Book Club, Girls’ Edition: Flat Stanley’s African Safari Discovery

Flat Stanley African Safari

Yesterday we went on a a safari.

A safari in the backyard, that is.  A group of friends ages 7 through 9 came over, ready to have fun with the book Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures:  The Great African Discovery.

We love the Flat Stanley books.  They’re great for guiding a study of another country in a fun way, and this book was particularly conducive to fun safari adventures.

After summarizing the story, the girls found our home state and Kenya on the globe.  We talked about how long it might take to travel there and what that kind of journey might be like.

Then it was time to meet Stanley.  Oblong Stanley, that is.  Like in the book, Stanley was preparing to jump out of a helicopter without a parachute – and it was their job to create a way to prevent any cracking.  The girls had lots of fun with this.  When the construction was complete, they took their project outside and dropped it off the side of the new deck.  Although the basket landed pretty hard, Stanley survived.

Next they prepared for the safari themselves.  Armed with party favor cameras and their very best safari outfits, they headed to the backyard to “photograph” plastic animals I had hidden earlier.  This reminded me of a giant Easter egg hunt, and the kids were just as excited about finding plastic elephants and rubber snakes as they were about candy bars and quarters.

After finding and playing with the animals, we collected them and returned inside.  We had a wide variety of animals, and we hid most of them – even the ones not native to Africa, and so this became the group’s next task:  to identify which animals are native to Africa, and which ones are not.  After much discussion, they correctly sorted each animal and were even able to identify where the not-from-African animals originated.

By this time everyone was hungry, so we stopped for a packed picnic lunch.  After that, the girls “excavated”  an assortment of candies from the dirt cakes that my Big Helper had made the night before.  While not everyone was a pudding fan, we all had fun finding the hidden candy!

Books can be a lot of fun – the imagining, the pretending, yes; but also actually carrying out the activities happening in the book provide great learning experiences.

If you were to see an activity plan like this for a book and then go use it, what kind of book would you prefer?

** Shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The Door to Time”

The Door to Time Gils

The girls read a book full of fast-paced adventure this month:  The Door to Time, a Ulysses Moore mystery.  This is the first in a twelve-book series that involves magic, time travel, secret codes, lots of intrigue, and quite a bit of  independence.  The main characters are three pre-teens who work together well and acknowledge their strengths and differences, but are also rather deceitful and keep things from their parents.  If you talk that through, you have a wonderful adventure story with lots of learning the world over.

Because secret codes are rampant in this story – and one involves a code written in an ancient Phoenician language on a clay tablet – we decided to write our own favorite quotes on clay tablets.  We mixed up a batch of clay, shaped it, and etched our sayings into it.  Later we painted and antiqued them to complete the ‘aging’ process.

While the clay was drying, the girls stumbled upon a secret code lying on the table.  It took some work, but they were able to decode it by working together and then to track down the treasure.  

Of course, said treasure needed to be divided, so they did that immediately – and then ate it!

What are your kids reading this month?

To find out more about our book club selections, click here.

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliet

Chasing Vermeer
This month the girls tackled their hardest book to date:  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet.  Chasing Vermeer is a philosophical mystery involving an international community, a centuries-old painting, and a criminal mastermind.

Inherent to the story, at least to us, were Calder’s pentominoes.  These puzzle shapes can be put together to make rectangles, and the more you use, the greater the challenge.  My Big Helper was fascinated with these, so I was excited to find a printable set on that we could print out.  I thought we’d spend just a short time on this, but the girls happily cut for a very long time.

After cutting out their pieces, they colored them and then glued each one onto cardstock and cut it out again.  (Had my printer been working, we would’ve printed directly onto cardstock, but this worked, too – and the girls chose colorful pieces of heavy scrapbook paper for their backing.)

After all of that work, we moved on to tea time.  I made these ‘tea cakes’ from my favorite goofy cake recipe and slathered chocolate ganache over the top.  Yum!

Next we looked at the painting on which the book is loosely based, Vermeer’s A Lady, Writing.  We talked about Vermeer, his life, and how artists lived during his time – and then headed outside to create a large version of this famous painting.

The girls didn’t have long to mix colors and paint, as moms were coming steadily to pick them up, but they seemed to enjoy the Lady.

What are your kids reading right now?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: ” A Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery”

Crazy Christmas Angel

This month the girls’ read A Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery by Beverly Lewis.  It’s a fun story in which a new neighbor moves in, and he has mysterious angels that fly around his head at night.  The Cul-de-Sac kids can’t wait to figure out what sort of angels these are, and they go caroling to investigate.

We decided to go caroling, too.  The girls spent some time with us decorating a birthday cake for Jesus,  talking about the book, and then practicing the songs they wanted to sing.  After that, their families returned and we headed out to sing to the neighbors.  (We didn’t do any spying, though – just singing.)


Upon returning, we feasted on birthday cake, pretzels, and homemade hot chocolate.  The girls’ enjoyed showing off their decorating skills during the party portion of the event.

This book sparked some good discussion about the Christmas story and the ways we share it with others.  The main character in this story didn’t seem to be familiar with the Nativity story, and his friends shared well with him.  That prompted a discussion of the ways that people have shared this story throughout history and fun ways that we can do so now.  We also talked about the legend of the candy cane and the ease of sharing the story by sharing these candies.

The Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery was a great choice for a December read.  Easy to read, fun, and with great themes, I’m glad we chose this one!

What are you reading with your kids right now?

Shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Book Club: “The Castle Mystery”

The Castle Mystery - Girls
We hosted another fun book club event this week.  This time the girls read “The Castle Mystery” which is part of the Boxcar Children series.  In this story, the Aldens travel to a friend’s former home, which just happens to be a small castle that’s nestled on a cliff above a lake. They plan to help prepare for a museum to be opened inside the former home.  Instead, they arrive to find that a famous violin has gone missing and the other workers mysterious act mysterious.  Can they find out who has taken the Stradt and get the castle ready in time for the museum’s opening?
After summarizing the book and sharing our thoughts, we listened to a violin and headed into the kitchen.  We turned on some classical music to see if we could pick out the violin parts while we made stained glass window cookies.  
The kids were really fabulous about this, and they were so much fun to work with.  They had obviously baked before!  They took turns reading the recipe and doing each task.  First, they unwrapped the hard candy that would act as the ‘stained glass,’ then we went outside to use hammers and rolling pins to crush it.


After mixing up the dough, the kids carefully cut the middle out of each cookie and then filled it with crushed candy.


They ended up looking like this.


We baked them just until the centers melted, then removed them from the oven and let them finish cooling on the tray.


After that we headed to the playroom to make crayon resist stained glass windows.  Each child shaped her paper the way she wanted, then colored shapes on it with light and bright colors.  After that, she painted the whole paper with black water paint, which really makes the light colors stand out.
After finishing our paper windows, we headed outside to design our own castle.  We used the exact same system that we used for our English castles last summer, and the kids had just as much fun with it as they did then.  For the rest of the afternoon, they designed and re-designed the layout of the walls over and over.  I love that they can be so fascinated with something as simple as cardboard!
We have some really exciting plans for next month.  I can’t wait to share them with you!  
What are your kids reading right now?