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Book Clubs, Books We Read, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

Literature List for Our 7th and 8th Grade Book Club

We made it!  

Our school year has wrapped up and with the exception of a few loose ends in math, we are relishing our free time.

Of course, my free time includes time spent reflecting on our completed school year.  It’s important for me to re-evaluate choices that didn’t work, while also celebrating our successful ones.

One of my favorite successful endeavors this year was the creation of a monthly Boomerang Book Club.

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Our title – The Boomerang Book Club – was derived from my use of the Boomerang Book Guides at Brave Writer, which I used to guide our discussions.   The Boomerang Book Guides are designed for book titles appropriate for grades 7-10.  Unlike the Arrow Guides, for grades 3-6, the Boomerang Guides contain “Think Piece Questions” at the end for reflection and discussion.  Forming a book club for my daughter in the Boomerang book titles was an opportunity to discuss these questions.

(NOTE: The guides also provide weekly copywork passages with grammar and literature discussions included related to the passages.  For more information, check out the Brave Writer website.)


What began as a simple idea to chat about books at Starbucks with my oldest daughter and her friends turned into memorable monthly #partyschool experience.  I have no doubt that our experiences together carried us beyond reading comprehension into developing reading connections that won’t quickly be forgotten.

My daughter will have such fond memories of her 7th grade “literature class” including memorable quotes, silly discussions, and delicious food.

And from a purely academic perspective, when I look back over our book choices this year it adds up to a pretty awesome list of literature.  So without further ado, here are the monthly selections we enjoyed during our 7th and 8th grade girls book club this year:

September:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

I purposefully kicked off our book club with a title that most of the girls have read and loved. I wanted our first book club to revolve around a book that they would be familiar with and excited to discuss.

This is also the title that created the first #partyschool experience thanks to the creative host mom!

October: Little Women by Lousia May Alcott.

Interestingly enough, the little women in our book club were not very excited about the Little Women in the book. There were a few girls who LOVED the book and had read it before, but most of them weren’t very fond of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy.

November:  The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

Having never read this book myself, I was so thrilled to have the chance to experience this classic. Not only is the story one that transcends time, but the author has a unique story as she wrote this book while in high school. It was published after her graduation, but the majority was written during the year she received a “D” in creative writing in her high school class.

This book discussion included another #partyschool atmosphere and was followed by the movie.

December:  Short Stories.

I selected four short stories for this month with the idea that we could read 1-2 each week and then meet together for a Christmas party and brief discussion.  All four of these stories were accessable online.

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant – another well known story about pride.
Two Kinds by Amy Tan – great introduction to Amy Tan and a discussion of the mother/daughter relationship.
Gift of the Magi by O’Henry – a classic, especially around the Christmas season.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson – some of the moms remembered reading this in their school experience, although I never had.  It is a pretty shocking story and worthy of discussion.

Short stories should be an important part of a middle and high school literature study, so I was glad to include a few in our monthly selections.

January: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

I have found memories of Anne from my own middle school years. Sadly, my daughter did not share my love for her, though we had a fantastic #partyschool book club. Some of my favorite quotes came from this book and we all enjoyed sharing them at our tea party.

February: Lord of the Flies by William Holding.

A classic.  This book is a great title to read and explore the use of symbolism as it is heavily used in this book. While many read this in high school, and that is certainly appropriate, it did work for our 7th and 8th grade girls group.

They found it a strange story, as it is. But we had a great #partyschool book club (not yet on the blog) and even tried to meet around the fire pit, but the smoke got in the way.

March: What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau.

This title was entirely new to me.  It is one of the reason that I love referring to the list of Boomerang titles because Julie at Bravewriter does such a great job of mixing classic literature with modern titles.

I think this was one of my favorite books this year.  It is a unique coming of age story that combines elements of family history (father from Mexico) and modern life as a child in America in a tale woven through two time periods.  I highly recommend this one for this age group.

April: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

A classic piece of literature that opens up a thoughtful discussion about life as a teenage girl as well as important historical events.  While I had read this book in school as a teenager, I enjoyed it so much more as an adult.  The insights into a teenage girl’s mind were delightful to read on the other side of that time period.

The girls in the group had a difficult time making it through this one.  It isn’t a story, but it is very much reading the scattered thoughts of a teenager in her diary.  We had a discussion that included some thoughts about a true journal vs. a story told through a created journal.  This title worked well in our book club.

May: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

(We used the “Shakespeare Made Easy” version that included a modern translation next to the original work.)

I wanted to build a strong foundation for a future understanding of Shakespeare in our house, so we began looking at his plays a little earlier than the traditional public school plan.

This title was requested by one of the girls in the book club and I was inclined to oblige any requests!  Student interest is always helpful to learning and discussion.

Rather than have a traditional book discussion, we acted out five scenes from the book while we were together.   It’s amazing what a few scarves and swords can do for simple costuming!   After working through a few scenes, we enjoyed the movie version of this film with Leonardo DiCaprio.

That sums it up!  A fantastic year of challenging and fun literature.

As for next year, we will continue to use the Boomerang Book Guides at home and as one source of questions for our book club discussions.   I can’t wait to begin picking titles for our next school year!

(NotBefore7 is an affiliate with Brave Writer and uses the curriculum in our own homeschool.  I am happy to share our various uses here and do earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links.  NotBefore7 is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Book Clubs, Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Love That Dog Book Club

We had another successful book club this month! Our book selection was the delightful tale, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This book is unique in that the entire story is written through free verse poetry journal entries. It was a quick and enjoyable read for all of our attendees.

In order to create a party school book club atmosphere, the planners focused on a dog theme!

First up, a table cloth decorated to imitate the cover of the book.  It didn’t take a whole lot of fancy planning to grab a cheap table cloth and give my daughter a black sharpie marker, yet it did wonders for our decor.


As the girls arrived, they began work on their dog collar bookmarks using a variety of colorful ribbons, one included dog paws.

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Our dog themed snacks included puppy chow, puppy pretzels, cheese cut into bone shaped slices using a bone shaped cookie cutter (which could also be used for bone shaped sugar cookies), carrots, and Poetry Pop.


Poetry Pop was created by re-labelling a soda bottle with a printed poem about dogs.  The girls enjoyed sharing the poems found on their bottles.


While snacking we discussed how to ask good questions about poems, using the literary element plans found in the back of our current Arrow edition of Love That Dog from Brave Writer.  The Brave Writer guide also included the titles of various poems for discussion and I distributed copies to the girls.  After reading and discussing several, I explained that their next activity was to create their own poem and “publish” it on card stock.

Before sending them off, I shared a poem I wrote when I was twelve years old.  It was one of the precious gems my mother saved from my middle school years.  When I teach a poetry class, I always share this poem.  It’s a simple one for kids to imitate and they enjoy knowing how much I still relate to the statements conveyed when I was twelve years old.


Feeling inspired, everyone set off to work on their poems.


Plain paper.  Lined paper.  Ultra fine-tip sharpie packs.


Their final products were ready for display.  I was really proud of what these girls created in a short time.  One of the girls was very resistant to trying her hand at writing a poem, yet wrote something she was really proud of.

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In the end, we had a great time celebrating this creative piece of literature.  Our monthly book club has become one of my favorite events of our school year and this month was no exception!

View this book club set up on periscope if you would like to see a tour of the activities!

(NotBefore7 is a Brave Writer ambassador and is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Homeschooling, Literature

Mysterious Benedict Society Book Club, Part II

Mysterious Benedict Society Book Club

This afternoon my daughter and a few of her friends gathered for our book club. This month’s selection was, “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart.

I didn’t find a lot of ideas online about the book, but I found plenty of ideas when I began searching for brain games and secret agent parties. After a little big of digging around, I was inspired and I put together our book club plan!

A few days before the bookclub, a few special invitations were mailed:


Upon entering the room, each girl discovered a Top Secret folder waiting for them and “Kate Weatherall’s red bucket” filled with supplies for our book club.


The girls began by solving Rebus Puzzles in their folder while waiting for their friends.  Then we played around with solving them as a group.

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Next it was time for some “brain food”.  I have to admit.  I was a at a loss when planning food and snacks for this book club.  There wasn’t a whole lot of food in the plot of the book, other than Constance wanting candy for breakfast.  HA!  I started to look up food that was good for the brain and memory.  Inspired by these, “12 Superfoods to Boost your Brainpower,” I created a little buffet.


Blueberry muffins (blueberries), Guacamole and chips (avocado), walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and bread with dipping oil (olive oil).  Yum!


During our snack, we discussed the book.  We shared our favorite moments, biggest surprises, and the characters we would most like to have as a friend.  Inspired by the information on this site, we talked about the significance of character names.  Then we headed back to our buckets and folders.


Our next task was to make a secret decoder so we could send our partners in crime a hidden message.  Red cellophane is the perfect tool if a secret message is covered in red marker or crayon cross hatches.  I based our simple decoder on this tutorial for a decoder card.  After making them, the girls experimented with red markers and red crayons to hide their blue words.


The girls had a sheet of shapes in their folder to write secret messages in blue and cross hatch them with red.


Now, Kate’s red bucket would not be complete without a sling shot.  Ours wasn’t the traditional sling shot, but more of a marshmallow shooter.  The instructions were simple and we had a fun time trying to shoot the marshmallows into our red buckets.

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Finally, we used our pen lights to send one another messages in morse code.  Each girl had a sheet of morse code in their Top Secret folder.  We used them to send simple words and phrases to one another.



We never had time to get to my “if there is time left” codes, but I did find more fun codes online for anyone else planning a book club.

In the end, we had a fantastic time and memorable book club.  I hope each of the girls encountered this book on a more personal level that they won’t soon forget.

If you missed my periscope as I planned the night before book club, you can find it on this post.