Running a Book Club

I’ve been asked on Twitter by a few different people how I run/fund my high school book club, so I decided I should write a post about it.  I’m still working on improving it, so if you run a book club I’d love to know what you do to make it fun.

The Premiere jewelry party fundraiser

The Premier jewelry party fundraiser

I’ll start with a little bit of background.  After our librarian left and we found out that she wasn’t going to be replaced, I asked my principal if I could take over book club.  We had a secretary working in the library, but she wasn’t familiar with the books and was really hired to work on technology stuff.  Later in the year we hired a technology person who would work in the library, but again, he was mostly brought in to help with technology issues in the building.  Thankfully my YA class and my well known passion for reading helped gain me some members, albeit a small amount of members.  I think the first year I ran it we had fifteen members, but only six or so came on a regular basis.  Since then our numbers have grown, but I still have a tough time getting more kids to come regularly.  We meet after school for about an hour since it’s difficult to arrange a time during any other part of the day.  At first we met almost once a week because we wanted to discuss books and we were working on improving/decorating the library since we don’t have a librarian.  When I started this book club, we chose together which books we’d read and I usually bought a few copies of the chosen book with my own money.  I honestly can’t remember if we did much fundraising that first year.

The second year was much better.  We spent more time making displays in the library.  We started holding fundraisers to purchase the books we’d read and we also held fundraisers to purchase books for the library.  My kids loved doing this and were really motivated to raise money.  When new books would arrive, we’d find ways of displaying them so more students would travel into the library to check them out.  That year I really felt like I was running the library in my classroom and our actual library.  I wasn’t down there organizing books and checking them in and out to students, but I was trying to find ways to purchase more books and put eye-catching displays together.

The cupcakes we ate while Skyping with Sarah Ockler about Bittersweet.

Some cupcakes we ate while Skyping with Sarah Ockler about Bittersweet.

This year, my students and I have given up trying to decorate the library because the technology teacher was pulled to teach full time.  The same secretary is down there, but she’s working more on technology issues.  We also have an online schooling program going on in the library, so it isn’t being used at all anymore by our students.  They go down there to check out text books and some might still check out library books, but I don’t know how often that happens.  Hopefully more than I think.  The fundraising we do goes towards purchasing our book club books which I still donate to the library.  If we get our library back, I’ll be happy to have my students work on displays and fundraising, but this year that just doesn’t seem worth it.

I do have a larger group of students this year which makes it fun getting to know them and their reading preferences.  Last year and this year we’ve put all of our names into a bucket and we draw a name every time we choose a new book to read.  This way each student gets to help choose our next book.  They still ask for my advice, but I try to make sure each students gets to read a book they’re interested in.  We’re constantly on Goodreads looking for our next book.

Most of the fundraising we’ve done consists of bake sales.  We’ve apparently priced our bake sales well because we usually make around $150-$200 in a week.  Last year one of the moms got involved and made us lots of cookies to sell.  The kids in our school found out she was baking for us and were really excited to buy some of her cookies 🙂  I’m also really fortunate to have a great group of kids who also love to bake.  I love to coupon shop, especially in the summer, so whenever boxes of brownie mix, cookies, or the like go on sale I buy a bunch of them so we can make them for bake sales.  A friend of mine sells Premier jewelry and told me that I could hold a book party at school as a fundraiser.  We received a portion of the profits we earned.  To help promote the fundraiser, we offered a jewelry giveaway for each order made or something like that (I think we added a person’s name every $25 or so they spent).  With those parties, the hostess holding the party always earns free jewelry, so we used that free jewelry for the giveaway.  It definitely helped!  We also paired up with Tropical Smoothie and earned a percentage of the sales during a designated time period, so we advertised that at school as well.  We’ve been meaning to have a car wash in the spring, but every time we want to, another club has beat us to it.


Advertising our book club at the orientation for upcoming freshmen

I do need help coming up with fun meeting ideas.  Last year we read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, so we decided to make crepes during our discussion meeting.  The French teacher let us borrow her crepe maker and each of us brought a different ingredient to make the crepes.  Since we were making so many, we let the teachers in the building know so they could get a crepe after school.  We’ve Skyped with a couple authors as well.  We read The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner and Skyped with her, which was fun as usual.  Our first year we read Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler and talked with her on the phone; my kids loved that.  Last year we read Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, so we made cupcakes for our meeting and Skyped with her.  I think it’s a given that this year we’ll read The Book of Broken Hearts.  I made monster cookies for when we discussed The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd.  Other than those things, I’m really not sure what else we should do.  I’d love some suggestions!

Here’s a list of books we’ve read in book club. Titles in bold were enjoyed by most of the group.  I hope I didn’t forget any titles!:

  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
  • Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristin Chandler (this one had a lot of mixed reactions)
  • The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
  • Hush, Hush & Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
  • Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
  • Things Change by Patrick Jones
  • Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
  • Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
  • Fixing Delilah & Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
  • The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
  • Freefall by Mindi Scott
  • The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (lots of mixed reaction, but overall I think they liked it)
  • Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Our current read is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I hope they all like it!  We’ve also had times when we read different books connected by theme or topic.


Waiting on Wednesday–The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.


Sarah Ockler is a popular author in my classroom, and with good reason, too.  My students and I love her characters, the plot lines, the romance, etc.  The book club I run chose Fixing Delilah as one of our books two years ago and last year we read Bittersweet.  We chatted with Sarah over the phone after reading Fixing Delilah, and last year we made cupcakes and Skyped with Sarah after reading Bittersweet.  I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be reading The Book of Broken Hearts together this spring 🙂

The Book of Broken HeartsTitle & Author: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Release Date: May 21st, 2013

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads): When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

Flash Reviews (12)

Thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Title: Timeless

Author: Alexandra Monir

Source: Finished copy received from the publicist

Summary (From Goodreads): When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.
Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

Flash Review: My interest went back and forth when I was reading Timeless.  I was intrigued for the first half because it was mysterious with all of the time travel and romance, but after a while the book really slowed down for me.  Michele meets and falls for the man from her dreams, but it’s tough to make it work considering he’s from another time period.  I enjoyed their scenes together, but eventually it felt like the story stalled and wasn’t moving forward.  I needed more from their relationship and from the mystery behind the time travel.  I set the book down for a bit and eventually came back to it after debating whether I was going to finish it.  Once I picked Timeless up again, I started to change my mind about quitting because the story changed pace and the romance and mystery became more intriguing.  I started getting more answers as more questions developed.  In the end, I’m really happy I finished reading Timeless because the story fleshed out.  If you enjoy reading historical fiction, time travel stories, romance, etc. then I think you should give Alexandra Monir’s novel a try.

Title: Revived

Author: Cat Patrick

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger—and more sinister—than she ever imagined.

Flash Review: Revived is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that I couldn’t put down.  I’m normally not into science fiction, but the medical technology developed to bring people back from the dead is really engrossing and kept me reading until the very last page.  I love a book that keeps me guessing and making predictions which Revived did over and over again.  I felt like I was on the same page as Daisy because just as she was questioning something or coming to a realization, I was as well.  I can easily see Cat Patrick’s newest novel becoming a big hit in my classroom and with teens in general for the plot alone.  I can’t imagine being brought back to life and then needing to move, create a new identity, and trying to keep all of that a secret.  It forces Daisy to keep close relationships at bay which is difficult for any teenager.  Readers might also be drawn to Revived because some are labeling it dystopian, but I think it’s more futuristic science fiction.  Either way it’s labeled it can ladder between dystopian and sci-fi titles easily.

Title: Bittersweet

Author: Sarah Ockler

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life… and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…

Flash Review: Bittersweet is now my favorite of Sarah Ockler’s three novels.  It’s the perfect blend of romance, coming of age, and all around fantastic contemporary fiction.  Hudson is trying to balance helping her single mom run a diner, taking care of her little brother, becoming a figure skater once again, and deciding between two attractive hockey players.  Make sure to add on keeping a friendship alive, baking cupcakes to support the diner, and training a bunch of hockey players and you have some difficult situations taking place.  Hudson is a likeable character that teens will relate to for a variety of reasons, especially if they want to do it all without having to give anything up.  Even though Hudson makes some errors in judgment, I couldn’t help but root for her and hope she eventually made the right or best choice.  She’s the kind of girl who doesn’t want to let anyone down, especially her loved ones, so you have to admire her for that.  And of course I can’t write about Bittersweet without mentioning the cupcakes.  I wish I had a recipe for every one because I want to make them ALL!


Wrap Up: My First Dewey Read-a-Thon

Well, considering that I got a late start and decided to join the read-a-thon late, I think I did pretty well.  I think the next one takes place in October, so I’m going to keep an eye on that so I can be more prepared and hopefully read more books!  I had lofty goals for myself yesterday and didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to.  But I’m okay with that because I still spent the day reading 🙂

What I Read:

  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Goodreads)–I had already read about half of this one before I started, but I did finish it which was one of my goals.  I needed to do that because on Wednesday my book club is Skyping with Sarah!  The girls are really excited and one of them volunteered to make and bring cupcakes for us to munch on after school during the Skype chat.  The book is adorable and now my favorite by Sarah Ockler.  I’ll work on a full review pretty soon.
  • The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan (Goodreads)–I’ve seen a couple of my guys in class read this one and the original books as well.  I haven’t read any of them, so I figured this was a good start.  It’s a cool graphic novel.  I really liked the images and how colors were used to convey the mood.  Plus, with all the action, I can why it’s so popular in my classroom.
  • Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–Have you read Stupid Fast yet?  If not, I seriously hope you do soon.  Nothing Special is the companion to Stupid Fast, and while it’s not exactly a direct sequel, I recommend reading Stupid Fast first.  I loved getting to know Felton better, but the story really focuses on us learning more about Andrew (Felton’s little brother).  I adored this book and can’t wait to write my full review.
  • Switched by Amanda Hocking (audiobook) (Goodreads)–I didn’t finish Switched yet, but I made some serious project yesterday.  I think I have only 4 hours left which I know will be done probably by Tuesday since I spend most of my listening before work while I’m getting ready and in the car to and from work.  I decided on Switched because I bought the paperback for my classroom library and it’s growing in popularity.  It’s pretty good so far and I enjoy the narrator 🙂

I learned a few things about myself as a reader during the read-a-thon.  I get distracted entirely too easily.  I want to peruse online, see what’s happening on Twitter, check my blog stats, etc.  It’s difficult for me to step away from the computer/iPhone.  I also have a hard time sitting still for a long period of time and not cleaning or sorting or something along those lines.  I’ll look up from my book and notice that my coffee table is dusty, or think about how I need to clean the bathroom, or about how much laundry I need to get done.  I don’t know why I’m like this, but I always have been this way.  It’s one of the reasons I’m really thankful that I discovered audiobooks because I can listen to one while I do all of this other stuff when I can’t sit still to read anymore.  Is anyone else like that?  I mean, if I’m reading a book that’s REALLY engrossing, I can ignore all of the distractions.  So for the next read-a-thon, I’m piling up books I know will be engrossing, more graphic novels, and probably some verse novels because I love them and they’re fast reads.

If you participated in the read-a-thon yesterday, how did it go?

Book Trailer Thursday (50)–Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

I <3 Sarah Ockler’s books, so I can’t wait to read her newest novel, Bittersweet.  Her books Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah are a couple of the most popular titles in my class library, so I imagine Bittersweet won’t be any different.  I’m also predicting that I’ll need to make a batch of cupcakes when I read this novel 🙂

If you’ve had a chance to read Bittersweet, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Summary (From Goodreads): Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life…and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…


Banned Books Week: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

It’s Banned Books Week so I’m highlighting a different banned book each day this week.  My posts will include the banned book, where/why it’s been banned (or challenged), my opinion, and a student’s opinion.  I’m also hosting a banned books giveaway, so I hope you’ll check it out and enter to win a banned book of your choice.

Banned Book: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Challenged in the Republic, Mo. schools (2010) because it is “soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex.”  (Source–Quote taken from ALA banned books resource page)

My Thoughts: I was outraged about this last year when the challenge first came up.  It upsets me all over again now reading why it’s been challenged and knowing that Sarah Ockler’s debut novel is still off shelves in that school district.  Any person who has read Twenty Boy Summer knows it’s the farthest thing from “soft-pornography.”

I am constantly encouraging my students to read Twenty Boy Summer because it’s an excellent book that handles tough situations very well.  Anna and Frankie are suffering greatly over Matt’s sudden death.  Anna is suffering privately because she never told Frankie that she and Matt (Frankie’s brother) were dating when he died.  Can you imagine not being able to tell your best friend that and have her to console you?  Anna and  Frankie are helping each other deal with Matt’s death, but it’s not complete for Anna when Frankie doesn’t even know how deeply hurt Anna is.  Frankie isn’t handling her brother’s death well at all and is acting out.

What can readers take away from Sarah Ockler’s touching novel?  They can take away lessons in maintaining friendships through honesty, understanding and compassion.  They can take away a better understanding of how people grieve and how to deal with grief.  The best thing?  Yes, I’m speaking of “lessons,” but this isn’t a preachy novel.  I never felt like Sarah Ockler was trying to hammer a message into my brain, but when I finished reading this novel I know I had a better understanding of the fragility of friendships and love.  The focus of this novel is not sex and partying.  It’s all about forgiveness, understanding, letting go, and learning to love again.

Student Response: This response comes from one of my YA Lit students, Mackenzie.  She’s “new” to reading and recently read Twenty Boy Summer as part of her trimester project.  “I don’t see how Twenty Boy Summer is on the banned books list.  When I read the book I didn’t think the main point of it was about sex and alcohol.  I thought it was more about Anna telling Frankie about her and Matt.”

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