Book Club for 5th Grade with Karen Day
It was a scramble, but my oldest’s kick off 5th grade girls’ book club was a big hit thanks to a visit by author Karen Day, author of No Cream Puffs.
I had a technology glitch as I had hoped to video the book club and post it but failed to fully charge it. Oh well. It was That Kind of Day including an early release at our elementary school so the girls all arrived around 1:00 starving. While they waited for the pizza to cook (thank you Trader Joe’s!), I could hear the girls in the other room talking about the book. I overheard snippets about the cuteness of one of Madison’s teammates and the girl-boy-boy love triangle. Hmmm…
The unmonitored book discussion was a reflection of both the book’s plot as a coming of age story of Madison, a talented baseball player who is the first to play in the boys’ Little League and themselves. Both girls and protagonists coming of age. And both again, with the same dynamic of girls interested in boys/make-up/cute outfits and girls who are not.
Lunch was consumed, crafts pulled out and the girls went to town around the dining room table talking, decorating visors, gluing, and beading. There was a nice communal vibe of happy girls. And then Karen Day walked in…
She Knew She Wanted To Become a Writer at the Age of 9
She was such a rock star! Immediately, she began engaging the girls with “Who likes to write?” and “Did you know I was 9-years-old when I realized I wanted to be a writer?” She went on to describe a writing assignment — mundane at best — in which she had to craft a story around a picture and was assigned a boy kneeling in prayer. But the story she came up with — oy vey! She had the talent for storytelling since she was born! Her story, at age 9!!!, was about a boy who was snowball fighting with his friend. The snowball fight escalated to throwing snowballs at cars. A car fishtails and hits his friend. So he’s kneeling in prayer asking God to save his friend and he’ll never throw another snowball in his life. (picture tie in accomplished).
OK. My story would have been about saying prayers at night at bedtime out of habit. Clearly, I am not a writer!
Perseverance and The Business of Selling a Book
She went on to tell the girls that from age 9 onward, she wrote every day. She showed them her journals from childhood as well as the journals she uses to craft her stories now. THEN, she pulled out this massive white roll of laminated paper — the length of a red carpet — and flung it down with a flourish. Guess what? An assortment — not all! — of the many, many rejection letters she received as she tried to get her first book published. It was rejection after rejection and then, finally a nibble. Her agent was savvy enough to hold out for another nibble and let the parties negotiate it out but it was a hand-wringer for Karen who feared they would both change their mind and walk away. But the upshot: famous editor for Karen’s first book and multi-book deal!
But the publishing side was just one facet of book creation. She rewrote her first book 30 times. And her second book 50 times. And they each take 3-5 years to craft. Wow! Who knew?!
No Cream Puffs Discussion
The book was discussed and Karen shared the bits of the book that came from her own life:
- She was Madison in the sense that she was the first girl to play baseball in her town. She also struck out her opponent with all the fanfare and excitement in the final game just like in the book.
- But … the cute guy on the team was her opponent who was teased mercilessly for years to come from being struck out by a girl.
- And… the cute guy went on to win a baseball scholarship to the University of Michigan as well as play for a major league team.
- And…the cute guy was her high school boyfriend. And he’s a super nice guy! We got to see photos and the girls were fascinated but not necessarily agreeing on his cuteness — clearly, the 70’s hairdo was not translating!
- The rock star character was written in and out of her book several times and is loosely based on Greg Allman, of The Allman Brothers band, who did land in her hometown for several days staying with a hometown cutie. This was much later after she moved away but was all the gossip in town and came via her mom.
- She talked about an issue she had with her best friend though at a different point in her life that resolved itself less happily than in her book.
- Crystal, in her book, was someone she created and isn’t based on any person or incident.
The girls had much to say relating the story to things that happened to them (or not) and clearly felt a connection to Madison. There were comments from the group about how they felt when they were the only girl on their sports team. The girls were also very tuned into friendship conflicts that happen when your close friends start to change … a theme that is personal and will continue to be a challenge for them as they enter middle school. It was a book group discussion that we normally don’t have but would make a teacher proud!
A Big THANK YOU to Karen Day for her visit! And just a shout out that SHE’S AN AMAZING SPEAKER. SHE DOES SCHOOL VISITS! Here’s her contact info.
We are all eagerly waiting for her next book, A Million Miles from Boston, out this April. She gave us a preview:
- Annoying boy from school shows up at Lucy’s summer cottage in Maine.
- Lucy’s mother died when she was younger and this is the place where she remembers her mother the best
- Her dad’s relationship with his girlfriend is getting more serious and Lucy doesn’t much like her.
Here’s the blurb in Amazon:
School’s out! That means Lucy is off to her favorite place: Pierson Point, Maine, where she spends summers with her family. And as she tries to forget her worries about starting middle school and about Dad’s new girlfriend, Lucy can’t get there soon enough. Pierson Point is where she feels most like herself, and where memories of her mother, who died when Lucy was six, are strong and sacred.
But this summer, nothing is the same. Ian, a boy from home in Boston, comes to Pierson Point with his family. Ian is loud, popular, and mean. He and Lucy can’t stand each other. To top it off, Dad wants his girlfriend to become a bigger part of Lucy’s life.
Karen Day’s engaging novel shows that people aren’t always what they seem and that friendship can be found in the most unusual places.
Check her website for her book tour. And I hope that someone chooses her first book for another book club meeting.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.