Review (Plus): New Books for Reluctant Readers

One of my struggles as an English teacher is turning my students into lifelong readers. One of the most important tasks is finding the perfect book and placing it in the hands of a reluctant reader; they may roll their eyes at me, but I insistent they read 25 pages of the book I have loaned them. Some of my most reluctant readers are given a graphic novel, because 25 pages of a graphic novel means the reader can find themselves 1/3 into the book. It is a devious-but effect–trick to use in the classroom: the reader is hooked and reluctant to quick because, let’s face it, 25 pages in to a graphic novel you know the character, the setting and the plot! Penguin Random House recently sent me two graphic novels; I am excited to let you know my thoughts and then get them in to the hands of my students because they both were awesome.

The first was Edison Beaker Creature Seeker: The Night Door by Frank Cammuso. Mr. Cammuso has a way of hooking his middle grade readers by giving them real kids with real problems in his action-packed graphic novels. His newest endeavor is about Edison Beaker and his quest to learn the family business–extermination. Not of bugs, but of the things that go bump in the night! It has a few twists and turns, but the best part is that it leaves you hanging! I love it. The middle school student who lands this one will instantly ask, when is the next one coming Ms. G?

The second graphic novel was Caveboy Dave by Aaron Reynolds and Phil McAndrew. In this 2nd in the series, I found Dave is just as funny in his commentary as the last one. I enjoyed the first one in this series and found it appealed to all my students, which surprised me as I thought it would tend to lend itself more to the boys. Dave lives in Bleccchh. (This alone makes the boys laugh because they immediately assume it reads BELCH!) Dave struggles with his community and their ways of life, but overcomes them as he loves his family, friends and way of life. In this new adventure, Not So Faboo, we learn the Shaman of the community has gone MIA, as panic ensues, Dave reassures everyone it will be okay; he will be found. For fear of life without a leader in Bleccchh, the community votes to place Dave in charge–AT AGE 12!  Dave quickly learns about politics and that pleasing everyone is a thankless job, but someone has to do it…

In the classroom:

Reluctant readers need to be encouraged, they need to be challenged, and sometimes they even need to be forced to read. This year I instituted the 20 minutes mandatory daily reading in to my lesson plans. I force students to put down electronic devices and read. This challenge is becoming more present in the classroom as most schools, if you are like mine, have issued laptops or iPads to every student. It is difficult to make the kid who resents reading put down the device, sit silently, and read. I model this every day, but I love to read. (I wish I didn’t have to teach and could just read every day!) However, for them the challenge is real.

I suggest reward based reading. I have a bulletin board where kids can put their “glows and grows” for reading. They have to tell something glowing about the book and some way they can “grow” from reading the book. Both of these graphic novels present a moral dilemma for both protagonists. It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they are reading.

Edison Beaker Creature Seeker: The Night Door by Frank Cammuso (Viking Books for Young Readers | 9780425291924 | October 2, 2018)

Caveboy Dave: Not So Faboo by Aaron Reynolds and Phil McAndrew (Viking Books for Young Readers | 9780451475480 | October 23, 2018)

300 Seconds: Brain Dump

I was on a commuter train recently, heading to a Chicago suburb for drinks with friends. As I settled into my book, a young woman took the seat beside me. It was the 5 o’clock express train, and she was one of the many business professionals heading home at the end of the day. She took out a notebook, sighed a couple of times, and started writing. The heading on the page read, “July 12, 2018: Brain Dump.”

Now, I admit that I’m a curious over-the-shoulder-reader. (And if you are the guy who felt ogled at the Kansas City airport, I truly just wanted to see which Paul Auster book you were reading.) But this time my over-the-shoulder-glances didn’t register any content. I was too wrapped up in the idea of a “brain dump”—freeing items, thoughts, tasks, etc. from the mind by moving it to paper.

Think about it. The best time to remember anything is when it’s fresh in your mind and before you’ve moved on to something else, and for me that something else could be as mundane as, “Where did I park my car?”

On the train, as my seat mate penned her list, the sighs became fewer. I don’t know if she later used that list to create a plan of attack, but I know that’s what I’d do. Since I use TeuxDeux, my brain dump becomes to-do items, assigned to a specific day according to deadline or realistic expectations. (I don’t like lofty to-do items that follow me, unfinished, day to day. They become dead weight.)

So before you walk out of the store today, take 300 seconds to try your own brain dump. Remembering to share The New Yorker’s adaptation of Knausgaard’s “The Trouble With Dogs for a Writer” with the proven fans in your database might mean more sales of Summer this week.

And now that that’s out of my brain, I can search for my car.

Wanna Launch a Podcast?

You might recall that I was part of a team invited to be a part of NPR’s StoryLab a couple of months ago. The podcast we worked on is almost to its launching stage, as is another one I’ve been working on for about a year. Since I seem to have some breathing room–and because I am a fool–I decided to take an online course on podcasts from the Knight Center at the University of Austin at Texas.

My instructor emailed me yesterday and encouraged me to spread the word that it’s not too late to sign up for this free course. (This sounds like it was a personal message from my instructor. No, this is a MOOC: massive open online course. There are more than 2000 participants. But the sentiment felt personal.)

I’ve noticed an uptick in bookstore podcasting lately, so if your store has tossed the idea around, you might want to sign up for this free 5-week online course. It’s called “Listen up! How to Launch and Grow a Hit Podcast” and it runs from August 20 – September 23.

Maybe we can start a study group.

Say As I Do: Kate Christensen

Say As I Do: Kate Christensen

I recently spoke with Kate Christensen about her new release–The Last Cruise–for KMUW’s Marginalia podcast. I thought I knew how to pronounce her name. Wow, was I ever wrong!

Here she is:

The Struggle is Real

Here’s a cute little video from Penguin Random House titled, “The Struggles of Reading in an Apartment.” Whether it’s reading in an apartment, a house, an office, or a coffee shop–I think we can agree that sometimes the struggle is real.

If you’d like to share the video with your readers, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/wpt1J6I3NZU