Introducing.... drum roll please....
So you may be asking yourself, "What is the Daisy May & Me Family Book Club?" and "Why should my family be part of this?" Those are fantastic questions.
This is an opportunity for families to read together and have fun! Books are a great way to learn about other perspectives, including our own. While we read the same words, we all feel different emotions and have different reactions, and by coming together in a book club setting we can discuss and share what we experienced and listen to the perspectives of others too.
So, how does it work?
We will pick the book each month and it will go along with our monthly topic theme - a relationship that we want to delve more into. We will also provide you with some discussion questions, activities you can do at your family book club (once you've all read the book and are ready to talk about it), and some other fun things, like recipes, music playlists, decorations, etc. - whatever feels fitting for the book that month. You can go all out for your book club, or you can just talk about the book together - it's your choice! We'll give you ideas and you get to run with it.
Decide how your family will read the book.
- You can listen to the audiobook together (a great thing to do while you're in the car!)
- You can have a copy of the book for everyone to read
- You can read the same copy together as a family
- You choose what works best for you!
- If your kids can read this book on their own, it's encourage that they do because then they can form their own opinions about the book and it gives them a chance to read.
- You can borrow audiobooks and ebooks for free from your local library through the Overdrive and Libby apps. You can set the apps to borrow books for up to 21 days (that's the max).
Set a date for your family book club so you all know when you need to finish the book. We will post a new book each month, so if you want to follow our schedule try to have your book club meeting during the last week of the month.
Our hope is that this will provide intentional time together with your family, doing something wholesome (reading) and sharing experiences and discussion together. Most importantly we hope your family has fun and enjoys some extra bonding time!
Our theme for March theme is online relationships. Relationships are different when we aren't face-to-face with someone. We cannot see body language or hear tone of voice. So how we interact online is crucial to our relationships with people, and our interactions with strangers online are important too. We are going to read Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling.
Here's a synopsis from Goodreads.com:
"Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms."
We chose this book because Aven's mom encourages her to start a blog when they first move to Arizona. While it isn't a huge part of the book, Aven does spend time writing blog posts every now and then and it gives us insight into how she's really feeling. This book is full of relationships too! Relationship with your body, relationships with others, relationship with birth family & adopted family, relationships with health professionals, relationships with animals, etc.
A few things to note:
- Aven does not have arms, which is a prominent part of the book
- Aven makes friends with a boy that has Tourette syndrome
- Aven is adopted
- Because Aven is different she is very aware of other students that stare or make fun of her (this also happens to the boy with Tourette syndrome) - the bullying aspect is mild but there is talk about not fitting in (there are great opportunities to talk about what kids can do when they feel they don't fit in).
Length: There are 288 pages. The audiobook is 5 hours 29 minutes and 13 seconds.
The reading level for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is grades 3-7 (ages 8-12), but we feel it could be read aloud to younger ages too. It's a fairly easy and simple read, and a very easy one to talk about.
The audiobook version I listened to was read by Karissa Vacker and I thought she did a pretty good job.
When you have finished the book
It's time for the book club meeting! Feel free to skip around to the different sections and use what you want, or plan your own book club night entirely! Whatever you do, we'd love to hear how your book club meeting goes.
Here are some idea for your Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus book club night:
Use some or all of these questions, or ask your own!
- What did you like about the book?
- Who was your favorite character?
- What do you think it would be like to not have arms? Or to have Tourette syndrome?
- Aven, Connor, and Zion didn't fit in with everyone else on their own, but together they found friendship and acceptance. How was Aven part of that? Do you think it was hard for Aven to move past her own insecurities to help Connor and Zion with their own?
- Follow up: Have you noticed people (at school, at work, at social gatherings, at church, wherever you go regularly, etc.) like Aven, Connor, and Zion? People that sit off on their own, or seem to avoid groups? Are you ever that person? How can you seek out the people that feel they don't belong or fit in? Do you think you could befriend them like Aven did?
- At the Stagecoach Pass Festival Aven wears a spaghetti strap dress and performs the guitar on stage. Why was this a big deal for Aven? What do you think it means about her relationship with her body? How do you think this moment will help Aven in the future when she has low points?
- Did this book inspire us to overcome things that we are insecure about? Did it give us ideas on how we could overcome them? Or even accept them more?
- In the book Aven's mom has Aven do a lot of things for herself (almost everything). Why do you think Aven's mom did this? Do you think it's fair? What do you think it teaches Aven? Are there things that you can learn to do to be more self-sufficient like Aven?
- Aven discovers that her mother died and her grandmother (around age 70 at the time) put her up for adoption. Do you think knowing the circumstances of her adoption was helpful or hurtful for Aven? How do you think it made Aven feel about her adoptive parents? About her birth family? What about herself?
- Do you think you would enjoy Stagecoach Pass? Would your family go there? What cowboy/western themed attractions do you think they should add?
- How was Aven's blog helpful to her? At first, her posts combatted the negative things she experienced during the day with people judging or staring at her (they were a way for her to make light of the situation), but she eventually became more open about how she was feeling. Do you think it was easier for her to write about how she felt rather than telling someone in person? Why or why not? How do you think she felt when she learned that people liked her content? Do you think knowing that people are reading what you write affects what you say?
- If you had a blog (individually, or as a family), what would you write about? Do you think others would connect with what you have to say?
- Are there people that you "follow" on the internet? Why do you follow them? What draws you to them?
- Why do you think the author chose the title "Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus"? Why is Aven drawn to the saguaro cactus at the top of the hill? Do you draw any lessons from it?
- Would you change anything about the book?
- Do you want to read the second book?
- Paper cacti decorations
- Instruction video on Pinterest
- What you'll need:
- Green cardstock (you can pick a few different colors)
- Colored cardstock of your choice for the pot/stand
- Pink paper or cardstock for the cactus flower (or other color)
- White paper to make a template
- Glue (like Elmer's glue, not a glue stick)
- A toothpick
- A circle compass (or a glass, funnel, etc - something that you can trace to make a circle)
- Rocks to put at the base of the cactus (colored, from outside, whatever you want to use) - don't use heavy rocks
- Design your own theme park
- What would the theme be and what would you call it?
- What attractions would you have?
- What food would you serve?
- Where would it be (state, type of climate, etc)?
- You can physically design it too!
- Draw your theme park out
- Make a model of it - like a diorama
- Try doing things with your feet (remember to wash them first if you choose to eat with them)
- Get something off of a shelf
- Turn the pages of a book (be careful - papercuts & torn pages)
- Try to hold something between your shoulder and head without using your arms
- Write your name on a piece of paper with a pencil or pen
- Eat a finger food
- Type on a computer
- What else could you try?
- Make an indoor dish cacti/succulent garden
You can get really themed with the food and decorations, if you want to.
Aven's favorite dinner is buttered noodles so we've found a recipe for that. There's also the food served at the steak house at Stagecoach Pass. Aven also has a pretty standard lunch that she eats at school because it's easier and cleaner to eat with her feet (though, the Cheetos are debatable on cleanliness, in my opinion! Haha). If you're feeling brave, you could each try to eat something with your feet!
Buttered noodles (from mommysfavoritethings.com)
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/3 - 1/2 cups chicken broth (start with 1/3 and add more if needed, can substitute vegetable broth if desired)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 8 ounces of your favorite pasta (bowtie, egg, macaroni all work great)
Bring water, broth, and 1/4 cup of butter to a boil. Add in noodles and cook until one minute or so before noodles are done (about 8 minutes, but test for your preference). Add in some broth if needed. During the last minute or so, add in the last 1/4 cup of butter and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with your choice of vegetables.
Steakhouse dinner: Steaks or burgers, served with cowboy beans, cornbread, and coleslaw (try not to get your armpit hair in the coleslaw while you mix it ;) )
Aven's lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Cheetos, granola bars, carrot sticks, apple slices, or any other food that you think Aven would eat.
Dessert: Ice cream - Aven's favorite flavor (that Henry never gives her) is mint chocolate chip. Henry often gives her vanilla or chocolate. You could have someone be like Henry and serve everyone an ice cream they didn't ask for (if everyone agrees that's okay - you could allow people to trade if it'll cause any outbursts!).
If you want to decorate, you could go for a western theme or cactus/succulent theme. You could get themed plates, utensils, napkins, etc.
Dusti's books have won the Reading the West Award, the Sakura Medal, a Golden Kite Honor, the Silver Nautilus Award, and have been nominated for a Cybil and over twenty state awards. Her books are Junior Library Guild Selections and have been named best books of the year by the Chicago Public Library, Kirkus, Bank Street College of Eduction, A Mighty Girl, Shelf Awareness, and my more.
Dusti currently lives in New River, Arizona with her husband, three daughters, a dozen tarantulas, a gopher snake named Burrito, a king snake name Death Noodle, and a cockatiel named Gandalf the Grey.
- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017)
- Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus (2019)
- 24 Hours Nowhere (2018)
- The Canyon's Edge (2020)
- Aven Green Sleuthing Machine (coming April 6, 2021)
- Across the Desert (available October 12, 2021)