Leaving my previous job in December 2021 meant saying goodbye to the tween book group I had been facilitating since 2018. March 2022 would have been four years! By the time I’d left, most of my original crew had aged out. This made it a little easier to leave, but it was still hard for me to say goodbye. With the job transition, I never posted my last year of titles and activities. Time to dust off this blog and share!
As in 2020, tween book group continued to meet virtually through Zoom. The difference was that we switched from mailing the book group boxes (which got very expensive) to asking participants to pick them up from the library since our doors were now open. This book list will only cover January-November, because I was not present for the final book group of the year. I also skip months here and there because a colleague led those ones.
January 2021: You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
I chose this because, when we read Hello, Universe in 2020, one of the book club regulars said that was his new favorite book. You Go First is about long-distance friends who meet via online Scrabble and bond over some big life changes. Readers made letter tile nameplates and broke open geodes. Since this was virtual, I introduced the tweens to one of my favorite games: Scattergories.
February 2021: From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Zoe Washington explores her father’s wrongful conviction alongside her dreams of being a pro baker. Participants got cake mix and mini boxes of cereal to invent a cupcake flavor, including a recipe card to write their recipe. They also got stationery to write a letter to someone. (Side note: so happy to see this on the 2022-23 OBOB list!)
April 2021: I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
I Can Make This Promise is a beautiful story about family, art, and the Pacific Northwest that touches on the lasting impacts of forced adoption of Native children. It happens to be one of my absolute favorites and the tweens loved it, too. Participants got their own sketch book, art supplies, and a coloring page bookmark. We played virtual Pictionary using Zoom’s whiteboard feature.
May 2021: Lemons by Melissa Savage
If you know me, you know I’m really into cryptids. So, this book group was a really special one. I sent out lemon-themed treats and some kitschy Bigfoot swag for Lemons, a book about loss, friendship, and Bigfoot! Participants researched or invented their own cryptids and shared their findings. But what I loved most was our debate about whether or not Bigfoot is real. I showed them the Patterson-Gimlin film and some other choice resources. Some chose to believe, others not. I also got to give a shout out to the International Cryptozoology Museum, which I visited when I was living in New England.
July 2021: Doodleville by Chad Sell AND Share Your Smile by Raina Telgemeier
This was my second time doing a Chad Sell book and all of his books make such great choices. Rather than just give comic sheets, I decided to send participants Raina Telgemeier’s how-to guide—and give them felt tip pens to write directly in it. During our virtual meeting, we learned how to draw some of the characters from Chad Sell himself via videos on his website. I’m so grateful to creators who share their process!
August 2021: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
This was the last one I mailed, so I wanted to end on a high note. The paperback cover of this book is one of the greatest covers of all time. Besides being a great friendship and summer story, it’s all about the Great Escalator Trade—exchanging one small thing for something else until you get what you really want. We brainstormed what we would be willing to trade for, as well as what is most important to us that we would never ever trade. They got sunglasses, Bunch O Balloons water balloons, and a red paperclip (here’s why).
October 2021: Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
We started to scale these projects down at this point. I love this book and recommend it to everyone, particularly those hoping for an alternative or readalike to a certain wizarding world series. The part I was worried wouldn’t quite work out but did was playing the game over on the book’s UK website. I shared my screen and asked the tweens to tell me what to do until we made it to the end. It actually was really fun!
November 2021: History Smashers: The Titanic AND I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis
This is it: my last one. Ending with two Titanic books was certainly not intentional. But, for the occasion, I leaned into the setting and sent boarding passes, tea, and biscuits so we could have our last book group be afternoon tea. I can’t sing Kate Messner and Dylan Meconis’ praises enough: the History Smashers series is top-notch, engaging nonfiction. By pairing historical fiction and nonfiction, we actually ended up having a discussion about fake news and checking your information sources. We also watched a rather grim CGI mock up of the sinking happening.
Though I miss this program—and, even more so, these tweens—I’m excited to say that I’ve started a different kind of book group for tweens at my new library. More on that later!