Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More new books from Orca, and observations on boy readers etc. etc.

Right now I have a few more books to review.
The Mealworm Diaries by Anna Kerz (Orca) for students in grades four, five six. Jeremy is forced to move from Nova Scotia to Toronto after his father's death and make many adjustments including every a science partner who no one else wants in the class. This is a good book about understanding differences and the grief process but is fast paced and enjoyable as well. It was literally grabbed out of my hands on Friday.

Jacked by popular writer, Carrie Mac, is about Zane who decided to take a quick break from his boring job at a gas station only to be carjacked.  The carjacker turns out to be someone he knows who wants a ride from the valley into a Vancouver hospital.  Fast paced and full of surprises.  This is an Orca Soundings book which are a series of high interest low vocabulary novels aimed at teenagers.

I think part of the appeal of these books may be that the heroes don't always have picture perfect life an in Norah McClintock's novel Picture This, another in the Orca Soundings series, Ethan lives in a group home and has had brushes with the law but now is trying to get his life back together in a photography program but someone seems to want his camera very badly.  Again I found this suspenseful and interesting.

One of the great things about these books is that they often have B.C.  settings.  Whiteout by Becky Citra takes place in the Caribou.  A car accident causes Robin's cousin, April, to have to come from Vancouver to live with her, due to her mom's hospitalization.  Robin is thrilled but April has changed and they don't get along well at all and then they end  up stranded together in snowstorm.  This is in the Young Readers series which is aimed at the 8 to 11 year old crowd.

Orca Currents are aimed at reluctant readers in the middle school range and written at a grade 2 to 4.5 level.  Watch Me by Norah McClintock is one of these and I imagine this will be popular in my classroom.  As in most six/seven classrooms I have a wide range of reading levels and comprehension levels.  My students actually quite love books but some of the books they want to read are just not at their reading level so that it's great to find books that look like regular books and our aimed at their age level but written at an easier reading level.  Also with a class with 19 boys and 10 girls this is an excellent book as it deals with the consequences of impulsive behavior.  A frisbee accidently hits an old lady in the head and knocks her down.  Drew and Kaz take her purse when she falls and run.  Kaz ends up dealing with his guilt with some surprising repercussions and results.

One book I don't have in front of me and didn't even get a chance to read is good friend, Melanie Jackson's new one, another Orca Currents book, The Big Dip.  It arrived in my classroom and was gone.  This may partly be due to the setting which is my students' beloved PNE.  According to Sahil, it's full of suspense!

Much has been said about reluctant boy readers.  Long ago I went to a workshop with Paul Kropp who talked about what kind of books boys liked and needed.  I was happy to see that all my class novels at the time seemed to fit his criteria from The Sky is Falling to Call it Courage.  For instance, boys don't mind reading about female protagonists as long as there is action.  Boys want action but it's also important that we provide books that provide reflection as well.  In my experience I found boys like reading what their friends are reading and they like the opportunity to talk about what they are reading.  They like choice.  As teachers we need to stretch them as well.  As I continue reading Dormia to my class I sometimes worry it is a bit challenging, our vocabularies are getting stretched, but many of my students wrote that the thing they like best in class is when I read it to them.  Of course, having a visit from the author and his wife our first day of class together gave us all some great connections.

By the way, in a couple of weeks we are off to the Writers' Festival to see Gordon Korman! If you aren't able to see him there, Kidsbooks is hosting an evening with him as well.


max said...

It's so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys. In fact, I've recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, "Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers."

I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading.

Keep up your good work.

Max Elliot Anderson

meredyth kezar said...

Thanks for your comment! It's really wonderful to find books that struggling readers can read which encourage them to read more and become more skilled and able to handle and try more challenging books!