Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First Read Aloud of the Year


Capture the Flag
by Kate Messner
Scholastic Press, 2012
review copy came from the library (because I really am trying to dial back my book buying to only the most essential for my classroom...it's working...I've read at least one this summer that EVERYONE else loved and I didn't, so I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it...no, I'm not telling...if you follow me on Goodreads, you can already guess...)



Since I'm moving from 4th to 5th grade this year, the bar for ALL of my read alouds has been raised several notches. Unless I want to deliberately reread a book that my students heard last year, I'm not going to be able to fall back on ANY of my old standards. (Not that I had a laminated list of read alouds, but I did love Emily's Fortune...)

So, what does it take to be picked for the first read aloud of the year?

It needs to have a strong hook for all listeners. Not only does Capture the Flag have a strong first chapter with an incredible cliffhanger (way to leave a thief in the chamber with the Star Spangled Banner, Kate!) it has a punchy lead with short sentences and carefully placed details that will become important later in the story. This is a beginning chapter to return to for craft study in writing workshop.

It needs to have good characters for all listeners. Anna wants to be a reporter, like her mom. She's got the burning curiosity and the bulldog tenacity that will become important. Henry's got his video games. Kids are going to love it that what he's learned from playing video games will help the characters at almost every turn in the story. José has a backpack full of Harry Potter and a quote for every occasion. What José has learned from reading, along with the books themselves, will be crucial to the story. There is also a dog, an 8 year-old from Pakistan who collects and sketches idioms, and a secret society who protects famous art in the world. So there's at least one character for everyone in this book.


It needs to be fairly fast-paced and adventure-filled. Three kids trapped by a snowstorm in an airport with a mystery to solve, chase scenes in the baggage holding area, evil guys with snake tattoos. Yeah, Capture the Flag has plenty of action. 


It needs to have potential for big discussions beyond the book. I can imagine that my very international mix of students will have passionate discussions about immigration laws, cultural stereotypes, and discrimination. I'm thinking we'll research where the presidential candidates stand on immigration policies -- a topic that matters to many of my students and their families.


I'm not finished with my summer reading, so another book might make it to the top of the "first read aloud" pile before the end of August, but right now, it's looking good for Capture the Flag.


16 comments:

  1. How funny that you think you might have found your first read aloud of the year and I think I found my last read aloud of the year! :) I think I am starting off with Gollywhopper Games and end with Wonder. But like you said...all plans can change...especially after we meet our new group of readers! Thanks for the post!

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  2. I'm on the waiting list for FLAG at my library! Last night I finished CHOMP by Carl Hiassen. If I was teaching fifth or sixth grade I might throw that one into the mix as a read aloud.

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  3. Yay! I loved Capture the Flag and the two children who've read it so far in my reading camp have too.

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  4. I am still looking for my first read aloud. Next on my pile is The One and Only Ivan. I better find one quickly. Summer is flying by.

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    1. Ivan was a POWERFUL read aloud at the end of 4th grade. It might be a bit slow and DEEEeeeep for the beginning of the year...but that would just set a different tone.

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  5. Thank you for this - it truly made my morning. Do let me know if you end up sharing Capture the Flag aloud in class. I'd be happy to Skype with your group after you finish reading!

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    1. WOW! That's an offer I can't/won't pass up!! Thanks!!

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  6. Thanks for the tip! I can't wait to read this book! I usually start with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (see my blog post about it, http://hollymueller.blogspot.com, but I'd love to see what I think of this one after I read it!

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    1. I saw this post over on the Nerdy Book Club blog and loved it so much I've clipped it with Evernote into my READING notebook! I agree that the literary arc of the hero's journey is not beyond 5th graders. I am now thinking that A. I will have to read HOW TO READ LITERATURE LIKE A PROFESSOR and B. I will have to do a unit where we all read books with journeys in them while I'm reading aloud Edward Tulane...hmm...the wheels are turning!! Thanks for a great post!!

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  7. I will have to read this one too. I teach 6th - 8th grade, so this one might be great for my 6th graders.

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  8. Oh, and I forgot to mention. I am also trying to not spend as much money on books (both at home and at school) until I get my school loans under control. It is hard to do, but I'm trying to appreciate what I have (stacks and stacks of TBR books) and access our public library more.

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  9. Mary Lee,
    I can't wait to get my hands on this book. My 4th graders and I loved The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. Our Skype with Kate Messner was amazing and definitely a top memory of the school year. Kate so thoughtfully responded to ALL of our questions. Sugar and Ice is in my soon-to-be-read pile...still not sure about my first read aloud. Last year I read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

    I love reading your blog and would love to also follow you on Good Reads. Is this possible?
    Many thanks,
    ~ Theresa

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    1. Follow away, Theresa! I've only heard great things about Skype visits with Kate. My fourth graders had a blast Skyping with Greg Pincus (GottaBook blogger and author of the e-book of poetry The Late Bird) last spring. Now that I've Skyped once, I'll definitely do it again without hesitation!!

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  10. Mary Lee,
    I read Capture the Flag at the beginning of the summer and loved it. It's on my short list of first read alouds. I'm excited about going to fourth grade as is opens more possibilities for read alouds that I didn't think were great choices for third grade. Love your thinking!

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  11. I'm moving up to 5th from 4th this year and am looking for a back-to-school title. I just finished Wonder and liked the idea of a story from different points of view, but think it's a little heavy for a starter. Capture the Flag looks promising, so I've reserved it. Thanks for the recommendations! Has anyone read Glory Be?

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