August 22, 2012

Thoughts on Activities and a Matter of Batter

When Mary Kay, Brandon, and I launched this blog last summer, we took the advice of digital  media guru Jane Friedman, who writes Electric Speed ( and tried to make it useful. Hence a book blog that offers you, our readers, activities to print and share. Activities help our readers grasp something about the people and times we write about.

Which leads to my new book, Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote with 21 Activities.   Reviews are out, and it’s been gratifying to see that a year of hard work -- and planning and writing up 21 themed, hands-on activities -- has gotten positive reviews.  Here’s one:

Activities, which make the suffragist years come alive, are educational and fun and related to chapter materials. Included are detailed instructions for making soap and an oil lamp, making and wearing a corset, china painting, and designing suffragist postcards and signs.

And another: 

The only downside is the activities, which range from slightly silly (dress up like an ancient Greek for suffrage!) to simply wrong (cake mix does not taste as good as a cake made from scratch).

The second review left me scratching my head. Yup, I rely on cake mix in an activity in Rightfully Ours. It’s “Bake a Cake for Suffrage” iced with a recipe from the Woman Suffrage Cook Book (1890). After all, today’s parents have little time to ferret out some of these 19th century recipes, so I figured making icing from scratch on the stove was good enough. But it was the reviewer’s take on the dress-up activity that made me wonder whether s/he had read the whole book. 

Suffragists did indeed dress up like Greek goddesses when they staged a “tableau” on the Treasury Department steps.  And I assure you that the little girl who served as my student helper thought it was pretty cool -- she was all excited about making the laurel wreath.

From time to time all of us have been chided for our activities -- that they’re too easy, too esoteric, too “silly” (that from Kirkus), require adult supervision (often an editorial must) -- but be assured that we take them seriously.  Teachers tell us there are  lots of middle grade kids, especially boys, who have no clue how to follow simple directions, enlarge patterns, score a piece of cardboard, or even cut a circle with a pair of scissors.  

Besides, when you look back on your days in school, which do you remember most: all those hours of desk work, or the special projects you made at home or built in school?
Bake a cake, ice it with homemade frosting, and dress up for suffrage!


  1. Very interesting and entertaining. And I learned something new. A+

  2. Kerrie, First of all, thanks for being so open and honest about the flattering as well as less-than-flattering comments with us. It's so true that critiques and reviews can span the gamut, even when the book warrants applause and praise. The varied activities look like they'd provide fun learning experiences for kids. I say Kudos to You!

  3. Michelle DG8/22/12, 8:13 PM

    Kerrie, I have a few of your other "For Kids" books, and others from the series written by different authors. They are the backbone of the history curriculum I designed for my 4th grade daughter. I LOVE them. Of course, not everyone is going to love EVERY activity - I just figure that's why there are so many. They always range from very easy to harder for the kids who can handle harder, and I really appreciate that. Keep writing! I can't wait until we study the suffragette movement (5th or 6th grade) - we will definitely use this book (and my daughter will love to dress up as a Greek goddess and hold up her placard, then go in and eat her box cake with homemade icing - LOL!).