4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Masterminds

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.

Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.

Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Eli and his friends live in the “perfect” town. What makes Serenity perfect?
  3. In the beginning of the novel, Hector says that he knows his parents care for him, even if they don’t show it, because he heard them say that he was “valuable.” Think about the difference between value and love. Is to be valued enough?
  4. As Eli and his friends start to realize something is wrong in Serenity, the first thing they discover is that their internet, books and basic information is being censored. What is censorship and how would you feel if your internet was censored?
  5. Once the kids realize that they are test subjects and that the town was build for them, the realize that they are being put under “tests of character.” What is this and how would this make you feel?
  6. The big reveal is that the kids find out they are actually clones of criminal masterminds. How would you feel about being a clone and a clone of a criminal at that?
  7. Each of the kids show strengths in an area that might be connected to their criminal genes? What are some examples of this?
  8. One theme in this book is nature vs nurture—is it our genes that tell us who we will be or is it the way we are raised. Let’s discuss this. What do you think?
  9. Each of the kids feel differently when they find out that their parents are in on Serenity’s secret. Can you understand each of their reactions? How would you feel?
  10. Where do you think the story is heading? Will the kids run or will they seek revenge or to out the whole experiment?

STEM Activity: Erupting Lemon

Supplies:  Lemons (grab a few!); Baking Soda; Food Coloring; Dawn Dish Soap; Plate, Tray, or Bowl;

Craft Sticks

How To:

  1. Cut one of your lemons in half and place it in a bowl or on a plate with a lip to catch any juices.
  2. Juice the other half of the lemon and put the juice to the side.
  3. Take your craft stick and poke holes in the various sections of the lemon half. This will help spur the reaction along.
  4. If you want to have fun visualizing the reaction, put a few drops of different color food coloring on the sections.
  5. Pour a small amount of dawn dish soap over the lemon to add a fun bubble effect. Have a spare lemon? Try the experiment without the soap and see what the difference is.
  6. Now sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the top of the lemon. To help get the reaction going, you can use your craft stick to push the baking soda down into the sections of the lemon. You can also add some of your lemon juice if you want.
  7. Watch what happens. Be patient, the reaction is a slow one.
  8. What other citrus fruit can you use? Do you think the reactions would be the same? Bigger or smaller?

The Science:

Why did the lemon erupt? Because of a chemical reaction between the critic acid from the lemon juice is reacting to the base of the baking soda creating a gas called carbon dioxide. The dawn dish soap is reacting to the fizz of the carbon dioxide to create bubbles and make the reaction a bit more visible.

Sources:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/erupting-lemon-volcano-chemistry/

How’d it go:
I’m actually on maternity leave now, so one of my colleagues is running the book club for me for the next few months. So I am just going to leave this here. I am sure it went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Empire of Gold

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty is the final book in the Daevabad Trilogy.

The Ghaziri’s have lost their hold on Daevabad and Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her Afsheem Dara taken over, but the battle is far from won. The city is in turmoil, thousands are dead and the quarters are rebelling and afraid of what this new leadership will mean. What is worse, magic is gone.

On the other side of the world Nahri and Ali have escaped the slaughter with the help of magic neither of them comprehend and now they must decide what their next move is. Should they abandon Daevabad and find a life elsewhere or will they fight for a home that never treated either of them very well.

As the city continues to crumble into mayhem, truths will be revealed that been buried for decades if not centuries. Will Daevabad ever recover and will the Jin ever get magic back?

(FYI – I totally butchered all the spelling)

This is a series that I listened to the audio book and phew, were these long audio books. The trilogy takes place over the course of several years and take place in this involved, creative fantasy world full of magical world building and twisty politics. It’s no wonder the books are each 600-800 pages, you need that space to fit everything in.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that ending didn’t feel rushed. I often find that trilogies start off slow, do a ton of world building in book two and then wrap up really quickly in book three. But this series had a nice pace.

As much as I liked the series and this final book, there was something missing for me that I can’t quite put my finger on. I enjoyed the story but this last one needed something and I’m not sure what. Which is why I am going to give it 3.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Eddie Red Undercover

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells is a 4-6th grade juvenile fiction novel about a smart kid who teams up with the police to catch art thieves.

Sixth grader Edmund, aka Eddie Red, has a photographic memory and some really great art skills, which makes him the perfect tool for the NYPD to use to catch a renowned group of art thieves called the Picasso Gang. But not everyone is as thrilled as Eddie is to be working with the police.

As Eddie continues to work the case, he and his genius best friend dig themselves in deeper and may find themselves in a whole lot of trouble.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Where do you think Edmund got his code name “Eddie Red” from?
  3. Edmund has a photographic memory. What advantages or disadvantages might there be to having such a memory?
  4. It takes three things to solve a police investigation according to Edmund. What are they and how does he use them to solve the Mystery on Museum Mile?
  5. Edmund is a pretty relatable character. What character traits does Edmund have that you might relate to?
  6. What are your personal stakeout must haves?
  7. What do you notice first when you meet someone? What disguise might you use to make yourself unrecognizable.
  8. Detective Bovano isn’t a fan of Edmund working for the police. Why do you think this is so? And how might Edmund try to get on Bovano’s good side?
  9. At the end of the novel, Edmund seems to have gained a new sense of self confidence and helps his friend deal with a bully. How do you deal with bullies?
  10. Is there anything you would change about this novel? Anything too predictable? Any loose ends?

STEM Activity: “Non-Newtonian Fluid” experiment

Supplies: Plastic Tupperware tub big enough to put your two hands in; corn starch; water

How To:

  1. Add corn starch to your plastic container. Keep track of how much you add.
  2. Add 1 part water to 2 parts corn startch. I.e. if you added 2 cups of corn startch, you would add 1 cup of water.
  3. Stir the mixture until it forms a thick mass that is no longer powdery.
  4. Very slowly, stick your hand in the mixture. Notice that your hand comes back wet and powdery. Clean your hand off.
  5. Now quickly hit, slap, knead, the mixture. Your hand should not go through the mass. You could run on it, hit it with a hammer and if you do it quickly enough, you should remain on the surface of the mass and not go under it.

The Science:

“Non-New­to­ni­an liq­uids do not obey the laws of or­di­nary liq­uids. They change their den­si­ty and vis­cos­i­ty un­der the im­pact of phys­i­cal force.” The starch particles bond with the liquid forming “chaotically interlaced molecules.” At a higher “shear” or impact rate, the tight bonds do not let the molecules separate, staying more of a solid. At a lower “shear” or impact rate, the bonds loosen and the molecules act more like a liquid. Non-Newtonian liquids do not obey the normal laws of physics. You can find out more about this experiment at MELS Chemistry.

Sources:

https://melscience.com/US-en/articles/non-newtonian-fluid-experiment/

https://www.marciawellsauthor.com/eddies-art-gallery

How’d it go:

Oh man, what a frazzled book club! Somehow the link to my Zoom meeting was broken and here I am sitting there thinking no one would come and then a colleague tells me the link is broken. So quickly emailed the crew and changed the link and by then I was a mess. We had a very speedy discussion, a small group and a messy, messy experiment. *Sigh* It was bound to happen.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Aurora Burning

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the second book in The Aurora Cycle.

The rejects from Aurora Academy are back and even though they are battered and worst for wear, they are more determined than every to save the galaxy. But saving the galaxy may prove difficult; with no direction, no help and honestly no clue what they are doing, squad 312 must persevere or all is lost.

This family of misfits will be tested at every turn. Will a gear head, a heart breaker, the golden boy, some muscle, the brains and a girl out of time be able to come together to stop an alien invasion from taking over the universe, all while preventing intergalactic war? We’re about to find out.

Regardless, of how horrible that recap was, I loved this book. Honestly, I love this series. It’s been so long since I’ve read a good science fiction novel and I just love what characters Squad 312 are. They each have their own over the top personality and problems and yet, they all mesh together really well.

One of the things I liked most about this one is that Aurora, Kal, Tyler, Scarlet, Zila and Finnian all have this bond now, they have become a family after the trials they went through in the first book. And because of this, the conflicts they encounter almost take on a deeper meaning. They mean more to each other and the risk of losing this family they have forged, colors their actions and decisions.

A lot happens in this book and there is a lot of build up for what is to come. I will say, do not start this one if you are not good with cliffhangers! You are better off waiting until the last book comes out honestly. You’ve been warned.

This one gets 4.5-5 stars from me. I sped through it and really enjoyed the ride.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Arcade and the Triple T Token

Arcade and the Triple T Token by Rashad Jennings is the first book in a junveile fiction series probably best for 4-6th graders.

Eleven-year-old Arcade Livingston has some typical kid problems–he’s moved to a new city and is the new kid at school, some bullies have him in their sights and having to take the subway everywhere makes it difficult to check out all the library books he wants. But he also has one very unusual problem… a mysterious token that seems to be transporting him on some pretty crazy adventures.

Together with his older sister, Zoe, Arcade will learn to navigate his new home, while trying to uncover the secrets of this magical token that appeared out of no where.

This was a really fun read and quick too! I found the characters super relatable, each in their own way, and Arcade is someone you can definitely see being a friend. There’s almost this idea of stepping into another person’s shoes that the author is playing with, through the lens of  “what do I want to be when I grow up,” a question that a lot of middle grade kids are just starting to explore. I sort of loved that each of Arcade’s adventures were tied in to one of his friends interests and desires.

Arcade is sort of this “go to guy,” the guy who knows all the answers, even if he has no idea what he wants to be himself. He’s smart in an observant way and I liked how he sees the world around him.

There’s also a secondary lesson going on in the background with this one–this idea of why should we only think inside the box, when there are other ways of looking at the world. It’s a more obscure theme, but it’s there.

The fifth book is about to come out in this series, so I think this would be a great one for both boys and girls in 4-6th grade. There’s a lot to discuss and a lot that can be explored about ones own aspirations. This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-