Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Parent-Child Book Discussion

Grades 3-5

snack idea: cookie screeds (see activities)

1.  What would you have done if you'd found a random button stuck inside a meteorite? Would you have pressed it? Why or why not.

2.  Why does Zita trust Piper at the beginning of the book?

3.  What does H.A.M.B.O. stand for? (pg 68) (Activity: different acronyms R.A.D.A.R, N.A.S.A, etc)

4.  Name the characters Zita meets along the way.  What is each character's strengths and weaknesses?
            Mouse: he's faithful, he's rideable, he doesn't have armor
            One: he has powerful laser guns, he's outdated, he has anger management issues, he's talkative
            Robot Randy: he squeaks and rattles, he's loyal, he has a weapon of mass-desctruction stuck inside
            Piper:  boom boots, not trustworthy, sleeping pipe
            Strong-Strong: strong, nice, not very smart
            Topper:  bossy, good disquise

5.  What different things motiviate Piper, Zita and the Scriptorians to make decisions? (Zita wants to save her friend Joseph, Piper wants to fuel his ship, The Scriptorians want to stop the asteroid).

6.  Why does Piper betray Zita? (the scriptorians offer him fuel for his ship). Why do you think he came back at the end?

7.  How was the Scriptorian's prophecy correct, and how was it different than they expected?
           (without Joseph, Zita wouldn't have come to their planet, she wouldn't have found the robot and brought the crystal at the right point in time. It WAS Joseph that they needed, 
                but not for the reasons they thought.)

8.  Zita can save herself and Joseph OR save the planet and never get back?  Why do you think she chose to save the planet?  What would you have chosen?

9.  Do you think there will be more Zita books?  What do you think will happen next?

10.  What other stories did Zita remind you of? (wizard of oz, star wars, etc.)

11.  How does the experience of reading a graphic novel differ from reading a "regular" book?  What do you like/dislike about both experiences?

Activity Ideas:

Zita notices that the stars in the sky look different from the Scriptorian's planet and she can't find any constellations.  Give students a paper with random stars/dots and have them create new constellations based on the characters in this book.

Cookie Screeds (sandwich cookies with licorice laces and a round chocolate port hole) OR crackers with spreadable cheese, spaghetti or zucchini strips and olive for port hole.

Mouse talks in pictures/ play a round of "Pictionary" to communicate emotions?  Make a communicator with a roll of paper and a toilet paper tube hung around your neck with yarn.

Acronym Worksheet-- have students guess what different acronyms mean (will need to provide contest): NASA as in space shuttle, PBJ as in something you eat, UFO as in aliens, LOL as in emotions, TV as in entertainment, NWS as in predicting hurricanes, VIP as in honoring someone, MIA as in location, etc.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Titanic by David Stewart

Parent-Child Book Discussion
Grades 3-5
April 2012

1.  Thumbs up/Down and general feelings about the book or topic.

2.  Why did the engineers that built the ship think it was nearly unsinkable?  Are their other products whose creators have exaggerated the functionality of their products? (cars, toys, etc)

3.  Name some of the unfortunate accidents that led to the sinking of the Titanic.

4.  Who were some of the famous people on the Titanic?

5.  Why were women and children the first to leave the ship?  Why were the Third-Class passengers the last to exit?  What would it have felt like to be a man that survived the tragedy?  A third class woman?  A child?

6.  What do ships have to do differently now because of the Titanic's unfortunate sinking?

7.  What are some superstitions for travelling at sea?

8.  Science of the Titanic:
     At what temperature does unmoving fresh water freeze?
     What would the temperature of moving salt water been on the night of the Titanic?
     How long could someone survive in that temperature?


Mythbusters-- titanic

History channel--titanic

RMS Titanic, Inc

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder

(image from goodreads.com)

Parent-Child Book Discussion
March 2012

snack:  "penny" candy assortment

1.  Thumbs up/down and general thoughts about the book.

2.  Tell me about Penelope and her family at the beginning of the book.  What was their life like?

3.  Is money important for happiness? Why or why not?

4.  The Greys have two houses in this story.  What do they share in common and what is different?
      (both inherited, both full of books, both had family in debt, house help/do-it self, city/country, ...

5.  p 591  "Once you're in the mountains you can't see the mountains. They look different when you are a part of them."  What do you think that means?

6.  Describe some of the times when characters had to decide whether to keep their feelings inside or share with others.  When was sharing beneficial?  When was it harmful?
     --Dirk unhappy in his job
      --Diner.  poor service with a lap full of eggs and a fly in your glass.  How would speaking out have helped?  
       How might it not have helped?
      --When Alice can't hear Penny and Penny says she was practicing for a play
      --When Luella takes the last cookie
      --When Duncan eats a bunch of allergy foods
      --Delia gets a job
      --Hiding their financial situation from people in the Whippoorwillows

7.  How do Dirk and Delia change after they move to the country?
   (Dirk discovers he likes cooking and housekeeping; Delia enjoys working as a garbagewoman)

8.  Jealousy is a new feeling for Penny.  What was she jealous about? (Louella and Jasper being friends)  What does jealousy feel like?  Describe a time when you were jealous. Luella was jealous too (When Down Betty shares stories with Penny and hugs her).

9.  Why does Penny change her name, and do you think it was for a good reason? (a new name for a "new" person and a "new" way of life).

10.  Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not?

11.  Do you think the big events in this book were caused by Penny's wishes?  Why or why not?  Why do you think Penny skips wishing on the shooting star at the end of the book?
12.  Penny was a big reader. Name some of the famous books that were mentioned in the story. (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Bridge to Terabithia, Penderwicks, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Magic or Not?, Little Women, Betsy Tacy, Return to Gone Away, The Way Things Work, Ballet Shoes, Black Bess, Varney the Vampire, cookbooks and a biography on Amelia Earhardt.  What did I miss??)
--see the author's blog for the entire list!  I missed more than I thought!


--p119, definitions for ostentatious and didactic (dictionary.com)


characterized by or given to pretentious or conspicuousshow in an attempt to impress others: an ostentatiousdresser.
(of actions, manner, qualities exhibited, etc.) intended toattract notice: Lady Bountiful's ostentatious charity.


intended for instruction; instructive: didactic poetry.
inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring,didactic speaker.
teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson.

--Music for "Take Me Home, Country Road" by John Denver--Greys sing on their way to the country

--Telegram facts: Western Union sent its last telegram in 2006, but still wires money

--Sign Language-- here is a fun site with animated signs for kids!

--penny dreadfuls


--invent a recipe for "meaty" surprise

--facts about caves

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Parent-Child Book Discussion
Grades 4-6

snack:  Cheetos!!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Thumbs Up/Down and general thoughts about the book.

2.  What kind of person is Dwight?  How do people's opinions of him change during the book?

3.  Name some of the different ways Origami Yoda helps people (water pants, baseball crying, shakespeare head, bad movie, cheetos)

4.  In the lunchroom, Tommy and his friends don't know what to do when Lance sits in Dwight's spot.  What happened? (the boys decide they'd rather have Lance even though they know it will hurt Dwight's feelings).  What could they have done instead that would have been respectful to Dwight?

5.  On page 42 there are 10 Weird things that Dwight has done.  Which things do you think was the weirdest?  What's the strangest thing you've ever done?  Why did you do it?

6.  Cassie breaks her teacher's Shakespeare Head.  Have you ever broken or damaged something of someone else's?  What did you do to fix it?

7. Spelling Bee-- Mulct. Do you remember what the definition is? (to swindle/trick)
sarlack (actually spelled sarlacc-- and it's the giant pit-eating animal in the illustration)

8.  What is Quavondo's other name? (Cheeto Hog).  What mistake did Quavondo make? (put money in a vending machine during a field trip) What could he have done with the Cheetos that would have been more fair to his classmates?  What does he end up doing to clear his name, and was it worth it?

9.  What did Dwight wear to school one day that caused everyone to notice (sweater vest).  Is it polite to tell someone about their clothing?  When is it okay?  Ex:  TP stuck to your shoe, tag sticking up, fly is down, etc, button missing, etc.

10. Origami Yoda predicts that there will be a pop quiz.  The kids can't decide if it's cheating or not.  What do you think? What would have been cheating?

11. Dwight says nobody is nice to him except when they want to talk to Origami Yoda.  Is this true? Why or Why not?

12.  What kind of person is Harvey?  How does your opinion of him change as you read the book?


14.  Turn these sentences into Yoda-speak:
 --You must read the book to find out. (To find out,read book you must.)
--Learn to speak Jedi.  (Jedi you must you speak.)
--Clean your room. (Room you must clean)
-- Ask for a new bike. (For a new bike you must ask)
--Go to bed early. (Early to bed you must go)

15.  How did the illustrations add to the story?  Which was your favorite?

16.  Why do you think the author uses words like "stupid" and "butt" and "loser"? (Harvey uses a lot of these words, demonstrating that he is not very nice.  Other kids use it because they think it makes them look cool.)

17.  Throughout history people have tried to predict the future.  What other ways have people tried? (Horoscopes, magic 8 ball, needle spinning clockwise or counterclockwise, tea leaves, etc)

Fold Orgiami Yoda

Make a Shakespeare Head with clay-- red and blue clay!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming

Parent-Child Book Discussion
Grades 3-5
June 2011

Snack ideas: Pompadums, rice pudding, orange soda, milk (if you dare!)

1. Thumbs up/down and general reactions to book.

2.  Have you ever had to move before?  What did you like/dislike about moving?

3.  Have you ever met anyone who moved here from another country?  What was that like for them?

4.  What did Lowji think America would be like?  (Would have horses, cowboys and wide-open plains).  Why did he think that?  Think about the perceptions you have of other countries… what do you think it would be like to move to France?  To Japan?  To Sudan?  To Mexico?  To India?

5.  How is shopping in America different than shopping in India? (everything in one place, the escalators/auto doors work, no haggling, use rupies instead of dollars).

6.  What is Mrs Crisp like?  Why do you think the author chose to name her this?
Crisp means brisk; sharp; clear; short with words; decided

7.  What does the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” mean? (sometimes things are not as they seem).  Which characters were different than what you first thought of them?  Why? (Ironman not big and tough; Mrs Crisp a softy).

8.  What would you do if you saw a pet in someone’s hot car or an animal outside a store that was hot/tired?

9.  Lowji says he’s out of practice making friends. Are there some things he might have done differently to meet people sooner?

10. Mrs Crisp is against getting pets?  Which animals does Lowji convince her to get and why? (cat—catch mice; dog—burglar alarm; goats—lawnmower).  How does this plan work out?

11.  Which musician did Lowji never hear about?  Have you heard music by them?  What other musicians do you think everyone has heard of? (Beatles, Madonna, Kenny Loggins…)

12.  Lowji’s best friend Jamshed tells him to look for silver linings in his move.  What silver linings does Lowji find? (shorter school year, big store with everything, ironman/blossom, girl with bike and burp boys, pets from Mrs Crisp, etc)

Life in Mumbai:
Book:  Global Cities Mumbai by Jen Green.
Book: I Come From India by Valerie Weber is a PERFECT non-fiction tie-in

Puns and Idioms:
Try your hand (hahaha) at Idioms http://www.funbrain.com/idioms/ with this game from FunBrain
The Laugh Stand: Adventures in Humor by Brian Cleary has some fun puns.
There’s a Frog in My Throat by Loreen Leedy has animal idioms
In a Pickle and Other Funny Idioms by Marvin Terban has many examples of idioms

Other ideas for discussion:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Parent-Child Book Discussion
Grades 3-5
March 2011

snack: space food/ freeze-dried fruit and veggies

1. Thumbs up/down and general thoughts about the book.

2. If you could be ANY age-- what would you choose and why? What would you do differently than you do now?

3. Why do you think the author chose the title Cosmic for this book? (many uses for cosmic--the name of the bungee cord ride, means enormous/stupendous as an adjective, also refers to the immenseness of time and space (as in the cosmos).

4. Tell me about the different dads that were chosen for the contest-- what were they like?
Samson I and II--very smart, intelligence is the most important
Mr. Martinet (and Max)--strict/discipline, doing what you are told is the most important
Eddie Xanadu (and Hasan)-- very wealthy, money is the most important

5. Why does Liam like video games so much? Are video games a good or bad thing and why?

6. What makes a good dad? Thinking of all the fathers in this book, what were some of their good and bad traits?

7. Liam's conversations with his father could be summed up with 5 topics. What were they?
(p68-- how did you get here, what was the parking like, what things were like in the old days, a thinking question and sports talk.) Using these topics, describe your day today.

8. p 114-- How does Liam feel when he finds out the kids are the ones going into space? What do you think is the hardest part of being a parent? (Parents: what do you think the hardest part is?)

9. The children get to vote for the best father to travel into space with them. What are some of the reasons they vote for different fathers? (flag challenge--Xanadu gives kids ice cream; The vortex-- liam rides with all of them; one vote for liam b/c un-dadlike; voted against b/c he'd hog the video games) Who would you have voted for and why?

10. How is Florida different from the other children? (knows pop culture, wants to be famous, doesn't have a father).

11. Do you think sending to children to space is a good idea? Why or why not?
(talk about the dangers of inexperience and maturity--like the button pushing and the children not appreciating the view, etc... but also about their enthusiasm, thirst for learning and adventure, etc)

12. What does Liam pack in his PIP? (Talk to Your Teen book and St. Christopher medal) How did they come in handy? What would you have packed?

13. What do you think would have happened if Liam or Florida had told all the children that he was really a child during their emergency in space?

14. How is weightlessness like cotton candy? (It's fun, but you wouldn't want to live that way).

15. How are parents like gravity? (their love keeps you grounded, you can leave but will always want to come back...)

16. How do you think these events will change Liam's relationship with his father? How has the experience changed Florida?

Other Resources:

NASA Kids Club

What is Your Weight on Other Planets?

Mythbusters Flag Waving on Moon Hoax Debunk

How Solar Sails Work:

Harper Collins Cosmic Reading Guide:

Mother-Daughter Book Club Interview with Frank Boyce:

Use Google Maps to find Waterloos and/or other places around the world that have the same name as your town.

Military Time was used in this book... do some time exercises.

Stress measuring strips

Legend of St. Christopher (patron saint of travelers)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett

Parent-Child Book Discussion
Grades 3-5

snack: donuts and/or ice cream

Discussion Questions:

1. Thumbs Up/down and general thoughts about the book.

2. Why did people think Steve was a real detective?

3. Why is Steve accused of being a traitor? What would you do if you were accused of doing something that you didn't do? (ex: fine on a book you returned; copying off of someone's homework, etc)

4. How did the illustrations enhance the story?

5. How does this book portray librarians, police and teachers? Why do you think the author wrote them this way? (cat brooch, donuts, lazy, secretive, etc)

6. What is a "red herring." Did this book have any red herrings? (the symbols in the quilt book; policeman's name--Rick Elliot)

7. Grabes offers Steve 40,000 dollars for the book. What do you think would have happened if Steve had collaborated?

8. What was Mrs. Gilfeather's alias? (Mr. E, sounds like "mystery") What would your alias be?

9. The author makes fun of the mystery genre by creating "detective tips" that are sometimes found in mystery books and shows. What "tips" have you noticed in other books/shows? (Scooby doo-- the sidekick always gets captured, the way criminals look in Boxcar Children/Nancy Drew/Hardy boys?

10. Of the detective tips-- which ones worked and which ones didn't?
(hiding place in library,p32; flex ties hands muscles, p55; eat secret message, p69; how to jump and land, p 72; importance of mag. glass, p 80; making sheet rope, p81; talking like a criminal and having a disguise, p 100; haymaker punch, p 116; dusting for fingerprints; making a booby trap, p134; getting icecream, p153; solving mystery publically, p165.

11. This book was funny because the adults believed the unbelievable. What are some of the outrageous things that happened in the book that would have been a BIG deal in real life? (kid driving a car, mother leaving a note for Steve and not making a big effort to find him on a school night, kids going to a shady part of town dressed as sailors, a detective card actually making someone a detective, the importance of finishing homework assignment in light of everything else, etc)

The Brixton Brothers website where you can create your own detective agency and glean important Bailey Brothers "tips"! http://www.brixtonbrothers.com/home.php

Book: Detective Science by Jim Wiese--Fun ideas and activities for sleuthing: lip prints, dusting for fingerprints, cloth fibers, footprint casts, ink identification, height projections, DNA testing, handwriting analysis, etc.

Book: Lu and Clancy's Spy Stuff by Adrienne Mason-- disguises, stakeouts, secret messages, alarms, etc ( a little less serious of a book, sort of what the Bailey Brothers might recommend!)

Book: Master Detective Handbook by Janice Kilby-- more fun activities!

Try the CSI games on PBS's Ruff Ruffman website to solve some crimes: