Review {Plus}: “Spelled” by Betsy Schow

Spelled 9781492608714_d986dI was born and raised in Kansas, the ‘Land of Oz.’ When people learn you are from Kansas, inevitably they will make a crack about red shoes, a dog named Toto, or say “You aren’t in Kansas anymore…” I have seen the movie; I have read the book; I was given the part of the Lion in the play; I have seen the musical Wicked; I have read the series of Oz books by L. Frank Baum. I have been there and done that with the infamous tale of Kansas. Yet I was a bit apprehensive as I started reading this book. Could this new author, whose fame started with a nonfictional book, rewrite an old tale to a YA audience? Yes! Betsy Schow hooked this curious yet cautious Kansas girl with her refreshing version of the Wizard of Oz Spelled.

Dorothea is a young princess from the Emerald Isle. Her family has been cursed and she can never leave her home for fear of unleashing fire upon the earth destroying everything she encounters. Yet Dorothea can no longer endure this hardship. She is forever trying to figure a way out of the castle, her curse and the life she has to live.

The evil witch Griz entraps Dorothea into making a wish to undo the happily ever afters of all stories forever. Dorothea, and her amazing Ruby shoes, must discover how her curse of Emerald flames can help save herself, her Prince charming and the people of the Stories. The fun doesn’t end with the conclusion of the book. Schow nicely sets up the end to continue into a series of more “glammed” fun with Dorothea in upcoming books.

The story is good, but the thing that got me the quote from another Princess or storybook character at the end of every chapter; snippets from their stories in relationship to advice Dorothea should take. Schow’s wit and humor was amazing. She uses explicit adult language twisted into fairy tale language. It is extremely clever and made for a truly enjoyable new spin on an over-done story.

In the Store:

Pull out the stops and have a Wizard of Oz themed event. You can even have a few employees act out a quick rendition of L. Frank Baum’s story. The Lion, Tin Man, green witch, munchkins and even flying monkeys are all characters in Schow’s story, but as different as possible from the original creation. If you don’t want to have an event, or don’t have the time, an Oz display–in all its variations and formats–would capture customer attention.

In the classroom:

Common Core Standards for 3rd, 6th and 9th grade have the compare/contrast themed narrative in common. A student can easily read this book and compare/contrast it with the one of the many other versions of The Wizard of Oz story. If you do not have the time to read two versions, you could always show a version. I like to incorporate different genres of movies. The musical, Wicked, would be a wonderful version to compare with Spelled. Both stories take an unusual perspective of Baum’s original story.

Although science classrooms do not have Common Core State Standards placed upon their curriculum (yet), they are still being asked to implement them in various ways. One easy way to implement CCSS into the science classroom while reading this book is for a teacher to take advantage of the title. Have your students read the book and use science to determine what spell is the most effective. Dorothea must fight both witches. No houses fall from the sky in this story. Each character has a strength and weakness with chemicals: Dorothea has the advantage of flames, one which will melt if she touches water and her Prince Charming has the power of ice on his side. Each of these involves chemicals and their reactions. Have your students create brown sugar witches. How does the sugar react to the flames, water or ice? What is the hypothesis? What is the outcome? Who prevails? Have your students write claims based on their hypothesis and their findings. Teach them about reasoning and how to write this out in paragraph form. As a science teacher you are allowing them the opportunity to experiment while following it up with CCSS literacy and writing skills.

Spelled by Betsy Schow (Sourcebooks Publishing | 9781492608714 | June 2, 2015)

America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Derby, Kansas.