No one would suggest I run a conventional teen book club, and that's one of the things I'm proud of. I know teens like to be silly and do fun things, and it's not always necessary to sit and discuss a book in depth. I've done book club using Legos and using Play Doh and making Post Secret cards.
While I was reading this week's book, which was Nova Ren Suma's June release Imaginary Girls, I was thinking about how I could run with something in the book and twist it enough to make it an activity for book discussion. What kept coming back to me was the imagery in the book, and one image that kept coming back to me was one in which the main character's older sister writes a series of demands on balloons that she ties with red ribbon. She lets them go and because of her magical powers, people do what the balloons say when they find them.
So I thought....why can't we?
I decorated our meeting room with colorful balloons that were tied with red ribbon.
I was impressed with how close the blue balloon matched the book's cover color.
Then when the group came in, they began writing their little demands/wishes onto the balloons with permanent markers.
Then we untied them from the backs of the chairs (proof the ribbon is red here!). I told everyone we had a place to take the balloons. I got some amused looks at this point, but then everything clicked into place when I led them outside.
One of our group members is wearing sunglasses in this photo, which, if you've read the book, you know fits the story so well. But, here's the pile of balloons. We wrote on each and every one of them. The wishes ran from things like wishing one of our group members would never stop talking, to receiving a pile of books in one's room, to having a cheesecake delivered to the library, and mine, which was having someone bring me $22 in $2 bills only.
Then we each took our balloons from the ground, and it was time to let the demands find their new homes.
This was a fun activity, and it was definitely a way to tie the story to the discussion quite easily.
As you probably saw in the first picture, we also pulled down our big screen and had a chat with Nova Ren Suma herself. I've had a lot of people ask how I do our author chats, and really, it's simple. I get in touch with the author a month or more in advance and ask if we can chat. Our chats are about 20 minutes long, and as of yet, we haven't done a Skype chat (we will come fall). Instead, we've used Chatzy to set up private chat rooms and type to talk. It's free to set one up, and you can email the link to the other party. What I like about this set up is that coming up with questions can be done on the spot, so the conversation can build as it flows naturally, and it allows us to chat between typing. There's not pressure on the teens to come up with something on the spot, and there's less pressure to be completely focused on the chat. Plus, when you let the teens type, they get to talk to an author themselves! It's a huge thrill for them, and it's fun to connect them with the people writing books for them.
So after our balloon demand release, a short book club discussion about characters and setting, and then a chat with the author, we'd used up an hour and a half and had a LOT of fun.