Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November Meeting: Virtual Reality!

Everyone showed up for the meeting this past Monday super excited to try out the library's new HTC Vive virtual reality system. But we did manage to eat pizza and talk about Want, by Cindy Pon, a little bit beforehand. Even though we felt guilty since Jin Corp turned out to be evil, most of us thought the protective suits sounded really cool. Personally, I wanted the flying motorcycle that Jason got to zoom around in. We were divided about how realistic we thought the portrayal of the future was; all of that pollution and the huge divide between the haves and have-nots didn't sound fun. But we did have fun watching Sam, our VR guru from IT, use VR Google Earth to fly around present-day Taipei in Taiwan, which is where the book takes place. The surrounding mountains were beautiful, and we even got down to street view to check out some land-bound mopeds and the super tall Taipei 101 skyscraper building.

After Sam gave a quick safety talk, I demonstrated Longbow, one of the play options in The Lab, the VR game each Bookshopper would get a chance to try. I'd played it once before so didn't completely embarrass myself as I used a bow and arrow to defend a medieval castle from invaders - phew!

Each person was able to play around in one of the The Lab's minigames for four minutes in order to give everyone equal playing time. Most people chose to play Longbow; it really does feel like you're shooting an arrow, and if you engage in the rapid fire technique that Isaac advocated for, it's actually a pretty good workout too.

A couple Bookshop members wanted to explore other aspects of The Lab. Avery visited Vesper Peak in the Washington Cascades where she bonded with a robot dog and threw it lots of sticks.

A few of the Bookshoppers also visited a lava tube where they got to blow up a bunch of colorful balloons that floated around the cavern. Hima chose to zoom around the solar system, throwing planets around and juggling Jupiter.

I think we all wanted to keep playing around when Bookshop ended, so I will do my best to schedule another VR evening before our last meeting of the year.

Our next meeting will be on Monday, December 18th, in THREE weeks instead of four, due to the Christmas holiday so get reading! We will be discussing The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and playing with elements, as the magicians do in the book, using Sculptris, a free 3D modeling program.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Meeting: Wits & Wagers and Alive Shoes

We had a lively meeting this week as we got caught up on exciting happenings and talked about upcoming Halloween plans. We did have a brief discussion about Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Most Bookshoppers enjoyed the book, although no one seemed to have been inspired to go out and join a track team... Those practices sounded rough!

Taking our cue from Ghost's obsession with World Records, we played an adaptation of Wits & Wagers, in which teams of two tried to guess the world records for a bunch of bizarre subjects, such as the most marshmallows eaten in one minute (25), the largest group of people dressed as ghosts at the same time in the same place (263), the tallest stack of books balanced on one's head (62), and the cost of the most expensive shoes ever sold ($104, 765). Suffice it to say that most of our guesses were WAY off.

After the game, it was time to put on our designer hats and create our dream shoes. We used a really cool free website called AliveShoes that actually does allow you to purchase the shoes you design...for a hefty price. We were just doing it for fun, but our Bookshop group has serious talent and style! I saw a bunch of designs that I would love to wear, and I bet that Ghost would love them too, although he might not want to run the 100-meter dash in them... Check out our awesome shoe (and box) designs below!


Silver Fox







The Shoes



Speed Demon 

Poop Butt



Smooth Slide




Our next meeting will be Monday, November 27th, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. We will be reading Want by Cindy Pon and exploring real-life science fiction with the library's new Virtual Reality technology!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September Meeting: Fact vs. Fiction

Bookshop is back! A big bookish welcome to our six returning members and our four new members! I'm super excited to read and discuss and create with you this year.

Since we didn't read a book prior to our first meeting, we spent much of the meeting chatting, eating, and getting (re)acquainted. To do so, we played Two Truths and A Lie where everyone said three things about themselves and the group could ask two questions before guessing which one wasn't true. Even though some members of the group have known each other for a long time, we all learned some pretty cool things (our "facts" are below with the lies italicized).

1. I love Taylor Swift.
2. I've never been to the Grand Canyon.
3. I like hugging people to death.

1. I'm allergic to marshmallows.
2. I'm allergic to peanut butter.
3. My mom is allergic to cats.

1. I've been in the Nutcracker for 4 years; this will be my 5th year.
2. I've been to Greece.
3. My hamster is semi-famous.

1. I went to see the total eclipse this summer.
2. I went to LA this summer.
3. I drank a cactus in the Grand Canyon.

1. I have a cool nickname.
2. Delaware is my favorite state.
3. I've been to Mexico City.

1. I played varsity basketball in college.
2. I've written three Curious George books.
3. I taught English in France for a year.

1. My family has two summer houses.
2. I live on Flint Street.
3. I eat tostadas 5 out of 7 days a week.

1. I have two dogs.
2. My sister is 16.
3. I've been to India.

1. I have blue eyes.
2. I'm British.
3. I like skateboarding.

1. I have a dog.
2. I'm from China.
3. My favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla.

1. I like peanuts.
2. I don't like music.
3. I like pistachios.

After that little icebreaker, we broke into groups of two to play Snap Judgment, which went along with our theme of discerning fact from fiction. I read out a statement and each pair had 3 minutes to use the internet to try to verify it. Some of the statements were easier than others, and we talked about which news sites online are credible (i.e. which aren't (i.e.

All in all, a fun, high-energy first meeting of the year! Our next meeting will be Monday, October 30, from 5:30-7:00pm. We are reading Ghost by Jason Reynolds, a book about a middle school boy who's running out of chances until he joins an elite track team and discovers that maybe he can turn his life around by running toward something instead of always running away. During our meeting, we will be using a really cool online website to design our own track shoes. See you next month!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June Meeting: Food Art

For our last meeting of the school year, we made book-inspired food art depicting scenes from one of the two book choices for this month, Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Five of the six attendees chose to read Shooting Kabul and one chose to read Roller Girl so before we started our food activity, we shared brief summaries of each book, had a quick discussion about each, and watched a few clips of roller derby action since none of us could quite picture what a roller derby bout looked like.

After that, we got right to the fun stuff, using graham crackers, mini marshmallows, pretzel sticks, vanilla frosting, chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and M&Ms to create scenes from the books. Pictures of the process and the finished products are below.

The Process

Shooting Kabul Food Art

Mantu, Fadi's sister's favorite food

 The truck pulling away without Mariam

 Fadi's camera

Roller Girl Food Art

Roller derby rink #1

Roller derby rink #2

Roller derby rink #3

Bookshop will be taking a hiatus in July and August, but we'll be back in the fall! Don't forget to visit the us, reading blog over the summer to be a part of the Cambridge upper school reading community. You'll be entered to win awesome prizes every time you write a review of the great books you're reading!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May Meeting: Scribble Maps

We had a pretty small group at our May meeting, but all three Bookshoppers had positive things to say about our monthly book, The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach. Most of them hadn't heard of John Muir and hadn't been to Yosemite National Park, so it was fun to learn a little bit about that part of the country. There was some disagreement on whether it would be "awesome" or "smelly" or live in a zoo, but everyone was in agreement that they would have kept Tyler and the mystery of the wolves a secret from their parents, just like Lizzie did. Hmmmmm...

Since there was such a cool map of Yosemite on the endpapers of the book, I thought we would do a little playing around with maps using the free online tool, Scribble Maps. This tool allows you to use Google Maps to search anywhere in the world, and then customize that location with your own icons, text, and pictures to the map to make it your own. Predictably, we went down a bit of a rabbit hole with this activity and instead of customizing maps, most Bookshoppers started looking up their houses and other random places they'd been to or want to visit. This led to finding places NONE of us would want to visit, which led to searching for the biggest and smallest cities/towns in the country. The coveted title of Smallest Town in America belongs to Buford, Wyoming with a population of 1. According to Scribble Maps, there really isn't much of anything there.

In any event, we were having too much fun exploring virtually to do much creation with Scribble Maps, but below are two simple examples (one created by a Bookshopper and one created by me).

Our last meeting of the 2016-2017 school year will be Monday, June 5th, from 5:30-7:00 at the Main Library. We had a tie when voting for the June book, so Bookshop participants have a choice between reading Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson or Shooting Kabul N. H. Senzai. Or both!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Meeting: LittleBits Robots

The Bookshoppers had high expectations for The Flinkwater Factor, and they appeared to agree that the actual book didn't quite meet them, which is too bad since it turns out that it's a series! The second book, The Forgetting Machine, just came out this past fall. The group consensus seemed to be that the book was "fine", but everyone wanted more details about the robots and less talk about kissing... On a positive note, none of us had guessed the big twist toward the end, and we all got to watch Carson read the last few chapters as it was revealed to him.

After pizza, catching up, and a brief chat about our favorite parts of the book, we turned our attention to creating our own robot creations using LittleBits and a bunch of other random materials (recycled boxes, cups, latex gloves, pipe cleaners, etc.). Everyone got right to work, a few with very specific ideas in mind of what they wanted their machines to be able to do and a few just exploring what's possible with LittleBits pieces. There are pictures below of the finished robots, but to really get a sense of the creative genius we tapped into on Monday night, watch the videos showcasing each robot and its abilities!

Stefan's Hand Spa

Gabriel's Destroyer and Isaac's Turtle Take 1

Carson's Robot

Avery's Hand Shaker No. 1

Christopher's Automatic Dieting Machine

Our next meeting will be Monday, May 1st, from 5:30-7:00 at the Main Library. We will be discussing The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March Meeting: Paper Telephone and FlockDraw

There was lots of energy and silliness at our March meeting as we discussed The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, not surprising for a book whose highlight for many Bookshoppers seemed to be the farting dragon...

After talking a little bit about what was based on fact and what was based on fiction, we set about getting our creative juices flowing with a short paper-based activity. Since the book we read was "illuminated" with drawings in the style of medieval texts, I thought it would be fun to try our hand at illuminating our own short stories collaboratively through the game, Paper Telephone. Most Bookshoppers had heard of this activity before: it involves each participant writing down a short descriptive sentence and then passing it to the left for the next person to illustrate. That person then folds over the sentence so the next person they pass to can only see the image. This continues, alternating between writing and drawing, until the paper has returned to the person who started the story. Our results were confusing and, at times, vaguely disturbing, but mostly hilarious. They are displayed below.

After sharing our illuminated stories, we transitioned to a similar activity using the free online tool, FlockDraw, which allows you to draw together on the same canvas from different computers. The drawing tools are very simple, but the Bookshoppers had a blast jumping back and forth between each other's online canvases writing messages to each other, sabotaging each other's drawings, and otherwise wreaking good-natured havoc. Unfortunately, the temptation to erase everything every few minutes was too great, so there are no finished pieces to share, but we might need to revisit this tool for a future project because it was a big hit!

Our next meeting will be Monday, April 3, from 5:30-7:00 at the Main Library. We will be discussing The Flinkwater Factor by Pete Hautman.