Monday, September 20, 2010

Shredderman: Secret Identity, by Wendelin Van Draanen

Title:  Shredderman:  Secret Identity
Author:  Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher:  Random House
Pages:  144
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Group:  3rd-6th Grade

Plot Summary:
Nolan is the school nerd-at least according to bully Bubba Bixby.  No matter how many times Nolan tells his teachers and parents about the mean things Bubba does, they never catch him in the act.  So when Nolan's teacher Mr. Green assigns a newspaper project in class, Nolan knows just what he wants to do-an investigative report on Bubba, proving once and for all what a bully he truly is.  But how to do his assignment without getting pounded?  Well, he needs a secret identity, of course, and, a website devoted to all things Bubba, is born.  But will it help bring truth and justice back to Nolan's life?

This is the first in a series of four books by Van Draanen telling the story of Nolan and Bubba.  It is charming.  As a teacher, I've known a few Nolan's in my time-smart, socially awkward, unassertive.  I have never known one to solve their problem in such a creative way as Nolan, however.  Once he makes the decision to catch Bubba in the act with his secret camera, he begins to change from the scared, meek computer nerd into a more confident, assertive young man.  Nolan's message is that if he had a superhero trapped inside of him (his superpower-using his noggin!) then so do you, third through sixth grade reader.

I use this as a read aloud, and this year my students are eating it up!  They have already asked me to read the second book, Shredderman:  Attack of the Tagger as soon as we finish Secret Identity.  I consider this high praise, given that I have read very few series books over the years where the students were clamoring for more-Series of Unfortunate Events being the exception.  My boys especially really get into Nolan/Shredderman, and given some of the recent talk about the reading crisis for boys it's always good to have male-centered titles for upper elementary and middle grade readers. 

Teacher Resources: on Random House 

Live Oaks Media Shredderman Activity Guide 


Monday, September 6, 2010

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind, by Judy Fincher

Title:  Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind
Author:  Judy Finchler
Publisher:  Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages:  32
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Level:  2nd-4th Grade

Plot Summary:(from Goodreads)

Miss Malarkey can make a reader out of anyone.

Principal Wiggins promises to dye his hair purple and sleep on the school roof if the students read 1,000 books this year. Miss Malarkey is determined to find the right book for each student so they’ll participate in the school program, and learn to love reading. She’s got a tough audience — video game fanatics, artists, sports lovers — nonreaders all. But she won’t give up until Principal Wiggins can flip his purple wig. 

If you are looking for a good back-to-school book to read with your class, add Miss Malarkey to your list. This picture book, suitable as a read aloud for ages seven through ten, is sure to please both students and teacher.  This year I used this book to introduce how to find a just right book with my students.  They are all reluctant readers, and they could appreciate the narrator's trouble finding a book that held his interest.  This book also pokes slight fun at the "No Child Left Behind" law, by turning something that causes a lot of stress for teachers and students alike into something fun and funny.  I especially like that this book makes a point of addressing what so many children seem to believe-that it's not cool to like reading.  The narrator thinks that he and his friends are all on the same page when it comes to what they would rather do-play video games.  But when his friends start discussing the books they are reading instead of shooting monsters, he realizes that not reading makes him the odd man out.

Teacher Resources:
Books by the Month Idea   

Author Information from Bloomsbury Kids