Tag Archives: boys read

It’s a secret!

In The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis, an unlikely group of kids form an alliance based on their passion for science and inventing.  I was lost in the graphic novel’s intricate illustration that reminded me of a Where’s Waldo or I Spy book.  The reader was not on a hunt, searching for a to do list of artifacts, but instead buried in pictures that tell their own story.

Julian Calendar, the main character, is a gifted boy who just moved to a new school.  He does not want to be known as the stereotypical nerd, so he hides his sponge-like brain from his classmates at his new school.  From a teaching standpoint there are a plethora of opportunities for teaching about identity and bullying.  Unfortunately for Julian, his giftedness does not go unnoticed.  Two unlikely nerdy classmates send Julian an encrypted code and it isn’t long before he is solving a “polyalphabetic cipher.”  Julian meets Ben, “a dumb jock,” and Greta, “a dangerous maniac.”  The three of them form a team with codenames, passwords, logos, and decoder rings!  Look out! THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE is formed!  They hold their meetings in a doghouse with an elevator that drops below ground to a hidden basement.  The illustrations cleverly show cutaway pictures with map keys and legends.

My favorite illustration from the book:

(click to enlarge)

Julian, Ben, and Greta are smart kids.  Together they face an evil character and solve the crime with no violence!  This is a rarity today and provides a great book recommendation for middle grade students.  Sidekicks has a wait list in my classroom library.  I am glad to have a graphic novel to suggest as an alternative!

Reviews from the experts:

★“This heaping helping of fun recalls the gee-whiz wonderment of Johnny Quest cartoons and, hopefully, paves the way for a whole new generation of bright, can-do kids in smart, edifying adventures.” –Booklist, starred review

★“Davis’s first (of many, one hopes) graphic adventure of the SSA pumps new life into the kids’-secret-society formula. With its bounty of factlets slipped in for learning on the sly, it’s a sure kid and teacher pleaser—a perfect package for tweens.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★“Everything about this very original story works. The ebullient characters are well-defined and well-designed; dramatic tension rises and falls at just the right pace; dialogue is snappy, funny and real; and the art is stunning.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

About the Author:

Eleanor Davis also wrote Stinky, her first children’s book, which she received a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor award.  The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is her first full-length graphic novel.

I encourage readers to check-out The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

by Eleanor Davis from their school or local library.

Support your neighborhood and independent bookseller whenever possible.

sidekicks make great superheros

What do you get when you pair animals and superheroes? A wonderfully illustrated graphic novel by Dan Santat, titled Sidekicks.  This was my first graphic novel and surely will not be my last.  I was pleasantly surprised by the intricate, detailed drawings and the concise, unique word choice.  I learned a lot about the format of a graphic novel by spending a great deal of time reading the illustrations.  I often flipped back through the book “re-reading” details in the illustrations.

SidekicksSidekicks is told from the perspective of a superhero, Captain Amazing, and his four pets.   Captain Amazing is the protector of Metro City, but he is getting old fighting crime until the wee hours of the night.  Tragedy strikes when he meets an unfortunate fate with a local peanut vendor.  I immediately learned  the importance of not only reading the words, but also reading the illustrations.  In the first few pages, the superhero is struck by a peanut allergy that is cleverly illustrated in one of the frames of the graphic novel.   His four pets realize he is aging and could benefit from a superhero sidekick.  All of the pets are feeling neglected by Captain Amazing’s busy crime-fighting routine, so they decide to compete for a spot as the faithful sidekick.

Fluffy, the hamster, and Roscoe the dog, are annoyed by the unexpected arrival of Shifty, the chameleon.  Shifty is the newest member of the family shipped to the home in a giant box.  Fluffy seeks out Manny, an old family cat, living on the dark streets and alleys of Metro City.  The four pet “siblings” unusual adventures transpire as the pets try to fight off Captain Amazing’s nemesis, Dr. Havoc.  If you are curious about what happens next, be sure to read Sidekicks by Dan Santat.  I do not think any reader will be disappointed!

I enjoyed many book trailers of Sidekicks and really struggled to pick just one to post.  I narrowed it down to two trailers that I think would appeal to many young readers, as well as teachers, parents, and librarians.

I encourage readers to check-out Sidekicks by Dan Santat from their school or local library.

Support your neighborhood and independent bookseller whenever possible.

graphic novels: getting kids hooked on books

What is a graphic novel?

In the past few years, graphic novels have become increasingly popular among students.  I am interested in learning more about graphic novels, but find that I am reluctant to read them on my own.  However, before I started reading a graphic novel I wanted to have a more in-depth understanding.  I realized that this is not a literature genre, but a format for how a book is written.  Each graphic novel fits into one genre or may overlap across multiple genres.  In order to get the most from the reading experience, it is important to know some of the vocabulary terms, elements, and structures of a graphic novel.

Many of the panels or frames of the graphic novel come together to tell the entire story.  If you were to flip through the pages of the graphic novel it would look very much like a comic strip format.  A graphic novel uses sequential art to tell a story.  The panels or frames contain information about a scene or a character.  Many times, there are minimal or no words in a frame and the reader is required to make their own meaning by “reading” the picture.  If there are words, they are written in speech bubbles, thought bubbles, or captions.  Obviously, speech bubbles represent the characters speech and thought bubbles represent the characters thoughts.  However, if a reader takes a closer look he or she might notice the speech bubbles in bold represent the character shouting or speech bubbles with a dotted outline represent the reader whispering.  The captions are often more detailed, helping to set the time and place of the story.  The most exciting feature of the text is sound effects.  The reader might see visual sound clues such as “briiiiiiing” to represent a bell ringing or “whoosh” to represent something speeding by.  A few other text features might be: ‘z’ to show a character is sleeping, musical notes drawn around speech bubbles indicate singing, light bulbs indicate an idea or a solution to a problem, and storm clouds with lightning depicts anger.

Capstone Press and Stone Arch Books have a variety of resources for your classroom.  I found this pdf to be very beneficial in researching graphic novels and writing this blog post.  This video is a little bit of a commercial for Capstone Press, but also informative in understanding the basics and the writing process behind graphic novels.

Graphic novels are fun, engaging, and challenging.  The key to successfully reading a graphic novel is paying very close attention to detail.

I have read a few titles this summer that I will be adding to my classroom library.  I hope these books will be appealing to readers in my classroom because they are quick, easy reads.  Also, all of these books are a part of a series and have interactive websites!  I love this for some of my more reluctant readers!  Let’s get those kids hooked on some books!  Please share your thoughts on graphic novels.  Are you comfortable using them in the classroom?  If you do, what are some of your tips?  Do you have a favorite author/illustrator, series, title?

I encourage readers to check-out graphic novels from their school or local library.

Support your neighborhood and independent bookseller whenever possible.

read you must

One of my summer goals is to read more books that appeal to boy readers.  In my quest to accomplish this, I read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger.  I read both of these books along with a boy I am tutoring that is entering fifth grade in the fall.  We both agreed these books are entertaining and humorous stories that could really happen!  The characters learn a lot about themselves, friendship, and accepting differences.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a novel, written in a semi-journal format, about a unique boy who makes an origami Yoda finger puppet.  Tommy narrates the opening and closing of the book.  He also gives a running commentary, at the end of each chapter, along with Harvey, an Origami Yoda naysayer.  Each chapter of the book is written from the perspective of a different character.  All of the characters attend the same middle school and deal with typical middle school problems.  Some characters find Origami Yoda to be Jedi-wise, while other characters find him to be completely annoying.  The best part about Origami Yoda, in my opinion, is he is a finger puppet being controlled by Dwight, an outcast amongst his peers.  Would you listen to Origami Yoda’s advice?  Do you think Origami Yoda is real or a finger puppet?

The sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is Darth Paper Strikes Back.  This book follows the story of Origami Yoda, Dwight, Tommy and Harvey along with other students at McQuarrie Middle School.  In a similar twist to the darkness of Darth Vader, Darth Paper becomes a rival to Dwight and his Origami Yoda.  Harvey’s Darth Paper is a bully.  He says mean things and helps in getting Dwight and Origami Yoda in a great deal of trouble.  Will the students at McQuarrie be able to help save Dwight and Origami Yoda?  Who’s side would you be on: Dwight and Origami Yoda OR Harvey and Darth Paper?  I guess you will have to read to find out…

If you are curious about origami, making an Origami Yoda or Darth Paper is a great place to start!  Tom Angleberger narrates an excellent video on just how to make your own Origami Yoda

and Darth Paper.

Coming soon, book #3!  August 7, 2012 The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

Do you have a favorite author or book you like to recommend to boy readers?  Please share!  I am always looking to add to my “someday” book list!

For more details, visit Tom Angleberger’s website.  I am looking forward to reading more of his books!

I encourage reader’s to check-out Tom Angleberger books from their school or local library.

Support your neighborhood and independent bookseller whenever possible.