Possible Idea?

In her comment here, author, blogger, and fellow teacher Kate Messner has given me a fantastic idea for my survival-themed unit at the beginning of the year. How cool would it be to have half the class read Life As We Knew It and the other half read the dead and the gone?  I can imagine how this would start off the year-  “Life As We Knew It” scared the bejeezus out of me and I am sure “the dead and the gone” will do the same.  See, now I have a good excuse for an ARC!  I want to read it and then get it approved by the district so that I can use it first thing next year.  ;)

Seriously though, how cool would that be?  “Life As We Knew It” is getting raves from my kids this year, boys and girls alike.  I think this would be a fantastic way to kick off the year!

Maze of Bones (39 Clues)

I was reading my YALSA- listserv today when I saw that someone had posted a link to the trailer for Scholastic’s new series, The 39 Clues. Not expecting much, I clicked on the link and was surprised to see that an entire website was already laid out…almost 7 months before the first book will be published!

The video is here. I have to admit- I am intrigued! I am a sucker for historical mysteries, though. I love the “National Treasure” movies more than any logical, intelligent adult should. And I do love Rick Riordan’s writing. Now, I am dying to get my hands on an ARC for “The Maze of Bones”, the first book in the series. I thought it was way too early for ARCs when i went to Mid-winter, but it seems like they must be out there somewhere. And while I am not a big fan of calling anything “the next Harry Potter”, I do like sound of this series and my students love any series books. They also love mysteries. I am hoping this will draw in a few more readers for my class next year.

While watching the video, I also had another thought. It seems that book trailers are becoming more and more popular. While they haven’t hit the mainstream too much, I do think I will show this trailer to my students. In the past, commercials for books seemed like a silly premise. Those were better left to movies and tv shows. However, kids today are inundated by media in all parts of their lives. Are book trailers or commercials the wave of the future? I think a trailer like this one would pull in a lot of students. I also think that trailers for many of my class’ favorite books would be great to watch. In class, we talk about the “movie in our mind” whenever we read our novels. Picturing what you read is a huge part of getting into the reading zone. It’s what makes you feel like you are in the story. So are book trailers/commercials a natural extension of that same strategy?

I hope we see more book trailers in the future. More book trailers that are professionally made and treated almost like movie previews. It’s a great way to get the word out about books and authors and also builds up buzz. Buzz is what sells books. Buzz is what makes my students go to the bookstore and choose a particular book. Right now, that buzz is usually from me or their classmates making recommendations. A perfect example is Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As more and more students read the first book, buzz kept building. Then, as we anxiously awaited the publishing of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, the excitement was palpable.  A perfect example of buzz building.  Then, as soon as the book was released I had students who raced to the book store to buy a copy.  Other students immediately placed an order for the book through Scholastic’s book clubs.  Without any buzz, this would never have happened.  And if book trailers will build that buzz, I think I have to be a fan!

This doesn’t mean I want every book trailer to proclaim “the next Harry Potter!” et al.  But a quick trailer that I can show after I booktalk certain books can really pull in my more visual learners.  It will be interesting to see if more series publishers go down this road and let us have trailers.  Any thoughts?

Peak by Roland Smith

The first novel we read each year is a survival-themed novel. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a successful first novel for any of my classes. We have read Dogsong, My Side of the Mountain, and The Talking Earth. All of them were flops. My students could not connect with them at all and thus ended up hating the entire experience. This is an awful way to start the year! Fortunately, this year I began with a great read-aloud (Ralph Fletcher’s Flying Solo) but our first novel for mini-lessons was completely hated. So I am always on the lookout for survival books that I think the class will enjoy. I think I may have found the one- Roland Smith’s Peak.

Peak (no, not Pete. Peak, as in mountain peak) Marcello is the son of rock rats. “It could have been worse. My parents could have named me Glacier, or Abyss, or Crampon, ” he says. His mother has given up the climbing life and married his stepfather, a lawyer named Rolf. His father is one of the most famous climbers in the world and hasn’t seen Peak since he was a baby. Peak, his mother, stepfather, and twin little sisters live in New York City. The only time Peak gets to climb, his passion, is during summer climbing camps. However, he begins climbing skyscrapers, for the shear thrill. When he reaches his destination he tags a window with his symbol, a blue stenciled mountain peak. This works out until he is caught climbing the Woolworth Building.

After he is caught, he is held in custody by the NYC police. Unfortunately, the media sensationalizes his actions and another teen copies him, ending with fatal results. The state throws the book at Peak. Until his father, Josh, shows up. A deal is cut- Peak’s parents place $150,000 dollars in a trust until Peak is 18. If he doesn’t commit any more crimes before then they will get their money back. And Peak must leave the state of NY to allow the hubbub to die down. And he must go with his father, Josh.

Peak is suddenly thrust into a new life. His father lives in Thailand, where he runs his multi-million dollar climbing company. Peak is scheduled to attend the International School there until he can return to NY. Or so he thinks. Before he realizes it, he is in Kathmandu. And his father tells him they will be climbing Mount Everest. Peak finds himself in the complex world of an Everest base camp, where large amounts of money are at stake and climbing companies offer people an often-deadly shot at the summit. Josh’s team is preparing various expeditions full of paying customers who are attempting to reach the summit. Suddenly, Peak Marcello is faced with the chance to become the youngest climber to ever reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

The novel is full of mountaineering facts told in (all too) vivid detail: corpses litter the paths to the summit, HAPE affects many of the climbers, and people are willing to do anything to reach the summit. The story is told through Peak’s writing in his Moleskine notebooks, which will be used to judge his graduation from his school in New York. The story is fascinating and suspenseful. Will Peak make it to the summit? Will the Chinese allow him to do so? Using current events involving Tibet, China, and Nepal the story intertwines the tales of other climbers along with Peak. It is a fascinating look at a deadly lifestyle.

I am hoping to present Peak to our language arts coordinator over the next few weeks to see if we can get it approved for next year. I think the students will connect with Peak’s story and be excited to read about his choices and their consequences in the camps at Mt. Everest. Has anyone else used this novel in school?

Peak is out in hardcover right now. I highly recommend it!

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