The city of Wauwatosa is expanding the tradition book club concept - to include the entire community.
'Tosa's first-ever All-City Read program features two books, one for adults and one for younger readers. It includes scores of activities, from book discussions to writing and even painting workshops.
Maureen Badding is one of the program organizers.
"We looked at what our neighborhood associations were already doing and a lot of them have book clubs, very popular book clubs, so we thought that's a great way to bring people together," she says, "and the whole movement of common reads across the country, that's their purpose is to do community building, so it just seemed like a great match."
After consulting with neighborhood book clubs, a panel of experts including booksellers and librarians chose two books for the All-City Read:
Rocket Boys, by Homer Hickam
This memoir (which would inspire the film October Sky) recalls the childhood of NASA engineer Homer Hickam, growing up in the coal-mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. Homer and his friends begin building their own rockets as they learn about the "space race" in school, and soon the whole community gets involved.
"It just has so many themes in it that are interesting for people of all ages," Badding says. "We wanted something that was of broad interest."
Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole Barrowman (Listen to their interview here)
Wauwatosa resident and Alverno College English professor Carole Barrowman co-authored this young adult novel with her actor brother John Barrowman.
The fast-paced novel, and its sequel, Bone Quill, play out in modern-day Scotland and in the Middle Ages and feature twins Matt and Emily Calder, who share a unique trait: the ability to bring things to life through drawing.
"The book has some of the same themes in it of community, using imagination to make wonderful things happen, family," Badding says.
Listen below to hear an interview with Barrowman about Bone Quill.
Co-lead organizer Robin Luther says the Tosa All-City Read and activities will ramp up later this month. It was "very deliberately planned" to take place during the Wisconsin winter, as a way to connect people when they are otherwise cooped up inside.
Activities will include painting workshops to dovetail with Hollow Earth's painting themes. The program will help book clubs with some book-inspired food and drink, like West Virginia-based recipes to go along with Rocket Boys.
"If you are associated with a book club, you know that food and drink is a big part, is almost as important as the book your reading," Badding says.
The program will also include a "Battle of the Bartenders," in which local bars compete to create the best "rocket fuel" drink available to community members throughout February until a final competition decides a winner.