Tween Book Club: Yotsuba&!

Since March I’ve been working as middle years focused Children’s Librarian. One of the programs I inherited is a Tween Book Club that meets once a month to discuss a book or graphic novel we’ve all read the previous month. I was so nervous to take over this program, but it has been an absolute joy! I’m really starting to get to know the kids, and we usually end up laughing the entire way through our meeting.

My group really loves graphic novels. They read Smile by Raina Telgemeier last fall and we recently read Bone #1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith. With a limited number of graphic novel book club sets to choose from, we settled on Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma for this month’s choice.


Each meeting is an hour long.  Here’s what we got up to!

1. Icebreaker Activity (5 minutes)

I usually choose something silly and quick. This week I challenged the kids to line up in birth order without talking. This led to lots of giggles and wild hand movements.

2. Discussion Time (10-15 minutes)

We spend some time each meeting discussing the book and the characters, but I really don’t push this part if the group isn’t feeling it. I want the focus to be on having fun. I come prepared with some broad questions that I use to get us started, but I let the conversation veer in the direction the kids take it. I usually ask:

  • Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  • Who was your favourite character?
  • Talk about a scene that stood out to you.
  • What would you do if you were _________ (insert character’s name)?
  • What would you if you met __________ (insert character’s name)?

 3. Sound it Out Game (10-15 minutes)

In the graphic novel, Yostuba often mispronounces common words or phrases, mistaking them for other things. It’s part of her charm; she’s very naive about the world and it usually leads to humorous situations. As I was reading these parts I was reminded of a board game I used to play as a kid called Babble On. Basically, you’re give a phrase made up of nonsensical words and you have to get your team members to guess the real phrase by saying it out loud. Here’s an example:

Ace Tray Taste Who Dent = A Straight A Student

I found a bunch more examples on this website. I printed these out and gave each kid a few of them.  Then we took turns saying the nonsense phrase and we all tried to guess the real phrase.  They thought this was so hilarious!

4. Yotsuba&! Bingo (15 -20 minutes)

I created a set of Bingo cards using this free Bingo card generator. I chose words that had something to do with the plot or characters from Yotsuba&!, so things like green hair, Jumbo, A/C machine, temple, and Koiwai were on the list. The kids got really creative with the types of Bingo we played – double bingo, four corners, form a circle, and blackout. I had some magnets and buttons to give away as prizes. I think the best part though was that each word on the Bingo sheet reminded us of something from the book which led to lots more discussion as we played.

5. Preview Next Book (5 minutes)

I always try to save at least five minutes at the end to pass out the next book and get the kids excited to read it.  We’re taking the month of June off, so I chose a book that’s a little longer than the ones we’ve been reading – The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. We read the back cover together, talked about the front cover, and made some predictions. One of the girls noticed there was a section at the back of the book called “Meet the Characters” so then we read over those too. I really think this increased their motivation to read the book.

And that was that! Do you run a Tween Book Club at your library?  I’d love to hear about them!

6 thoughts on “Tween Book Club: Yotsuba&!

  1. Thanks for this! I’m starting a Tween Book Club this fall and this post has been extremely helpful. I especially like the idea of making predictions for the next read together. Can I ask how you select your books? Are the tweens involved in selections?


    1. Hi Jocelyn,
      At my library we have about 20 sets of tween book club books that I usually choose from when selecting the books. I’m in a large system though, so I know not everyone has this type of collection available. Even when choosing from these sets though, I often ask the tweens what they like to read about. My group now loves graphic novels, so I’ve even scrounged up enough circulating copies of books like Amulet just so we can read another one. In order to be able to plan far enough in advance to get the kids the next novel at our meeting, it often means I have to pick the book since I know more about how many copies of each book we have in the system. Perhaps if I was in a smaller system or planned 2-3 months in advance I’d be able to let the kids have more control, but so far it’s been working great as is. I hope to write more about these meetings in the future, so I’m glad they are useful!

  2. Started a tween book club because we were preparing for Battle of the Books and had so much fun that we continued to meet. We picked an author and one of his titles none of us had read! What a blast! I like the ideas you had for games…we meet in the morning before school (at my kids school) so limited time. Engaging kids who love to talk about their reads is great fun. I encourage anyone interested to begin a club.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ann! My book club has become one of my favourite programs to run, and though it was intimidating at first I’ve really grown to love it.

  3. Hi Lindsey! I recently started a Tween Book Club at my library and I’m looking for ideas to get tweens excited about reading. This is a great post! I love the idea of the Babble On cards. I clicked on the link but it seems to bring me to another website. Would you happen to remember the Babble On cards website? Thanks very much!

    1. Oh darn, looks like that website no longer exists. I did some searching but couldn’t find anything similar. If you can track down a copy of that game that’s probably your best bet. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

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