The Survival of the Gingerbread Girl

My girls and I were looking forward to reading Illana Barran’s The Survival of the Gingerbread Girl since we had only read tales of a gingerbread male in the past.  We quickly huddled together on the couch once our copy arrived in the mail.


The girls at once enjoyed looking at the colorful childlike drawings throughout.  The pop of colors, especially the shade of blue, scattered throughout the pages led the eye from one page to the next.

My oldest chose to read the book aloud to my youngest, but initially was having a difficult time finding a rhythm.  Since the title’s subtitle is “a Lullaby,” my oldest was hoping for some additional sheet music included at the end in order to read along to the author’s desired beat.

All three of us were more than pleased with the unexpected ending, and I will leave it at that in order to prevent a spoiler.

Having a love for baking, I was overjoyed to find the addition of two gingerbread-themed recipes in the back of the book.  So, I decided to try the Gingerbread Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Gathering my ingredients, though, I realized that there was no pumpkin required for the batter even though the title would assume otherwise.  Stumped, I reviewed the recipe again and again to ensure I was reading it correctly.  I then prepared one cupcake pan as the recipe claims to yield 8-12  muffins.  Twenty-seven muffins later, I had concluded my baking.  In addition, the recipe called for a cook time of 45 minutes, but hockey pucks I did not want.  My muffins were ready after 15-20 minutes and were quite tasty.


Overall, a good story with beautiful grammar, but the muffin recipe needs to be revised, and an addition of sheet music or hint to the melody as in “sung to the tune of . . .”  would be more than helpful.

Mark Teague’s Pigsty Book Club

Does your squirt’s room look like this?  Is she a huge fan of pigs?  Then, the book to read is Mark Teague’s Pigsty.

Beautiful illustrations painted in acrylic bring the antagonists, the pigs, to life.  Not to mention, the message of this picture book just might encourage your kiddo to clean his/her room.

Once the “pigsty” has been remedied (we are still not there yet . . . not even close), celebrate with a game of Monopoly and a big bowl of Bob’s Potato Chips.

Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation Book Club

I stumbled onto Atavist Books and was intrigued with the synopsis as well as the book cover of Karen Russell’s digital-only novella, Sleep Donation.  I am on a novella (short novel) kick, so I downloaded it to my Kindle straightaway.

The plot follows the protagonist Trish Edgewater who lost her sister, Dori, due to an incurable case of insomnia and now works for the not-for-profit Slumber Corps urging others to donate sleep through the emotional appeal of her sister’s death.  Furthermore, the story follows Edgewater as she works closely with Mr. and Mrs. Harkonnen whose infant, “Baby A,” possesses sleep vital for this life-threatening epidemic.

In unfolding the plot, Russell’s use of simile throughout offers vivid descriptions for the reader:

” . . . Donor Y wrote in tiny all-capitals, like a scream shrunken down into a whisper”  (Location 469).

“My wife just died, you see, and she’s saturated my sleep like coffin milk”  (Location 506).

” . . . the freak blue Maybelline [personally, I never know where to put that blue] smuggles in between the taupe and the gray, which Dori always said was like the strawberry you’re forced to buy in Neapolitan ice cream . . .”  (Location 1093).

In addition, the imagery of the moon found at the beginning and the end of the novella offers full-circle writing which could be discussed at length in the critical thinking classroom.  Yes!

While reading this short work of fiction, I was on the edge of my seat especially during the scene with Mr. Harkonnen and Edgewater, but ended up expecting a bit more.  Also, confusion for me was towards the end where Trish is referred to as “Mrs. Edgewater”  (Location 1565) when no mention of a husband occurred anywhere in this writing.  Instead, an intimate give and take appeared in Sleep Donation, but a co-worker shared the scene with Edgewater in lieu of a spouse.

For the purposes of book club, one may consider serving “loaves and fishes . . . ”  (Location 1004) or “poisoned apple[s]”  (Location 1034), but I prefer “green pistachios. . .” (Location 1165) and a risque “purple sleep cocktail. . .”  (Location 1316).

Book Club Babes: Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Miss Colleen’s selection of Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab was a hit not only for the book club members, but also the adults.  A thriller full of suspense and pretty cool experiments (this coming from a liberal arts person), I read my copy in one night.

Due to the high volume (sweet!) of experiments Miss Colleen’s mom brought with her, we changed the mode of discussion.  Each member chose a favorite question out of the three written in her journal, wrote said question on an index card, and placed it in a bowl.  Members then chose a question (blindly) from the bowl and were given time to think about the answer before sharing with the rest of the group.

After discussion it was experiment time, their favorite.  

Volcano Kit Purchased at Happy Up

To conclude, members were given a choice of ice cream flavors including mint chip and double chocolate chunk (the hub was unable to find double chocolate praline)  because this was what Nick and Tesla devoured at the end of the book.  Takeaway was a sandwich bag full of diluted highlighter juice to be used in a top secret manner of the Book Club Babe’s choosing much like Nick and Tesla used it to track the van in chapters 9-10.

Next discussion:  Miss Grace’s The Puppy Place:  Chewy and Chica

Book Club Babes: Frozen

Book Club Babes (a third-grade book club) met and discussed Disney’s chapter book, Frozen, selected by Miss Bella.  As members arrived, they were asked to decorate a cup to be used for the frozen punch, SoBe pina colada drink (found at Schnucks for $1/bottle . . . score).

Frozen SoBe was used as ice cubes to chill the punch.

After a dinner of sandwiches (which is mentioned in “Love is an Open Door”), a frozen dessert bar was served complete with a cake like the one found in the movie (minus the head statue) and various white/silver-colored treats (thank you Miss Faith for the white-iced snack cakes).

Discussion ensued with thought provoking open-ended questions such as, “What makes a family?” and “What is true love?”  to close reading questions such as, “What are the names of the three trolls?  Look in chapter 2.”  One member’s question of “What was your favorite scene?” led to third-grade members acting their answers out for the rest of the group.  Yes, goosebumps ran up and down my arms and legs as literacy in action unfolded before my eyes.  Even first and second grade siblings joined in on the discussion.  Be still my heart.

The remainder of book club was spent watching the movie Frozen (okay, I think one member ended up watching the movie in its entirety) and playing;  hey, they earned it.

Next discussion:  Miss Colleen’s pick of Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Book Club Babes II: Where the Wild Things Are

Miss Sofia selected Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for this book club discussion (each member selects a book of her choosing).  On arrival members had their pictures taken disguised as a wild thing.

Poster Created by Miss Corinna, 3rd Grade Assistant

Then, borrowing from Mrs. Lemons’ blog, Step into Second Grade, we discussed activities we do when we are feeling wild.  After brainstorming, members wrote their personal wild activities on this FREE printable and decorated the top of the monster’s head before attaching.

While chowing on a meal we thought protagonist Max would enjoy, ham and cheese sandwiches and watermelon chunks, my 3rd grade facilitator reread the book to members in preparation for an oral quiz.  For dessert, layer cake and ice cream seemed appropriate because this is what appears on the table in Max’s room.

Watermelon Boat Courtesy of Miss Sofia’s Parents

Miss Colette Iced the Layer Cake

After dessert, the remainder of book club was spent being wild.

Next book club:  Miss Morgan’s pick of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

The Fault in Our Stars Book Club

I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in a 48-hour span.  Wowza!  Not only does Green capture the adolescent thought processes, but also characterizes the young cancer patient’s philosophy and outlook on living and dying with cancer.  

Hooked early on with the female protagonist’s wit and outlook on life, I could not read enough from or about Hazel:

I hadn’t been in proper school in three years.   My parents were my two best friends.  My third best friend was an author who did not know I existed.  I was a fairly shy person- not the hand-raising type.  (12)

‘Pretty great,’  I agreed, although it wasn’t, really.  It was kind of a boy movie.  I don’t know why boys expect us to like boy movies.  We don’t expect them to like girl movies.  (35)

Augustus asked if I wanted to go with him to Support Group, but I was really tired from my busy day of Having Cancer, so I passed.  (125)

Having been a cancer patient myself, I could relate to Hazel’s commentary.  Furthermore, the intellectual banter which exists between Hazel and Augustus throughout is a delight to read as in their exploration of breakfast foods:

‘Like why don’t we have curry for breakfast?’ . . .  

‘But why?’ I asked.  ‘I mean, seriously:  How did scrambled eggs get stuck with breakfast exclusivity?  You can put bacon on a sandwich without anyone freaking out.  But the moment your sandwich has an egg, boom, it’s a breakfast sandwich.’  (137)

Thus, for the purposes of an evening book club over The Fault in Our Stars, step outside your comfort zone and offer breakfast for dinner.

House of Jaguar Book Club

Mike Bond’s House of Jaguar  is a thriller which revolves around the protagonist Murphy, a Vietnam veteran who now makes his living flying drugs deep in the jungle.  True to Bond’s writing style as read in The Last Savanna and Saving Paradise, his novels comprise  descriptions not for the faint of heart as well as steadfast political commentary:

The priest lay with his cheekbone crushed, his nose ripped open and bent to one side.  His collarbone looked broken, too, one arm dislocated at the elbow and shoulder.  The wrist was bent, too, clearly broken.  Lucky for him, Lyman thought, that I was there to save him.  (59)

For me, the difficulties lie in the seemingly invincible characteristics of the male in this novel:  able to release himself  from the confines of rope, overtake four men in a weakened state, and then commandeer a falling helicopter in order to fly off into the sunset with his life force after being beaten, chased, starved, etc.  Really?

In addition, Bond’s stream of consciousness placement of words on the page resulted in a disjointed storyline which distracted along with the numerous grammatical errors.  The potential is there, but this piece of work needs a good cleansing from an editor.

For the purposes of book club, monkey stew complete with short, coarse hairs could be an option, but Andrew Zimmern I am not.  Instead, a spread with various tortilla dishes sounds more appetizing for the masses.

M.J. Rose’s Seduction Book Club

Wondering if those eerie feelings of deja vu could possibly mean anything?  Then, M.J. Rose’s Seduction is the novel for you.  With portions based on the biography of one of the famous literary figures in France, Victor Hugo, one may never look at a Ouija Board the same way again after navigating through this complex storyline of connected characters spanning various timeframes.  Thus, a reader of this fiction may find a quiet escape, by the sea no less, the perfect setting in which to read.

Interestingly enough this piece of fiction was written entirely in chirography which did not hamper her manipulation of words for the purpose of vivid descriptions one scintilla:

I’d only seen you two or three times but had been acutely aware of your sadness.  You wore it like a frock.  It clouded your eyes, turning the blue sky to gray.  Even the scent that lingered in a room after you’d left it reminded me of grief.  It was the fragrance of flowers past bloom in their death throes (52) . . .

These giant hulking rocks have stood here for all time, seen all things, watched silently as men used them for shelter, religious rituals, burials, for crimes, trysts, for hiding places.  (218)

Simile and personification at its finest . . .

For the purposes of book club, Rose offers recipes as well as suggested background music here.  Furthermore, your club may even wish to invite Rose to your discussion virtually via Skype, a reader’s dream come true.

Book Club Babes Reader-Generated List to Date

Placing the book selection in the hands of the second-grade girl members of Book Club Babes, a wide range of genres has been selected thus far which thrills me as the facilitator.  Listed beside the title are brainstorming ideas to reinforce the readings.

Disney Frozen (123 pages), I’m thinking viewing party after discussion.  Oh yeah!

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab:  A Mystery with Electrogmagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself (240 pages), Experiments galore after discussion . . .

The Puppy Place:  Chewy and Chica (144 pages), Meet at the Glen Carbon Berry to read with the STARS with Dogs

Isabelle:  American Girl Today (128 pages), I know they offer American Girl workshops at the G.C. Berry.

Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday (85 pages), An Unbirthday Partay