Friday, January 18, 2013

Middle Grade Book Club: Flying the Dragon

As you may or may not know I have a book club with 4th and 5th graders at my local elementary school. I've done it for about a year and have really loved it. We meet anywhere from 6-8 weeks in a row, read a book, and also take part in some book-related activities along the way.

Now that I've done it a couple of times I feel like I'm getting more into a groove with the books and the activities. This past semester I chose the book Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi.

First, check out this cover.

But to really appreciate it, you should see the cover in its entirety
image from Kelly Murphy's website

Isn't that gorgeous? 

It's by artist Kelly Murphy, who has an amazing website and has done a host of beautiful book covers (including one of the first MGs I read as an adult: Masterpiece-- which I picked up just for the cover art!).

Here's the blurb for Flying the Dragon from the Goodreads site:

"American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best."

The book was wonderful-- poignant without being overly so, funny at times, sweet, and lovely. The story arc was satisfying without being predictable. The tension between Skye and Hiroshi wasn't overly dramatic, just real. The family relationships were true and honest.  I loved it and the kids did, too. 

The way I structure the book club is that together the kids and I set a target number of pages to be read each week (though no one is penalized if they fail to read-- the only penalty is that if you don't keep up you will be faced with spoilers).

I bring snacks (sometimes related to the book theme), plan a few activities, and if we have extra time we take turns reading aloud.

For this book we did a couple of fun activities:
  • Made drawings of paper kites on Washi paper (handmade Japanese paper which they use in the book to make ACTUAL kites-- we were not that sophisticated). We decorated the kites with images from a book I brought of Japanese Design Motifs
  • Made woodblock prints in the Japanese style based on parts of the story, cut, and printed them.
  • Made sushi! (But without raw fish, just to keep it on the safe side).

It was awesome. I highly recommend this book for the middle-grader in your life. I'm planning to read it aloud to my kids when they are just a little older. (The 7-year-old would totally be great with it-- but our 5-year-old has concentration issues.)

Have you read Flying the Dragon? What did you think?

Have an excellent MG read to recommend for our next book? 

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