Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Green Ember Book Club

I have been really wanting to do a book club for my kids and friends, and with our great love for The Green Ember and the sequel coming soon, it seemed the perfect place to start!

I'll share a few of the things we did and used for our celebration.
Preparations included trying to cut a bunch of cardboard swords and wrap the "blades" with foil, as well as drawing the Jupiter's Crossing scene from Lighthall on wax paper to try to imitate a stained glass window.
I had some eager helpers for the preparations.

I made a little patch for each kid of the symbol worn by all in Lord Rake's order--white background with green and red diamonds side by side--and pinned them on each kid's shoulder as everyone arrived.

Here's our finished attempt at the "stained glass window."

As the kids were arriving, I had colored tapes and markers out for them to each decorate the hilts of their swords.

Once the kids had arrived and finished swords, we began our scavenger hunt.  I had taped up these clue stations around our little gated neighborhood.  To make them, I just copied some photos from the book (or sketched a quick image for a few) and wrote the names of the places.  I divided the kids into three teams and gave them a color.  (I had thought it would be fun to give them each a citadel name and symbol, but I ended up going a simpler route with just marking colors.)  Each station had a clue for each team, indicated by their team color.  I did put the clues in different orders for different teams so that they weren't just following each other.  They all ended at Jupiter's Crossing where there was a small plastic jewel (Green Ember!) and some black paper birds hanging from the trees.  The kids were supposed to "fight" the birds and recover the Green Ember!  
Of course before we set off on our quest, we all stood together, and when I put my hand over my heart and said, "I think we should say something together before we go," they all jumped in right away without any other prompt and said, "My place beside you, my blood for yours, 'til the Green Ember rises or the end of the world!"  Seriously, I almost cried.

The clues were not as clever as I had hoped I would come up with, but I have linked to the document for anyone who wants to use them.  The answers are included on one page, and another page just has the clues to print.

Retrieving a clue

Studying the clue and thinking

Fighting the birds of prey to retrieve the Green Ember

After the scavenger hunt, the kids all made their own "stained glass windows."  We adapted a few versions we found to use the supplies I had available here.  The kids drew their design or scene and then traced the lines with black marker and colored the picture (crayon or oil pastels work best).  When they finished coloring, we put the pictures face down onto clear contact paper and rubbed the back of the picture with a paper towel dipped in cooking oil until the picture appeared translucent.  Then they let them dry, and the finished product looks quite nice to see the design on the window.  One tip for a future attempt is that I would go ahead and cut the contact paper to intend to have about an inch extra on each side of the design, which would make it easier to stick to the window.  They did, by the way, take a long time to dry and were a bit oily for carrying home!  Here are is the sample I made and the one my sons made:

Morbin Blackhawk made by my younger son

We also happened to have a pack of gummy RABBITS that my mom had sent us for the kids to enjoy while they worked on their art!

I really wanted to try to include a good discussion of the book in our book club time, and I've been so inspired by Greta Eskridge and her sharing about book clubs and having rich discussions in those times (definitely the inspiration behind me going ahead and jumping in on doing the club), but I still felt a little unsure of how it would all go.  This was the first time we've tried to do something quite like that, and we had kids from 1 to 12 years old (though the littlest were realistically little sibs of kids who were more like 4 and up).  
It was wonderful!  The kids really jumped in and shared and had some great thoughts, and it turned into a really rich discussion.  The moms and older ones jumped in with some good thoughts but without taking over the conversation in any way, and our younger ones shared some surprising insights as well!  I used Sarah Mackenzie's Quickstart Guide to Great Conversations with Kids about Books (included in RAR membership) as a jumping off point.  I allowed time for kids to share some favorite parts or quotes, and then we started by discussing things like "How are Picket and Heather the same (and then how are they different)?"
The richest portion of our discussion started from the question of which character they thought was the bravest and then other characters they thought were brave, and some really interesting things came out of that.  It was just really fun having a room full of 20 kids (not including the toddlers) engaged in discussing a wonderful book!  

Of course we had to have lunch after our discussion!

This is not the greatest picture of our food!  :)  I made some Savory Den soup (basically vegetable soup but making sure it definitely had potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms) and bread.  Then, to remember the sweet bread dipped in peaches (and maple syrup, which we can't get here), I made peach cobbler.
While the kids ate lunch, we did turn on the replay of the Read-aloud Revival author event with S.D.Smith, and that was fun to hear him talk about the book!

We also made Star Seek, but between having a lot of kids, plenty to fill the time, and super muddy ground from monsoon season, we didn't end up playing.
Just a little extra Green Ember art my son drew when we were rereading the book!

It was a really fun time and a great start to our book club!


  1. I was researching ideas on the green ember because I started a book celebration club a few months ago and this is our second book. We only read one book or season, so as not to overwhelm anyone. Your celebration is great! I got the idea from Greta Eskridge too and I follow the RAR also! We are meeting on February 10th for our celebration! The first one we did was on stone soup... Just a way to get everyone in on the idea. Everyone had a great time! Thanks for sharing your fun times!

  2. Wow, Rachel, I feel like I know you. I've enjoyed a brief tour of your blogs and especially loved your comments on the books and music that were healing in your life. I've read Andrew Peterson's books and Sam's, but I haven't gotten to Jennifer Trafton and Jonathan Rogers yet. In our homeschool co op we are doing Jennifer's latest book, "Henry and the Chalk Dragon". I have Mount Majestic in my queue and will get to it very soon after your post. I'm thankful for your kind words about "The Green Ember" and love your ideas for book club. You are an inspiration and an encouragement to my old heart.