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On the same page: Born out of tragedy, this children’s book group has been together for over 50 years

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“On the same page” is a regular series featuring Utah book clubs. Editor's note: If you have a book club and you are interested in being featured, please contact us at features@deseretnews.com. Please include your name, your contact information and one or two sentences describing your book club.

SALT LAKE CITY — According to Salt Lake resident Barbara Cook, the children’s book group she attends got its start in the mid '60s after tragedy struck a young family. A mother who had recently lost her husband was invited to join a book group but when she attended the first meeting, she found the book group was reading and reviewing young adult literature. Thinking of her young family, she decided to start her own book group to read and review books appropriate for her small children. Cook is one of three original members that has attended monthly meetings for over 50 years, "except for summers." In those 50 years, the book club has seen members come and go and served generations of readers — from a 14-year-old who attends with her mother to Cook’s own “80-ish” years of age.

The size of the group varies depending on how busy members are, Cook said. Their reading generally focuses on children’s literature that has been nominated for awards such as the Newbery, Caldecott and Beehive awards. Occasionally they will read adult books, but even then, the books tend to focus on an aspect of children’s literature. For example, Cook said for the club’s first meeting after the summer, they will discuss a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the process of writing the Little House on the Prairie books.

Membership in this Salt Lake children's book group has changed several times since it started in the mid '60s.

Membership in this Salt Lake children’s book group has changed several times since it started in the mid ‘60s.

Barbara Cook

Deseret News: Is there something you wish people understood about children’s literature as a genre?

Barbara Cook: Well, mostly that some of the really great writing of our age is children’s literature, in the sense what they do is boil down great plots so they’re small. So there’s really a lot of wonderful, wonderful literature out there, and it’s so broadening for children if they can get a handle on the very best literature when they’re young.

DN: What is a book you would recommend to somebody who is new to children’s literature?

BC: That’s tough. … If you have a young person that hasn’t read Harry Potter, they need to do that because it’s so much part of our culture. Or if they’re a little younger, they surely should have read Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Little House books. I think it’s nice to start a child on a series because they like the first one and then they get entranced and it helps them become avid readers, not just readers.

DN: What is your favorite thing about being in a book club?

"Amina's Voice" is a nominee for the 2019 Beehive Awards. The book centers around a Pakistani-American Muslim girl grappling with her identity in a small Milwaukee suburb.

“Amina’s Voice” is a nominee for the 2019 Beehive Awards. The book centers around a Pakistani-American Muslim girl grappling with her identity in a small Milwaukee suburb.

Simon and Schuster

BC: I think the favorite thing is that you come away feeling like your horizons are expanded. You learn something that’s out of your general daily activity. It’s kind of like any good movie or any good literature that takes you away from the mundane and helps you feel like you’re growing to be a better person. And there’s a nice thing about just having people have these common interests that you share. There’s three of us who’ve been there for over 50 years. We are intimate friends after all these years. There is a wonderful bonding. Most of the people who come here regularly feel very close to one another. When you share a good book, you share some of the things that make you think it’s wonderful, (and) that helps you feel closer to one another. There’s a very cohesive, good feeling in our group. … It’s nice that we have such a wide spread of people who come. And everybody’s welcome. … There’s no money involved. It’s just the great pleasure of reading.

The children's book group always reads the Beehive Book Award nominees. Here are the picture book selections from the list of nominees for 2019. Find the full list at claubeehive.org.

"Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth," by Jarvis, Candlewick Press, 32 pages (f)

"Not Quite Narwhal," by Jessie Sima, Simon and Schuster, 40 pages (f)

"Catching a Storyfish," by Janice N. Harrington, Wordsong, 240 pages (f)

"Give Bees a Chance," by Bethany Barton, Viking Books for Young Stories, 40 pages (nf)

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality," by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Stacy Innerst, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 48 pages (nf)

"Amina’s Voice," by Hena Kahn, Simon and Schuster, 208 pages (f)

"Refugee," by Alan Gratz, Scholastic Press, 352 pages, (f)

"The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World," by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Marvel Press, audiobook, 480 minutes (f)