Book Club: The Scary States of America

This was the first-place pick after we voted for new books last month. The kids really enjoyed reading it, and the short story format was good for our club, where we have a wide range of reading abilities. This way, kids who are not as comfortable reading were still able to participate when we discussed the stories they read.

The activity for this book club was a lot of fun. Everyone enjoyed telling scary stories – I wasn’t sure how well it would work, but some of our less talkative club members spoke up to tell spooky stories they remembered from friends, family, and other books. We dimmed the lights, passed around a flashlight, and scared all of our friends – it was a great way to spend an afternoon.

The Scary States of America, by Michael Teitelbaum

Discussion Questions

1. What was your favorite story? What was the scariest story?

2. Did you think any of the stories were really scary? If you did, what made them scary? Why are scary stories so much fun to read?

3. Did you think the stories were believable? What made you think that the stories were (or weren’t!) true? Are true stories scarier than made-up stories?

4. Has anything scary ever happened to you? Has anyone ever told you a true scary story?

5. How was this book different from the other books we read? Were there still characters in this book? Were there plots you remembered? Do you like reading short stories better than reading longer novels?


Write your own scary story! We’ll work alone or in pairs (your choice) to write scary stories. They can be based off of stories in the book, things you’ve heard from friends or read in other books, or they can be totally new. We’ll have a bunch of other scary story books that you can look at for inspiration. Then we’ll have a “campfire” and tell our stories out loud.

For the record: I thought this would be really tough, because I have some pretty shy kids in book club. NOPE. They loved this activity. We ended up staying late, and they would’ve stayed even later. I guess I forgot how much kids love scaring each other.

Some games to try at home…
from John Sanidopoulos

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

The most common version of this “trick” requires at least five people. One person, the victim, lies relaxed on the floor with eyes closed. The other four participants surround her, one on each side, one at the head and one at the feet. Each of the participants places two fingers of each hand beneath the victim. With their eyes closed, they begin to chant, “Light as a feather… stiff as a board…” over and over. With just the slightest effort, the participants are able to raise the victim off the floor in what appears to be the defiance of gravity.

Does it work? In addition to my sister, I’ve heard from a number of other people who attest that it does. I have never witnessed it personally.

Bloody Mary

The conjuring of Bloody Mary has been a favorite way for teenagers, girls in particular, to scare themselves silly. The appearance of the Bloody Mary spirit has become the stuff of urban legend, yet many have testified that she really does appear.

Basically, the ritual goes like this: stand in a darkened or lightless room where there is a mirror. Stare into the mirror and chant “Bloody Mary” 13 times. The gruesome spirit of Bloody Mary will appear behind you in the mirror.

There are many variations on the ritual, any of which a brave teenage girl will try, usually on a dare. Sometimes a lighted candle is required in the dark room. You must chant the name three times, six times, nine times – even up to 100 times, depending on whom you ask. Another variation is that you must spin slowly in place while you chant Bloody Mary’s name, glancing in the mirror with each turn.

Although the biggest worry with Bloody Mary is that the participant will succeed in scaring herself into hysterics, we occasionally hear stories about people who really did see Bloody Mary in the mirror. Usually these tales come through a friend of a friend and are, of course, impossible to verify.

Book Club: Bunnicula

Bunnicula, by James Howe

Discussion Questions

1. How did Bunnicula get his name? What do you know about the vampire Dracula?

2. What do you think about Chester and Harold’s relationship? Chester is a cat and Harold is a dog – how do they reflect, or differ from, the way those animals are usually portrayed?

3. What does Bunnicula do that leads Chester to believe he is a vampire?

4. Why do you think the author decided to have Harold tell the story? How would the story be different if it were told from the perspectives of Chester or Bunnicula – or even one of the family members?

5. Was Chester just worried that Bunnicula was dangerous, or was he also jealous that Harold and Bunnicula were becoming friends?

6. What weird pet experiences have you had? Do you ever suspect that your pets are having adventures behind your back? Do your parents talk to your pets the way the Monroes talk to theirs?


Play “Killer Vampire” (killer frog, except instead of sticking out your tongue to kill people, you bare your “fangs”)

Word search

Book Club: My Teacher Is an Alien

My Teacher Is an Alien, by Bruce Coville

Discussion Questions

1. The book begins with Duncan starting a fight with Peter. Susan watches instead of standing up for Peter – why? What do you think is the right thing to do when you see bullying or a fight?

2. Susan and Peter break into Mr. Smith’s/Broxholm’s house even though it is against the law, but they are still the good guys. Can you think of some other examples of when it might be okay to break a rule? Do you think it is okay to break rules when it can stop something even worse from happening (like an alien invasion!)?

3. Once Peter tells everybody what he and Susan have found, the kids in the school all start to believe that Mr. Smith is an alien. Would you believe a rumor like that? Have you ever heard any crazy rumors at your school?

4. Why don’t Susan and Peter talk to any adults about what they have learned? What do you think Susan’s parents, or Peter’s dad, would say?

5. What do you think Susan – who is maybe the class’s “best student” – learns from the events of the book? What does she learn from her friendship with Peter?

6. Why did Peter decide to go with Broxholm? Do you think this was the right choice for him? What do you think his life will be like after the end of the book?


Make an alien mask!

Write a book review!

Pretend that you are Broxholm and write a letter home to your family describing what life is like on Planet Earth.

Book Club: Marvin Redpost: Kidnapped at Birth?

Marvin Redpost: Kidnapped at Birth?, by Louis Sachar

Discussion Questions
1. Give a short summary of the book.
2. How do you think Marvin’s parents felt when he announced that he thought he was someone else’s kid? Why do you think they agreed to take Marvin for the “prince test”?
3. What do you think about the way Marvin’s friends reacted? Did they believe him?
4. Do you think that making a TV announcement was a good way for the king to find his son? Do you think that he will find Prince Robert?
5. Why did Marvin decide not to take the second test? What do you think he learned from this experience?
6. What would you do if you saw a news story saying that someone who looked like you is a prince or princess? Would you want to find out for sure, or would you want to keep your normal life?


In groups of three, make a list of five things you would do if you found out that you were a prince or princess. Then, make up a skit (a very short play without a script) about being royal! You can act out a scene from the book if you want, or make up your own story. Use the worksheet to help plan your skit!
(Or, if you don’t want do a skit, you can write a short story – or draw a cartoon – about finding out that you are a prince or princess of a country halfway around the world.)


If I were a prince (or princess), I would…

4.______________________________ (optional)
5.______________________________ (optional)

Beginning (set-up)
Middle (conflict)
End (resolution)

Book Club: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

One of my co-workers recently left for a full-time position, so I have taken over the Tween Book Club, a group of about 10 kids in grades 3-6. Everyone gets to keep a copy of the book club book, which is awesome.

Wimpy Kid Discussion Questions!

1. Is Greg a good friend to Rowley? Do you have any friends like Greg? Would you even WANT to be friends with Greg? Why do you think Rowley is more popular than Greg? What do you think about the joke Greg plays on Chirag?

2. Do you like the combination of pictures and diary entries? Does it help tell the story better or does it just make the book more fun to read?

3. What do you think Greg will be like when he’s a grown-up? Do you think he’ll become a little nicer? What kind of job will he have? Do you think he’ll get married and have kids?

4. How is Greg’s relationship with his brothers, especially Rodrick? Do you think they might be friends when they are older? Does Greg secretly look up to Rodrick?

5. What do you think about Greg’s secret? Greg thought it was a big deal and the most embarrassing thing ever—do you agree? What do you think about the way the kids at school reacted to the secret?

6. Do you think Mom Bucks are a good way to get Rodrick and Greg to behave? Do your parents do anything like that?

Write a diary/comic book about your Christmas vacation!

Some ideas for things to talk about:
• What is your family like? Did you visit any cousins or grandparents that you don’t usually see?
• What did you eat? Did you have a special dinner?
• Did you play outside? Make snowmen? Go sledding?
• Did you hang out with any of your friends?
You can write a regular journal entry, just draw pictures, or do both like Greg does!

Write a review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Some ideas for things to talk about:
• What did you like about the book? Did you like the characters? Was it funny? Did it remind you of real
life? Do you know any people who are like the characters in the book?
• Was there anything you didn’t like? Did you like the ending? Did you like the way the characters acted?
• What would you change about the story if you were the author?