Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “The Map Trap”

Disclosure Pic

This month’s book has my son studying his atlas and planning for a cross-country trip.


We read The Map Trap by Andrew Clements.  It’s about a boy who adores maps and is being blackmailed by someone after making all sorts of really creative ones.

Of course, we had to do that.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: The Map Trap @ A Nest in the Rocks

After summarizing and discussing the book at length, we dove right in – with human body maps.  We talked about caricatures and the boys drew themselves with either enlarged heads or torsos.  Then they filled in that space with pictures – with either the things they think about or the foods they like to eat.  Although drawing is not always their favorite activity, they were excited to create a new kind of map and got busy drawing right away.

Of course, they were even more excited to go geocaching like Alton from The Map Trap.

Each boy brought six pieces of swag that represented himself.  We talked about signatures and labels and they marked each piece of their swag with their mark.  Then we talked about bike safety and broke up into pairs.

The boys put on their helmets and packed their swag into bags and pockets and headed outside.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: The Map Trap @ A Nest in the Rocks

Earlier that day, I hid 6 bags containing simple swag items around our neighborhood.  I also made maps of the neighborhood and overlaid a grid on top.  Since we did not have enough GPS units for each group, we needed another way to simulate a geocaching activity, and this was it.  I gave each team of boys a set of coordinates to mimic the latitude and longitude of a regular geocache target, and then each team examined a map to figure out where that was.  They headed to their specific target to search for the swag bags. 

Each bag was labeled with another set of coordinates.  When the boys found a bag, they swapped out their swag for the swag inside and then memorized the new coordinates.  They studied the map to find the new coordinates and took off again.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: The Map Trap @ A Nest in the Rocks

The boys loved this activity!  They chased down caches for two hours – until they had found every single one.  They worked well together in their teams and were generous with their swag.  It was a super fun book, and there are many learning activities available to accompany it.

They’re also interested in reading more of Andrew Clements’ work.  We’ll definitely be trying out more of them.

What are your kids reading this month?

 This post has been shared at:


Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab”

Disclosure Pic

This month we ventured where we’ve never gone before – into the field of hard-core science.  We read

Then we started building.  We started out building this electromagnet.  Each boy tested it to see how many big paperclips he could lift, and our top number was five.

When we started building an anti-intruder door alarm.  This gadget was definitely trickier, and as science and circuits are not my thing, it took us a while to get it figured out.  By the time we got it, our time was running short, and everyone was excited about our last project, so we moved on quickly – to build a rocket car.

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Nick and Tesla"

Like the intruder alarm, the rocket car was a bit more complicated than expected.  We repeated the experiment several times, modifying it each time, each with greater success than the last.  (We’ve now figured out how to correct these issues before the girls’ club meets this week.)

While we didn’t get the amazing results we hoped for with the experiments, at least some of the kids went home and did research to figure out how to improve the projects.   They loved

They set up camp first.  There were three dads, six book club boys, and one little brother.  They pitched four tents and gathered firewood, and then we settled down to discuss the story.  The boys had lots to say about who the villains were in the story.  Woodruff does an excellent job of portraying the humanity of the soldiers in each army, and the boys caught that information.  They chose sticks to whittle for roasting their hot dogs for dinner and went on a long hike.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "George Washington's Socks" @ A Nest in the Rocks

They spent a lot of time at the water – throwing in sticks, rocks, and whatever else they could find.  One mom rented a canoe and a kayak, and the boys took turns paddling around this part of the lake.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "George Washington's Socks" @ A Nest in the RocksThere was a lot of running around and yelling and playing-with-sticks and general boyish craziness, too.  It all resulted in lots of fun. 

I think this is one book club event that will be remembered for a very long time.

What are your kids reading right now?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Toliver’s Secret”

Disclosure Pic

We’re studying the Revolutionary War era right now, and so this month our girls read

After reading the story, we jumped right into it.  I taught the girls a new code, and they used their books to write out their own messages.  The girls got really into it and spent a long time writing out detailed messages.  Then I divided two big batches of bread dough between all of the kids, and they formed their own loaves of bread around the messages, just like Ellen’s grandfather did in the story.

Book Club, Girls' Edition: "Toliver's Secret" @ A Nest in the RocksAfter the bread came out of the oven, we headed out into the yard to experience Ellen’s rough spy journey.  First, we played “Keep Away” with a few loaves of bread to simulate Ellen’s fight with and subsequent flight from the bullies who stole her bread.  The girls laughed really hard during this game and tried hard to hold their bread tightly – they were all so excited about eating their bread that they didn’t want to risk dirtying it!

Book Club, Girls' Edition: "Toliver's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

After taking the boat across the bay, Ellen had to dodge many obstacles in her effort to deliver the secret message.  We simulated that with an obstacle course and races.  The girls ran through the yard, circling trees, climbing play equipment, and heading up and down hills in an effort to cross the finish line first. 

Book Club, Girls' Edition: "Toliver's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

DSCN4772Weren’t they cute?

The girls really enjoyed Toliver’s Secret.  I liked the fact that they were so excited to dive into the 1770s – and they had fun learning, too.

What are your kids reading right now?

Book Club: “The Sign of the Beaver”

Disclosure Pic

We kicked off our new year of book club events with a fantastic story:  ,

10 Adventure Stories for Elementary Readers

Disclosure Pic   10 Adventure Stories for Elementary Readers @ A Nest in the Rocks   My kids love to read adventure stories, and I love how enthused they get about reading when they find a good one.  There are also great lessons to be learned from adventure stories – lessons about being brave in the face of danger, of trusting God when the path is unknown, and of embracing new things, among others.   There are the character-building lessons and literature ideas you learn from these books, too. So for the past month I’ve read lots and lots of kids’ books to find the perfect ones for our book club meetings and school plans.  these yet, they should be added to your TBR pile immediately. 1.  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein  This story features middle-school characters but is I’ve tested out many more books than I’ve chosen, too, because I’m a picky reader, and I have high expectations for what my kids read.  The following list includes my most favorite adventure stories for upper elementary readers, though, and if you haven’t read clean and fun.  The characters are involved in a Survivor-like contest in a high-tech new library and must figure out an escape from a series of well-formulated clues to win an enormous price.  2.  Capture the Flag by Kate Messner  This is the first book in a trilogy about a secret society of people descended from the world’s greatest artists and whose mission it is to protect their ancestors’ work from  those who seek to steal or destroy it.  The main characters are  three unlikely kids, all with different skills and talents, who work together to bring down some serious art thieves.  3.  The Secret Island by Enid Blyton  This is another first-in-a-series, this time about kids who are living in poor foster situations and decide to run away together to live on an island in the middle of a nearby lake.  They build shelters, cook for themselves, store food for the winter, and otherwise survive on their own for months.  It’s a great story of survival skills and working together. 4. The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein  This Grabenstein book also features older characters and touts great literature.  How real are the things we imagine?  Can our imaginations fuel real change to our world?  These themes are explored when the main character writes himself into many classic stories and barely escapes with his life over and over again.  5.  The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone  This first book, and the three that follow it, follow two kids through adventures through time, righting wrongs and learning about history.  Their time travels are centered around the Sixty-Eight Rooms, a real exhibit in a Chicago museum.  Find out how to turn this story into a real learning adventure here.  6.  George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff  I’ve always had a thing for time travel, as evidenced by several of these choices, but that’s because it’s a great vehicle for bringing the excitement of history alive.  Woodruff does that in this story by sending a group of friends back in time to the night that Washington crossed the Delaware.  In the melee, they are helped by Native Americans, run into Redcoats, are captured by Hessians, and rescued by Patriots.  How much more excitement could you handle in one night??   7.  Honus and Me by Dan Gutman  While time travel is my thing, sports are not – and yet I love this series.  The main character, a tween boy, has the ability to travel through time with old baseball cards, and in each book of the series he travels to a different time and place, meeting the old greats and trying to correct wrongs – all while learning about the history of baseball.  Of course, things never go as planned, and he’s captured by mobsters, lost without money, chased by angry managers, and much more.   Find out how to turn this story into a real-life learning adventure here.  8.  Edison’s Gold by Geoff Watson  This is one of my son’s favorite books.  When Thomas Edison’s a-bunch-of-greats-grandson learns of his ancestor’s secret discovery, he and his friends race to find and save it – before the competition destroys his family.  With explosions, chase scenes, and neat science tricks, it’s a super fun story – and you’ll learn something, too. Find out how to turn this story into a real-life adventure here.

 9.  Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach  This story, and the rest of the trilogy, explore the mysterious past of a real mountain range in Arizona.  With legends abounding, as well as a race to find a lost gold mine, you won’t be able to put this series down.

 10.  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett  This story will make you think, as the author combines history, art, and philosophy – but she does so amidst the biggest art heist in history, and when some kids discover the trail to the thief, adventures fly.  Find out more about how to turn this book into a learning adventure here.    


Do your kids like adventure stories?  Which are their favorites?  

Book Club: “Mystery of Biltmore House”

Disclosure Pic

Book club took an interesting turn this month – a really BIG turn.  A Biltmore-sized turn.

We read

The story is about a group of kids trying to solve a crime inside the famous Biltmore mansion.  Several other locations around Asheville were also mentioned in the book, making this a great way to learn about the mountain region of North Carolina.

We started out by summarizing the story and discussing the characters’ actions, and there was a lot to talk about!  Since gargoyles were described in detail by the author, we talked about the history of these stone carvings – about how true gargoyles have water shooting out of their mouths, and about how other statues are called grotesques

Of course, after all of that talk about ugly, scary statues, we had to make our own.

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I made a few batches of salt dough and gave each kid a ball of it.  Some asked for drinking straws so that they could make them spit water.


Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

The kids got really into their sculpting.

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Didn’t they come out well?

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Next the kids split into their book club teams – boys versus girls – to go on a nature scavenger hunt.  They searched for all of the plants mentioned in the book, as well as some local wildflowers.  My Big Helper was happy to find tulip poplars …

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

and all of the kids searched hard to find more plants than the other group.  Each one was able to find several plants that were new to them!

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Finally, we talked about the wide variety of rooms that can be found in Biltmore House and about some of the ways that it was ahead of its time technologically.  Then the kids paired up to design their own dream homes.  Some of them tried to make simple, large houses.  The duo above, though, got all into it.  They drew a house on wheels with a pool, vending machines that spit out their favorite foods, and staircases to the moon and the sun.  They got really creative!

Book Club: “The Lemonade War” Boys vs. Girls

Disclosure Pic

This month we broke all the book club rules and declared war:  The Lemonade War (The Lemonade War Series)""“>The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, in which a brother and sister make a bet about who can earn the most money by holding lemonade stands during a five-day period.  We took up the challenge.


The girls went first.  They met in the morning to plan the details of their stand, including choosing a charity to which they could donate their profits.  The girls chose St. Jude’s Research Hospital.  They made posters, detailed plans for added value, good customer service, and how to make change.  After that they ate a picnic lunch and packed up their gear.


We set up their stand at the local Tractor Supply store, where the generous manager had given permission for us to work outside.  The girls stored their money in a toy cash register and traded jobs to experience all aspects of lemonade stand business.


The boys met this week.  They followed the same routine as the girls, choosing Samaritan’s Purse/Nepal Earthquake Victims as their charity.  The boys determined to raise more money than the girls – and just like in the book, the girls refused to divulge how much money they had.


The biggest difference between the two stands was the way that they handled themselves onsite.  The girls were fairly reserved, while the boys were outgoing. 


They even made posterboards and danced down the sidewalk with them. 

In the end, the groups made more than $160 total for their charities – and I think they’ve learned a little bit about business and marketing, too.

Has your child ever run a lemonade stand?

For more business ideas, check out these great resources:


Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “The Sixty-Eight Rooms”

Disclosure Pic

When we first started this boys’ book club, I wondered if it would be hard to to get them to discuss a book in depth.

Now I know: it’s not – as long as you’re talking about a good book.

Book Club:  "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Apparently, The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone is a great book.  The boys talked about it for nearly an hour.  They had lots of questions and wanted to talk about many of the historical people and issues visited in this book (I’ve linked resources for these  below.)  A book doesn’t have to be non-fiction to introduce lots of factual information, and that is evident by this one.  The kids wanted to know more about life in Plimoth Plantation, the settlement of New England, the Salem Witch Trials, and King Henry VIII, although the French Revolution was bandied about, too.

After a lot of historical discussion, we watched this video featuring images of rooms from this famous display in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Then we headed outdoors to build rooms out of shoeboxes.

Here the boys surprised me again.  After seeing so many fancy European rooms in the video, we talked about the types of rooms we hadn’t seen – garages, barns, dens, stables, workshops, or anything very masculine, really.  We talked about the many natural elements that they could find outdoors to use in their rooms, like sticks, stones, leaves, etc.  We brought out scrapbooking paper, magazines, scissors, and glue, and gave the boys free rein.

Book Club:  "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Usually these kids can’t wait to go tearing around the yard looking for the perfect stick or stone – but today each of them worked strictly with paper.

Book Club:  "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" @ A Nest in the Rocks

They each chose a different perspective on the room and designed a different type of room – a pantry, a bedroom, etc – but in the end they all had interesting rooms to show.

Book Club:  "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Isn’t this chandelier and 3-D style bedroom cool?

Don’t underestimate your boys.  Tug on the threads of history wherever you find them. 

And be sure to read The Sixty-Eight Rooms with your kids.  It’s well worth the read.

What are your kids reading right now?

Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “Callie’s Contest of Courage”

Disclosure Pic

You know a kid likes something when he asks for more of it.

That’s how this month’s book club came about.  My Little Man watched the girls have fun with Callie’s Contest of Courage (2)""“>Callie’s Contest of Courage works well for boys.  Callie may be a girl, but with a brother, boy cousins, and a good male friend in the picture, there are lots of male influences.  With a dad serving in the military and a love of animals and adventure, Callie is a great character for any child to read.

Since My Little Man was so determined to do the same activities as the girls, we did – but with some important boy-friendly modifications.  You can read about the girls’ event here and see which set might work best for you!

After summarizing and discussing the book, we talked about some basic photography techniques, like the Rule of Thirds and Perspective.

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Then we set out to take some photos.  The boys brought digital cameras along, and they were eager to find and capture their assignment:  signs of spring.  Since it was a warm and beautiful, sunny day, I thought they’d find many things to take pictures of, and they sure did! 

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Isn’t this cardinal feather beautiful?

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

They were especially fascinated by these frogs in the pond.  There were at least three frogs, and maybe a snake.  Whatever else it was, something had the frogs all worked up, and there was a lot of writhing and thrashing in the water.  We stopped, watched, and took pictures for a long time!

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Next we returned home for our pie-eating contest!  The boys were all wound up about this and couldn’t wait to dig in.  Although the girls chowed down in the kitchen, we decided to move this potential mess outside -and I was glad that I did!

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I think My Little Man enjoyed wearing his pie more than eating it.

Callie's Contest of Courage - Boys

I think Check out these resources to get in the Callie mood!