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Read20 Book Club Archive - 2014


Little House on the Prairie

By: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls and her family leave their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and set out for Kansas. They travel for many days in their covered wagon until they find the best spot to build their little house on the prairie. Soon they are planting and plowing, hunting wild ducks and turkeys, and gathering grass for their cows. Sometimes pioneer life is hard, but Laura and her folks are busy and happy in their new little house.


  1. It is a New Year tradition to set positive goals for the year ahead. What are some of the goals and accomplishments made by Laura and her family in Little House on the Prairie? Discuss with your family the things you might want to achieve in 2014. Write down your goals and plan for ways to measure your progress and success.

  2. How the Ingalls traveled and their life on the prairie is very different from the way we travel and live today. As you read the book, discuss with your family the differences you notice. What was their life like on the journey west? What did the family do for entertainment? What kinds of things would you do for fun if you lived on the prairie during Laura's time?

  3. The Ingalls receive crucial help from their neighbors throughout the book. Describe an incident when a neighbor helps the family. How do the Ingalls respond and what would have happened to them if the neighbor had not come to their aid? Describe ways that you can be helpful to your friends and neighbors and what impact do you think your actions might have?

  4. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote many other books about life the prairie, and her stories were the inspiration for the popular TV series Little House on the Prairie. If you enjoyed reading the book of the month, you can visit your local library to look for other books in the series or check out episodes of the TV show available on DVD.


Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman

By: Kathleen Krull

Wilma Rudolph’s story is truly inspirational. Born in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1940 weighing only 4.5 pounds, Wilma faces an uphill battle from her very first moment on this earth. She survives premature birth, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and double pneumonia. At age four, polio paralyzes her left leg, and everyone says that Wilma will never walk again.

Wilma refuses to believe it. Not only will she walk again, she vows, she’ll run. It takes years. It takes hard work. But at last she does run—across the basketball court, around the track, and eventually, all the way to the Olympic Games.


  1. Wilma Rudolph made incredible strides for African Americans and women when she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during the 1960 Olympic Games. You can use Wilma’s life to explore history. What was going on during her lifetime? Why was it so special that she won 3 gold medals as an African American female?

    You and your family can watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on TV, beginning on February 7, to look for ways that the Olympics have changed since Wilma’s participation. Discuss with your family the special contributions Wilma made to the Games.

  2. You and your family can learn a lot by reading Wilma Unlimited, because it is a non-fiction book, a book about a real-life event, place, or person. When you read non-fiction, you can practice important reading skills, with the bonus of learning something new and factual. This month is African American History month, and you can visit your local library to check out non-fiction books about other civil-rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, Frederick Douglas, Ida Wells, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois.

  3. Wilma was able to overcome her physical disability to become an incredible athlete through hard work and determination. Have you ever heard the phrase, "if you put your mind to it, you can do anything?" What does that mean? Discuss with your family goals that you might be able to accomplish through hard work and concentration.

  4. Wilma Unlimited is a biography, because it is a written account of a person’s life. Choose someone that you admire—a relative, neighbor, celebrity or historical figure, and write a short biography of their life. You can write about where they are from, how they grew up, and their goals and accomplishments. I’d love to read your biography, and you can email it to me or share it on my facebook page!


The Wind in the Willows

By: Kenneth Grahamel

It's springtime and curious Mole, bored with housework, leaves his molehill to explore. At the riverbank he meets Rat, a laid-back water rat. The two quickly become friends and Rat introduces Mole to the exuberant Toad, a creature with an inclination for extravagant hobbies. Toad’s increasingly wild amusements cause concern for Rat and Mole, and they enlist the help of wise Badger. The four friends are always having exciting adventures, and their friendship is only enhanced by their differences.


  1. The Wind in the Willows features many challenging vocabulary words. As you read the book, write down words that you are not familiar with. You can use a dictionary or ask an adult to help you learn the meaning. Vocabulary is important for reading comprehension, and reading new books can be an excellent way to learn unfamiliar words.

  2. Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger have very different personalities, but their differences help them to become better friends. Can you describe each character’s personality and why the friends might operate well together? Think about your friends and describe how each might be different. What qualities make them a good friend?

  3. The author uses many of adjectives to carefully describe the characters and settings in The Wind in the Willows, so that readers are able to visualize what is taking place in the story. Imagine a room in your house and write a detailed description of the space. Read your description to a family member or friend, and ask them if they were able to visualize the room. Including details in your work can help you become a better writer.

  4. Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger have many exciting adventures exploring the English countryside. As the weather begins to warm, you and your family can look for ways to explore Tennessee’s beautiful landscape. This website can help you plan activities to experience our state’s breathtaking nature and wilderness.


Where the Sidewalk Ends

By: Shel Silverstein

Where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein's world begins. There you'll meet a boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.


  1. Which was your favorite poem in Where the Sidewalk Ends? Discuss with your family the meaning of the poem and why you enjoyed reading it. See if you can memorize the poem and recite it aloud to a friend or family member. Memorizing poetry can be a great exercise to learn language and train the brain to memorize.

  2. Visit this site to learn more about the many different poetic styles featured in Where the Sidewalk Ends. Choose your favorite style and use your imagination to write a poem in the style you selected. Shel Silverstein often accompanies his poems with art, so be sure to include illustrations with your work!

  3. April 26 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. On this day, copy down your favorite poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends or write a new poem of your own and keep it in your pocket to share with friends throughout the day. Visit my facebook page to let me know which poem you selected!

  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.


The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

Jeanne Birdsall

This summer the four Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens and treasure-filled attic. The best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. However, the icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, and she warns the new friends to stay away from her son. Can the Penderwicks obey her orders and not enter the gardens of Arundel? It is a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.


  1. On the first page of The Penderwicks, the narrator asks, “But then what is a summer without a trip to someplace special?” Discuss with your family special trips or activities that you might like to experience together this summer. Your special trip could be to a local park or zoo or to a relative’s home. You could travel to a new city nearby or even another state. Write a journal entry about the things you want to do and make plans to accomplish your goals.

  2. Describe the misunderstandings that occur between Mrs. Tifton and her son Jeffrey throughout the book. What could Mrs. Tifton have done to better understand her son? How did the Penderwicks help to solve the problem between Jeffrey and his mother?

  3. The Penderwick girls each have unique identities and characteristics. Describe each of the four sisters—Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty—with your family. What is each girl’s role within their family? How do they work together, disagree or help each other? How do the personalities in your family differ? How can you appreciate each other?

  4. Jane lives in a world of books and she dreams of becoming an author. According to Jane, a great book is one you can read over and over without becoming tired of the story. Make a list of your favorites books and ask a friend to do the same. You can share your ideas together and visit your local public library to look for new great books to enjoy reading this summer.


Nate the Great

Marjorie Sharmat

It's no mystery that Nate the Great is the coolest kid detective ever! There isn't a case too great or too small for the one and only Nate. With help from his friends, his trusty dog Sludge and a few pancake pick-me-ups along the way, Nate the Great uses smarts, smiles and science to solve the most baffling mysteries that could ever befall a kid in elementary school.


  1. Books about mysteries are some of the most popular books sold in the United States and around the world, but what's the secret to a good mystery? As you read Nate the Great, keep track of the clues Nate uncovers to solve the mystery. Write a mystery of your own by recreating scenes from the book or by using your imagination to create a new story. Share your story with a family member or friend to see if they can solve the mystery!

  2. Describe how Nate the Great solved the mystery of Annie’s missing painting. How did Nate the Great use detective science to explain what happened to the painting?

  3. This year's Summer Reading theme "Fizz, Boom, Read!" featured at public libraries throughout Tennessee inspires children to discover science through reading. Read a book about a scientific topic that interests you and visit one of Tennessee’s museums or science centers to learn more about the subject. This website can help you find a museum or science center near you:

  4. Nate the Great is a series of more than two dozen detective stories! After you finish reading the Book of the Month, visit your local public library to check out other books about Nate the Great or scientific topics that interest you.


One Giant Leap

Robert Burleigh

Only July 29, 1969, as Americans sat glued to their televisions and radios, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did the seemingly impossible—something humans had dreamed of doing for centuries: they traveled 240,000 miles through space and set foot on the moon. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. This achievement not only brought the moon within reach, but now everything seemed possible. If it could be imagined, it could be done.


  1. For centuries, landing on the moon was a goal that mankind could only dream of achieving. It took an incredible amount of manpower, brainpower, science and technology to accomplish the goal, but landing an astronaut on the moon suddenly made the impossible seem possible. Write a journal entry about something you dream to accomplish someday. Be sure to include the resources and planning you might need to achieve your goal.

  2. Public libraries plan fun activities over the summer to keep children engaged in reading, and this year they are featuring books and activities about science. If you enjoyed reading One Giant Leap, you can visit your local public library to check our other books about astronomy, planets, or space exploration. There are many more scientific topics to explore, too!

  3. Families often travel to visit family and friends or to see a new place during the summer time. Whether your family travels across the country, or just down the street, there are lots of ways to read on a trip. You can bring along books, magazines, and newspapers. You can also take advantage of the print around you. Road signs, license plates, street signs, billboards, and maps are filled with letters and words. Read them to play word games and letter hunts as you spend time traveling with you family.

  4. There are wonderful museums located throughout the state to help visitors learn about all different types of science, including astronomy, earth science and space exploration. You can take a trip with your family to visit a museum near you to learn more about these topics. Later this month, First Lady Haslam will visit Discovery Park of America in Union City, TN to read to students in the museum’s Starship Theater. This is the museum’s first summer, and it could be a great new place to visit if your family will be in west Tennessee. If you cannot visit a museum in person, be sure to check out its website. Many museums offer fun and interesting educational opportunities online.



Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it's love at first sight— and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who abuses his dogs. When Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty hides and protects him from Judd. But Marty's secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd's anger. How far will Marty have to go to keep Shiloh as his own?.


  1. Explain the challenges Marty faces when rescuing Shiloh. Describe at least 3 challenges, and use specific details from the text to support your ideas. Why is Marty willing to deal with these obstacles? What challenges have you worked to overcome in your life and why were you determined to find a solution?

  2. Do you think that Marty finds that there is a fine line between not telling the truth and lying by omission? Why is Marty's problem more than just lying to Judd? How would you have handled the situation if you were in Marty’s position?

  3. Do you have or know a special pet like Shiloh? Did you find it or have to rescue it somehow? Or did you get it from a pet store or the pound? Write a story where you describe how you got the animal and all the qualities that make him or her so special.

  4. Have a mock trial with your family or friends between Marty and Judd. Look back through the book to find evidence to argue whether Shiloh should belong to Marty or to Judd Travers. Remember that speculation and emotion do not go far in a courtroom! Although most readers feel Shiloh should belong to Marty, the jury will need facts and evidence to exercise the law.

  5. If you enjoyed reading Shiloh, visit your local public library to check out other books about dogs or pets, such as Sounder, Call of the Wild, and Where the Red Fern Grows. The library is a wonderful place to check out free books about topics that interest you!


The Little Engine that Could

Watty Piper

The Little Engine that Could shares the story of a train filled with toys and gifts for little boys and girls that breaks down before reaching the children. After asking several passing trains for help over the hill, a little blue train agrees to help the stranded toys. Even though she is small, the blue train tries her best to bring the toys to the children on the other side of the hill.


  1. What lessons can be learned from the The Little Engine that Could, and the Little Blue Engine’s chant, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”? Why do you think Dolly Parton selected this book as the first book for children to receive through the Imagination Library?

  2. Trains serve as the main characters in The Little Engine that Could. What do you already know about trains? Have you ever seen or ridden on a train? Did you know that trains carry many things besides people? Start to notice the many different types of transportation around you, including trains, buses, cars and bikes. Take a minute to think about their different uses and how they work.

  3. The Little Blue Engine perseveres through many challenges to deliver toys to boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. The clown and other toys also face challenges in their quest to get over the mountain. Talk to your family about challenges that might be hard for you to face and why these things are difficult. How can you apply the Little Blue Engine’s attitude to your life to help overcome challenges?

  4. This book was first published in the United States in 1930 during a time called The Great Depression, a severe worldwide economic depression that lasted for more than a decade. Think about what life might have been like for families living during this time. Why do you think the values highlighted in the book, including hard work and optimism, might have been very important for readers at the time it was published?

  5. If you enjoyed reading The Little Engine that Could, visit your local public library or look through your book selection at home to reread books you enjoyed as a beginning reader. When you reread books, you can discover a new lessons, new words, or deeper meanings behind a story.


Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery

Deborah and James Howe

Just in time for Halloween, Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is a spooky book about the mystery of a family’s vegetarian vampire rabbit that sucks the juices and color out of vegetables. The story is told from the humorous perspective of the family’s pet dog Howard, and you will love reading to solve why the family’s vegetables keep turning white. This is a great story to read aloud for Halloween, and there are other books in the Bunnicula series to enjoy when you finish reading the book of the month.


  1. This book is told from the perspective of the family dog Harold. Do you have any family pets? What do you think pets think about and how would it sound it they were able to talk?

  2. Authors from around the world are coming to Nashville this month to participate in the 26th annual Southern Festival of Books, held October 10-12. The festival celebrates the joys of reading and learning, and it could be a great activity for your family! Visit the Southern Festival of Books website for information about the schedule of events and participating authors.

  3. The Monroe family finds Bunnicula at a movie theater. If you found a sleeping bunny, would you be able to take him or her home? What would you name it? What kind of animal would you like to find to take home as a pet and why?

  4. Bunnicula loves veggies and sneaks into the kitchen to suck the juice from beans, peas, lettuce, zucchini and squash. Vegetables are very nutritious and need to be part of a well-balanced diet. What types of vegetables do you enjoy eating? Visit your local grocery or farmer’s market to look for new vegetables for your family to try cooking at home. You might find a new healthy food to enjoy!

  5. Bunnicula’s vampire-like behavior is very scary for the Monroe family cat Chester. Everyone has experienced fear of people, places, or things. Sometimes real events scare us and sometimes our fears are imagined. Think of the times when you have been fearful of something. Tell what caused the fear, when it occurred, and how you overcame it.


Dear Mr. Henshaw

Beverly Cleary

Dear Mr. Henshaw explores the thoughts and emotions of a sixth-grade boy, Leigh Botts, as he writes letters to his favorite author, Mr. Boyd Henshaw. The correspondence began as a class assignment; however, Leigh is soon writing Mr. Henshaw about his move to a new town, his struggles to make friends, and his feelings about his absent father. When Mr. Henshaw responds, the two form an unexpected friendship that will change Leigh's life forever.


  1. Writing a letter takes time, not just to put the words into sentences, but to think about what to express and how to express it. Letters can be persuasive, argumentative, clever, or funny. If you were to write a letter to any author you chose, whom would you write to and what would you say? Be sure to enter your letter in Humanities Tennessee’s Letters About Literature writing contest encouraging students in grades 4-12 to write a personal letter to their favorite author (living or dead). The letter should explore how you feel about their work and why you reacted the way you did during or after reading.

  2. Mr. Henshaw asks Leigh a series of questions on pages 14-30, including Who are you?, What is your family like?, and Where do you live? Take time to think about these questions for yourself and write your answers in a journal entry or a letter to a pen pal, friend, or family member.

  3. Leigh learns to keep a diary in this novel to help him sort out his feelings and reflect on life. If you do not already have a diary or journal, begin one of your own. Commit to writing at least one entry each day or each week. You can be amazed to see what unfolds and what you can learn about yourself!

  4. Mr. Henshaw is a very special person to Leigh. Think of a teacher, family member, or mentor who is special to you. Write that person a friendly letter telling them why they are so special. What are some examples that show how this person influenced your life? Do you have a specific memory? Would you like to thank this person? If you would like to submit your letter to my office, we can share your work on my facebook page.


The Polar Express

Chris Van Allsburg

Late one Christmas Eve, a boy boards a mysterious train: The Polar Express bound for the North Pole. The train takes him to the center of the city, where Santa offers the boy any gift he desires. He asks for one bell from Santa’s sleigh, but he loses the bell on his way home. It is through a Christmas morning miracle that the bell is miraculously found wrapped beneath the Christmas tree. Although the boy's parents admire the bell, they believe it to be broken when they cannot hear it ring - for you see, only believers can hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells.

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