Monday, October 30, 2017

MMGM- Halloween

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

32940894Brown, Monica. Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream (#6)
July 3rd 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Lola and her brother Ben are gearing up for Halloween. Their school, in the way of the 2000s, is studying apples and pumpkins and planning on having all costumes for the school parade be literature based, so the two are working with their father to design original costumes. Lola really wants to scare people, but learns an important message about listening to her friends when she scares one who gets very upset with her. Lola also goes trick or treating, but her parents make her turn in all of her candy to them. When Lola discovers that her mother has been eating the candy, the family throws all of it away so that they can all be healthy.
Strengths: These books are great for my struggling 6th graders. They are just the right length and level of text complexity, and address issues that even 6th graders must navigate. The parents are great examples, Lola is exuberant and often acts without thinking, but is gently redirected in positive ways and makes her amends. This series is a must purchase for all elementary schools and middle schools with a population of struggling readers.
Weaknesses: The parents throw away the candy. I just can't get past that. Yes, I understand that we no longer celebrate Halloween in schools. But I HATE Halloween, and I just want to be one of those grumpy old people who don't turn on their porch lights. If children are going to throw away the microwave popcorn I give them, I might as well. I'm not putting a teal pumpkin on my porch, but at least the popcorn is pretty much allergen free. Although full of chemicals. There's no winning.
What I really think: Fantastic book for the target demographic. Just makes old people who had completely politically incorrect childhoods a bit sad!

34068441Segel, Jason and Miller, Kirsten. Everything You Need to Know about Nightmares! and How to Defeat Them
September 12th 2017 by Delacorte Press
Copy provided by the publisher

In this companion to the Nightmares! trilogy, a hodgepodge of supplementary material is presented. There are pictures and descriptions of various nightmare entities, listing of their strengths and weaknesses, and Pro Tips on how to deal with them. There are also very short stories involving the characters from the books and how they had to deal with the beings. Additional accompaniments include recipes, fun facts, and room in the back for field notes. Beings are divided into broad categories including Chasers, Extraterrestrials, and Lurkers and Stalkers, and many others.

This was a well designed book, and I liked the layout of the pages. Fans of the series will take great glee in reading about how to deal with the creatures that they find most fearsome.

Just in time for Halloween, Everything You Need to Know about Nightmares! and How to Defeat Them is a great book for fans of Betty Ren Wright, Mary Downing Hahn, Peg Kehret and WIllo Davis Roberts, and might come in handy if readers have a particularly vicious chupacabra loose in their room when the lights are turned out!

Mini Rant:
You know what pisses me off? Not Accelerated Reader, but people who have their shorts completely in a bunch about Accelerated Reader. It is not the PROGRAM that effects a child's love of reading, but the way the program is implemented. Trust me, my children were the ones reading Harry Potter in the second grade and finding it hard to locate books "on their level" because they were at level 12.9+ when they were 8. In every case where we had any problem at all, the teachers were more than happy to modify the requirements as long as they knew that my children were reading.

HOWEVER, the VAST majority of my students have apparently never been required to finish a chapter book. This year has been very frustrating. The sixth graders only want to read Smile and Drama again and again and again, and the 8th graders spend more time starting at the soles of their shoes than reading. Nudging these children with a very modest AR goal to actually finish a book, and to learn time management in order to get the required points, is not an unreasonable request. In fact, once they are "forced" to read books (and the choice is still hugely vast-- maybe not the very newest books, but if a high school student could read, for example, Reynold's Long Way Down, he could still pick up Volponi's Black and White, which is similar and just as good.), they often find that reading isn't so bad.

Accelerated Reader is also very helpful with middle school students who are reading at 2nd and 3rd grade levels. I never force children to pick certain books on certain levels, but when a student can't understand a book and fails test after test, this tells me that the choices are too hard or too long. Reading for pleasure doesn't help academics if they students can't understand what they are reading! AR helps to scaffold successful books until students are able to read books that are an appropriate length and level.

So yeah, it's the politically correct thing to do to complain about AR. If you don't like it, don't use it. If it doesn't work for your child, talk to your child's teacher NICELY. It works for my students because the teachers with whom I work are reasonable people who use tools at their disposal wisely. I have never once had a student tell me that AR made them hate reading, although there have been a few parents who have drunk the Anti-AR Kool Aid who have complained. Honestly, their children were ones who were successful anyone, and generally just rolled their eyes at their parents' histrionics.


  1. No apologies here. I have a big bowl of candy ready for tomorrow night. One of my favorite events. This book is also one I know of about a dozen sixth graders who would lining up to read. Thanks for the the heads-up.

  2. Thanks for this! It's helpful to hear another perspective. And constructive to think that one may be able to speak to teachers or librarians (without histrionics) about changes if needed. I shall endeavor to not be the parent who makes my child roll her eyes. But I will be watching the impact of the program carefully.

  3. I really appreciated hearing your views on Accelerated Reading as it could be helpful to many parents. Great Halloween choices. It's a great idea to give out popcorn! Never thought of that!

  4. It's interesting to hear your perspective, Karen. We didn't use AR at my school, but I know that different programs fit different needs. Thanks for the book reviews, too.

  5. Karen, you and I have EARNED the right to be grumpy old people. And say, "We got candy at Halloween and turned out all right." Although, our parents would dole out how much we could have per day and made sure sure we got outside and did more than stare at screens all day. (Oh, that felt good!) Anyway, I agree with Greg that I enjoy having all the little neighborhood goblins come to our door and we always have a big bowl of candy available. And my daughter, who is out of school for a teacher workday) is at the house now with a friend carving a pumpkin. As long as Halloween is fun and not full of the gory and gruesome stuff that you see everywhere, I'm all for it.

  6. The whole AR thing has been really fascinating for a non-teacher (and non-American) to follow - I'm not all that familiar with the program, but it does seem to have inspired some very passionate responses.

  7. Throwing Halloween candy away!!!
    We love Halloween at our house. I love that all I have to do is purchase candy to give away. It's much less stressful than all the other holidays of the year. Plans for costumes would start as soon as September hit. Thankfully, it was my husband who did most of the work, and I just had to do the odd bit of sewing. The problem in our house now is that my sons and partner get into the candy before the day. Then they have to go and refill the coffers.

  8. Shoot!! I forgot to take that Lola Levine out! I have not had kids check that series out really at all, so that one got buried. It's a series I need to do more promoting of because like you said, I really like it too and think it's great for many different readers.

  9. Both of these books sound really fun! I also enjoyed the “mini-rant!” Thanks so much for the post!