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.