Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Book Club: A Little Leap Forward

With Chinese New Year on the horizon, our January book club choice was ' A Little Leap Forward '. We chose this book to enable our book loving children to step inside Chinese culture and gain a little insight into what life is like in China, ahead of the new year festivities.

Experience this coming-of-age tale that brings to life the time of the Cultural Revolution. A young boy growing up in the hutongs of China discovers the heartache of loving and having to let go when he captures a bird, only to discover that she will not sing in confinement. The book is aimed at ages 10 + and is the first in Barefoot's young fiction series. Dependent on you child's capabilities and understanding, I think this book can be suitable for younger readers if extra guidance is given. Children will easily relate to the central character and how he likes the simple things in childhood, such as flying kites and skimming stones in the local river. Simply asking the children at book club their favourite activities and what they like about being a child is a great opening discussion, to put them at ease and create open conversation. The story is a sweet and gentle one, to which children can emotionally attach to. The story of Little Leap Forward befriending  a bird down by the river and the will to look after it is beautifully written. As the book progresses, Little is torn as to what is best for the bird and despite wanting to keep him, he recognises the need for freedom. Opening up discussions about how the children feel about setting the bird free and what things in life make them feel torn, adds great depth to your book club discussion.

Despite it's sweetness, the book does have darker undercurrents as it tells the story of China's cultural revolution and the impact it had on family life in China. The afterword does give a brief explanation of the revolution but you can adapt/extend on the explanation, depending on the age of the children in the group. Whilst you do not have to go into detail about Chinese history, there are definite opportunities to educate. The feelings of being confined, restricted and torn that are felt in relation to the bird are the same with the impacts of the revolution. Discussing these parallels is great way to talk about metaphor in stories and how we can draw upon metaphor to make some of the deeper aspects of life appear more relative. Due to the levels of understanding at different ages, this book is definitely one to read again as children grow older and are able to grasp the full intent of the book.

Once discussion has ended it is always good to incorporate an activity or age appropriate craft that can explore the themes from the book. There are lots of great creative ideas over on Pinterest. We created some lovely paper lanterns at a toddler story time for Chinese New Year celebrations but you could step your lantern making up with more intricate patterns and embellishments on your lantern. Activities and crafts are a good way of ending book club as it allows for extra discussion, once children have had time to digest what they have discussed. It will also enable 121 discussion for those children who make not have wanted to question something in the group. To accompany your activity, why not introduce a few Chinese treats, so that children can sample the local cuisine. Think lychees, Chinese Pears, new year cake, almond biscuits and, of course, fortune cookies for that extra bit of fun.

February's book club choice is 'Finn At Clee Point '. Finn's whole village is buzzing about the school fishing competition, and ten-year-old Finn is determined to win. But when he goes out to Clee Point to set his lines and befriends the Finer family, he learns a difficult lesson about loyalty, friendship and long-hidden secrets. Set at Spurn Point, on the River Humber, this coming-of-age story vividly evokes life in a small fishing community in the 1930s. To book on to one of our Merseyside sessions contact us here or purchase online to hold your own book club at home or a community venue near you. We have 6 or 12 month subscriptions or you can buy a one month trial, to see how you like it. Subscription includes book of the month, discussion guide and a book related activity. As a new year special, we are offering 10% off your first subscription by using CLUB10 when you checkout. Online discussion guide will be posted 1st February.

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