Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TRACKERS by Patrick Carman

I am a huge fan of Skeleton Creek and so are many of the 5th graders at our school. It isn't so much the genre or story. I liked those though. But I am a fan because Patrick Carman has tried something new and powerful with books for kids. In Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine, he embedded video in the book so that the text told part of the story and the video clips online told the other part. This was done in a way that worked--the two parts of the book worked so well together and I could see how motivating this could be for kids. So, I was happy to see TRACKERS, another series by Patrick Carman, that did the same thing. (I am imagining books like this on things such as the iPad where the video can just play at a certain point in the book. I am starting to understand the whole concept of this type of reading so much better thanks to Carman.)

Trackers is a thriller/adventure/science fiction story about 4 kids who are trackers. They are pretty much spies with very cool gadgets that they've created and perfected. This may sounds Spy-Kid like and it is but it is intended for a more sophisticated audience than Spy Kids. My thinking is 5th grade and above. There is a lot of technical "stuff" that kids need to semi-understand in order to understand this book.

Adam, the main character in the book, has created a space for himself that he calls "The Vault". His father owns and operated a computer repair shop and since he was little, Adam played around with gadgets, etc. When he turned 9, his father gave him a little room in the back of the shop for him to fiddle around in. The room is an amazing concept and one that hooked me into the book immediately. A kid who has a place to play and create and figure things out on his own. He is quite the little prodigy.

I won't give too much away about the book but Adam is discovered by some people who threaten him unless he solves a very important computer code for them.

The entire story is told by Adam who is relaying it in a "classified location" letting the readers assume that Adam has been "caught" and is in trouble. The entire story unfolds as Adam tells the story and then "shows" videoclips throughout. As we get to each clip, we, as readers, are given a site and password so that we can watch the videos. As with Skeleton Creek, Carman has done a great job of embedding the video throughout. The two forms of media work together to tell the complete story.

The one difference in this book, which I think I like, is that you CAN read the book without watching the videos. Each video is transcribed in the Appendix of the book. So, instead of watching the clip on a computer, the reader can instead read the transcript at the back of the book. I tried a bit o both. I liked watching the videos--it breaks up the story for kids a bit and gave me scenes, etc. visually. But the appendix pieces did a great job too. I know that I had kids who could not read Skeleton Creek because they did not have Internet access at home. This will allow kids who do not have access to the Internet to experience the entire book. There were also times when I was reading at night,when I really did not want to get up and watch the clip. Having the option of the transcribed video was a nice option to have:-)

The only thing I didn't like is that the book ended in quite the cliffhanger!? Now I have to wait for the 2nd book! I should have remembered this from Skeleton Creek but I don't think I was totally aware that Trackers is the first in a series. My thinking was that things would tie up and fall together neatly by the end of the book. I guess I'll have to wait for the next book in the series to get some more answers.

This book will be released on May 11. I am thrilled to see Patrick Carman continue with these books for kids. I already have several 5th graders who are dying to read this one--even without knowing the basics of the story, they know that Patrick Carman writes fresh stories that grab them from the beginning. So many kids have moved on to Carman's other books once they discovered Skeleton Creek.

1 comment:

  1. So your thinking is that the kids like the fresh stories with lots of action that hook them from the get-go, rather than the addition of video to the books? In other words, it is a multimedia story rather than a gimmick. I like the sound of that!


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