Thursday, November 22, 2012

Colin Fischer

I tried starting Colin Fischer twice before it actually stuck. Once I got into it, though, I couldn't put it down and am eager to recommend it to my friend's eighth grade class. Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz have crafted a teenage detective with Asperger's, a character full of hope and heart.

Each chapter starts with a page from Colin's ever-present notebook, which was what originally deterred me. The scientific facts in these entries eventually become pertinent to the plot, but may make young readers hesitate to continue. Urge them to do so, because the mystery is engaging and the characters are well-developed. Even better, the ending sets the reader up for a sequel.

There are some mature innuendos in the novel, which is why I won't be putting it on the shelf in my sixth grade class. Older readers are lucky to have such a sensitive and interesting novel available to them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

It's no secret that I adore the world of McQuarrie Middle School, which Tom Angleberger created in his Origami Yoda series. The third book, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, delves deeper into the lives of the students as they try to find their way without Dwight and the wisdom of his Origami Yoda. Dwight, to the dismay of his friends, has suddenly become normal. This case file is their effort to convince him to return to being the oddball they have grown to love.

Angleberger's opinions on the U.S. education system have become more evident as the series progresses, and Fortune Wookiee ends with a cliffhanger related to the testing mania which has taken over American schools. As a teacher, I appreciate the way he makes this shift away from arts and extracurricular activities something which can be discussed. Students miss art class and drama class; it helps to see their reality reflected in their favorite literature.

Heaviness aside, Fortune Wookiee is as fun as the rest of the series, full of Kellan's doodles, Star Wars puns, and giggle-worthy moments. There is a long list of students waiting to read this book after me...I can't wait to discuss with them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Code Talker

When a reluctant boy reader hands you a book and says, “You have to read this,” you do it. I’m usually not a fan of historical fiction, particularly novels set during wars, but Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker is an exception, a book I’m so happy to have been recommended.

During WWII, the US Marines charged Navajo servicemen to work as code talkers,transmitting radio messages in their language, which was impossible foroutsiders to decipher. These heroes saved the lives of countless soldiers, although their role in the military was classified until 1969. Bruchac tells the story of Ned, a young Navajo who wants to enlist.

Starting with his youth, when he is taken from his parents to be educated, Ned has an understanding of his culture and the injustices Navajos faced. Bruchac sprinkles historical facts throughout the book in a way that feels fascinating, rather than didactic. I learned so much from Code Talker. My high school boyfriend was Navajo and I never knew that his last name, Begay, actually means “son of.” Bruchac writes, “Because that white teacher could not really understand our language, he did not realize that Biye’ in Navajo just means ‘son of.’ So he made Biye’ my last name, although he wrote as he heard it—Begay. Lots of other white men at other schools did the same. That is why we now have so many Navajo families like our own with the last name of Begay” (22). Bruchac is skilled in incorporating information into his narrative that inspires the reader to learn more.

Code Talker instills respect and teaches, while being exciting and suspenseful. This is truly excellent historical fiction.