Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nonbook items

Crash by Jerry Spinelli
Assignment: # 1 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Jeff Woodman
Publishing info.:New York: Recorded Books: c1996.
4 compact discs/4 hrs.
Genre: Coming of age, sports, bullying, friendship
Grades: 6 through 8.

This unabridged audio book of Spinelli’s novel Crash is as successful as the printed form. In Spinelli’s novel, Crash Coogan learns to see the world through the eyes of his neighbor who seems so oblivious to the abuse that Coogan heaps on him since almost the day they met. Narrator Jeff Woodman does a good job of narrating the story. Although I believe students should be reading more, I think there is a place for audio books in a collection and help further student’s interest in reading.

Holes by Louis Sachar
Assignment: # 2 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Kerry Beyer.
Publishing info.: New York: Listening Library: c1999.
4 compact discs/ 4 hrs., 37 mins.
Genre: Coming of age, tall tale, adventure, friendship
Grades: 5 through 8.

In the novel, Holes, Stanley Yelnats, can’t get any breaks. Falsely accused and arrested, he is sentenced to a juvenile detention center in the middle of a desert inappropriately named Camp Green Lake. The camp’s warden makes the boys dig holes in search of treasure. As fitting as his palindrome name, the story is a quirky one as it takes on issues like bullies, friendship, homelessness and self acceptance resembling the form of a tall tale. Although the offbeat characters might not come across as well as they do in the written form, the audio book is worth having. This audio unabridged version of the novel was one of the top sellers in 2004 for audiotapes for the visually impaired, and students with learning disabilities.

Small Steps by Louis Sachar
Assignment: # 3 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Curtis McClarin
Publishing info.: New York: Random House Audio: c2006.
5 compact discs/ 5 hrs., 12 mins.
Genre: Coming of age, teen problems, friendship, disabilities
Grades: 7 through 10.

This unabridged audio book is based on Sachar’s companion novel to Holes. Curtis McClarin narrates the story of Armpit, the teenage boy who is struggling with making the right choices after he returns home to Austin, TX. Armpit deals with uncaring parents, drugs and alcohol. The story is geared for an older audience than Holes with its rough language, romance, and unexpectedly harsh violence. Hearing Armpit’s story is a good balance to the original Holes. I liked the music at the beginning that draws you in as well. McClain is an accomplished actor and his skill is evident in this narration with his strong black male voice that lends weight and believability. The audio book is fairly well done, and should be included in a collection to continue to encourage reluctant readers, and students with learning and visual impairments.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
Assignment: # 4 of ten nonbook items
Publishing info.: Silver Spring, MD: Acorn Media.: c2003
DVD 90 min.
Genre: Theater
Grades: 10 through Adult.

In this DVD, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a three-man comedy troupe of Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor spoof William Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. For example, Othello is presented as a rap song, Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, and Hamlet is a goofy children’s puppet show. The delivery of these well-known plays in a vaudeville format is entertaining yet educational. The actors stay true to Shakespeare’s language. Although it isn’t essential to have read some of Shakespeare’s works, the DVD would be more useful as curriculum supplement if students have read at least some of the works mentioned to extend their appreciation.

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac
Assignment: # 5 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Carine Montbertrand
Publishing info.: New York: Recorded Books: c2004.
2 cassettes/2 hrs. 45 mins.
Genre: Mystery, ghost story
Grades: 5 through 8.

Molly wakes up one morning and discovers her parents didn’t return home from the previous night. Turned over to a great uncle she barely knows, Molly begins to have dreams about the Abenaki legend of the skeleton man. Molly tries to understand the significance of her dreams and whether they are warnings. What follows is a skillful blending of mystery and ghost story. Carine Montbertrand’s delivery is not as effective as reading the novel. The story does not seem as scary with her narration although she does narrate with a somewhat believable Canadian cadence and accent. More suited for reluctant readers.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Assignment: # 6 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Jim Dale
Publishing info.: New York: Listening Library: c2005.
17 compact discs/18 hrs., 34 mins.
Genre: Fantasy, friendship, sports, mystery, magic
Grades: 5 and up.

Like an effective jigsaw puzzle, this sixth book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series pulls together many of the pieces of plots from the earlier books. Jim Dale narrated all the characters in the previous Harry Potter audio book series. The consistency of using the same narrator is an added bonus. Very few could complain with his effective character development and his delivery. It is easy to distinguish between characters. Although the length of the unabridged version of audio book is considerable, Harry Potter fans will appreciate having an audio book for long trips. It actually might appeal more to adults who don’t have the time for sitting down to read, but could delve into the book while exercising.

Pastures of Plenty Woody Guthrie
Assignment: # 7 of ten nonbook items
Publishing Info.: London: Prism Leisure Corp.: c1998.
Genre: Music
Grades: 7 and up.

A collection of Woody Guthrie’s social commentary songs composed and performed about the struggles of the common man during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The CD is useful to supplement a unit on the Depression, or after reading The Grapes of Wrath. Copies of lyrics could be printed and used for discussion. Background on Guthrie should be included. Quality of sound track is very well done.

Clearwater Classics Pete Seeger
Assignment: # 8 of ten nonbook items
Publishing info.: New York: Sony Music Entertainment: c1993.
Genre: Music
Grades: 6 and up.

This CD has two traditional ballads, “Barbara Allen” and “Darlin Corey”, usually studied in a British Literature class that make this CD worth owning if you don’t care for Pete Seeger. Students can read the ballads out of the textbook and at least one other version before hearing these two recordings. The goal of the listening to these versions is to give students a better understanding of the elements of a ballad and hear one performed. They still have a haunting element to them.

Passport to Culture
Assignment: # 9 of ten nonbook items
Publishing info.:Parkland, FLA: H & H Global, Inc. c2003.
Genre: Educational, trivia board game
Grades: 6 through adult.

This is an educational game about world cultures. The objective for the game is for players to test their knowledge of world cultures, customs, traditions, language, and food while circling the world on the game board and collecting Passport Stamps. The goal is to earn all of the needed passport stamps in order to win the game. Additionally, each player learns their cultural IQ based on number of questions asked and the number of correct answers given. In the early stages of the game, fundamental information is provided as an introduction to more difficult questions. You can have up to six players for each game or play as teams. The game is priced at $29.95 which makes it pricey if you want to have an entire class participate in smaller groups. The board and question cards are similar to Trivial Pursuit size. Overall format with colors and maps are great. Some of the pieces are small and could easily be lost. Students really enjoy the game. Extends and reinforces world geography curriculum and current events and is a nice way to break from the routine.

10 Days in Europe
Assignment: # 10 of ten nonbook items
Publishing info.: Madison: Out of the Box Publishing: c2005.
Genre: Educational board game
Grades: 6 through Adult.

This board game is designed for 2- 4 players and lasts usually 20-40 minutes. The objective of the game is to chart a course across Europe. The first player to complete a ten day journey where each day connects to the following is the winner. The game has approximately 47 country tiles, one for each country in Europe except six countries that have two. Unfortunately, some small countries are omitted. However, it doesn’t limit the learning. The game includes transportation tiles that represent either air travel or ship travel across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Baltic. There are also connections possible between countries either by ferry or by foot. I like the size of the board and cards although they are smaller than most because they are easily manageable and necessary for game format. Graphics on cards are simple but appropriate. Additionally, this game is easily extended into longer learning opportunities. Students can use the format of the game and do their own presentation of ten days in Europe with additional research on cities, landmarks, customs, etc. Also, students could find a fiction, or even a nonfiction piece to read that takes place in one of the countries visited. The company also has 10 Days in Africa, and 10 Days in the USA. 10 Days in Asia is due this year. Each game costs $24.99 making it pricey for multiple sets... Well worth the cost though.

Oxford Dilemma
Assignment: # 11 of ten nonbook items
Publishing Info.:Toronto: Smartegg Games. c1998.
Genre: Strategy, trivia, spelling, and chance board game.
Grades: 7 through Adult.

Oxford Dilemma challenges players ages 12 and up in the following four categories: Geography, General, Famous and Science. Players must correctly define and spell a wide range of words with words varying in their level of difficulty and subject matter. The player who accumulates $10,000 or bankrupts all other players is the winner. However, it isn’t necessarily the person who is the most advanced speller who wins if he has be out maneuvered by his peers. The game comes with game board, seven playing pieces, 400 question cards, four category boxes, 48 credit/demerit cards, 26 alphabet cards, 18 wild/student loan/reference cards, paper money, and three dice. The game board resembles a Monopoly board but with a more Victorian appearance. Very attractive. Quite a few cards to keep track of is a concern. The game has two possible modes of play: Standard and Trivia. This is a fun diversion from spelling work, and requires students to think. A more sophisticated game and would really challenge younger students.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor Assignment: # 11 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Gerald Doyle
Publishing info.: New York: Scholastic Audiobooks: c2006. 7 compact discs/8 hrs., 41 min.
Genre: fantasy Grades: 7 and up.

Frank Beddor takes Lewis Carroll’s heroine, Alice and retells her story as if the story were true but misrepresented. Alyss, and her friend Hatter Madigan are forced to flee Wonderlandia after Alyss’s evil aunt, Redd, overthrows Alyss’s parents and begins her reign of terror. Unfortunately, as Alyss and Hatter flee through the Pool of Tears, she and Hatter find themselves separated by time and distance. Hatter proceeds to search for his young charge, and Alyss grows up near Oxford where her incredible story is turned into a misguided whimsical child’s tale. Alyss returns to her home and rallies her troops to try and defeat Aunt Redd. The narration of this story by Gerald Doyle was effective. He develops all the characters well and the sound effects were fitting. This retelling of an old classic and the delivery added to my anticipation to the following books in the trilogy.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
Assignment: # 12 of ten nonbook items
Narrated by Jeff Woodman
Publishing info.: New York: Recorded Books: c2003.
5 cassettes/6 hrs., 15 min. Genre: Murder mystery, contemporary realistic fiction, disabilities Grades: 9 and up.

I am not sure how long it would have taken me to read this book, but I enjoyed listening to it and ended up picking up the book so I could compare. I have had the book for some time and avoided reading it I think largely because the subject matter didn’t appeal to me at first glance. How wrong I was to judge a book on a short abstract. The story follows fifteen-year old Christopher Boone who has Asperger’s Syndrome as he solves the mystery of the neighbor’s murdered dog and discovers more personal truths. The journey Christopher undergoes is incredible yet painful. Woodman’s narration and Christopher’s characterization adds to the success of this audio book. What I did miss is the absence of the math problems that are in the original book which I think could be given to students to try and solve. I was taking a class on gifted education as I was listening to this audio and I ended up suggesting that others in my class read it as well.

No comments: