Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy

Book Talk Discussion Group: The Great Cake Mystery


This month’s Book Talk session was SO amazing, I just had to share!

First, there were 8 families, 18 people in all.

Here’s the skinny on Book Talk: It’s for ages 6 to 9 and at least one PARTICIPATING adult. YOU WILL GET BUSTED IF YOU DON’T READ THE BOOK. Ok, just a finger wag, but still, it’s kinda embarrassing when they can’t finish a 75 page book meant for a 1st grader in a month. And they know it is. My major exceptions to this rule are for families for who English is NOT their native language. I suggest the kids read the book out loud and give them audio books to listen to since reading English seems to be much more difficult for many than understanding it when spoken. So far this has worked well.

Once a month we meet to discuss a book. Now, these are 6-9 year olds so we’re really just going over what we liked and didn’t and how it relates to them. Then we go over some comprehension things (The monkey almost died? What? I think you might be a little confused. Let’s see what actually happened, k?). They like “testing” me to see if I read the book, which I always do, but don’t always remember every detail. They do. Especially now that it’s a game to trip me up. Little stinkers.

Today we discussed Alexander McCall Smith’s The Great Cake Mystery. They loved it. And why not? It’s a great book. And short so you should really read it. Grownups really liked comparing young Precious to grown up Precious in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series (that’s right, Cake Mystery is the story of her first mystery as a girl). Kids loved the monkeys, making monkey sounds, and how they scared the monkeys off. They felt sorry for Poloko being blamed and swore they’d never be that mean.

We talked for about 15 minutes, until I thought they might all wiggle right off their chairs, and went to the activity:

Solve the Mystery

Which country in Africa did my mom visit when she was a teenager?

I separated the room in to 3 groups and each group was given an atlas and a paper map of Africa with no markings. After the mystery was solved they looked like these.


I explained that my mom visited Africa, but she didn’t say which country. HOWEVER, she left me some clues. When I put a clue up on the screen, they had to cross off any countries on their map that did NOT fit with the clue. We did the first one together: “5 Letter Name”. Cross off any country which has a name with more or less than 5 letters. I told them they might want to CIRCLE the names that only have 5 letters. Then use the following clues to cross out circled countries. I told them this was what we called a “process of elimination” and that it was something librarians did all the time.


After they had 9 countries circled I put up the next clue, which was MUCH more difficult. They had to dig through their atlases, and work with other groups since population info for every country wasn’t in one of the atlases (can we say weeds box?). Finally, I ended up giving them the answer. The next two clues were pretty easy and the mountain clue provided us with the answer: KENYA.

Even though some groups had a hard time finding the information they had SO MUCH FUN. Like, WAY more fun than I imagined them having.

After we solved the mystery, they took a look at a few souvenirs my mom brought from Kenya when she visited there in 1975. So glad I had these in my hope chest to share with them. They really enjoyed everything. Thank you, Mom for bringing these things back and sharing them with me.



Author: Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

4 thoughts on “Book Talk Discussion Group: The Great Cake Mystery

  1. Your blog gives me a lot of inspiration! I love the idea of a family book club. I think I need to do this!

    • I’m so glad, thank you! It is SO much fun. If you have a time slot, I highly recommend it. We get money from our friends to buy books to give to the families to keep forever. That way they get all the great parts of being in a discussion group AND build their home libraries at the same time. It’s also a great way to encourage people to join.

  2. What a great idea! Definitely filing this away for next time!

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