Posts tagged ‘Library Programs’


The Picture Book Month calendar included Bears as a theme on Nov. 7th. I do at least one bear themed storytime around this time every year. Sometimes, I do more than one, first pairing them with hibernation/sleeping themes, while other times it’s just bears. There are so many great books about bears out there, but the ones I’m featuring today are the ones I used just recently for an outreach visit to several classrooms of preschool and kindergarten kids.

Title: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Author: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury

If you work with young children and you don’t know this book and/or song, SHAME ON YOU! Go out and pick up a copy and learn it right now. And then, check out Michael Rosen’s rendition of the song on Youtube. And then, if you still can, pick up a copy of the pop-up book. Yes, there is a pop-up book floating around out there. It’s absolutely beautiful, simply done but with very sturdy construction for multiple story times. The kids are fascinated by it and I always get questions and comments like “The dog’s going the wrong way” and “The baby’s on the dad’s shoulders” and “Where’s the mom?” and “What does that tab do?” Yes there is no skipping any of the pull-tabs on this one, because your eagle-eyed audience will notice and make you go back and demonstrate what each one does again and again. You need this book, but if you can still track it down, splurge and get the pop-up version, with the swirling snow and the tripping children. You’ll thank me later.

Title: A Visitor for Bear
Author: Bonny Becker
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton

No wonder it got an E.B. White Read Aloud Award. This book begs to be enthusiastically read aloud, although I will warn you that it’s my longest book on this list and it takes a full fifteen minutes sometimes to get through. But the kids will be intrigued by how the mouse keeps getting into the house of this reclusive bear who just wants to eat his breakfast. There are a few repetitive lines that the older kids will pick up immediately and will help you fill in the blanks if you let them. This is another book where kids pipe up with their opinions chastising the bear for turning the mouse away in the beginning and remarking on the “hanging thing” from the bears mouth when he shouts to the mouse to “BEGONE!” And a great vocabulary lesson awaits for readers wondering what “impossible! Intolerable! Insufferable” mean.

Title: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Author: Don and Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood

I quite often joke that the title is longer than the actual book, but the Woods pair up for what has become a classic, since my copy boasts a 1984 copyright date. It’s held up remarkably well over the years, and I’m sure scores of librarians and teachers have used this in their storytimes. It tells the story of a little mouse trying to keep his strawberry (that he JUST picked) away from the big hungry bear. We never see the big hungry bear, although in a stroke of design genius we do see the bear’s shadow on the back cover. Proving that you can still look at things in a different perspective, I had one little boy remark that it was the bear who was telling the story. I’m not sure if I agree with him, but he brought up an interesting idea to talk about point of view using this book, and see how many other readers shared his opinion. Great graphics lend themselves to laughter as the mouse tries again and again to hide, disguise, and guard his strawberry, and if you look closely you’ll see relics of each attempt scattered throughout the following pages.

Title: A Splendid Friend Indeed
Author/Illustrator: Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne Blooms series about a goose and a polar bear is different from the rest in several ways. First, it features a polar bear, while most bear stories feature the traditional brown or dark-colored bear. Second, he’s paired with a goose, and the two incompatible creatures end up becoming wonderful companions. Thirdly, the story is told entirely in dialogue, which I’m always impressed by when I stumble across it. Usually the books talk to the readers with third person or first person narration, but in this one Goose and Bear talk directly to each other, without a single “he said” or “she said”. It takes a mature group of children to decipher Bear’s frustrations and Goose’s attention seeking behavior solely by the pictures, but when they do catch on it’s like magic. Due to the simple sentence structure, I usually save it for younger audiences, because although as I said some of it might go over their head, the simplistic drawings are eye-catching to all.

Title: Bear Snores On
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jane Chapman

Wilson’s rhymes are longer than most picture books, but it rarely falters as Bear snores on through the slowly building gathering taking place in his cave. It’s when a stray pepper flake gets up his nose and results in a humongous sneeze that the animals freeze and are scared of what Bear’s reaction will be. No worries, since it all ends happily, but Wilson knows how to build suspense with the Bear gnashing and growling at being woken up early. Surrounded by forest creatures, Bears friendship will continue, as this debut book for Karma Wilson turned into a gold mine as she continues the series with “Bear Says Thanks,” Bear Wants More” and several others.

So what about you? What bear books can you never “bare” to be far from?

Bunny Rabbit Story Time

The second theme featured on the Picture Book Month calendar is those pesky rascally rabbits or bunnies, whatever you’d like to call them. I’m trying to keep pace with the calendar and blog about either the person or the theme featured each day of this month on the calendar. Some days I might even be able to do both! I’m taking this opportunity to post a story time I did for some kids up to two years of age, although I take no credit for the rhymes featured here. That’s all someone else, I just paired them up.

1. Charlie Went Over the Water (the song I start every story time with)
2. Here is A Bunny
Here is a bunny with ears so funny
(hold up index and middle fingers for ears)
And here is his hole in the ground
(make a circle with the other hand)
At the first sound he hears, he pricks up his ears
(extend two fingers)
And hops in the hole in the ground
(fingers jump into the hole)

3. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
4. Bunnies Nibble
Bunnies nibble
Bunnies doze
Bunnies twitch their bunny nose

Bunnies huddle
Bunnies hide
Bunnies like to dig outside

Bunnies run
Bunnies stop
Bunnies do the bunny hop

5. Jumping and Counting by Jim Gill (Irrational Anthems cd)
6. Bunny and Me by Adele Aron Greenspun and Joanie Schwarz

7. Little Bunny Fofo
Little Bunny Fofo
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And pulling them out of bed.
Along came a fairy god mother and she said

Little Bunny Fofo
I don’t want to see you
Scooping up the field mice
And pulling them out of bed.
I’ll give you two chances, and then
I’ll turn you into a goon!

Repeat with one more chance
Repeat first verse, and then “Poof!”

8. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

9. Once I Saw a Bunny
Once I Saw a Bunny (close fist and extend middle and index fingers)
And a green, green cabbage head (make fist with other hand)
I think I’ll have some cabbage
The little bunny said
So he nibbled and he nibbled (wiggle the two fingers up and down)
And he pricked up his ears to say (extend fingers straight)
Now I think it’s time
I should be hopping on my way. (hop hand away)

10. Wee Little Bunny by Lauren Thompson
11. Ring Around the Rosie (The song I end every story time with)

Other book suggestions include:
Me and You by Janet Holmes
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Ocean/Sea Storytime

The first theme featured on the Picture Book Month calendar is Ocean. I’m trying to keep pace with the calendar and blog about either the person or the theme featured each day of this month on the calendar. Some days, like today, I might even be able to do both! I’m taking this opportunity to post a story time I did for some kids up to two years of age, although I take no credit for the rhymes featured here. That’s all someone else, I just paired them up.

1. Charlie Went Over the Water (My “starting” song, which can get quite long, but it matches the theme.”
Charlie went over the water, Charlie want over the sea
Charlie caught a blackbird, but can’t catch me. (You repeat once for every child present, substituting their name in instead of “Charlie”)

2. Here is the Sea
Here is the Sea, the wavy sea (wave hands from side to side)
Here is my boat, (cup hands like a boat)
And here is me (point to self)

All of the fishes (wiggle your fingers)
Down below (point downwards)
Wiggle their tails (wiggle your fingers)
And way they go. (wiggle your fingers behind your back)

3. Sail Away by Donald Crews
4. Catching a Fish
One, Two, Three, four, Five (count fingers on left hand)
I caught a little fish alive (catch fingers on right hand with left hand)
Why did you let it go? (release fingers quickly)
Because it bit my fingers so. (shake right hand)
Which finger did it bite?
The little finger on the right. (point to little finger on right hand)

5. Wave by Suzy Lee
6. The Goldfish by Laurie Berkner on Victor Vito cd (first two verses only for under two, since they don’t know how to ride a bike.)
7. The Waves on the Sea
The Waves on the sea go up and down.
Up and down, up and down.
The waves on the sea go up and down
All day long.

The shark in the sea goes snap, snap, snap…
The fish in the sea goes swish, swish, swish…
The boats in the sea go toot, toot, toot…

8. “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” from Musical Scarves and Activities
9. Ocean Shell
I found a great big shell one day (cup hands)
Upon the ocean floor
I held it close up to my ear (raise hands to ear)
I heard the ocean roar!

I found a tiny shell one day (cup one hand)
Upon the ocean sand
The waves had worn it nice and smooth
It felt nice in my hand. (pretend to roll shell between hands)

10. Poems from Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz (The pop-up version, pecifically “Shark” and “Lobster”)

11. Ring Around the Rosie (I ALWAYS ended with two rounds of ring around the Rosie.)

What do you use for your ocean themed story times? Do you go pirates, or have you ever done one with just water as the theme?

Talk Like a Pirate Day Picture Books

ARRRRRRRRR me matey! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Never heard of it? Where is your pirate spirit? It’s an excuse to celebrate all things pirate, and a great theme for story times that will draw the sprogs (errr… I mean boys and girls) into the library. And I be speaking the truth, seeing as how my two pirate story times this week drew over 60 people each. So, what do you do at a pirate story time? Here’s the outline that I followed, along with some other idears for you lilly-livered landlubber.

Title: Roger the Jolly Pirate
Author/Illustrator: Brett Helquist
ISBN: 0066238056
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: HarperCollins Publishers, c2004.
While this is probably the longest and most detailed of the three stories I did, it’s also the most fun for older preschoolers. They feel smarter than poor Roger the Jolly Pirate as he tries to bake a cake in a cannon during a fight above deck. His misadventures end of saving the day as the cannon cake propels him through the air, shrieking and covered in flour, causing the Admiral and his men to think the pirate ship is haunted and abandon ship. The satisfaction on their faces for guessing the outcome is priceless. It also is a cool por-qua story for how the Jolly Roger flag came about and got its name, and considering the Jolly Roger flag is seen in the next couple stories, it’s a nice beginning. I interrupted the story with my own explanations about what was going on when I felt the vocabulary was over their head. For instance, especially when it talked about Roger not knowing the leeward from the starboard or the mizzen from the mast, I just added that those were all “parts of a ship”. Otherwise, a great read with a clandestine moral of everyone is able to help or do something in some way.

Title: Sheep on a Ship
Author: Nancy Shaw
Illustrator: Margot Apple
ISBN: 0395481600
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
I stumbled across this one quite by accident, and instantly fell in love with it due to its simplicity. Most pirate books have a lot of text, but this one, with its rhyming narration and clear pictures make it perfect for younger audiences. Nothing in the text suggests pirates, but the additions in Margot Apple’s pictures of a Jolly Roger and bandanas on each sheep make it obvious that they are pirates instead of, for instance, navy seamen.

Title: I Love My Pirate Papa
Author: Laura Leuck
Illustrator: Kyle M. Stone
ISBN: 9780152056643
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Harcourt, 2007

The newest of the three books, I chose this one because it again it was in rhyme, which in my experience seems to capture kids attentions just a little better than longer text. It also gave a nice overview of what pirates do, such as digging for treasure. And it gave all the kids a chance to consider pirates as parents, instead of just scary grown-ups. It painted a positive picture of pirates.

In between each story, we did a rhyme to break up the readings. The first one I did was “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea.” While singing the song, I had the kids either crouch down or stand up every time they heard the word sea and stay that way until the next time they heard sea. So, it went something like this, starting from a standing up position:
A sailor went to sea (down), sea (up), sea (down)
To see (up) what he could see (down), see (up), see (down)
But all that he could see (up) see (down) see (up)
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea (down), sea (up) sea (down)
Then we did it a second time, starting from the crouched down position, so that we ended standing up again. It was a lot of fun, and even some parents got involved.

We also did “There Was a Pirate had a bird and Polly was his name-o”, obviously to the tune of Bingo. I had a parrot puppet on one hand, so when clapping out the letters, I lifted up and slapped my knee with the other hand, which worked pretty well, and kind of gave me the look of a one-legged pirate possibly dancing a reel.

Finally, I did the song “The Waves on the Sea”, which is to the tune “The Wheels on the Bus”. Each verse has an accompanying action.
The Waves on the sea go up and down. (more kneeling and standing up in unison with the words up and down)
Up and down, up and down.
The waves on the sea go up and down
All day long.

The fish in the sea goes swish, swish, swish… (put your hands together, palms touching, and move them side to side in front of you each time you say “swish”)

The pirates on the sea go “Ahoy Matey, Ahoy Matey, Ahoy Matey”… (give a salute for each Ahoy Matey)

The shark in the sea goes snap, snap, snap… (hold arms out straight in front of you and clap your hands together three times)

More fun rhymes are available online by searching “Pirate story time”. One site I especially like is Born Librarian’s list of rhymes, and I wish I’d had time to incorporate some of them.

I had several craft opportunities for the kids after the stories and rhymes were done.

  • Make a spyglass by gluing a piece of black construction paper to a paper towel roll. It works better if you apply the glue to one end of the paper, start rolling, and then put some glue on the remainder of the paper.
  • Make a toilet paper parrot. The instructions are right here, and are extremely easy to make. I pre-cut the feathers and the rectangles that served as the body, and provided googly eyes. Only one parent/child missed the beak and decided to make their own, so I don’t think the beak is necessary.
  • The template for a whole sheet of pirate eye patches are available here. Again, I pre-cut them all out, and the provided hole punchers and scissors to cut the thread to the right size.
  • We had some leftover cut up black plastic table cloths from a program over the summer. I printed off a skull and crossbones picture on white paper, and had the attendees glue a printout to the plastic table cloths to make a pirate flag to take home.
  • We made tri-corner hats out of construction paper. Cut three pieces of paper into identical shapes and then staple them together into a triangle, leaving the middle open in order to slide on your head. This site provides an example, but what I did was made the sides shorter and had them curve upward and meet in the middle, so each strip looked like it had a hill. If this doesn’t sound right, picture those very simple/generic car drawings without the wheels, and you’ve got the general shape we made.

And of course, you have to remember to dress the part. Striped stockings or tights, goucho “pants”, a striped shirt or a white ruffled shirt, and maybe a vest or sash will make you look the part. Don’t forget the bandana, earring, and maybe even a hook or sword. There are obviously quite a few other pirate stories and crafts available. What have you used successfully in the past?

Friday Feature – Discussion Questions for Harry Potter #7

This Friday Feature post concludes my process of posting all the questions that I developed for a set of book discussions based on the Harry Potter book series. Today, I’m featuring Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series.

Did you miss the set of discussion questions for the previous books? Then follow the links to the desired book:

This was the final book discussion, and also the smallest group, with only 15 youth participating in the discussion. That was actually a good thing, as it allowed everyone more time to discuss. Since the movie had been released in theatres by the time we hosted this discussion group, I had to stress to the participants that we were focussing on the book, and NOT the movie. Even still, several participants got sidetracked. For the most part, I think all the discussions went well, and the kids proved they had great memories and provided insightful feedback.

1. Were you surprised that Dudley told Harry “I don’t think you’re a waste of space.” Then he hugged him? How do you think Dudley felt about Harry? Do you think his parents influenced his opinion of his cousin? Why do you think Harry’s aunt and uncle disliked him so much? Do you think Harry was sad to leave?

2. Why do you think Harry is so against the plan to leave his house? Harry says “If you think I’m going to let six people risk their lives …” and Ron sarcastically responds “because it’s the first time for all of us.” (48-49) How do you think Harry feels about putting so many people’s lives in danger? Do you think his friends would be so willing to risk their lives if they were the only ones?

3. This book does not follow the format of the other books because Harry spends most of his time away from Hogwarts. Did you like this new way of presenting the story, or did you want to see what Harry did at Hogwarts after the Death Eaters took over?

4. How does the death of Dobby affect Harry? What was your reaction? Do you think he needed to die? Were you surprised by Kreecher’s actions at the end of the book?

5. Do you think Umbridge is willingly or knowingly working for the Death Eaters at the Ministry? Were you surprised that the Death Eaters were so successful in taking over so many places so quickly? Would you have resisted, and if so how?

6. Dumbledore has his own motives for being angry at Muggles, considering his sister’s resulting insanity. Are his reasons better or worse than Voldemort’s reasons for disliking Muggles? What happened to change Dumbledore’s impression of them?

7. Harry disagrees with Dumbledore when he says “I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” (718) What are your reactions to this quote? Do you think Dumbledore is true? Do you think he’s being too hard on himself? Do you think Harry was a good leader?

8. People have died in the series before this book, but there more deaths in this book then in any other book. Did you expect that many people to die? Who were you most disappointed to see die? Was there too much violence for a children’s book? Is the language appropriate for a children’s book?

9. Was anyone confused about the Horucruxes? How many were made total? Do you think the spells to make them influenced who Voldemort became?

10. Where do you think Harry ended up after he “died”? Harry asks Dumbledore “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?” and Dumbledore answers “Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (723) What do you think? Were you surprised by the reactions that some people had when they saw Harry in Hagrid’s arms?

11. What did you think of the Epilogue, giving a glimpse into everyone’s lives nineteen years later? Did you want to know, or would you have rather guessed at what happened? Did things turn out the way you expected?

Friday Feature — Discussion Questions for Harry Potter #6

This Friday Feature post continues my process of posting all the questions that I developed for a set of book discussions based on the Harry Potter book series. Today, I’m featuring Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series.

Did you miss the set of discussion questions for the previous books? Then follow the links to the desired book:

I was very careful when drafting these questions to avoid going into too much detail about the horcruxes, since some of them are left for the seventh book and readers still have questions at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

1. Dumbledore describes Horace Slughorn as someone who “likes the company of the famous, the successful, and the powerful. He enjoys the feeling that he influences these people. He has never wanted to occupy the throne himself; he prefers the backseat – more room to spread out, you see.” (74-75)

  • How does his attitude towards fame compare and contrast to Harry’s and Professor Lockhart’s attitude?
  • What do you think J.K. Rowling is trying to say about fame when she portrays it in these different ways?
  • Why does Slughorn want to surround himself with wizards he thinks will become famous, and what does he stand to gain from these relationships?

2. Why do Ginny, Hermione, and Mrs. Weasley dislike Fleur? Do their opinions of her change by the end of this book?

3. Luna tells Harry that she enjoyed the D.A. meetings because “It was like having friends.” (138) Do you think Luna is lonely? Do you think she acts the way she does on purpose? Why or why not? Would you want Luna as a friend?

4. Is Dumbledore right when he says that since he’s “rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly hunger.” (195) Do you think that applies to everyone? Are there other attributes besides cleverness that could affect the ramifications of a mistake?

5. Should Ron have become the Keeper for Gryffindorf? Should Hermione have cast a spell on McLaggen, the other person trying out for the Keeper position? Was Harry right in tricking Ron into thinking that he’d drank the lucky potion?

6. Dumbledore keeps putting off answering Harry’s questions about his whereabouts. Do you think he should have told Harry sooner? What did you think about Dumbledore inviting Harry along on his missions and searches for the Horcruxes?

7. Dumbledore asks Harry if he feels sorry for Voldemort. Do you feel sorry, or at least differently, about Voldemort after hearing about his upbringing? If you were Harry, would you admit it if you did feel sorry?

8. We see a lot more romance in this book that in previous books. Tonks and Lupin at the end of the book, Bill and Fleur are engaged, Hermione asks Ron to be her guest at the Slug Club party but then takes someone else to make him mad, and Harry finally kisses Ginny. Was Ron a coward for not making the first move? When did you suspect Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny might have liked each other? Did you ever think Harry and Hermione would end up together? Was Harry right in worrying about their friendship?

9. Should they have closed Hogwarts? Would you have wanted to attend Hogwarts with everything that was going on during that time?

10. Dumbledore asks Harry “If Voldemort had never heard of the prophecy, would it have been fulfilled? Would it have meant anything? […] Do you think every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been fulfilled? […] The prophecy does not mean you have to do anything.” (510-512) How would you respond to these questions? Do you think the prophecy predetermined Harry’s and Voldemort’s actions?

11. Were you surprised that J.K. Rowling killed Dumbledore? Were you surprised Snape was the one that killed him? Were you surprised that Harry’s suspicions against Snape and Malfoy finally proved right? Should Harry have kept the good luck potion for himself? Discuss.

Friday Feature — Discussion Questions for Harry Potter #5

This Friday Feature post continues my process of posting all the questions that I developed for a set of book discussions based on the Harry Potter book series. Today, I’m featuring Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the series.

Did you miss the set of discussion questions for the previous books? Then follow the links to the desired book:

It’s with this title that we started to lose people. Maybe it was the timing (the discussion took place just after July 4th) or maybe it was because it was geared towards older kids, or maybe because it’s the longest book, clocking in at a whopping 896 pages. In any case, we only had twenty people show up, which is obviously still a good showing for a book as long as it is. One thing that I want to note here is that the kids were really interested in talking about the snake’s attack of Arthur Weasley and also what happened to Sirius, which I hadn’t wanted to breach because of how things play out in future books. However, we did discuss those two scenes briefly, and I would encourage other librarians to incorporate them into their own discussions.

1. Harry saves Dudley from a group of dementors at the beginning of the book. Why do you think Harry stops the dementors? What would you have done in that same situation? Do you think Dudley thinks about magic differently now that he’s been on the receiving end?

2. Professor Umbridge takes over teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts and refuses to allow the students to actually perform the spells, insisting that “As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions.” (244) Is she right? Do you think your teachers would agree with this philosophy? What do you think about this method of teaching?

3. Harry receives detention from Professor Umbridge repeatedly for talking back to her. Why is it so difficult for Harry to hold his tongue? Do you think Harry should have told someone about her form of detention? What other forms of detention have we seen throughout the series, and how do they compare to her tasks?

4. Why doesn’t anyone want to listen to Harry when he tries warning that Voldemort has returned? Should Harry have tried harder to convince people? What reasons do people give for believing or not believing him?

5. Harry does not initially want to be a teacher for Dumbledore’s Army. Why is he so opposed to the idea to begin with and do you agree with his reasons? (327-328) Why do you think so many students joined the DA, even though most of the school doesn’t seem to believe Harry? Does naming it the DA cause problems later on, and do you think they would have gotten in so much trouble if they’d named it something else?

6. Percy tells Ron to avoid Harry, and sends back the Christmas present he receives from his family. Why do you think Percy is distancing himself from the family so much? What do you think he hopes to accomplish while employed with the Ministry of Magic?

7. What do you think of Dumbledore assigning Snape the job of teaching Harry Occlumency? Do you think Harry would have done better or worse if someone else was teaching him how to defend against mental attacks? Could Snape have done a better job teaching Harry? Would you want anyone to have that ability or would you want that ability yourself?

8. How are Fred and George different from and the same as the rest of their family members? What do you think of their plan to open a shop of gag gifts and trick items? Should they have stayed in school?

9. Ron is amused by the concept of skiing, Professor McGonagall calls the fist-fight “Muggle dueling”, and Ron’s mother is outraged when the doctors experiment with stitches. What other Muggle things would be hard to explain to wizards? Would you be able to explain why we do those things or how they work?

10. Should Dumbledore have told Harry about the prophesy sooner? How much control do you think Harry has over his own life, and how much of it has been predetermined? Are your actions determined by your belief of what’s going to happen in the future? Does that knowledge change how you act?

Friday Feature — Discussion Questions for Harry Potter #4

This Friday Feature post continues my process of posting all the questions that I developed for a set of book discussions based on the Harry Potter book series. Today, I’m featuring Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series.

Did you miss the set of discussion questions for the previous books? Then follow the links to the desired book:

First I addressed the discrepancy between the first print and subsequent printings of this book. I read the scene where Harry’s parents come out of his wand, which with the hardcover is on page 667. What order do Harry’s parents exit the wands (who has James coming out first and who has Lily exiting first)? Which way is the right way? J.K. Rowling explains it on her website that the order should have been “Lily first, than James. That’s how it appears in my original manuscript but we were under enormous pressure to edit it very fast and my American editor thought that was the wrong way around, and he is so good at catching small errors I changed it without thinking, than realized it had been right in the first place. We were all very sleep-deprived at the time.” It was fixed in later printings. I did this so that everyone was on the same page as to who was supposed to come out first, in case it came up during discussion.

1. Goblet of Fire is not the longest book, but it is much longer than the first three. Do you think J. K. Rowling could have cut something out to make it shorter? If so, what would you have cut? Do you think the length of this and future books discourage some kids from continuing the series? Do you think some kids shouldn’t read this book, and why?

2. As Harry grows up, his world expands. In Goblet of Fire, Harry becomes more aware of the international wizarding community than he has been before, and we finally learn about other schools like Hogwarts.

  • What differences and similarities (for instance, in dialogue and appearance) are there between the students from each school?
  • Do these characters change how you imagine the wizarding world?
  • Where do you think these schools are located and do you think there are still more schools that we don’t know about?

3. After the Quidditch Tournament, people started celebrating and then things turned ugly. Why do you think they started harassing the Muggle family? Why do you think the Death Eaters choose that moment to come out of hiding?

4. Hermione makes a comment during the riots that Ludo Bagman is “not exactly on top of things” and Ron brushes her off by saying “He was a great Beater though.” (127) Are there other times in the story that things don’t really add up, yet people decide to ignore what’s wrong or go along with it? Why do you think people were so accepting?

5. Do you like Mad-Eye Moody? What do you think of his teaching methods? Should he be doing the things he does, like turn Draco into a ferret and cursing students? Would you want him for a teacher, and do you think he’d treat you like Malfoy or like Harry?

6. Let’s talk about all the work Hermione does in an effort to improve “Elfish Welfare”.

  • Do you think Hermione is right in thinking elves need rights, or is Ron right when he says that they “like being enslaved”? (224)
  • Why do you think Hermione is the only one concerned about their wellbeing?
  • Were you surprised that Hermione couldn’t come up with a better acronym besides S.P.E.W?
  • How do you think the elves feel about Hermione’s efforts?

7. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ron stop talking to people he’s angry with, since he did it to Hermione in the last book and now to Harry in this book. Is this the right way for him to handle things? Do you think this is how he acts when his brothers make him angry? Would you rather have someone who is mad at you yell or stop talking?

8. It seems like every Tournament competitor gets help in some way from someone. Were they supposed to get outside help? (Let the kids answer this, then refer to page 281 for official rules, which read “The champions are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from their teachers to complete the tasks in the tournament.”) Do you think it’s fair that Cedric and Harry end up working together, and do you consider that breaking the rules? Do you think the heads of the schools should have been involved in the planning and scoring during the tournament?

9. Rita Skeeter routinely embellishes the stories that she reports. Why do you think she does this? Do you think she’s aware of the consequences of her reporting? Do you think news reporters today do the same thing?

10. Why did Voldemort want to duel Harry? Do you think it was a fair fight? What do you think would have happened if only Cedric had appeared with the Triwizard Cup? Do you think the other wizards would have eventually found out about Voldemort’s return?

11. Why do you think both Cedric and Harry didn’t want to claim the prize for themselves? If the Triwizard Cup hadn’t been a portkey, who do you think should have won, and do you think the other person would have felt bad later? If you had been Harry, what would you have done with the winnings? Do you think Harry is selfless in his actions, and can you find other instances in the book to back up your answer?

Next week, Order of the Phoenix!

Friday Feature — Discussion Questions for Harry Potter #1

At my library, we’re hosting book discussions for each of the seven Harry Potter books. Upon searching the internet for discussion questions however, I really didn’t find that many that suited my purpose. So I crafted some of my own, and some I found on the Scholastic website, and I thought I’d share them with everyone. Our first book discussion went extremely well, with myself and two parent volunteers leading the discussion with 30 young patrons ranging in age from eight to thirteen years old. EVERYONE had a blast, and we’re looking forward to the next one.

First up, is the first book, known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, if you live “across the pond.”)

1. J. K. Rowling gives several clues that something is different about Harry Potter. Did you like having chapter one introduce the characters that you’d later meet at Hogwarts, or would you rather have been surprised? What were the warning signs that Harry Potter isn’t like other kids?

2. Harry Potter begins at the Dursley’s house and then discovers that he’s headed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Can you think of any other books where the characters start in a normal world and discover that it’s different or magical? What are some similarities and differences at both Hogwarts and in the Muggle world?

3. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, he meets Professor Dumbledore, who is not your average principal. Would you want him at your school? What classes at Hogwarts would you want to take if you had the opportunity? Which teachers do you think you’d like the most and the least?

4. Harry is sorted into Gryffindor, along with Ron and Hermione. How do you think the story would have changed if they hadn’t been placed in the same house? Do you think Harry would have still succeeded against the obstacles without Ron and Hermione?

5. Harry makes two friends at Hogwarts, Hermione and Ron. Each of the three characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, which are all put to use by the end of the book. Discuss what these are, and how they assist in the end. Which of the three characters are you most like and which character do you want to resemble?

6. Neville gets picked on a lot at school. Do you think his actions encourage Draco Malfoy and his friends teasing? When he finally asserts himself, it’s towards Harry, Ron, and Hermoine and not against Draco. What happened? Is it easier to stand up for yourself amongst people you like or people you don’t like?

7. Harry and his classmates spend a lot of time in the library and they use quill pens and scrolls to write their papers. Why do you think they don’t have computers? What other forms of technology are they missing? Do you think you’d be able to give it all up for a chance to attend Hogwarts?

8. J. K. Rowling uses things that you can find in traditional tales, myths, and legends. For instance, the Sorcerer’s Stone is also known as the Philosopher’s Stone, and has been sought-after for years by Isaac Newton and Nicolas Flamel. What other things do you recognize as part of other myths?

9. The author has a lot of fun with names. Did you notice the Mirror of Erised spells “Desire” backwards? What other names give you an idea ahead of time about the character or object? What names are misleading?

10. In chapter Nine, Harry disobeys a direct order and rides on a broom stick for the first time. While this might normally lead to expulsion from school, instead he’s honored with the Seeker position.
* Can you find other instances in the story where Harry’s actions lead to the opposite from what is expected or that he’s given special treatment from the staff or students? Why do you think this happens?
* Is it ever a good idea to disobey the rules?
* Is it fair that Harry gets treated differently, and what would you do if you realized you were being treated differently from other students?

11. Quirrel tells Harry that “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” (page 291) Do you agree with this? Is this the reality of the world? Or if good and evil do exist, what makes them so? Which is more important in the world, power, or good and evil?

Friday Feature — 39 Clues Event Take Two

Some of you might be thinking to yourself, wait a minute, this is an old post. Well, you’re half right. I did a program similar to this one back in December, which you can read about here and here. But I did a second 39 Clues Scavenger Hunt back in June, and since the first one is being viewed so many times (it’s one of my top five posts), I figured there must be a demand for 39 Clues themed programs.

The program was set up similar to the first one in format. Author Jude Watson was gracious enough to donate her time for a Skype interview, which I again arranged through Scholastic books. Scholastic also donated several copies of her book, which we were able to give away as prizes for the scavenger hunt winners.

We started the evening with a discussion with Jude Watson, where she talked about writing for the series and how she joined the project. She also showed us some really cool art work on her wall while her husband made dinner in the background.

After the interview, I divided the kids into six groups of five. The groups rotated amongst various stations.
Station #1: Scavenger Hunt — Kids were given the first clue, and then sent into the library to find the remaining clues. While last time I provided different clues for every group, this time I gave each group the same questions to make it fair. I then timed the groups, and the group that came back the fastest was awarded the books. The questions (with answers) were as follows:

  • The last book in the series is titled Into the Gauntlet. One definition for a gauntlet is a protective glove used as a form of armor. Where would you find the book ARMS AND ARMOR? Eyewitness book Arms and Armor by Michele Byam
  • Dan has a photographic memory, which comes in handy throughout the trip. Go to where kids can browse through photos of sports, animals, people, and other things with a spin of the wrist. (We have a library feature where kids can browse through photographs of these items)
  • The numbers on the cover of the last book point to longitude and latitude coordinates. Find a book that talks about what these measurements mean. Any book will work that discusses longitude and latitude, found in the 912s at my library.
  • In the most recent book, Dan and Amy follow the path of Anne Bonny, a female pirate. Find the book which talks about other DARING PIRATE WOMEN. Book by that title by Anne Wallace Sharp
  • AVAST! There is a ship in the library that some people might mistake for a pirate ship but actually fought in the Revolutionary War. Again, a feature unique to our library, a model ship was donated to the library which we have on display in a glass container on top of a shelf.
  • Set a course for the Auditorium, to turn in all of your clues!

Station #2: Maze of Bones.
Using masking tape and yardsticks, I plotted out a maze grid about 8 foot by 5 foot. Kids in each group paired off. Each child took turns being blind-folded and then being directed through the maze by their partner. Originally they were also being timed, and the fastest team was supposed to get some donated card packs. However, we ran late and not everyone had a chance at the maze, so I cut out the whole prize aspect rather than being accused of not being fair.

Station #3: Island Hopping
I got this idea from the book In Too Deep by Jude Watson, where Amy and Dan escape volcanic islands. Using masking tape (it’s your friend, because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the carpet or tile), mark off two lines about ten feet apart from each other. Each kid is given a picture of an island. The goal is for the entire team to get from one tape line to the other. The first catch: they can only step on the islands, otherwise they’ll be burned by the volcanic lava. The second catch: if an island cut-out is not in contact with a kid, then it gets swept away by the lava. For instance, if John lays down his island picture and lets go with his hand before his foot is on it, then he looses the island. If Cathy is following John, and John picks up his foot before Cathy puts her foot on an island, then it gets swept away. I had a teen volunteer supervise this one, snatching up islands that the kids let go. This station was a favorite with the boys as they tried to jump the lava in leaps and bounds, literally. Give this station lots of extra room!

Station #4: Hieroglyphics
You can get blank cartouches (the Egyptian equivalent of a name tag) off the Internet and print them out. Also available online is the hieroglyphic alphabet. Have the kids make their own cartouches.

Station #5: Morse Code
I printed off information about the Morse Code, including an alphabet sheet. Kids were challenged to type out a message and see if their partner could translate it. Not the best activity for a crowded and very loud auditorium. However, my initial idea of invisible writing with lemon juice was put to bed when one of my volunteers cancelled on me at the last-minute. If you have the man power, I would suggest doing the lemon juice writing instead, and providing groups with trivia questions that they need to reveal and answer. Lemon juice is invisible until heated by holding the paper to a light bulb.

Station #6: Braille
PBS Kids has a really great website  about Braille centered around Arthur and his blind friend. While some of the activities I thought were a little young for these clue hunters, I did print out the alphabet and translations. I then borrowed some braille books and their print counterparts for the kids to look at and compare. Any Harry Potter title makes a big impression, as they have to be printed in Braille in numerous volumes. I also provided pencils and Braille grids so the children could experiment with making their own Braille.

One word of caution if you’re planning on duplicating this program is try to alternate the “active” and “inactive” stations. If you’ll notice, after they finished the first three stations, groups did a lot of sitting, which the boys had a hard time coping with. Most of the girls seemed okay with the arrangement.

Has anyone else tried programming for the 39 Clues series, and if so what have you done for your die-hard fans?


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