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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Most Famous Book Club In Brooklyn

I changed my mind about September's book. Although I love The Great Bridge by David McCullough (and I highly recommend that you read it if you haven't) I've done a lot of Brooklyn Bridge-themed stuff recently and wanted to do something different.

The new book club selection for September is The Most Famous Man in America: A Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate. Beecher, as you'll soon find out, was indeed the most famous man in America in the years just before the Civil War and, in the opinion of many, the "only reason to go to Brooklyn" before the Brooklyn Bridge was built. Every week, one ferry after another would carry a full load of passengers across the East River to hear Beecher the preacher. Whitman was a fan. So was Lincoln.

This is a book club for the whole family so the heavy Beecher tome won't be our only selection. This month -- and every month -- there will be a picture book as well as a chapter book on our reading list so that everyone can join in our explorations.

September's picture book will be Toy Boat written by Randall de Sève and illustrated by Loren Long. In celebration of the crowds who took to the water to visit Beecher's famous church (still going strong today: all of littlest explorers will take imaginary rides on ferry boats, sail boats, motor boats, and other sea-worthy vessels via one of my daughter's favorite books.

Our chapter book (for elementary-aged kids) will be The Notorious Izzy Fink by Don Brown. The docks, boats, and alleys of 1890s New York are the setting for this rowdy tale of a half-Irish, half-Russian Jewish kid growing up on the Lower East Side

Our meetings, as I started to explain in my last post, will not be small-group discussions in private homes. They will instead happen at my regular weekly singalongs and classes for kids. Huh? Yes, it's true it will be nearly impossible to have any sort of coherent discussion of the book in these wild settings and that's exactly the way I want it. Rather than talk about the book, we will sing about it in songs from the era of Beecher, original songs about the Civil War and important people and events from his time, and lots of great songs about boats and rivers and the sea. And at the end of the month, I'll host a concert / singalong / variety show themed to our books -- the first of these will happen October 4th at the Moxie Spot in Brooklyn Heights during the annual Atlantic Antic (

Lesson plans, activity sheets, art projects, and other stuff related to each month's books will be available here.

September 2009 Schedule (more to come)
Tuesdays : Singalong at the Moxie Spot, 11am (starting September 15th)
Thursdays: Deedle!Deedle!Dee! a music & movement class for kids 6 months - 4 years at the Brooklyn Learning Center, 147 Lincoln Place, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 10 and 11am (free trial classes September 17th, 8-week session begins Sept. 24th)

Start reading!