12-2-16 Finished this with my new crop of 7th graders. Cried again (although not as much by the last class). They really liked it. I love it even more12-2-16 Finished this with my new crop of 7th graders. Cried again (although not as much by the last class). They really liked it. I love it even more every time. It's just so perfectly crafted.
Oh my goodness, I loved this! I'm reading it aloud to my 7th graders (we just started on Friday), but I wanted to read a little ahead and get a feel for the natural stopping points...and suddenly I'd read the whole thing. It's such a great story--wonderful message about friendship, and also a little science fiction blended in. The chapters are nice and short, which usually irks me, but for a read aloud it's kind of perfect. I'm actually really excited that I get to read it again! I've already downloaded Stead's newest: Liar & Spy, from the library...perhaps it can be the read aloud for January!
Finished this with my last two classes this week. They ended up really liking it! They didn't fall in love immediately, but several commented "that was a good book" when we were done. Those might be the greatest words an English teacher can hear! (Also I managed to get through the ending without crying...it was touch and go today, the last group, but I made it. Victory!)...more
We decided to add this to our Holocaust novels unit this year (along with Night and The Cage), so I sat down yesterday afternoon and ended up readingWe decided to add this to our Holocaust novels unit this year (along with Night and The Cage), so I sat down yesterday afternoon and ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. I reminds me a LOT of The Cage, actually. Both girls were poets and wanted to become writers; both lived in a ghetto before transferring to a concentration camp. I think they both moved around quite a bit, although Bitton-Jackson did much more back and forth traveling between camps. I always feel weird saying I "enjoyed" a book like this, and as I've mentioned before, unfortunately stories of this sort start to blend together for me after a while (I have a student this year who is just obsessed with Holocaust stories -- she loves them all and finds them all equally fascinating. I am hoping her enthusiasm rubs off on me!). The language is simple and stark. I'm not sure how old Bitton-Jackson was when she actually wrote this memoir (she was 13-14 when the events actually took place), but I think she captures her young voice quite well. There's not a lot of prose or poetic waxing here, it's all very simply laid out (the dialogue especially). And again, I think it captures the voice of a typical young teenager in a horrific situation. The Cage gets a little more flowery in its prose, and while Night is certainly a stark and affecting story, the language is more complex and the struggling readers have trouble with it. This is a good middle ground between the two, I think.
Also, all of the moving around gave me a spectacular idea for the final project: a Lit Trip map! I'm pretty sure one already exists for Night (but that doesn't mean the kids can't create their own), and I think it could work for The Cage as well. I'm also experimenting with book blogs during this unit...excited to see how this all pans out!
Having never actually read The Compound, I'm probably not in the best position to review this! I know the basics of the story because it's one of theHaving never actually read The Compound, I'm probably not in the best position to review this! I know the basics of the story because it's one of the 6th grade read alouds and my students all come into 7th grade freaking OBSESSED with it. Since I decided to let them pick the next read aloud, I figured I should throw this into the mix. I'm pretty sure once they heard the title, they'd made the choice, and it won the vote by a landslide. I wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any surprises while I was reading (like dead pets, which is the only thing that kept Wonder out of the mix). Like I said, I'm pretty sure the kids will love it because it's the (apparently highly anticipated) sequel to the one book they can all agree doesn't suck, but I have to say I personally found it pretty meh.
The premise of The Compound, to my understanding, is that crazy rich software developer dad Rex faked an apocalypse to lock his family in an underground compound, as some sort of survival experiment. Twins Eli and Eddy were separated just before the "apocalypse" happened, leaving Eddy and their grandma on the outside, with the rest of the family in the Compound. Apparently Eli eventually figures out that dad is nuts (there's some stuff about the younger kids being conceived to be used as food for when the food runs out? It's mentioned so quickly here, but it has to be a major plot point in the first book), and manages to communicate with the outside world, which is indeed still there. Family escapes, dad dies in an explosion, twins and grandma reunite with the rest of the fam, and we live happily ever after. Which is where this book picks up.
Eli is adjusting to life on the outside, while Eddy has to adjust to suddenly having his family back. Since their dad was basically Steve Jobs, everyone knows the basics of the Compound story, so the whole family is under a publicity microscope. I'm not sure how much of a role Eddy had in the first book, but we're given to understand that he and Gram basically changed their names and lived in Hawaii while the rest of the family were locked up. So Eddy's had it pretty easy and now he has to adjust to all these crazy, haunted-eyed siblings and media attention. I do wish Eddy and Eli had shared narration duties, because I feel like I'm supposed to sympathize exclusively with Eli here, and I think Eddy is painted almost like a villain.
Which leads me into the problem with the book: pacing. Since everyone thinks dad is dead, and "bad guy" Phil (dad's right hand man on the outside) apparently disappears around page 45, there's no true antagonist for about the first 3/4 of the book. Thus, it kind of feels like Eddy is the accidental antagonist, which to me felt cheap, like an excuse not to flesh out his character. Anyway, the majority of the book just chronicles Eli and co trying to adjust to life on the outside. There are hints thrown in that people are watching them, and Eddy's sudden new BFF Tony is possibly up to no good...but nothing really happens until the last 70 or 80 pages. Then we learn that (view spoiler)[ dad's not dead! He's on yet another island, and he's been working on a seemingly successful cure for aging! That Tony guy? Is Phil, having been de-aged back to a teenager. Eli is PISSED that all of this is happening, and quickly figures out that dad means to fly the rest of the family to the island (currently populated by scientists who've undergone the procedure) and keep them prisoner once again. Dad has some control issues. To say nothing of the fact that the science is ludicrous, the pacing here is simply awful. All of the events on the island happen over the course of less than a day - Eli spills the beans to Eddy about the worst aspects of the Compound, decides to take down his dad, discovers that the process isn't actually perfected and turns some people into melted-looking monsters (who luckily still are aware of everything they see and feel, so yay for them), shoots his dad with the de-aging gun (yes, really), which doesn't work and he melts, then sets off a chain reaction of explosions exactly like the ones that destroyed the compound. And also manages to escape by running fast enough to catch a taxiing jet, which Eddy pulls him into at the last second. (hide spoiler)]
I feel like this would all have been slightly less ridiculous if the pieces had been set in motion around the halfway point, instead of on page 240. Maybe since I haven't read the original, I'm less invested in the characters and their time on the outside? It's not terrible, and again, I'm sure you appreciate it more if you've read the first book, but I think anyone who hasn't read it will still be able to make sense of the plot (which was my main concern). I hope the kids like it at least!...more
Read this in class this week. I was skeptical at first, what with the whole story being told in verse. However, once I got used to it (it helps to thiRead this in class this week. I was skeptical at first, what with the whole story being told in verse. However, once I got used to it (it helps to think of it as a piece of reader's theatre), I ended up really enjoying the story. The kids got into it too -- I had them read parts and treated it like I would any other play. Some were more into it than others (and one insisted on using what he called a "wizard voice" for Merlin), but overall I think they enjoyed it too. ...more
We did indeed read this in just over two weeks -- lots of reading aloud and reading in groups. Surprisingly, I think the kids liked it more this timeWe did indeed read this in just over two weeks -- lots of reading aloud and reading in groups. Surprisingly, I think the kids liked it more this time around than the last group I taught it to (one girl even told me she loved it, in this surprised tone, like she couldn't believe she was saying it either). Test scores were meh, but I suspect that's because they were all studying for their history test instead. Dear children: English is also a class that you have, and sometimes it too requires studying. ---------- Round two: reread. Trying to cram this in over 2 weeks might not be the greatest teaching decision I've ever made, but damned if I'm going to admit that to the kids! So we soldier on. ---------- Getting ready to teach this next week, so I figured it would be a good idea to have it read beforehand (since the whole "read along" thing didn't work so well for Walk Two Moons last year!). It took about 2 hours to read the whole book, which I enjoyed more than I expected. There was enough happening that I was motivated to finish and find out what happened. The only thing that bothers me is that it seems like all the books we read are such downers! This one is no exception. Obviously the title gives away a certain amount, but the book as a whole was more depressing than I expected. Knowing the freshman curriculum I'm sending these kids off to (where everyone dies in everything), it'd be nice to include something more uplifting....more
This is the second novel I taught this year, and to be honest I think we collectively enjoyed The Wednesday Wars more.
I first read this novel in collThis is the second novel I taught this year, and to be honest I think we collectively enjoyed The Wednesday Wars more.
I first read this novel in college as part of a children's lit class. I don't remember much about that first read; it didn't make much of an impression on me, good or bad.
Walk Two Moons intertwines multiple narratives, which is one of my favorite tropes as a reader, and something important to introduce to young readers as well. A lot of my students complained about being confused - Sal jumps back and forth between three separate stories. The first is the present-day narrative of her roadtrip with her eccentric grandparents. They are on a cross country journey from Euclid Ohio to Cor D'Alene Idaho, in search of Sal's runaway mother. On the road to Idaho, Sal entertains her grandparents with the story of her friend Phoebe, who also had a runaway mother, and an excellent mystery.
My students didn't enjoy this story nearly as much, and the ones who did still complained about the ending being too sad. I personally have no qualms with the ending, as it's fairly realistic. Sometimes things don't work out the way you wish they would. I'm not sure if it was a colleague's attempt to shoehorn this into a unit about Route 66 that left a bad taste in my mouth regarding this unit, or just my general blah feeling towards the novel. Either way, I'm not sad I get to take a year off from it. ...more
This is one of the two novels I taught this year with my 7th graders. It's the story of Holling Hoodhood (the poor kid never had a chance!), who spendThis is one of the two novels I taught this year with my 7th graders. It's the story of Holling Hoodhood (the poor kid never had a chance!), who spends his Wednesday afternoons studying Shakespeare while his fellow classmates are in religion classes. He is convinced his teacher despises him, hence the novel's title. Through the course of the year, Holling learns to appreciate Shakespeare, and his teacher (her name escapes me!). I enjoyed this novel both as a reader and a teacher. It's easy to discuss, and there are a lot of great talking points. Plus, it gets kids excited about Shakespeare! Nearly all of mine wanted to read The Tempest after hearing about Holling's adventures playing Ariel. And being set in the 1960s, there are a ton of historical elements that make for great discussion. Can't wait to teach it again in 2 years when I return to 7th grade! ------------------------------
2nd reading: 2013.
I think I might actually have enjoyed this book even more the second time around. I forgot what an awesome character Holling is. He's such a great narrator, and the voice is so natural. It's a shame I can't get into the companion novel.
This time around, we spent more time talking about the setting, and actually had kids do some research on the 1960s, which helped a LOT with the context! I think they also enjoy this more than Walk Two Moons, so it made a nice change to finish the year with something they enjoy, instead of something they slog through. I did find that they seemed less interested in Shakespeare than last year's group (probably the maturity level of this bunch), but the 60's context activities were enormously helpful.