It's a strange time.
Learning during a time of global pandemic is not easy. But there are discoveries to be made, wonders to uncover, even within the walls of your own home. For my young readers who are learning from home, I've prepared some activities below in what I'm calling a "stay-at-home" book club for The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. I chose to create a virtual book club for this book because I think reading challenging material matters now more than ever, when we are all going through a difficult time of change. The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is about a girl isolated during a time of crisis who finds magic in everyday items and her own imagination, and it is my hope that the book will help you connect to your own situation. These activities are self-guided, but I can always be reached at email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you.
“I was afraid that I'd forgotten all the colors of the rainbow,
but I know just where I can find them again.”
Activities and Resources
Video: Welcome to the Stay-At-Home Book Club from Megan Shepherd
Author Reading Chapters 1-3
Activity: Coloring Pages
In The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, colored pencils are very important to Emmaline, both because they belonged to her beloved friend Anna, and because they are one of the few ways she can bring color into her bleak winter world. You'll find six free downloadable coloring pages on this website, depicting scenes from the book, by the illustrator Dan Burgess. Take some time to color or decorate the pages with your own artistic style.
Creative Writing Prompt: Mirror Worlds
Just as Emmaline sees winged horses when she looks into the mirrors at Briar Hill hospital, imagine that tomorrow you woke up and saw something incredible in your own mirror. What do you see? Does your family believe you? Does anyone else see it? How is the world in the mirror affected or not affected by what is happening in our world today? What problems does it face that our world doesn't? Write a short story (250-1000 words) about your experience seeing this new world through the mirror.
British Edition Illustrations
Need a break from reading? Take a peek at some of the gorgeous artwork in the fully illustrated UK edition of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, illustrated by Levi Pinfold. One image is below, and you can view more at the artist's website.
1. Emmaline was sent to Shropshire as part of "Operation Pied Piper", which evacuated children from cities to the countryside to protect them from bombs. Why do you think this operation was named "Pied Piper", given what you know of the fairy tale by that name?
2. Do you believe Emmaline and Arthur truly see the winged horses in the mirrors, or is it only in their imagination? Why do you feel this way?
3. Thomas and Emmaline share a special bond because their past traumas make them both feel like outsiders at Briar Hill hospital. When Thomas claims that he is the Horse Lord who has been sending Emmaline the secret letters, do you believe him?
4. Benny's most cherished object is his Popeye comic book. Anna's special object are her colored pencils. What object of yours best represents who you are as a person?
5. Today, you and millions of other children around the world are asked to remain in home to keep yourselves, and others, safe from a virus. How does Emmaline's story mirror your own experience? How is it different? What has changed in the years between when her story took place and now? What do you do when you get bored while home during "shelter in place" restrictions? What about when you or your siblings are scared?
Video: Author Q&A
Share Your Artwork and Writing
Scan and send your colored pages, original artwork, or creative writing pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll post them in an online gallery.
Free Book + Reading kit!
To encourage reading, I'm donating 25 signed copies of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill to readers along with a Secret Horses poster, bookmark, pack of colored pencils and coloring sheets featuring illustrations from the book.
To request a free book + kit, email email@example.com with the subject line "Book Club Request" and include your reader's name and shipping address. The first 25 requests will get a free copy of the book* plus the kit (US addresses only). All other requests will receive just the reading kit, which includes the poster, autographed bookmark, colored pencils and coloring sheets. Quantities are limited.
*A limited number of audio books are available. If this is the preferred format, please specify.