Book Club Meetup: Trumpet of the Swan

Trumpet of the Swan is a delightful children’s novel by E.B. White published in 1970. It is one of those stories you grieve when you finish reading because you don’t want it to end. Trumpet of the Swan tells the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan who was born without a voice. Louis overcomes this difficulty by learning to play the trumpet in order to impress a beautiful swan named Serena. The story takes him around Canada and the United States on all sorts of adventures.

After reading this book over the course of about 5 weeks, we celebrated with our book club. Read more about How to Start a Children’s Book Club here

Here are the activities we did at this meet up. 

Bird Nest Treats

Using this recipe, the kids made their own bird nest treats. We used broken up pretzel sticks instead of noodles and mini marshmallows instead of candy eggs. The kids loved stirring the mixture and forming their nests on parchment paper. We popped them in the freezer to harden quicker while we moved on to the next activity.

Clay Swans

Using this tutorial, one of the moms led the kids in making air-dry clay swans. To better represent the trumpeter swan, we used all white clay and painted the swans beaks black after drying.

Chalk Name Writing

In the story, Louis learned how to communicate by writing with chalk, using his beak. I wrapped duct tape around pieces of chalk and the children used their mouths to write their names on our big chalkboard. It was so funny to watch and the mamas even gave it a go. The kids loved that!

Snack and Chat

We munched on our bird’s nests and Bugle chips (mini trumpets) while we had a little book discussion. Everyone shared their favorite part of the story. Then we talked about Louis Armstrong and his mention in the book. I pulled up a photo of him for the kids to see and read some information to them about his life. We finished munching while listening to some of his music!

Funnel Trumpet Craft and Game

We provided each child with a funnel, some duct tape, a paper towel tube, and foil. They built their trumpet and wrapped it in foil. Then we sat in a circle and took turns being “Louis.” When a child was Louis, they wore the four items around their neck that Louis wore in the story–a slate, the life-saving medal, the trumpet, and a money bag. The kids absolutely loved that little touch to bring the story to life. When it was their turn they played “taps” on their trumpet and the rest of the children mimicked their tune. 

Story Reenactments

I allowed the children to brainstorm scenes from the book they wanted to reenact together. Here is what they chose and how we did it.

Swan Boat Ride

Using a blanket, one child pretended to be Louis by pulling it along the hardwood floor and playing their trumpet while another child sat on top for a ride. 

Saving Applegate

In the story, Louis saved a boy named Applegate Skinner. The kids reenacted this scene by using our ballpit to be the lake. One child was Applegate, drowning in the ballpit, and another was Louis “swimming” out to save his life. So many laughs on this one!

I pulled these ideas from various resources, including The Masterpiece Studio. The Masterpiece Studio has an Art + Baking Study Guide for The Trumpet of the Swan that would be great to use if you were going chapter-by-chapter through the book and wanted enrichment ideas. Use my code TREEHOUSE15 to get 15% off any order.

We had such a good time with this bookclub meet up! If you try any of these activities in your home to celebrate this story or with your bookclub, I would love it if you would share them with me by tagging me on Instagram at @treehouse_schoolhouse

How to Start a Children’s Book Club

When my children were preschool age, we started reading chapter books aloud. I loved the idea of ending each book with a celebration to reflect on what we read and invite my children into fun experiences related to the themes in the story. After doing this on our own a few times, I decided to invite a few close friends to join us. Over time, we invited more and more friends and adjusted things to be more of a collaborative effort. Now, we have a committed group of five moms and eleven participating children. After many, many books and months of having an active book club, we have settled into a good routine. I am going to share with you how we set up our book club and some tips to begin and facilitate your own! 

For each book club meet up, each mom brings one themed snack to share and one activity for the group along with all of the materials needed.  We communicate ahead of time what we are contributing to help bring a diversity of activities. We try to have a good mix of table activities and active activities.

If you want to start a book club, here are my recommended steps.  

Pick your people

My advice is to choose children within a similar age frame as your children so that they can enjoy the same books and can participate in the activities together. The children in our book club range from 4-7 years old. I also advise keeping your book club at a manageable number of children. My general rule is that they could fit around a kitchen table. Thankfully I have a large table and the eleven children fit fairly well if we pull up a couple of chairs. 

You also want to communicate with the moms that you are inviting that book club is a collaborative effort, so you want to find moms who are willing to host, help create the experiences, and are willing to stay and help their children with the activities. I personally wanted a committed group of moms that would make it a priority to read the book with their children and attend as many meet-ups as possible. 

For communication purposes, the moms and I started a private Facebook group.

The Adventures of Reddy Fox Book Club

Make a book list

All of the moms in the group submitted books that they would like to use for the book club to a list. I compiled the list into one and posted it in our Facebook group. If there were any books on the list that certain moms didn’t want to read for whatever reason, we removed them from the list. This list is constantly being added to as we all discover new books we want to read for book club.

Create a host rotation schedule

This has been the main reason our book club has been successful, in my opinion. All of the responsibility doesn’t fall on any one mom. The moms in the group rotate who is the host. 

This is what the responsibility of the host is:

  1. Choose the book. Using the book list that we compiled, the host chooses which book is next to read and communicates that to the group. 
  1. Choose the book club date. We usually go about 4-6 weeks between meetups. It is the responsibility of the host to determine what is a good amount of time to give families to finish the book (less time for shorter books and more time for longer books). It is also their responsibility to communicate to the group and nail down a date that works for everyone. The host creates the event within our Facebook group with all the details. We usually meet on a weekday morning for about 2-3 hours. 
  1. Choose the location. The host either has the book club meet up at their house or chooses an outdoor location with a picnic table. 
  1. Keep communication going as we prep for the meetup. During the weeks leading up to the meetup, the host reminds the other moms to RSVP and to submit their activity and snack ideas to the group so that we have a good variety.
  1. Facilitate the meetup. The host is responsible to make an order of events for the book club and to keep the activities going on meetup day. We have found it to be most successful to set up the order of events in a way that moves the kids around throughout the activities, rather than keeping them in one spot for a long period of time. We have done activities in the kitchen, outside, in the living room, and at the kitchen table. We put snack time in somewhere in the middle and do some book discussion as we munch. We have also experimented with breaking the group into two smaller groups and rotating the smaller groups through activities. The host is responsible for looking at the activities and deciding on the best order and way to implement them with the group. Whichever mom brought each activity, also leads the group in the activity.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle Book Club Activity

Here are the books we have used in book club so far and have enjoyed:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  • My Father’s Dragon 
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  •  The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
  • McBroom’s Wonderful One Acre Farm
  • The Trumpet of the Swan

Unfortunately, I didn’t document all of the details of each of these meet-ups, but you can find the ones I did document with details here.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins Book Club Activities

One more tip

If you have baby and toddler siblings in the group, you may want to try setting up a separate area for them to play during the meetup and rotating moms in to watch them. We have 7 babies and toddlers that come to our meetups, so it got really loud and challenging to lead activities without a plan in place. We recently started trying this and it has helped so much! Of course, there are still baby-wearing mamas, nursing sessions, and toddlers needing their mama, but having an area set up just for them with toys or sensory bins has been a helpful option.

Charlotte Mason Inspired Apple Study

Autumn is quickly approaching, so naturally, all the homeschool mamas are browsing Pinterest on the hunt for the cutest apple, acorn, and pumpkin-themed crafts and activities. I used to be that homeschool mom. The one who would print and laminate all the things and stress myself out spending too much money at the craft store for projects that barely held my children’s interests and, in the end, taught my children very little.

As I have studied Charlotte Mason’s philosophies and methods over the last year or so I have begun to take a different approach to studying specific topics, and you know what? It is so much simpler and way more meaningful. Instead of the shallow approach I may have taken in the past, I focused on the staples of a Charlotte Mason education in this study–living books, narration, poetry, hand rhymes, songs, handcrafts, art, picture study, tea time, hands-on nature study, and real-life experiences.

Living Books and Narration 

First and foremost, every good study begins with books! I gathered the books from this list and put them in a basket in our living room for the children to read independently throughout the week. We grabbed a few to read together at Morning Time and I would ask the children to orally narrate what I read. We also used these books during our apple tea party and throughout the week as a reference when questions came up about apples and for art inspiration.

Here is my apple picture book list. I’ve compiled this list from a few sources over the years. These are my tried and true favorites from these sources: Read-Aloud Revival, The Peaceful Preschool Letter A Unit and Tree Guide, Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit, and Rooted Childhood September Collection (get 10% off with code: TREEHOUSESCHOOLHOUSE10).

  • The Season’s of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
  • Apples by Gail Gibbons
  • The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Princeman
  • The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
  • Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh
  • How Do Apples Grow? By Steven Kellogg
  • The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
  • The Apple Cake by Nienke Van Hichtum
  • How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro
  • Secrets of the Apple Tree by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner

Poetry, Hand-Rhymes, and Songs

Each morning we recited poems, hand-rhymes, and sang little songs around the theme of apples. Here are a few that we enjoyed. 

Poem

We focused on the poem After Apple Picking by Robert Frost. I pulled the poetry printable from Stephanie Hathaways Apple Unit Study and put it in our Morning Time Menu. We read the poem each morning and discussed unfamiliar words, the meaning of the poem, and how different aspects of it made us imagine and feel.

Hand-rhymes and songs

I pulled these two from Rooted Childhood’s September Collection and ended up finding them online to sing along with the music. My two-year-old especially loved these and wanted me to sing them all day and do the motions. 

Handcrafts, Art, and Picture Study

Here are a few handcrafts and art projects that I found to add to our apple study. We didn’t fit all of these into our week, but I wanted to share all of the ideas I came across to inspire you.

Apple star printing

After reading The Apple Star Story found in Rooted Collection’s September issue, we cut open an apple, found the star, and made star prints by lightly painting the apple’s star with a paintbrush and pressing it on paper.

Still-life art study

I printed the still-life art pieces from Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit Study and put them in my children’s Morning Menus. Each morning we looked at the art, read about the artists, discussed different elements of the artwork, the colors, the art mediums, and how the art makes us feel. After a few days of learning about still-life paintings, the children set up their own still life using apples and anything else they would like. We lit a candle, put on some classical music, and they attempted to paint their scene. You can find the watercolor paper and paint we use here.

Apple tree embroidery

This handcraft is so adorable and perfect for beginning sewing practice. Using an embroidery hoop and a yarn needle, your child can sew a felt tree trunk and green treetop onto some burlap. To finish it off, they can sew on a few red buttons as the apples. Check out the Art & Handcrafts section in my Amazon shop to see the needles and thread I use. This was a handcraft featured in Rooted Childhood’s September Collection.

Air-dry clay apples

Roll air-dry clay into balls and stick a twig in the top of them as the stem. Once they dry, paint them red, green, and yellow. 

Tea Time

One morning I set up an Apple Tea Time with a spread of apple slices, cookies, cheese, crackers, and almonds. We had cinnamon tea, read books from our book basket, and watched a few apple videos that were shared in the Apple Unit.

Here are the videos we watched:

Hands-on Nature Study and Exploration

Using the living books I mentioned, the videos above, and Stephanie Hathaway’s Apple Unit printables, we explored many facets of how apples grow, the life cycle of the apple tree, the anatomy of the apple and the apple blossom, apple varieties, and more. 

Nature notebook

After a few days of my children soaking in all the information, I asked them to give me a few sentences of what they have learned. I wrote what they said in their nature notebooks and they drew/painted a picture to illustrate it. 

Dissecting and tasting apples

We cut open a few varieties of apples and using the Anatomy of an Apple printable from the Apple Unit, we separated the pieces into piles. Then we ate them and talked about how the different varieties tasted.

Real Life Experiences

What would an apple study be without some baking? This week we made apple crisp and apple pie. Children love being in the kitchen. They are gaining so much while peeling, cutting, measuring, following directions, setting the timer, and most of all, being together in a shared experience. 

Baking apple crisp

I use and love the apple crisp recipe from The Peaceful Preschool Letter A Unit

Baking apple pie

If you’re looking for a pie recipe, try this one.

Apple picking

After a full week of exploring apples, we drove over to our favorite mountaintop apple orchard and spent the day picking apples. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of a fun study and really round off all the learning that happened.