The requests continue for help to teach and lead discussion for my novel, Discovered in The Messengers series. And I’m so happy to oblige! Here is my second blog post about how to bring Simon and the Message worth dying for to more people. This time, we’ll look at it from a book club angle. Now, I’ve heard that both adult and youth book clubs alike are reading this book (yay!), so I’ll try to touch on some activities and ideas that could apply to both situations. As a leader of your book club (or teacher who is going with a book club vibe for your unit), you’ll want to adapt according to your group.
Getting started . . . at the end. I’ve mentioned before that there are questions at the end of the novel (two questions per chapter). Sixty questions can be a bit daunting for a book club! So, here are some thoughts. (1) As your group reads, ask them to mark their favorite questions. The most popular choices get first priority. (2) Designate a person every five chapters or so to pick and lead one question when you meet. (3) You pick! You know your group, so skim through the questions (especially for the last few chapters) and decide the game plan yourself. (4) Make me pick. Here’s a brief list of questions I would probably ask if I were leading a book club:
- Chapter 3, Question 2 could get very deep as you investigate character motivations. Do you have real-life comparisons to Ben and Simon? How do you think this will play out in the next book?
- Chapter 6, Question 1 could be opened up to include all characters if you’ve read the entire book.
- Chapter 17, Question 1 could even involve some current events articles you find.
- Chapter 24, Question 2 can invite conversation on how Christians can reach out to the marginalized in society.
- Chapter 29, Question 1 (or Chapter 30, Question 2) may help any readers who have mixed feelings about the book’s resolution. How might this action reflect real life (past or present)?
By the way, there are additional discussion questions in the blog post for teaching this novel in a literature class. You may want to check it out for more ideas!
Live a little. Help bring the book to life with the following activities and games that encourage readers to experience New Morgan.
- Who am I? Place nametags on each person’s back. Promote movement around the room as everyone guesses which character they are. (Teacher tip: if you’re working with teens, don’t “typecast.” Be careful not to hurt feelings if someone thinks a character choice hits too close to home.) After everyone guesses, you may want to ask them all to move their nametags to the front of their shirts, keeping the roles throughout the meeting.
- Panel interview. Ask a handful of people to play key characters. The rest of the group can ask the volunteers questions as if they are the individuals in the book.
- Readers theater. Pick a favorite scene to read out loud. A narrator can read the action. You can assign character parts for members to read. If you want to take this further, a younger group may want to rehearse a skit to perform for parents, siblings, or a Sunday School class. (Be careful to choose a selection without many spoilers if you plan to perform!)
- Book list. Talk about the dystopian genre, and ask group members to mention other favorites. How is this book similar to others? How is it different? You may want to contact members ahead of time to invite them to bring in other dystopian books for this discussion.
Create the environment. Depending on your energy level, you could go all out to turn your book club space into New Morgan.
- An outside hallway could have blank white walls, darkened windows, orange flags with black stars, or posters similar to the ones in chapter 1. The meeting room itself could either look like Simon’s classroom or the City. For classroom ideas, check out chapter 1 again. For the City, you could use stone wall decorations, Christian symbols, archways, murals, mosaics, a tent with a Bible, fire pits . . . I’m getting excited just thinking of all you could do! (And yes, I would LOVE to see photos.)
- See the bottom portion of today’s freebie for a possible invitation printout. Go to a craft store or search online to send invitations in vials! The book team at CPH has been doing some fun things with red wax for seals. When members arrive, you may want a gatekeeper to see if the visitors are “verified.”
- Themed snacks may not sound too appealing, considering Simon’s world. However, there are ways of making this work! First of all, Mrs. Meyer can always save the day. Rolls can be a satisfying snack, and crescent rolls are easy with a little help from the premade dough at the grocery store. Try not to go too fancy though; Mrs. Meyer has to work through limited means: hot cross buns, dinner rolls, and fresh baked loaves are simple and delicious. Shortbread cookies might be a practical option for sweets. Then again, this is your party! Cookies cut or pressed using Christian symbols can be fun. Red icing might look like the wax seals. And if you’d like to see amazing cookies with the cover symbol, find my author Facebook page for a photo!
Are you a dinner book club? If bean soup doesn’t whet the appetite, perhaps Mrs. Pharen’s beef and noodle dish would be more satisfying (see recipe in today’s freebie). Sandwiches with ham, bologna, or fried canned ham could be an option as well.
Well, this was fun. Are you having a book club? Can I come?! On a serious note, I truly would love to hear what kind of things you tried in order to make your visit to New Morgan a memorable one.
FREEBIE: This freebie has two parts. The top half is Mrs. Pharen’s easy recipe for noodles with beef and gravy. The second half can be reproduced to create your own special book club invitations. Enjoy!
Hoping for more ideas? More posts for different settings will be coming soon!