Friday, October 04, 2019

Book Project on A Tale of Magic

I'm all about instilling the love of reading in children and just letting children loose with books. However, there are some students who would never finish a book if there were no accountability. My school used to have Accelerated Reader, which I actually enjoyed. One nine weeks, I took tests on books and racked up 500 points. That's reading 100 books the size of Charlotte's Web. My own children liked this testing system, as long as their goals were reasonable (under 45 points for the nine weeks), and they weren't required to read "on their level", which was 12.9+ in middle school and therefore kind of impossible.

Most teachers and librarians hate AR. That's fine. We no longer have that system, so teachers assign projects. Students can read anything they want, fiction or nonfiction; the only requirement for this 8th grade project was that the book be 200 pages long and not be a graphic novel.

There were so many students in the library complaining about this project yesterday that I asked the teacher for the assignment sheet and did the project last night. I read a 481 page book that didn't particularly interest me. The students had about six weeks to complete the project. I also had to cook dinner and read two other books last night.

This was a completely reasonable and rather enjoyable project. I hope to present it to classes today and am curious to see what my grade will be. The link to the full Google Slide presentation is at the bottom.

Colfer, Chris. A Tale of Magic
October 1st 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public library copy

  •  Brystal Evergreen chafes at her restrictive life in Chariot Hills in the Southern Kingdom and longs to be educated. (Conflict 1)
  • An incident gets her sent to the Bootstrap Correctional Facility.
  • Madame Weatherby rescues her and lets her attend a magical school.
  • She is joined by students Xanthous, Emerelda, and Lucy.
  • The students identify areas in which they are magic and are trained.
  • Madame Weatherby is gone for a suspiciously long time, and things start to go wrong in the kingdom. (Conflict 2)
  • The students work to uncover the reasons for both events while defending their school’s existence. (Rising action)
  • Brystal realizes who is behind the war with the Northern Kingdom. (Climax)
  • Several crises are averted, and Brystal is able to enjoy her new life of magic. (Resolution)
Strengths of this Book:
  • This is an easy-to-follow, accessible fantasy book that has challenging but understandable vocabulary. Brystal’s quest for an education is a great “girl power” story.
  • The magical school is fun, and there are lots of details about it.
  • The plot moves along fairly quickly.
  • Many people like this author.
  • Quote I liked: “You will abolish the law prohibiting women from reading, joining libraries, or pursuing any profession they desire. Boys and girls can attend any school they wish, including the University of Law and the Chariot Hills School for Future Wives and Mothers.” (page 464)
Weaknesses of this Book:
  • The trope of kingdoms where magic is outlawed is overdone in middle grade literature.
  • The secondary characters are not well developed.
  • There is a lot of excessive, unnecessary description that makes this book long but doesn’t forward the plot.
  • “Magiclexia” is not the word that would be used for trouble with magic. It would be “dysmagica”.
  • There are many twee phrases and odd sentences.
  • “Holy plot twist,” Lucy said. “I’m a friggin’ fairy?” “The fairy screamed in agony, as if a creature was [should be were] trying to claw its way out from inside her.” Fabubblous Fizz
What I really think:
  • I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy this author or who like books about magical schools, even though I don’t like it myself. There are a lot of fantasy books, and this one did not have any fresh ideas, nor was it particularly well written. Three out of five unicorns.

See the Google Slide Presentation here:

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. You do have a tiny bit more experience assessing books than the 8th graders do :-). But I love that you did the project.

    Re: AR, I, too, would be fine with it it if my daughter didn't have to read "at her level." She's allowed to read up (which isn't all that useful b/c of content) but not to read easier books. I have a post about some things I've seen when the AR levels are forced next week.