have good friends here who have also delighted in this with us, and we have had a wonderful time celebrating books together!

Our efforts are far from professional, but we're having a great time!  We can't get some supplies or ingredients here, but I do have an amazing woman who works for us in our home who is a wizard getting things back in shape in our home after one of these club meetings.  I share here just so that some others might figure out what could work for them and work with what they have to just enjoy and celebrate great books!

I plan five per year (with one being actually centered around picture books so that the youngest are more directly targeted and engaged for one).  We do a couple of activities (an art project or some kind of game or "quest"), have some fun food, and discuss the book.  We don't diagram plots or anything that is very formally academic; our discussions center more around ideas and themes and thoughts and experiences with the books.  One thing that really struck me from Greta's posts was the depth of discussion the kids have and that they believed and expected to happen.  I was, admittedly, a little bit skeptical, but I have been absolutely amazed at the discussions we've had, even with the bulk of the kids being in lower elementary school!  It has been a true privilege to share together with these kids and moms as we discuss and connect about these stories!  I try really hard to be open and flexible and adjust to where the discussion takes us, but I do always jot down a few thoughts and questions ahead of time to get the discussion started or in case we hit a lull. I always let the kids start by just sharing favorite parts from the book, but then we jump in with some discussion.  I have found Sarah Mackenzie's Quickstart Guide (free for RAR members or available for purchase) to be a really helpful jumping off point for our discussions.

So far, we have done the following books for book clubs (links to the post for each book club meeting):

The Green Ember

Mary Poppins

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Wingfeather Saga

Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton

I'll add to this post as we do others, or you can use the tag "book club" to find posts for other club meetings.
Coming up next:
Christmas Picture Book Club

Wingfeather Saga Book Club

My boys and I were so invested in this one!  This series is one of our absolute favorites, and we absolutely geek out together over all the details from the books.  We had planned to do the whole series for the book club, which was the first time we tried more than a single book for a club meeting, and it was just a bit much for schedules and such, so we ended up focusing primarily on the first book.  We couldn't help slipping in a few other things for our food and costumes and decorations, but for the activities and discussions, we stuck with the first book.  This was a reread for my older son and me, but my younger son didn't really remember it from before, so it was fun to hear his gasps and have him shout out things he thought as he was drawn in this time.  Both of the boys wanted to make posters for the book club, so while I was reading (or while we listened to the audio book), they were often drawing.

 Here is my younger son's poster:
Older brother is obsessed with birds, so younger brother decided to draw the birds from Wingfeather.  Here we have a Lone Fendril, a chorkney, and a snickbuzzard! 
Sea dragon in the harbor at Ban Rona

 We proudly hung up our map of Aerwiar (as well as our Kickstarter posters), and my older son put his poster below it:

The battle of Ban Rona

 All three of us were pretty excited to dress up for this one!  Artham Wingfeather posing with Oskar N. Reteep and Janner Wingfeather as a Durgan Guilding!

 I just had to toss in a few labels for "my" book shop!

My son loves anything resembling a scavenger hunt, so I made one for this book club.  Our housing development has a layout that resembles the shape of the roads on Oskar's map, so I decided to tweak his treasure map to fit with our neighborhood.  I actually had a hard time getting over a few things mentally (seriously, I kept being upset at having Anklejelly Manor on the same corner of the map as the Igiby Cottage!), but it was fun to make a map that looked like Oskar's and had those landmarks but forced the kids to read the map and follow it to find the clues.  

I included comments on the document of how the clues fit together and played out, but here are a few shots from our set-up.
The kids had to throw "stones" to knock out the Fangs at the jail.

I include this one to show that you  have to work with what you've got sometimes--stuffed dinosaur with a bit of gold fabric tied on, in this case, equals a sea dragon (using lots of imagination)! Ha.

The kids had to climb across some bridges to reach Peet's "tree house."

Here is "Peet" in action after delivering the clue to lead to his tree house!  :)

The Jewels

I wrote rules for the game of zibzy!  Yes, I'm the kind of nerd that gets excited about writing rules for a made-up game from a book!  Unfortunately, it had POURED rain, and the field where we would have played was a swampy mess (and the kids were going to be coming back inside my house!), so we didn't get a chance to try it out.  The cover and rules are included in the same doc as the scavenger hunt, so someone will have to let me know if you actually try it!

  The food!  There is SO much good food in these books that I could not possibly put enough to satisfy me in one book club!  We made quite a few other foods throughout the week leading up to the book club, which you can find in my other post about Wingfeather feasting.  Here is our menu for book club:

We basically used the Cheesy Chowder recipe from the Book Club guide at WingfeatherSaga.com but tweaked a bit based on what we have here.  (The recipe is in the kit for the first book.)
I used the recipe from the kit for the second book to make Ronchy McHiggin's Sailor's Pie.
I posted before on how we made Butter Bread.

Since we were focusing primarily on the first book, I decided to try to make some sweets from the Dragon Day festival.  None of the kids, thankfully, ended up covered in blue stickiness like Tink did, but we thoroughly enjoyed Blueberry Gooeyballs and Berry Buns.  I used Alton's Brown's cinnamon roll dough as the base for both.  For the blueberry gooeyballs, I rolled the dough into small balls, put them in the pan, and poured blueberry pie filling over the whole thing (honestly, I would double the amount next time so that they were seriously gooey!).  After baking I poured some glaze over them (made from a bit of cream cheese spread--can't easily get the real stuff here--with icing sugar and a bit of milk and vanilla).  For the berry buns, I made them like cinnamon rolls, but instead of a sugar/cinnamon mix, I put strawberry jam on top of the butter and rolled and cut them like you would cinnamon rolls.  I put a bit more jam on top, baked them, and then poured the glaze on these as well.  

Beef jerky makes for great "dried diggle."

You have to have bibes for a party!

One of my favorite parts of the day was that, after the kids all went outside after lunch to play, we moms kept discussing the book and had a great time digging into some of the things we encountered in the book and how it affected us deeply.  I love this series so much, and I love having bookish friends!

One other note is that we were able to bring back some Wingfeather treats to share with our friends, and they are delightful!  I absolutely LOVE the patches!  Check out the goodies!