Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cartoon Saturday: Notebook Novels

22573833Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate Lives it Up (#7)
March 10th 2015 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen

Nate is approached by Principal Nichols to be "buddies" with new kid Breckenridge, who looks kind of familiar. Nte, of course, has a ton of other stuff going on, and isn't liking Breckinridge very much-- he draws, but only pictures of flora, and he's just kind of wimpy and whiny. He's devoted to Nate, though, since Nate kept him from the school bullies. Nate's school, which is in a bad state of repair, is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the librarian has given Nate a journal written by a girl who attended the school at the time-- and it's illustrated in a style not unlike Nate's comics. Not only does Nate manage to figure out from where he has known Breckridge and make his peace with him, his group finds a way to get the repairs the school needs.
Strengths: While my students like the pictures in the Big Nate books, I appreciate that the stories are just pleasant, realistic stories with some really funny writing. I can see why students are so relieved when there is a new volume out. Loved the "vintage" cartoon style in Edna's journal! They are definitely middle school books, though, and not really elementary ones, with the touches of romance and general attitude.
Weaknesses: Stereotypical bullies and stereotypical wimpy kid? Meh. I do like that the teachers have more facets to their personalities most of the time. I also saw the source of funding the moment it appeared, but students may not. Awful bindings give these an extremely short life span.
What I really think: Wish these were more popular than Wimpy Kid. And had better bindings!

So, I have a lot of reluctant readers this year, for a variety of reasons. There are some English Language Learners who want to read The Lightning Thief like everyone else, but can barely make it through the Carter High books. I have some students in an autism spectrum unit who fixate on certain things that their teacher is trying to steer them away from, trying to get them to read fiction instead of only nonfiction, for example. There are some students who just refuse, for reasons I have yet to determine, to read books that don't have pictures. It's really, really hard to keep checking out the same Big Nate books to the students AFTER I spend five minutes offering all manner of alternatives (Stan and the Toilet Monster-- who can turn that down?)

There's a fine line between students who want Notebook Novels, and those who need them. The students who are reading on grade level don't have a problem getting through Origami Yoda books or the graphic novel of The Red Pyramid. Both of those are challenging, so these students are easy to redirect to the vast majority of middle grade books that, oddly enough, don't have pictures.

For students who find reading difficult, I've been turning to series like Holm's Babymouse and Squish, Vernon's Dragonbreath, Watson's Stick Dog, and Krosoczka's Lunch Lady books. I'm constantly on the lookout for books that work for both groups of students.

This wasn't one of them. I thought the goofy aspects would be good, but there is FAR too much text for my reluctant readers, and it's a bit on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line for my stronger readers. The search continues.

Pallace, Chris and Serwacki, Kevin. Joey and Johnny, The Ninjas: Get Mooned
31 March 2015,March 31st 2015 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Description from
Joey and Johnny, the Ninjas: Get Mooned is the first book in a clever, insanely funny, and highly entertaining illustrated series about two best friends and ninjas-in-training, perfect for fans of the Origami Yoda series.

Joey and Johnny are best friends, but they could not be more different. Joey follows all the rules. Johnny doesn't know what rules are. Joey is strategic. Johnny leaves everything up to chance. Joey is serious. Johnny is . . . well, he carries a clown hammer and wears a dooly-bopper on his head. But there is something these two boys have in common: They are ninjas. And they're both students at Kick Foot Academy, the premier ninja school in Lemming Falls.

But Kick Foot Academy's reputation is about to be put to the test. Their rivals at Red Moon Clan have mysteriously come into possession of state-of-the-art weapons--something that is totally not ninja. And now they have challenged Kick Foot Academy to a Test of Three, culminating in an epic Battle Royal. The outcome will determine which ninja school reigns supreme . . . and which shuts down forever.

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