Book Club Program | Olga & The Smelly Thing From Nowhere

I run a monthly book club for children ages 7-9 years old as a core program at my public library branch. I took over the program in January of 2019 when I started in my current role of Public Services Librarian. In September, I re-opened registration and this year I have all new kids registered. (Most of the kids in last year’s club have ‘graduated’ to my new tween book club). I will be sharing monthly posts where I log the program plan, talk a bit about the book I chose for the month, and share some overall thoughts of how the session went.

Getting Started

Right now, I have seven children registered in the book club. On Saturday’s meeting, I had 4 show up (which was pretty good!). Unfortunately, an ongoing challenge in librarianship is program attendance. People sign up in advance, and then they don’t show. But so far no one in the library world has come up with a magic fix to stop that from happening. It just is what it is.

I started by welcoming the kids. I asked them for their initial thoughts on the book as we are waiting for everyone to arrive. After a few minutes, I formally got started. Since the kids have just started to get to know me and each other, we played an ice-breaker game to begin. We each had to say our name and one thing we were thankful for. Then we went around in a circle and you had to remember the name and what the person before you was thankful for and repeat it to the group. Challenging but fun!

About the Book

Olga & The Smelly Thing from Nowhere is by Elise Gravel. Olga is a bright young girl with an interest in science. The book is written as Olga’s observation notebook. It includes text and illustrations and fits into the hybrid traditional novel/graphic novel category. Olga discovers a new animal, which she names Meh, and her and Meh continue to make scientific discoveries as they get to know each other. The book is very comical. It is written with a bit of ‘potty’ language (Olga does discover Rainbow Poop at one point). It also includes real science facts and mixes those well into story line.

The kids loved it! All of them read it multiple times over the month they had it at home. When I told them the news that there were 2 more Olga books, they were so excited! One boy almost fell off his chair! They all gave the book a big thumbs up.

The Main Activity

I decided that we would focus on Elise Gravel’s illustrations for our activity. I showed a couple of clips from YouTube that featured Elise demonstrating how to draw characters from her books. The first one was DIY: Draw Animals with Elise and the second one was How to Draw Monsters. I was glad the kids thought it was neat to watch these clips, because the next part of our activity was to practicing drawing like the author!

But first, we had a discussion about the author’s illustrations and I brought out a few of her other books to show the kids. I wanted them to look at the consistent techniques and features that Elise uses when she is illustrating. For example, most characters (whether people or animal) have skinny or even stick legs. Their bodies are very round. There isn’t a lot of bold or bright colour used. Instead, Elise uses more neutral and muted tones in her books. Hair on animals and people is typically black. Here’s a few book covers to demonstrate:

Once we finished having that discussion, it was time to draw! I replayed the first DIY video and we followed along with Elise as she drew each animal from the book. I would pause along the way to allow the children to watch and copy her work. Even though there were exclamations of ‘I don’t like drawing!’ or ‘Mine doesn’t look right!’, the kids had fun doing it. This is where I used my words of encouragement as a facilitator, letting the kids know that there work isn’t being graded or judged. It is all just for fun! I might be biased, but I think they did a great job! They agreed to let me show you some of their work:

The last part of the activity was meant to bring the studying of Elise’s illustrations technique and the practice drawing together. In the book, Olga has discovered an imaginary creature with unique and interesting characteristics. I wanted them to create their own creature-pet that bears the traits of various animals, but is a complete one-of-a-kind, like Meh. We ended up with a toucan-duck named Fred and a bumble-bee cardinal named Buzz.

This program was a lot of fun! It was great to see it come together and the kids really enjoyed the activity. I always end each meeting with snacks and a book trailer or preview of the next book club book. Coming up in November will be Max & The Midknights by Lincoln Peirce. Stay tuned!

If you’re interested in learning more about this program, or you are inspired to try these activities yourself, please reach out. I’m always happy to hear from you!

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