Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club: ART

Last week, the Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club held its second meeting at the Beaman Memorial Library in West Boylston, MA. Unlike most book clubs, we don’t choose a book to read. Instead, we choose a topic, and then we invite anyone who has read a book related to it–any book, any genre, any age group–to join us and share. (For a little more on how the book club started, read this post, or this one.)

For this meeting, our topic was ART. What a variety of titles showed up! We had some children’s books, of course, both biographies:



We had some fascinating adult nonfiction on the topic of graffiti art:



And also some popular art-themed adult fiction:


One book clubber was listening to her book, the audiobook of this title:


It’s always interesting to see what people chose to read, watch our conversation stretch, and to leave the library with new ideas and great book suggestions. Our next topic is HUMOR. Think funny, people! Read far and wide and bring your favorite funny reads to the library on Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 6:30pm. I hope to see you there.

FITBBC Recommendation: Flight Behavior


Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver
(Harper, 2012)

One of my favorite facets of the Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club is that participants can read whatever sort of book they like: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic novels. And they can choose books that are written for adults or for children. It’s all up to you! The only guideline, really, is that the book in question have some relation to our monthly theme. Our inaugural meeting will happen in person in Massachusetts and online everywhere on Tuesday October 24, and our topic, as many of you know, is insects.

I’ve already recommended some children’s nonfiction and children’s poetry, so today I’m going to shake things up and share an adult novel that fits the theme beautifully. Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is the story of an Appalachian community touched by a mysterious invasion of butterflies. Some people see the presence of the butterflies as a miracle, others fear it’s a sign of impending doom. This is a gorgeous novel, full of the complicated characters living in a complicated world, and their experiences will stay with readers long after the book is finished.

The invasion of monarch butterflies depicted in the novel is fictional, but the butterfly behavior is completely real. Every winter, millions of monarch butterflies in eastern North America undertake an incredible migration. They end up, somehow, together in a handful of remote mountaintop locations in central Mexico. I was lucky enough to visit several of these sites when working on the book Citizen Scientists, and I can tell you they are astonishing to witness. Here’s a video peak, which doesn’t do the live sight justice, but will give you just a taste.



FITBBC Recommendation: Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
(HarperTrophy, 1988)
by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Eric Beddows

“The following poems were written to be read aloud by two readers at once, one taking the left-hand part, the other taking the right-hand part. The poems should be read from top to bottom, the two parts meshing as in a musical duet. When both readers have lines at the same horizontal level, those lines are to be spoken simultaneously.”

This is one of my favorite insect books of all time. Some of my fondest family memories involve gently encouraging (this might be a euphemism) my three kids to perform a poem from this book as part of our one glorious homeschool year.

I found a couple YouTube videos featuring Joyful Noise and two voices, and I couldn’t decide which I loved best. Have a peek at both. But truly, the best way to enjoy this book is out loud and with a friend.


FITBBC Recommendation: Bugged

Bugged: How Insects Changed History
by Sarah Albee

A tiny taste: “This book is about how insects have changed human history, for better or for worse. We’re going to read about some of the most dangerous, coolest, and grossest bugs on the planet. And we’re going to read about how they contributed to some of the most interesting deadly and shocking episodes in human history.”

Really, what else do I have to say? Obviously this is a must-read for this month’s Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club; our topic is insects, right?!  (Wait. You didn’t remember? No problem, just go back and read this post for a recap.)

Sarah Albee wrote Bugged for a 10-14-year-old audience, and I can tell you two things for certain: 1) I am a lot older than that and 2) I was mesmerized by this book. If you read it, you should know that you will either laugh or cringe, or both, on every single page. To get a feel for the (fill-in-the-blank) mind of the author (brilliant? warped? fascinating?), check out the book trailer Sarah made for Bugged:

Which reminds me. Who’s bringing snacks for next month’s FITBBC meeting?

The Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club

If you’ve been here before, you know how inspired I was by last April’s March for Science. One of the commitments I made at the march was to do what I could to further science literacy in my community. Since I make my living writing about science for audiences of all ages, a book club featuring all things science was a no-brainer way for me to do this. I recently hosted a book talk at my hometown library, which I blogged about here, and with the help of the book lovers who showed up that day, have fashioned a new-fangled all-ages book group. And I’d like you to join it.

Unlike more traditional book clubs, ours will not focus on a single book, but rather on a single topic. Attendees can choose fiction or nonfiction, a children’s book or a young adult book or an adult book, a picture book or chapter book or graphic novel. Pretty much anything goes. The only requirements are that your book selection tie into our monthly theme, and that you’re willing to share a little bit about it with the rest of us.

Those of us who live in central Massachusetts can meet in person at the Beaman Memorial Library at 4 Newton Street in West Boyslton, Massachusetts on Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30pm. But if you don’t live in the area and would like to join in the fun, please do! I’ll be featuring themed book suggestions here on my blog each week, and anyone can participate here; my dream is that this book club thrive in the virtual world as well as the real one.

Since I’m organizing this Fill-in-the-Blank Book Club (FITBBC) shin-dig, I get to choose the first topic. And as y’all know, I’m a bit of a bug geek. So for this first meeting, we will fill in the blank with …

drum roll, please …


I’ll be sharing some of my favorite insect-themed books on this blog in the coming weeks. At the same time, my friends at Beaman Memorial Public Library will be sharing their favorite insect books, too. (You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.) Please follow along as you’re able, and feel free to add your own book suggestions. You know what I always say: The more insect books, the merrier life is!

One last thing: this is an all ages book party, open to tweens, teens, and adults. I truly, really, surely, honestly hope you join the fun, and that you’ll think about inviting a kid or adult or neighbor or complete stranger to join in, too. Let’s share some time–and some books–with one another.

Happy Reading!