Summer Book Club Week Five - Farmhouse

Summer Book Club Week Five - Farmhouse

Welcome to the fifth week of Bella Luna Toy's Summer Book Club. We are so excited to return to an author we've already visited for this week's book.

“Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns, stands a house,” so begins two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall’s Farmhouse, a lyrical and beautiful ode to the shared history of a farmhouse. And if you loved our previous book club choice, Hello Lighthouse, you will no doubt fall in love with this Sophie Blackall stunner. Just as in Hello Lighthouse, Farmhouse takes readers on a journey through time rendered in gorgeous illustrations that are filled with incredible details of the lives lived in this farmhouse over time including the lines on the wall that mark the children’s growth; the “serious room” where the family gathers to discuss important things, the attic where all the children sleep, and the farmhouse where the cows must be milked “no matter the weather.”

Picture book Farmhouse opened to a page illustrating the inside of a farmhouse on a braided rug next to an ostheimer wooden cow and dog and a grapat nin peg person

The illustrations are filled with actual remnants of the farmhouse that Blackall uncovered, including bits of wallpaper, clothing, books and newspapers, handkerchiefs and more for “this book that you hold” so that the house and everyone in it will “live on . . . like your stories will, so long as they’re told.” A beautiful tribute to the simple joys of family, the memories made in our houses, and how things must change, this book will beg to be read over and over with each reading unveiling new details and hidden gems. Filled with tender and spare prose, this timeless book hums with joy and gratitude and will prompt endless observations and deep insights.

Day One - Read & Discuss

On the first day of the book club, read the book together with your children. Take your time reading and encourage them to look closely at the illustrations and immerse themselves in the story. After reading, discuss the story together. Ask your children if they have any questions, what they found interesting, things they relate to, and encourage them to share anything that caught their attention. Taking time to discuss and explore the story allows the reading to sink in more deeply and helps them remember more details.

 Picture book farmhouse opened to a middle page with illustration of two children carrying buckets into a barn full of cows

We have compiled a list of discussion topics you can explore if you'd like some ideas:

Do you have any treasures that you have uncovered from a relative’s house or an antique store that allow you to imagine a time long ago?

Are there any chores that you do that are shown in this book? Helping with meals? Setting the table? Picking apples or gathering food from a garden?

Even though these characters lived a long time ago, are there things they do that are similar to what you do? What are some of the similarities that you have with these children?

Look closely at the furniture in the rooms of this farmhouse. Compare what the furniture looks like in this house with what you have in your house. Do you have an organ? An iron bed? A chaise lounge? What modern conveniences that you might have in your house are missing from this farmhouse?

At the end of the book, animals like squirrels, swallows, moths, raccoons, mice, bats, wasps and even a bear move into the farmhouse! Are there any different kinds of animals that live in your area that also might move into an abandoned house to take shelter?

Can you match the children in the family with the adults they become who are shown later in the book? Are there any clues in the illustrations to show which adults they might become?

Day Two: Drawing & Writing Prompt

On the second day of our Summer Book Club, we return to the story to retell it and think more deeply about what we learned. We provide ideas here for drawing and writing prompts you can encourage your children to work on, helping them solidify the ideas of the story and get comfortable working through their thoughts. This doesn't mean this is an absolutely necessary activity, rather an idea to use if it is something your children will enjoy. 

Often, children prefer to retell the story through play. Creating a small theater with a playsilk curtain they can perform their own reenactment in is another fun way to draw them into narrating the story. Perhaps they would simply prefer to discuss it further with you. Do what works best for your family and keeps it fun. 

If they are excited to write and draw, set up a space for them with pencils, crayons and paper all easily accessible. Add the book to the space for them to look through for ideas. Encourage them to look closely at the final illustration. Pick a character or room in the farmhouse and tell a story about it. Imagine you are in the farmhouse and write or draw what you are experiencing. For example; What does your character have for dinner? What do they do before going to bed? What is their favorite game to play?

Day Three: Craft A Shoebox Diorama With Found and Recycled Items

Farmhouse shares so many details about what made this house a family home. Create a diorama to explore what details make a room in your home feel special. Look around your house for items like recycled cardboard, bottles, bottle caps etc, art supplies, bits of colorful paper and fabric, and anything you believe you could use to represent items in your room.

Many art supplies and found materials on a table with scissors and glue and a shoebox

First decide what you would like the walls of your room to look like. You could use decorative paper to make wallpaper or perhaps "paint" the walls by coloring the inside of your shoebox with crayons. Are there windows in this room? Plan what furniture and details you need to create. Do you need a bed, a couch, bookshelf, perhaps a dollhouse or something that reminds you that this is your home. Allow your children to work freely, giving them space to create and make mistakes and try again. Try not to offer help unless it is requested, or you can sense frustration building in them. Allowing them to create the main pieces for this project goes a long way in building their confidence in creating. Then, helping with small details feels like teamwork rather than parent doing the work for the child. 

View from above of a shoebox dioarama of a child's bedroom with bunk bed and piano next to the book Farmhouse opened to a middle page

Use the recycled cardboard to create furniture pieces, fabric can become curtains, rugs, or even a bed canopy. Get creative with your ideas and supplies! To create a window, we first cut out a rectangle of drawing paper and used crayons to draw what we would see through the window, like sky, trees, the sun, etc. Then cut out another rectangle the same size, but cut out four smaller rectangles from the center, leaving a cross shaped frame in the center. Glue this frame on top of your window drawing and you have created a window to see the world outside your home. 

 Shoebox diorama of a child's room next to a slender vase and one section of a waldorf birthday ring

Once complete, this diorama can become like a DIY dollhouse location. Children can play with the art they've created, perhaps living out some of their own days with dollhouse dolls. 

We hope you enjoyed this fifth installment of the Summer Book Club! Join us on Instagram @bellalunatoys to discuss what your family took away from Farmhouse and what you think of this beautifully illustrated story. Check out our Book Club highlight to see all of this years book club activities. Don't forget to share your crafts with us using the hashtag #bellalunatoys. We hope to see you next week, when we read Berry Song by Michaela Goade. Happy reading!

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