We're really enjoying the family book club and hope you are too! We have another awesome pick lined up.
Quick reminder on how family book club works:
- We choose the book
- You & your family read the book, either together or separately
- We provide you with discussion questions, activity ideas, and food & decoration suggestions for you and your family to use for a family book club meeting
- Your family has a book club meeting
- You enjoy time together as a family
Did you know that May is national mental health awareness month? We thought we would follow suit and talk about our relationship with mental health and our book club pick is perfect for it.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Synopsis from Goodreads:
"How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.
Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?
An extraordinary story about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too, and that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light."
I have read the majority of this book within two days because it's. just. that. good!
We chose this book because Natalie's mother has recently been struggling with depression and all throughout the book Natalie navigates how depression has affected her family and its dynamic. She talks a lot about the emotions that she is experiencing, especially about how depression has changed her relationship with her mom. Her father is a therapist so Natalie is familiar with therapy but also has her own opportunity to talk with a therapist (not her father) and how she feels about that. This book is such a perfect blend of talking about mental illness, how loved ones are affected by mental illness, and the benefits of talking about what we are going through to professionals and friends. We also have the bonus of reading about embracing our culture since Natalie is a quarter Korean and we also get to see the struggle that her half-Korean father has with embracing his heritage.
Length: 292 pages, 5 hours & 12 minutes
Reading age/level: 8-12 years / grades 3-7
I think this book can be read aloud to younger kids, but some things may need extra explanation.
Here's a reading schedule for the month:
Family Book Club Meeting
You can choose to use some or all of these questions!
- How did depression affect Natalie's family?
- We learn a lot about how Natalie feels about her mom's situation, but how do you think Natalie's mom felt about what she was experiencing?
- Are there things that Natalie could have done to help her parents? How did her dad help to support her? Could he have done more? Could Natalie have done more to support her dad?
- Do you think Natalie's feelings about her mom's depression were valid? Do you think she fully understood what her mom was going through? Or understood depression?
- At times it seemed that Natalie and her dad did not have as strong of a bond as they could have, including before Natalie's mom struggled with depression. She even mentioned that holding her dad's hand at the store actually felt nice, instead of embarrassing, because she felt like she hadn't been touched in a while. Is it important to develop and strengthen relationships when life is going well? What ways does your family express love for each other? What can you do to draw closer together?
- How did Natalie grow during the book? What did she learn about herself? About her friends? Her parents?
- Why do you think it was hard for Natalie to open up about her feelings to her friends, parents, and Dr. Doris? Do you think it was helpful when she did open up to Twig? What about Dr. Doris?
- Do you think that Natalie's dad being a therapist was helpful or harder for Natalie? Why or why not?
- Why is it sometimes scary for us to talk about how we are feeling? Is it harder to talk to family, friends, or professionals? Or all? Why?
- What does our family know about depression? How can we learn more about it? Are there other mental illnesses that we should learn more about?
- A great resource for this is NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- Has our family been affected by mental illness? Do we know people that we can help? What can we do?
- What things can we do to take care of our mental health? How can we support each other, especially in hard times?
Here are some ideas for activities:
- Egg drop - Come up with your own designs, create them, and do your own egg drop competition!
- Science experiment - Does your family have a scientific question? You can create your own "Wonderings Project" just like Mr. Neely's class. Come up with a question and create an experiment to test it out.
- Plant something from seeds - Find something you'd like to grow together and try it out!
- Love languages - Has your family taken the love languages test? Everyone values and experiences love differently. I wonder if you can guess what love languages are most important to each member of your family?
You can go simple or all-out for your book club meeting. For decorations, science is a huge theme of this book, as well as plants, so either (or both) would be excellent for décor! Here are some food ideas:
Cran-apple pie - a Thanksgiving favorite that Natalie's mom always makes. I found a recipe online that had good reviews.
Since Natalie is a quarter-Korean and Korean favorites are mentioned in the book, I thought it would be fun to provide some recipes for the dishes she mentioned. Another idea is to make dishes from your own family's culture.
Bibimbap - Korean mixed rice with meat and vegetables.
Kalbi - Korean BBQ short ribs. Heads up, this recipe takes time because of marinating!
Mandoo (or mandu) - Korean dumplings.
Dduk - Korean rice cake
If making Korean food seems intimidating to you but you'd like to try Korean food, consider finding a local, traditional Korean restaurant.
Another idea is to make foods that are egg-based. You could try making eggs various ways (fried, scrambled, poached, sunny-side up, over easy, etc.), make a quiche, egg salad sandwiches, make an egg-based dessert like custard, etc.
S'mores would also be appropriate in honor of S'meggs. :)
Tae Keller grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she subsisted on kimchi, purple rice, and stories. Now, she writes about biracial girls trying to find their voices, and lives in Seattle with her husband and a multitude of books.
(Picture and bio taken from https://www.taekeller.com/)
Books by Tae: