Thursday, May 30, 2019

Great Moments with Alex Rider

People often ask me what my favorite book is. That's a hard question. Over the last twenty years as a middle school librarian, I've probably read 10,000 middle grade novels. It's not as important what MY favorite book is. The essential question is this: What book do I most like to hand to my students?

Without a doubt, it is Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker (2001). Out of the ten copies I have, there are usually only one or two available. I stocked up because what if it went out of print? This is my go to title for everyone because it has it all-- action, humor, adventure, strategy, mystery. Over the last fifteen years, Stormbreaker has circulated 1,725 times! This is spread over about twenty copies, because they often fall apart or get lost. 

In 2005, right after I read Scorpia and was pretty sure that Alex had perished, I traveled to England and was in the book department at Harrods in London. I was buying some Jacqueline Wilson books for Picky Reader when I saw a shiny gold book by Horowitz, Ark Angel. Alex lived! I bought a copy and loaned it to students until it was finally published. They were thrilled to be the "only" people in the US to read the book!

Back in 2006, I sent a filled up circulation card to Mr. Horowitz, telling him how much my students had enjoyed his book, and he sent a very gracious letter back where he said "I have never pretended that I write great literature, but I do try to write well and I very much hope that the young people in your library will move on from Alex Rider to discover the many talented writers that are around right now." This seemed so wrong that I wrote back to tell him how wrong he was, and he again replied!

I still have those letters, and I let occasional students hold them and read them. You would think I let them handle the Dead Sea Scrolls!

When my daughter was in middle school, she was one of my library helpers. She worked with a boy on whom she had an enormous crush, and she was thrilled when he read Stormbreaker on her recommendation. When the movie came out, she asked him to go see it, and I got to drive them!

In 2010, my principal told me a story about a fight that almost occurred while students were waiting for the buses-- two boys were arguing about whether Snakehead or Crocodile Tears was better!

Stormbreaker has been a Battle of the Books selection, and it's always a favorite. I just assume that all of my 8th graders have read it, since I recommend it so much. My favorite moment is when I recommend the book to a student, and several other students in the area chime in with "Oh, yeah, that was fantastic!"

Since Penguin Random House sent me a copy before publication, I was able to have two of my students read it at the very end of this school year, and we had long conversations about the books; this is the ultimate thrill for school librarians!

The new Secret Weapon was so good that I bought a copy for myself, so that when I am old and infirm, young whippersnappers can read it to me and we can both be entertained. But really, I should also have a copy of Stormbreaker with me. When I am old and addled and relieving my past, I will need to be able to hand this book to visitors whom I imagine are students asking me for a great book to read. 

Visit the other hosts for the Kids Know Best Blogger Campaign!


PART ONE: Theodore Boone: The Accomplice

May 6 – InRandom – Review
May 7 – Homeschool on the Range – Novel Study
May 8 – Min Reads and Review – Spotlight
May 9 – Picture Books to YA – Listicle: Non-fiction books + TV Shows for kids who are interested in law

May 13 – Reading Corner for All – Crossword/Word Search + Review  
May 14 – Two Points of Interest – Review
May 15 – Homeschool by the Beach – Creative Instagram Picture
May 16 – Little Homeschool on the Prairie – Review

PART TWO: Alex Rider: The Secret Weapon

May 20 – Createexploreread – Creative Instagram Picture
May 21 – Alohamora Open a Book – Review + Playlist
May 22 – Somethewiser – Review + Video Clip
May 23 – Lost in Storyland – Listicle: Teenage Spy Survival Guide

May 27 – @gobletoffiction – Creative Instagram Picture + Review
May 28 – Randomly Reading – Review
May 29 – Amanda Seghetti – Creative Instagram Picture  
May 30 – Ms. Yingling Reads – Memorable Moments in Alex Rider History


  1. I love to hear how the kids are so excited about a book--I'm a huge fan of Alex Rider too. Inspiring, thanks for sharing.

  2. My first Alex Rider read was Mount Blanc. I had been unaware of the first and that ambiguous ending absolutely thrilled me. I went back and read Stormbreaker and was hooked. It is very rare when I read every book in a series. If it takes off, I usually add it to the shelves and let the kids know. Not so with Alex. Horowitz, for all his fame, is quite down-to-earth and gracious. Thanks for the review.

  3. I'm coming late to this party but I have just now checked out Stormbreaker. (had to wit to get it!) I can't believe I haven't read it all these years. Thanks for lighting the fire under me!