Middle Grades: Diverse Perspectives Book Club

This book club was created for middle grade students and their caregivers. The list includes a variety of perspectives and experiences allowing for all participants to see a few mirrors and a great deal more windows.

The 10 books are listed and resources for each follow the list. Though everything is listed in alphabetical order it is suggested the book club reads in order of group consensus.

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
The Baby-sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier (based on the novel by Ann M. Martin)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer
First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled by Catherine Thimmesh
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

 

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

 

This book won the Schneider Family Book Award and the blurb for Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin reads:

Jason Blake is an autistic twelve-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days, it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes, and he things that PhoenixBird – her name is Rebecca – could be his first real friend. As desperate as Jason is to meet her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is.

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we know, right from the beginning of the book, that Jason is not a typical twelve-year-old? Name some of the characteristics he exhibits. Are these behaviors things you have seen before?
  2. What does Jason do well? What is he particularly knowledgeable about?
  3. In his story about Bennu the dwarf, Jason explores the possibility of a person being fixed of the thing that makes them different. What parallels can you draw between Bennu and Jason?
  4. What happens to Jason after he meets Rebecca? Is Jason’s reaction to Rebecca understandable? If you were Rebecca and had just met Jason, how do you think you would react? What questions would you ask yourself?

Interested in hearing from the author? Check out this short interview:

All discussion questions courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

 

The Baby-sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier (based on the novel by Ann M. Martin)

 

This graphic novel is based on the book (with the same title) by Ann M. Martin. While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Each girl has a job within the club. How does each job suit each girl’s personality? Which job fits your personality?
  2. Why do you think Kristy writes letters to her mother and Watson instead of talking to them?
  3. Which baby-sitting job do you think was the hardest – Pinky and Buffy, Jamie Newton and his cousins, or Watson’s children? Which one do you think was the easiest?
  4. What does Kristy learn about herself from the fight with her friends?
  5. What type of club would you like to form with your friends? Explain your choice.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson has won several major awards and is a story in verse. Please watch this short interview with Jacqueline Woodson before reading.

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Jacqueline’s mother tells her children that they will experience a
    “moment when you walk into a room and
    no one there is like you” (14).
    Have you experienced this? What might this feel like?
  2. Why does Woodson structure her memoir into five distinct parts? How does this choice add to the story?
  3. Where does Jacqueline start to see change happening in her life? Where does she start to see it in the world in which she lives?
  4. What is Jacqueline’s attitude toward God and religion? How does she seem conflicted?
  5. Jacqueline loves writing because it allows her to create the worlds she imagines. What world did she create through her memoir? Is there an end to her story?

All discussion questions courtesy of Penguin.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a Newbery Honor book! Though this book is based on the author’s life it is a work of fiction. In order to get a sense of what you’ll be reading, please watch the short video below before you begin.

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. “Audiologist” is a word that can be broken up into many word parts. “Audio” is a root that means hearing or listening, “ology” is a root that means study of, and “ist” is a member of a profession. If you look at all the word parts, what does “audiologist” mean? By knowing these word parts, what other words could it help you define?
  2. Cece uses many different kinds of clues to help her lip-read. (pages 30-31) What are the four types of clues? How do they help with lip-reading? In what other ways can these clues be helpful?
  3. Cece lists seven different things that make lip-reading difficult. How does each of these make it harder to read lips? (pages 31-32) What are some incidences throughout the book where another person did one of these actions? What are some other examples of actions by the people around Cece that they thought were helpful but actually made it harder for her?
  4. Have you ever felt as if you were in a bubble of loneliness like Cece? (pages 46-49) When was it? What did you do to help pop your bubble? Would you rather have a friend like Laura or be in a loneliness bubble?
  5. What are some misconceptions about deafness that other people have throughout El Deafo?
  6. How does Cece Bell use her illustrations in El Deafo to help tell her story? What would be different if the book had only text? Only illustrations?

 

 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer is informational. Treuer answers questions people have about “Indians” or more appropriately Native Americans, American Indians, or whichever tribe people are interested in. Did you know there are more than 550 federally recognized tribes? That means there’s a whole lot to learn in order to better understand one another.

For this book, you’re welcome to read it in it’s entirety; however, you are also welcome to choose four sections (of those listed below) and answer the questions related to those sections. While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Introduction: Ambassador

  1. What did you learn about Anton Treuer from reading the introduction?
  2. What questions do you have about Ojibwe, or Anishinabe, peoples?

Terminology

  1. Which of the questions and answers within this section was most interesting to you? Why that one?

History

  1. How did your thoughts about Columbus change after reading the questions related to him? If your thoughts did not change, why did they stay the same?

Religion, Culture, and Identity

  1. Which two questions and answers within this section were most interesting to you? Why those two?

Powwow

  1. If you’ve ever been to a powwow, how did this section help you understand what you were seeing then?
  2. If you’ve never been to a powwow, what would you be most excited to see or talk to people about?

Tribal Languages

  1. What was most surprising to you within this section? Why?

Education

  1. Were you aware there were federal residential boarding schools?
  2. What’s one way boarding schools impacted native communities?

Conclusion

  1. How can you make a difference your own community?

Want to learn more? Check out the interview Anton Treuer did with BookTV.

First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth

 

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth is a biography about the founder of the Girl Scouts. This biography, filled with primary sources, is not only about Juliette Gordon Low but also about how the organization of the Girl Scouts came to be.

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Juliette come up with the idea for the Girl Scouts? How do you know this? Please cite the page numbers used.
  2. On page 128, the 10 Girl Scout Laws of 1913 are listed. Which five are most important to you? Why?
  3. The organization of the Girl Scouts is organized by grade. What are the six different titles a girl would have if she were a part of the Girl Scouts from kindergarten through 12th grade? How do you know this? Please cite the page numbers used.
  4. Which chapter was most interesting to you? Why?
  5. How did the author’s note add to the text?

After you’ve finished, you’re welcome to check out the video a student created about Juliette Gordon Low for National History Day.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

 

Kate DiCamillo won the 2014 Newbery Award for Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. This laugh-out-loud story is one you’re sure to enjoy. While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Please choose from one of the two writing prompts below after you’ve read this story and answer it in writing. Share your responses with your book club!

  1. Everyone changes in life, and we see many changes in Flora, Ulysses, William Spiver, and George Buckman during this story. Pick two characters and write about the changes they experience during the story. Use examples from the book to demonstrate these changes.
  2. If you were creating a superhero, what animal would you choose? Create your own superhero animal using Ulysses as a guide. You may want to include a superpower, a special name, how that character hides his or her superhero self, friends, and/or enemies.

Both prompts courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Interested in watching Kate DiCamillo’s acceptance speech? Here you are:

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

 

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett is a mystery set in Chicago that begins with a bizarre accident on a deserted, wintery street in Chicago. Now stir in an old Langston Hughes book on rhythms, the Chicago Public Library’s huge downtown building, a family of four that find themselves in the midst of a spiraling nightmare, and the 2003 Antwerp Diamond Heist, the biggest in history. You will meet Dash, Sum, Early, and Jubie…and many others living in a large city shelter. As dreams chase reality in a fearless yet sparkly search, 11-year-old Early Pearl will take you on a ride not easily forgotten (source).

Check out the author’s website by going to Blue Balliett.

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The Pearl family collects their favorite words in a notebook called a “Word Book.” What are a few of your favorite words and why are they important to you?
  2. Many people believe that names have an effect on personalities. What does your name mean? How does it relate to your personality.
  3. One of the Pearl family mottos is “words are free and plentiful!” What is the significance of this statement for the Pearls?
  4. Why do you think the title of the book is Hold Fast? If you can, cite evidence from the book (page numbers) to prove your thinking.
  5. Combine all the names in your family to make one special family name just like Dashsumearlyjubie. What did you come up with?
  6. It took Blue Balliett just over four years to research and write Hold Fast. Why do you think it took this long? Why or why not do you feel you would be motivated enough to complete a book that took that long?

Questions courtesy of Scholastic.

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled by Catherine Thimmesh

 

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled by Catherine Thimmesh is a fascinating read about how scientists are learning what dinosaurs really looked like. Check out this brief video of Tyler Keillor speaking on being a paleoartist:

And here’s a bit more (that’s also about 10 minutes in length:

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Either while reading or once you’ve finished, please answer the questions below in writing. Then, share with your book club!

  1. What are three things you learned from reading Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled?
  2. Compare the two images of triceratops on pages 20 and 21. Which image is more accurate? Why is this image more accurate?
  3. Read through the glossary that starts on page 55, use three of these words in sentences. Make sure your sentences use the word in a way your reader understands their meaning.
  4. Read through the lists of artists that begins on page 54. Which is most interesting to you? Why?
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

 

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer and Matthew Holm is a graphic novel set in the 1970s that asks when is a summer vacation not really a summer vacation?

Check out this quick interview with Jennifer Holm before you begin reading:

While reading, flag pages that are striking to you using post-its. Using post-its is a great way to keep track of your thinking without having to bring a notebook along every time you read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Sunny feel about staying with her grandfather for the summer? How do you think you would feel?
  2. Look at the picture on page 88. What do you think Sunny is thinking?
  3. Why does Sunny want invisibility to be her superpower?
  4. Look at page 216. How does this show what Sunny must be feeling at the end of her trip?
  5. What does Gramps mean when he says “Keep your sunny side up”?
  6. What’s your dream summer vacation?

All discussion questions courtesy of Scholastic.