Book Club Babes II: Strega Nona

Our latest first-grade book club discussion covered Miss Avery’s selection of Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona, a Caldecott Honor Book.  Yum, a book which revolves around pasta, my carb-loving body as well as my squirt’s are more than sold.

Finding a Scholastic DVD, Strega Nona . . . and more stories about magic, of the story at our award-winning Glen Carbon Centennial Library, we began the evening with a viewing of the picture book.

IMG_1523Once this was complete, participants ate an endless bowl of spaghetti much like Big Anthony followed by cake (okay, not an element of the story, but definitely a necessity).

Then, the real learning disguised as fun began under the direction of Miss Wendy, momma and teacher extraordinaire.  Covering character analysis using adjectives on slips of paper, each book club member was given an opportunity to decide whether the descriptive word in question described Strega Nona or Big Anthony.  So cool!  Even my third-grade-daughter assistant could not resist joining in on the characterization.

IMG_1541Bookies then shared from their journals . . . a picture depicting a favorite character, scene, etc. from the book and one discussion question.  Open-ended questions evoked thoughtful answers such as, “Why was Big Anthony told not to touch the pasta pot?”  Yes, tears of joy were streaming from my face at this literacy in action.

To conclude, Miss Wendy had the young ladies create a house identical to Strega Nona’s complete with a “yarn” of pasta overflowing from the pot.

Next book discussion:  Miss Elise’s selection of Stellaluna

Accidents of Marriage

accidentsofmarriageRandy Susan Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage is not your typical happily-ever-after, and I like that.  Instead, what Meyers offers in black and white is brutal honesty reinforced with extensive dialogue throughout so that the reader is truly able to “listen” to each of the characters from his/her perspective.

Accidents of Marriage revolves around the marriage of Maddy and Ben, two successful professionals with three children.  A tragedy occurs which pushes to the forefront a marriage and family in trouble, trouble which can no longer be ignored or masked by other means.

As for Meyers’ writing style, her descriptive detail makes use of the senses:

Why?  That’s your first worry?  Why?’  Ben smelled his musk rising- exhaustion, court, aftershave gone flat, and beery rankness.  (Loc 610)

In addition, throughout, the carefully constructed dialogue offers life lessons to be absorbed by all:

She pointed her finger at him like a gun. ‘I’m not asking anything- I’m assuming you were out having a drink.  But don’t try and bully your way out of anything with me.’

‘I love your daughter,’ Ben said.

‘Love isn’t an excuse for anything but treating someone well.’ (Loc 2227)

Moira’s smile lit up the face that must have been lovely before old bruises and lines set in so deep. ‘I said to myself, stop worrying about him killing you.  You’re murdering yourself.  All he has to do is finish the job.  I’d been praying to God, not realizing that all that time God was helping, I just didn’t recognize his hand.  He’d sent me you all- I just hadn’t been listening.  All these years, it was like the Bible says, I’ve been a prisoner of hope.’ (Loc 4318)

If hosting a book club discussion to accompany Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage, the meal of choice should definitely be turkey meatloaf, honeyed carrot pennies, baked potatoes, and croissants in honor of Maddy’s independence.

Tracy McMillan’s I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway

A fan of the memoir, I discovered this latest read, I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, while perusing the shelves at Horizontal Books in Cleveland, Ohio.  Tracy McMillan writes with honesty as she details her childhood dysfunction and its lasting effects which reach into her adulthood especially in her relations with men.

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What drew me in as a reader were her thought processes from the perspective of her childhood self as well as her adult self intermingled with one another within a single chapter.  The weight of what McMillan had to endure as a little girl resulted in my taking numerous breathers from the reading.  Born to a father who was a pimp/drug dealer and a mother who worked as a prostitute, McMillan finally found some normalcy at the hands of Gene and June Ericson, her foster parents, for four and a half years.  Then, she was uprooted from this home only to live with her father and his girlfriend until his return to prison.  Her parenting then fell into the hands of her father’s girlfriend turned wife, Yvonne.

As an adult and reflecting on her current relationship with her stepmother which is pretty much nonexistent, McMillan writes:

I feel a twinge of sadness, not because I wish that we were going to be a part of each other’s lives- I don’t see a life of merry Christmases and summer vacations with Yvonne- but there’s a part of me that loves a happy ending, and as endings go, this one isn’t happy.  It’s just okay. . . . on second thought, an okay ending will do just fine.  (312)

This is just one of many sympathetic introspections the author engages in throughout the memoir resulting in a resolution of profound thought.

Furthermore, in dealing with her son who questions McMillan as to why she divorced her third husband, McMillan takes full ownership of her role as parent, “I know my choices have affected you, honey.  I’m so, so sorry. . . .We can make it count for something”  (333), and responsibility to stop the cycles of dysfunction.

If reading I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway for book club, perhaps a trip to Paris (where McMillan and her son commenced a fresh start) for discussion will fit into everyone’s schedule.  If not in the budget, then perhaps coffee to mirror how McMillan not only starts her day, but how this beverage makes an appearance during many of McMillan’s life-changing events.

 

Top Secret [to Me] Twenty-One

I know it’s hard to believe, but I missed the release of Janet Evanovich’s Top Secret Twenty-One.  My fellow And Then There Were Two book club member, Sarah, usually keeps me up to date about the Evanovich series.  One Christmas vacation (we’re both teachers), we stayed up until all hours of the night passing books 1-8 back and forth sending our hubs out in the cold to make a drop or a pick-up.  When I sent her a picture of this novel via text, she replied, “Had no idea!  Buy it for us,”  so I did, and, hey, it was 30% off.

topsecrettwentyone

A solid story involving Stephanie and Lula apprehending criminals who have skipped bail which then leads to a murder mystery carries this novel throughout, but AGAIN, where are Ranger and Morelli, and why are they afterthoughts?  Or, to rephrase, where are the juicy parts already?

ENTERTAINING √

QUICK READ √

PLENTY of Morelli ↓

PLENTY of Ranger ⇓

So, with this being written, if you are in the habit of having food with your book club, look no further than page 83 for assistance, “. . . half a cow . . . a mound of mashed potatoes and four green beans . . . [with] gravy poured over everything.”  For dessert, definitely a chocolate cake even Briggs could not refuse.

Of course, I will anxiously await number twenty-two in the Stephanie Plum series with the hope of it being saturated with the two alpha males in Plum’s life.