A Book a Week: Books 1&2

I started!  I started!  Woo Hoo!

See previous post if you are wondering what I am talking about.

1.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Level W

I wanted to read this book ever since I saw Brian S. participate in the ART group at the TC Writing Institute in 2008.  But I kept putting it off.  And then last week, when I was a few chapters into book #2 below, I wandered into the library and there it was, sitting out on display.  It was a sign.

This book won the Caldecott in 2008.  Even though it is appears to be a hefty chapter book, there are hundreds of pages of drawing in it that tell the story graphically at times.  The illustrations are all done in pencil and the use of light in each one is extraordinary.  The book defies genre, as it is a blend of graphica, history, and mystery.

Reading Challenges:

Setting- it takes place in the 1930’s in the train stations of Paris.

Schema-  The central mystery of the story revolves around early movie making.  Some of the main characters are based on real people and events.  The main character (Hugo) is essentially a homeless orphan.

If a students were keen to do some research using the author’s website, their understanding of the story would be greatly enhanced.

2.  Holes by Louis Sachar

Level V

No, I have not seen the movie.  Of course, as the Newbery winner in 1999 I always felt guilty for not having this one under my belt.  Like book #1 above, Holes also defies genre- part realistic fiction, part tall tale, part mystery, part history.  This book has 2 parallel plots that eventually come together.  It has many messages in it about racism, perseverance, authority and control, and self esteem.  There is even a sub plot in there that speaks to the empowerment that comes by being literate.

It took me longer to get into this book than I would have liked (book #1 handily stole my attention for 2 days of reading in the midst of this book), but in the end I enjoyed it.

Reading Challenges:

Plot Structure- Different stories, one told in the present tense and one about events that occurred long, long ago.  If the student reader is not wide awake to this fact, much could be missed in this book.

Schema-  The setting of the book is crucial to understanding the plot.  Knowing what a desert looks and feels like is important.  The protagonist in this book (Stanley) is in a correctional facility for juvenile delinquents.  Some knowledge of what this means would be quite useful to the reader.  Also, the most important event in the secondary story (which occurs 100 years in the past) requires the reader to have an understanding of the issue of race at that time.

There are several levels of depth to this book.  Because it has been made into a movie and it looks accessible enough, I could see many an upper elementary reader wading through this book only to have missed the point of most of it.  It could make a great read aloud though, because there is so much to teach into.

So, that’s my first post about the goal for the year.  I decided to post about the books because it makes the whole thing feel more legitimate and I am hoping to get a “Julie and Julia” sort of movie deal out of the whole exercise.  Snark.  Seriously, I’d like to make the information in my posts useful to the classroom teacher in some way… not necessarily a review (those are already abundant on the internet)- but more geared toward the possible use of these books in the classroom.  So if there is something you’d like me to include, let me know- including books that you think I should read!

I am not officially committing to two books a week, but it would be cool.

Note to CK:  I know you are the only one reading this.  And I know you are thinking “How on earth is this relevant for my class of ‘Mrs. Wishy Washy’ readers?” Humor me!  I am sure to find a good chapter book suitable for Kinder readers yet!

One response to “A Book a Week: Books 1&2

  1. Who’s CK? Definitely not the only one reading this! I’m reading it too! I really like the way you’re highlighting the teaching opportunities of each book. That is way more useful than a review. Is there a junior version of your New Year’s goal? If so, sign me up!

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