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Read20 Book Club Archive - 2013


Mr. Popper's Penguins

By: Richard and Florence Atwater

It was hard enough for Mr. Popper to support himself, Mrs. Popper, Bill and Janie Popper. The addition of twelve penguins to the family made it impossible to make both ends meet. Then Mr. Popper had a splendid idea. The penguins might support the Poppers. And so they did.


  1. Mr. Popper is fascinated with the North and South Poles and wishes he could be a scientist, so that he could visit them. Discuss with your family a place that you would like to visit or know more about. If you chose a place that is difficult to visit, you could read books about it like Mr. Popper did. Your local library is a great place to find books about things and places that interest you.

  2. Mr. Popper's penguins are very well-behaved, helpful birds. They help the Poppers during the winter time, when Mr. Popper does not have much work, and throughout the rest of the year, too. Discuss with your family the many ways the penguins help the Poppers. You and your family could also visit your local zoo to learn more about birds and those unique to your region.

  3. It is always important to remember key information while reading. In fact, the level of understanding of a story or message is called reading comprehension. See if you and your family can remember how many penguins Mr. Popper has and how he came to acquire each penguin? If you need help recalling the information, you can always refer back to the book!

  4. At the end of the book, Mr. Popper leaves with his penguins and Sir Frances Drake for an adventure in the North Pole. You can use your imagination to think about or write about what happens once they arrive in the North Pole. Share your story with your family, and I encourage you to let me know what you imagine, too! Your family can help you email me or post on my facebook page


Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America

By: Sharon Robinson

This book portrays a warm, intimate portrait of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in baseball, told from a unique perspective: his only daughter. With family photos and mementos, reproduced newspaper headlines, magazines and letters, Sharon Robinson illustrates her dad's story from childhood to that historic moment in baseball, including his role as a civil rights activist. Robinson provides intimate details about her father and shares how the legendary baseball player became such a profound figure in American History.


  1. The path paved by African Americans in Tennessee is commemorated in many museums, monuments, and landmarks throughout the state. This month, you and your family can visit the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville to view a special exhibit featuring the original Emancipation Proclamation and the original copy of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. If you are unable to visit the State Museum in Nashville, you can learn more about African American Heritage and Tennessee's civil rights leaders by visiting and of these sites located throughout the state.

  2. In the book Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, the author writes that Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, reporters and scouts all agreed that Robinson was the right man to pioneer the racial integration of Major League Baseball. What qualities made Robinson the "right man" for the job? How did Branch Rickey determine that he could stand the pressure?

  3. Jackie Robinson's leadership in the Civil Rights Movement helped to change America for the better. The author mentions that young people can be leaders by making "a promise to yourself, your family, and your community to be the best that you can be." Discuss with your family ways that you can be your best. How can you be a leader in your family, school, or community?

  4. Jackie Robinson is one of many important leaders who contributed to the American Civil Rights Movement. When you finish reading Sharon Robinson's Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, you can visit your local library to read books about other influential civil rights leaders.


Independent Dames

By: Laurie Halse Anderson

Listen up! You've all heard about the great men who led and fought during the American Revolution, but did you know that the guys only make up part of the story? What about the women? The girls? The dames? Didn't they play a part?

Of course they did! You and your family can read Laurie Halse Anderson's entertaining, informative, and long overdue homage to those independent dames to learn about women who helped make America what it is today!


  1. Discuss with your family the many ways that women influenced the American Revolutionary War behind the scene. Which was your favorite woman to learn more about and why did you like her story?

  2. There are many extraordinary women who continue to impact America. Chose an extraordinary woman-a great teacher, businesswoman, community leader, or relative-that you admire. You can think and talk to them about how they became accomplished. How do they impact their community? What challenges have they faced and what obstacles have they overcome? I would love for you to share what you learn on my facebook page.

  3. Did you know that more than 2 million U.S. women are veterans of the Armed Forces? In fact, women have served in every armed conflict involving the United States -- including the Revolutionary War! Visit this site to learn more about the special accomplishments of women who have served in the Armed Forces.

  4. Tennessee claims many famous female suffragists, civil rights activists, and movers and shakers in politics and in the music industry, as well as many other notables. You and your family can visit your local library to find books about influential Tennessee women, such as reformer Frances Wright, blueswoman Alberta Hunter, and the Grand Ole Opry's Minnie Pearl (Sarah Colley Cannon).


Rabbit Hill

By: Robert Lawson

It has been a while since Folks lived in the Big House, and an even longer time has passed since there has been a garden at the House. All the animals of the Hill are very excited about the new Folks moving in, and they wonder how things are going to change. It's only a matter of time before the animals of the Hill find out just who is moving in, and they may be a little bit surprised by their new neighbors when they come to know them!


  1. Tennessee is known for its beautiful landscape and agricultural traditions. In fact, did you know that we are starting to build a garden at the Tennessee Residence? Bill and I are excited to promote Tennessee agriculture and farm-to-table sustainability at our state's executive residence, and we hope that your family might try growing fruits and vegetables at home if you are not doing so already. Spring is a great time to start planting! This website features a guide to local produce and when you might be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables in Tennessee!

  2. Each year, the animals living on the Hill anticipate "dividing night," a meeting to fairly distribute the garden's fruits and vegetables among themselves. What made the animals decide to allocate the entire portion of the garden to the Folks? How did the animals and Folks come to live in great harmony together and do you anything can be learned from their example?

  3. The animals of the Hill are very excited to learn about the different types of fruits and vegetables the folks plan to grow in their garden including celery, rhubarb, potatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, raspberries, melons and asparagus. Many of these fruits and vegetables are grown in gardens and farms throughout the state and sold at local farmers' markets. You and your family can take a trip to your local farmers' market to find and learn more about Tennessee fruits and vegetables, flowers, and crafts.

  4. Once you have finished reading Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill, you and your family can visit a library near you to check out more great books about spring. Your local librarian can be a great resource for book recommendations!


The Library Card

By: Jerry Spinelli

Mongoose, Brenda, Sonseray, and April have nothing in common...until a mysterious blue card appears as if by magic and begins to change each of their lives. None of them guesses it at first, but that strange blue card will be their ticket to the past-and to a future that they never imagined. In stories that range from humorous to heartbreaking, Newbery-award-winner Jerry Spinelli reveals the amazing possibilities lurking behind library doors.


  1. Does your family have a library card? If not, then be sure to visit your local public library to apply for a free library card. Most libraries require that you have a photo ID and proof of local address, so be sure to check your library's application instructions before your visit! You can use your card to borrow books and DVDs, use a computer, download eBooks and music, search electronic databases, browse the internet and more.

  2. Spinelli's The Library Card shows us that books can change lives in powerful ways by sharing knowledge and growing imagination. Describe how the library card changes each of the four main characters in the book. How do books affect their lives immediately? How do you think their lives will be affected in the longer-term future?

  3. Create a mystical library card of your own, and write a short story about where and with whom your card ends up. Be sure to include how the library card might change the life of the person who discovers it!

  4. Visit your local library to find out more about its summer reading program. This year's statewide summer reading theme for children is "Dig into Reading." Many libraries have fun activities planned for families throughout the summer that you will not want to miss! Be sure to check out a book or two while you are there to enjoy with your family at home.


The Secret Garden

By: Frances Hodgson Burnett

This classic novel shares the story of Mary Lennox, a lonely, ill-tempered girl orphaned in India by her parents' death and sent to live at her uncle's estate in England. Neglected once again, she begins exploring the estate and discovers a mysterious, abandoned garden that has been locked and forgotten for many years. Aided by a local boy, Dickon, she begins restoring the garden and finds that she is growing happier and healthier herself. Mary eventually discovers other secrets of the manor, and she learns that miracles take place in the Secret Garden!


  1. In The Secret Garden, Mary learns that growing a garden can be a rewarding and rejuvenating experience. You and your family can enjoy time together by growing a garden or planting this summer. In Tennessee, June can be a great time to plant beans, corn, herbs, tomatoes and more, and the Pick Tennessee Products website can help you find fruits and vegetables that are in season. We have enjoyed building a garden of our own at the Tennessee Residence, and you can visit our Residence blog to track progress of the garden at Tennessee's home.

  2. With five types of forest, over 4,000 plant species and more species of trees than in all of Europe, Tennessee is a treasure of natural resources. You and your family can visit Tennessee's many arboreta and garden places to learn about our native flora and discover Tennessee's breathtaking diversity. This website can help you find an arboreta or garden near you:

  3. This year's Summer Reading theme "Dig into Reading!" featured at public libraries throughout Tennessee inspires children discover a variety of topics through reading. There are thousands of books to choose from on the library shelves and many of them feature nature and garden themes. Visit your local public library or Tennessee's Electronic Library online to read books with new topics this summer. Online books can be convenient for families who cannot get to their local library as often as they would like!

  4. In The Secret Garden, Mary finds that she becomes happier and more energized with the growth of her uncle's garden. Do you think the author compares a child to a garden? What can help a child grow into a happy and healthy person? Discuss with your family activities that you might do this summer to help you learn and grow!


George vs. George: The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides

By: Rosalyn Schanzer

Rosalyn Schanzer's George vs. George brings to life both sides of the American Revolution. There are two enemies, both named George: George Washington, the man who freed the American colonies from the British; and George III, the British king who lost them. Was King George a "Royal Brute" as American patriots claimed? Or was he, as others believed, "the father of the people?" Was George Washington a traitor, as the king's supporters claimed? Americans remember and celebrate him as "the father of his country?" Who was right? History teaches us that there are two sides to every story.


  1. On Independence Day, we commemorate the adoption of our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Independence Day is celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and more. Most communities have fun 4th of July activities to attend or you can enjoy some of these traditions as a family!

  2. As a family, discuss how George vs. George teaches us that there can be two sides to a story. What were the two sides in the American Revolution? Why would America consider King George a royal brute and why did the British think that George Washington was a traitor? How do you think King George and George Washington became enemies?

  3. George Washington and our founding fathers are some of the most interesting and important figures in American history. You can visit your local library to find books about the men and women whom you read about in George vs. George, including Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Patrick Henry, and to learn more about our unique American history!

  4. The month of July is a great time to remember our Service Members who work to preserve our Nation's independence. As a family write a letter to a currently deployed soldier to thank them for their service. Operation Gratitude will walk your family through the process! Visit their website to learn more:

  5. Reading historical documents can be a great family activity, because you can learn important information while practicing literacy skills. As a family, read The Declaration of Independence or Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech that he gave in 1775 and talk about why these documents are important to our nation's history.


Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems

By: Kristine O'Connell George

Everything that happens on a camping trip can be an adventure including getting dressed inside your sleeping bag on a chilly morning, rowing across a lake, exploring a dark cave, meeting wild animals and simply sitting still, watching and listening. Kristine O'Connell George shares moments that make up family camping trips through vividly imagined poems. The captivating poems and illustrations in Toasting Marshmallows can leave readers with wonderful memories of a camping trip-even if they've never been on one!


  1. Some of the most enjoyable campfire activities are toasting marshmallows, singing songs and telling stories. You and your family can plan a night to enjoy these activities at home if you are not able go camping outdoors. Set a great scene to enjoy campfire songs and stories together by building a tent in your living room, viewing stars from your backyard, or turning the lights down low to gather by a fireplace. Don't forget to read the book Toasting Marshmallows while you are "camping out!"

  2. Enjoy the outdoors with your family by visiting one of Tennessee's state parks to camp, fish, hike, picnic or swim. There are 54 state parks located throughout Tennessee featuring our state's diverse landscape. Don't forget to pack marshmallows to toast on a campfire while you are visiting! This link can help you find a state park located near you:

  3. The poems in Toasting Marshmallows are very descriptive, and they can turn simple activities into adventures! Poems do not have to rhyme. In fact, a poem is a literary work that gives special intensity to the expression of feelings and ideas by the using style and rhythm. Write a poem or story about an activity that you do each day. Try your best to include meaningful details and descriptions, so that your readers can feel as if they are on the adventure with you.

  4. Reading poetry with rhymes and patterns can be a fun way to discover the many uses of language. Poetry can also help improve literacy and critical thinking. Visit your local library to find additional books with poems for children. Discovering the wonders and benefits of poetry can help children grow in their love of reading!


Tops and Bottoms

By: Janet Stevens

Bear has lots of land and lives very comfortably, but he is not a hard worker. His neighbor Hare has nothing but a hungry family, but he is smart and resourceful. Hare is sure there is a way to share his neighbor's good fortune, so he and Mrs. Hare come up with a plan. Hare will plant Bear's crops if Bear agrees to share half of the produce. All Bear has to choose is the half of the crop he wants-tops or bottoms. Bear chooses to take tops, but he discovers that he might have been outsmarted by clever Hare!


  1. Where does food grow? In Tops and Bottoms, we learn that some foods grow above ground while others grow beneath the ground. Discuss with your family where your favorite food is grown. Try to think of 3 foods that grow on top of the ground and 3 foods that grow beneath the ground.

  2. Gardens are very important because they provide healthy fruits and vegetables to eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden taste yummy and they are great for you! You and your family can grow produce at home in a yard or a planting pot. This website can help you plant your garden, and it even shows you how to plant in incredible places, like shoes!

  3. Janet Steven's Tops and Bottoms has roots in folktales and stories of the American South. Folktales are fictitious stories passed down from generation to generation that are told to amuse and amaze listeners. Over time, many folktales have been written down and published as books to read and enjoy. Visit your local public library and ask your librarian to help you find other interesting and exciting books based on folktales.

  4. A plant's growing season is the period of the year when the weather conditions are right for the plant to grow successfully. There are many plants that grow well in Tennessee during September. Check out this graph or visit your local farmer's market to find out which plants are growing. You could also visit a nearby farm to pick your own fruits and vegetables that are in season!


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By: C. S. Lewis

What begins as a simple game of hide-and-seek quickly turns into the adventure of a lifetime when four adventurous siblings-Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie-step through a wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. They find a cold, snow-covered land frozen in eternal winter by the evil White Witch. Narnia, once filled with all manner of Talking Beast, Dwarfs, Giants, and Fauns is now a dark, joyless wasteland. The children can only hope that the power of Aslan, the Great Lion can be enough to conquer the dark magic of the White Witch.


  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel, because it uses magic and other supernatural elements in the story. Many fantasy novels take place in imaginary worlds like Narnia and the story can seem like a dream. What does it mean when something is described as dream-like? See if you and your family can create a dream-like story of your own-remember to be creative and include things that might not happen in everyday life!

  2. Authors from around the world are coming to Nashville this month to participate in the Southern Festival of Books, held October 11-13. The festival celebrates the joys of reading and lifelong learning, and it could be a great activity for your family! I will be hosting at a special READ20 Family Book Club event at the festival on Sunday, October 13 at 2:30 p.m., and I hope your family might be able to attend. Visit the Southern Festival of Books website for information about the schedule of events and participating authors.

  3. The Pevensie children encounter all kinds of strange creatures in the land of Narnia including Talking Beast, Dwarfs, Giants, and Fauns. You can use your imagination to draw what these creatures might look like. If you send your creations to the First Lady's Office, Crissy will share the most creative drawings on her facebook page!

  4. C. S. Lewis and other famous fantasy authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien, were part of a literacy group called the Inklings to encourage writing and share ideas. Our Read20 Family Book Club helps us to read together, but you can also join literacy groups to write together. Ask your family or friends if they might enjoy starting a writing club-it could be a fun way to practice an important skill together.


The Elephant Scientist

By: Caitlin O'Connell and Donna M. Jackson

In the African desert of Etosha National Park in Namibia, they call her "the mother of all elephants." Holding binoculars closely to her eyes, American scientist Caitlin O'Connell could not believe what she was seeing from these African elephants: as the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopped midstride, and stood as still as statues.

This observation would guide the scientist to a groundbreaking discovery about elephant communication: elephants actually listen with their limbs.


  1. Did you know that there is an Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee? The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald is the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. The elephant habitat is not open to the public, but you and your family can visit the facility's Welcome Center to learn more about elephants in their care and access cameras streaming live video from inside the habitat. You could also visit their website to download their elephant curriculum including activities and lessons relating to social studies, literature, math, and science.

  2. The Elephant Scientist features a vocabulary page defining terms used to describe elephants. Study the terms with your family to see if there are any words you have not seen before. Reading can be a great way to grow your vocabulary, and you can try to learn the terms you do not know to use in the future.

  3. Can you describe what Caitlin O'Connell discovered about elephant communication? How did she use her findings to help the farmers in the area where the elephants live? Can you describe the way humans communicate? In what ways do you think our communication is similar to that of other mammals? How is it different?

  4. Caitlin O'Connell studies elephants today, but her interest in frogs and other amphibians as a young girl encouraged her to become a scientist. Have you ever thought that you might like to be a scientist? Describe what you might like to study if you were to become a scientist. You can visit your local public library to check out books about scientific topics that interest you, and you might discover something you would like to study as an adult!


Tennessee Trailblazers

By: Fredrick McKissack and Patricia McKissack

Tennessee history is made real as Tennessee Trailblazers recounts the lives of four outstanding Tennesseans-pioneer Thomas Sharpe "Big Foot" Spencer, Cherokee leader Nanye-hi, also known as Nancy Ward, singer and pianist Ella Sheppard of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and statesman Cordell Hull. Drawn from different historical periods and ethnic groups, four interesting lives capture many episodes in Tennessee history.


  1. Tennessee Trailblazers teaches us about the lives of four very different and very influential Tennesseans. Describe with your family how each person in the book impacted history for our state and for our nation. How do you think their lives influenced the place you live and the things that you do today?

  2. This year, Bill and I are excited to feature legendary Tennesseans, including Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, Sequoyah and living legends Dolly Parton and Pat Summitt, as part of our holiday decorations at the Tennessee Residence. If you enjoyed learning about the leaders highlighted in Tennessee Trailblazers, you and your family could visit the Tennessee Residence to view the history-themed decorations by reserving a free open house tour, taking place December 2 - December 14. If you are unable to visit the open house at the Tennessee Residence, you could visit my facebook page to see updates about the event and photographs of the decorations.

  3. Tennessee has had many influential leaders and important events throughout its history. You can visit your local library or your school library to check out other books about Tennessee history to enjoy together. This website will help you find a public library near you:

  4. The holidays are special, because they provide an opportunity to slow down and spend family time together. I want to know how you and your family spent time together this holiday season. You can visit my facebook page to share something special that you did together with friends or family.

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