Croak - Book Review for Teachers


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As part of my Masters class, I had to read a young adult book and create a presentation. This is the review of Croak with a bent towards teachers and the use of it in the classroom.

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Croak - Book Review for Teachers

  1. 1. Croak By Gina Damico
  2. 2. 4/2/2014 Copyright 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Book Talk By Sherri Haggard 2 Young Adult Booktalk Poster Academic Honesty Statement I have read and understand the UTAAcademic Honesty clause as follows. “Academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form at The University of Texas at Arlington. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University. “Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts.” (Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3, Subsection 3.2., Subdivision 3.22).” Further, I declare that the work being submitted for this assignment is my original work (e.g., not copied from another student or copied from another source) and has not been submitted for another class. – Sherri Haggard
  3. 3. Background information: • I have taught in both Pre-K and middle school special needs and ESL classrooms. My Pre-K classes were both students with severe and profound disabilities and inclusion. They all were ESL as well. When I taught middle school, I taught inclusion students, ESL, and at-risk students. Currently, I am tutoring pre-k students. I am seeking the Master Reading Teacher certification. • I use trade books exclusively in my classroom. Whether I am teaching middle school or pre- k, I have found poetry and trade books work wonders. I have a classroom library where students can pick books to read during class, public and school library books where students need permission to read, and a selection of books students can “check out.” Students are more engaged and enjoy reading them better than textbooks. • Unfortunately, I have observed many middle school teachers and very few trade books are used. Additionally, when trade books are used, it is only in English class. While I have found students are more engaged in trade books they are not used in History. This is sad because students have responded to historical books. Spooky Theme: Copyright 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 3
  4. 4. Damico, Gina. (2012) Croak. Boston, Massachusetts : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 4 Find it on Amazon: Nominated for YALSA 2013 Teens‟ Top Ten Paperback: 320 pages ISBN-10: 0547608322
  5. 5. Library of Congress Information LC control no.: 2011017125 LCCN permalink: Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.) Personal name: Damico, Gina. Main title: Croak / Gina Damico. Published/Created: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Description: 311 p. ; 21 cm. ISBN: 9780547608327 5
  6. 6. Gina Damico On her website, students, teachers, and fans can find out more about the author, her books, scheduled events, browse fan art and contact her. Gina Damico continues her playful spirit by adding a Frequently Asked Questions and Their Long Winded Answer (FAQTLWAP). Here you find all sorts of information about the author and her books. 6 She shares answers such questions like: • Did you have the plot of the entire trilogy planned out from the start? • What do Yoricks taste like? • What‟s with the jellyfish?
  7. 7. Website Reviews Barnes and Nobles - damico/1104324420?ean=9780547608327 Barnes and Nobles gives the book 4 ½ stars. Readers rave about the book calling it “dark and delicious.” Other reviewers say “This is not your run of the mill YA book” and “The book was brillant and exciting.” Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly starts off the review with “In this spirited (no pun intended) debut, Damico playfully explores the nature of life and the afterlife.” Then continues on with a quick recap of the book. School Library Journal - adults-15/ School Library Journal recaps the story of Lex and how her change of behavior is an indicator of the family business. Tyler L., age 12 says “it‟s a great read.” They do mention it is not appropriate for younger readers because of the death scenes. 7
  8. 8. Croak Summary Lex is a troubled girl who finds herself bashing the heads of everyone she meets. She has fought with nearly every other child in school including the boys. At 16, she has already gotten the reputation as a fighter and the nickname “Tyrannosaurus Lex.” However, even Lex cannot understand her outburst because up until a few years ago, she was a model student along with her twin sister Cordy. Biting a student was the straw that broke the camel‟s back. Her parents, who have resorted to tying Lex to the chair, have decided enough is enough. Over the summer, Lex will spend time working on her uncle Mort‟s farm. As soon as school ends, Lex boards the bus to Uncle Mort‟s farm and the adventure begins. Uncle Mort is not a farmer, he is a grim as in grim reaper. He volunteered his “farm” because Lex was showing signs she would go into the family business of death!
  9. 9. Croak Summary (Continued) Once Lex arrives at the town of Croak with her uncle Mort, everything begins to unfold. She meets a cute boy named Diggs who not only lives with her but will be her partner as well. Diggs takes Lex around and meets all the other teens in Croak. Croak is a different town than most. Everyone there is in the business of death thus the name Croak. The puns run rampant with Croak, Diggs, Mort and numerous other names which are humorously puny. Soon, Lex finds out she is a Killer and her partner Diggs is a Catcher. With black hoodies as the uniform and scythes in their hand, the two team up to transport the dead from death to afterlife. As a Killer, Lex touches the dead to release the soul and Diggs catches the soul to take to the afterlife. From the very first death, Lex learns two things.
  10. 10. Croak Summary (Continued) Lex learns touching people gives her quite a shock and this is not normal for Killers. She also learns she cannot go around avenging the deaths of people she kills. Both of these issues become a problem for Lex and is the basis of the trilogy. How and if she can handle these problems poses threats to her time in Croak. If she cannot resolve the issues, then she could be kicked out never to return to the city with her mind completely wiped.
  11. 11. Personal Response Croak is a page turning book, which keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you love a good pun, then this book will be perfect for you. Everything in this book is a pun for death which makes me chuckle with each new place. I love how Gina names the city Croak and the stores have names like Dead Weight, Big Sleep, Bucket Kickers and Bought the Farm. This book is particularly good for anyone liking series. Technology a trilogy, the book starts you off right and ends with a massive cliffhanger. I love reading books by the same author especially when it is a series. Authors like Eoin Colfer of the Artemis Fowl series and Herbie Brennan of the Faerie War series make up some of my favorite young adult literature. Artemis Fowl is such a good series my friend named her son after Artemis. Map of Croak is from the book
  12. 12. Personal Response Series let you jump into books, discover the author and learn about the character more than single books. If you love the book, you get the satisfaction of reading more and knowing you will like the next book before you even start. If you do not like the book, then you know not to read the rest, which prevents you from wasting time and effort on a book you just don‟t like. The best part of the book is not the puns or even the series. The best part is the strange twist Damico does with the teens of Croak. She takes the messed up, delinquent children without families and gives them all a positive future. The delinquents in “regular” life find each other and discover they have
  13. 13. Word of Caution While Croak will be loved and devoured by many teenagers, I cannot recommend this book for whole class reading. Lex is a “Killer” with the power to “Damn Souls.‟ Obviously, this would be deemed inappropriate for some readers. The book does not go into detail but does refer to teens sex and sexuality. Additionally, the book has strong language which cannot be said in the classroom. The language is nothing more than a student would here watching cable but I would advise students and parents about the contents of the book before allowing students to read the book for my class. Amazon rates this book as 12 and up but I believe this is a bit low. Lex is 16, which I believe is closer to the appropriate age rating.
  14. 14. Justification for Use “We connect what we reading in the book to what we encounter in our daily lives.” (Burke, p. 153) Many at-risk students will connect to the characters in this book. They will understand how it feels to be on the outside of society and how finding those who are like you can change everything just as Lex changed when she met the other teens in Croak. Additionally, the dark humor of the book is strikingly different than traditional books found in the classroom. Happy endings, fairy tales, and other “feel good” books run rampant in the libraries of many teachers. Taking a humorous look at the problems students struggle with and even death itself, will be a welcome relief for students tired of the hum-drum Babysitter Club and Hardy Boy mysteries. Students are more engaged when they have choice. (Routman, p. 177) Having this book as a choice will broaden not only the library but students‟ minds as well.
  15. 15. Justification for Use Students (especially my at-risk students) go through hard times. Foster homes and runaways are nothing new to my students. And the way Dimaco makes Lex feel like an outsider for coming from a happy family is just what some of my students need. Feeling like outsiders and being labeled as such in school can become too much. Somehow, Dimaco flips the switch and makes Lex the outsider with all the messed up kids normal. Students connecting with the characters makes the assignment more meaningful therefore, allowing students to learn more(Routman, p.142)
  16. 16. Web Based Links • Gina Damico‟s Facebook - Students can talk to the author, find out what she is writing, and find out where she will be touring. • Gina Damico‟s Twitter - Students can have real time conversations with the author asking anything from questions about her book to what she is doing now. • Fanfiction - Fan fiction is a great way for students to connect with other fans, read fan‟s stories and create their own stories involving the characters of Croak, Scorch or Rogue. Pitcure by:
  17. 17. Web Based Links At-risk teens go through a lot of emotional turmoil many do not know how to deal with anger, divorce, abuse, death, drugs a wide variety of other emotions. Croak touches on these issues and may bring up feelings teens are not ready to deal with. Other books on the subject can be helpful to encourage students to explore their feelings and learning how to deal with them. - How Can I Deal with My Anger - This site is full of advice for teens. It explains what a teen is feeling and appropriate ways to deal with the feelings. Additionally, it talks about stess, coping with stress, abuse and dealing with fighting parents.
  18. 18. English Language Arts and Reading 8th Grade §110.25. English Language Arts and Reading, Reading • (5) The student reads texts to find information on self-selected and assigned topics. Self-selecting a book of their choice, students will read the book with the intent to gather information to share with the class. The assigned topic will be the same for everyone. “Would you recommend this book to a classmate? Why or why not?” • (B) locate appropriate print and non-print information using text and technical resources; • (D) communicate information gained from reading Students will use the book to present a well thought out and persuasive argument based on the assigned topic. They will site passages from the book. They may also site information the gleaned from the author‟s website, twitter, or Facebook account along with any personal communication with the author. • (C) organize and record new information in systematic ways to develop notes, charts, and graphic organizers; • (F) use text organizers such as overviews, headings, and graphic features to locate and categorize information. Students will take notes while reading the book and communicating with the author to present to the class at an appointed time. Students will make a Power Point to assist their presentation.
  19. 19. English Language Arts Writing 8th Grade §110.20. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 8, Beginning with School Year 2009-2010. (14) Writing/Writing Process. Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text (B) develop drafts by choosing an appropriate organizational strategy (e.g., sequence of events, cause-effect, compare- contrast) and building on ideas to create a focused, organized, and coherent piece of writing; (C) revise drafts to ensure precise word choice and vivid images; consistent point of view; use of simple, compound, and complex sentences; internal and external coherence; and the use of effective transitions after rethinking how well questions of purpose, audience, and genre have been addressed; (D) edit drafts for grammar, mechanics, and spelling; and (E) revise final draft in response to feedback from peers and teacher and publish written work for appropriate audiences. Prior to presenting the Power Point to the class, students will take notes, create an outline of intended topic and create a Power Point. Students will also be given time to revise and edit the presentation to suit the audience and to add images, sounds or transitions.
  20. 20. English Language Arts Listening/Speaking 8th Grade §110.20. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 8, Beginning with School Year 2009-2010. (26) Listening and Speaking/Listening. Students will use comprehension skills to listen attentively to others in formal and informal settings. Students will continue to apply earlier standards with greater complexity. (27) Listening and Speaking/Speaking. Students speak clearly and to the point, using the conventions of language. Students will continue to apply earlier standards with greater complexity. Students are expected to advocate a position using anecdotes, analogies, and/or illustrations, and use eye contact, speaking rate, volume, enunciation, a variety of natural gestures, and conventions of language to communicate ideas effectively. Students present the Power Point to their classmates with the expectation demonstrating all the aspects of good communication listed in (27). The audience is expected to listen attentively and give appropriate feedback to the speaker.
  21. 21. Classroom Application – Pre-Reading Following the Common Core Standards Domain: Literature presented by Burke students will be asked to review/think about the following: (175) • Preview the text considering the title, images and/or quotes. • Make predictions on the story • Determine a purpose question (PQ) • Consider how they will read the book in light of the PQ and how they will be expected to take notes, write a brief review and present the book as a Power Point.
  22. 22. Classroom Application – During Reading While students are reading their chosen book, students are asked to take notes. The focus of the notes are to support their ideas to an audience who has not read the book. This is designed to get students thinking about audience. Routman stated students “need to focus first on authentic writing of whole text for a read audience.” (149) The unit plan is roughly based on the Persuasive Writing by Routman. (330-335) The lesson plan is elevated to an 8th grade level and covers a longer extent of time. Additionally, a read-aloud is no appropriate because students will be reading a variety of books. However, sustained silent reading, sustained silent writing, establishing editing expectations, revising, editing, editing conferences, and publication will be used. The unit plan is also based on Overview of Reading Fiction. (Burke, p.175) It includes: • Reading with your PQ in mind • Ask questions during the story • What does the main character want more than anything? • How is the story organized?
  23. 23. Classroom Application – Post Writing Similar to a literacy circle, students will present a persuasive Power Point to discuss their views on the book (Burke (218), Hadaway (20)). This is backed by research by giving students authentic ways to read, discuss, and talk about their book. (Harste, Short, & Burke, 1988) Nystrand agrees that discussion “significantly enhanced [student] performance.” The importance of discussing a book was also echoed in the research by Langer and Close (201.) The Power Point presentation allows the students to present their views on the book to their fellow classmates. By presenting and discussing the book, students will demonstrate their ability to write to an audience in an essay-like format while using technology to enhance their performance.
  24. 24. Related Books: Want More Adventures for Lex? The morbid town of death is revisited in Scorch. Lex feels like a prisoner after being shunned by her community for her “special gift.” That doesn‟t stop this teen and her gang of friends as they go in search of “DeMyse.” Picking up where Scorch left off, Rogue will have you grabbing for the Kleenex. As the final book in the trilogy, Rogue wraps up all the lose ends in a “cracktastic” (Fred) way. You have to read this book to understand all the emotions Damico pulls you through. 24
  25. 25. Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins Students liking the Croak series may also like Hunger Games. While the series are very different, they do share some things in common. • They have a teen girl as the heroine of the series. • The main characters in the book struggle with life and death. • The characters are ripped out of their homes and away from their family to do what many would consider “work” for adults. • The main character is put in a difficult situation to protect their family. • The series are both trilogies
  26. 26. Summary of Hunger Games Triology In the distant future 16 year old Katniss Everdeen lives with her mother and sister. During the “lottery” system, Katniss’s little sister is selected for the “Games.” Katniss knows her sister will die if she goes so she volunteers to go in her place. The rules of the game are simple: kill or be killed. The book follows her journey as Katniss struggles with the “Games.” After winning the annual Hunger Games, Katniss should be set. The rules say her and her family will be set for life. However, rumors of a rebellion occur and place Katniss and Peeta in the center of everything. The Capitol is not happy and seek revenge on the young duo who won a hard fought battle in the first book. Katniss has won not one but two Hunger Games but she is still not safe. The Capitol is madder than ever and seeks revenge. In the final book, Katniss learns no one is safe. All her family, all her friends, and all of District 12 are threatened. In the last book, all your questions are answered in an edge-of-your-seat thriller.
  27. 27. Stephen Shupee is a 7th and 8th English teacher at Daggett Montessori School in the Fort Worth ISD. To my great surprise, Mr. Shupee states he uses tradebooks 40% of the time in his classroom. 50% of the time he uses textbooks and the other 10% he uses the internet, maps and the like. Mr. Shupee informed me he likes to teach students the difference between primary and secondary sources and when he chooses tradebooks. He prefers primary sources. He said he was concerned about the textbook because it is over 10 years old and does not give current information. He believes the textbook is out of date and primary sources are more engaging to the students. Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is one of his favorite things to read. He feels this teaches the subject and prepares students for future advanced placement classes. It is worth noting, Mr. Shupee takes his students to a quiz bowl type event every year. He as worked at a few schools and this is a passion of teaching and reading. No matter what school he is teaching at, Mr. Shupee forms a team to compete against other schools in the state. For more information about Texas Quiz Bowls check out their website at Mr. Shupee‟s use of primary text and his passion for history may be why he is so successful in his field. He shares this passion by stocking primary source reading material in his classroom and allows student reading when work is finished. He does not have a scheduled SST. Picture Provided by: Stephen Shupee
  28. 28. Librarian Interview Ms. Killian is a librarian in Cumby Elementary/Middle/High school. This is a small town with graduating class around 15-20 students. This number has rose in the last 10 years. Up until the late 90s, the school would graduate 6-10 students. Ms. Killian does order books for the school library. Since there budget is extremely limited, she often choose Bluebonnet winners, boxtops for education, and donated books. The majority of students only use the library for school projects. Therefore, Ms. Killian says the trend is for biographies and assigned readings. She did note, she had a rush on the Twilight Books a couple of years back but it has since died off. High school students have been asking about 50 Shades of Grey but the library does not carry the book. It has been deemed inappropriate for the school library.
  29. 29. Teen Interview Caleb is a 15 year old boy labeled with a reading disability. Having major gaps in his education for months at a time, his reading level is low. Having worked with Caleb I am not sure it is a disability as much as sustained absence from structured school environment. Caleb was able to read Croak without any problem. He says the book was “okay.” When asked, Caleb thought the book was too girly. I can only imagine this is because the book is told from Lex‟s point of view, which has girls segments. Caleb did like our weekly chats (I gave him 3 weeks to read the book.) I told him about my ideas for the Power Point project and he said that would be cool. He likes working with computers much better than speaking. I did tell him the Power Point would involved speaking because it was supposed to be a guide. His only reply was “that‟s different.”
  30. 30. Works Cited Burke, Jim. (2013). The English Teacher‟s Companion. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann Fred. (2013). Teens Review Damico‟s „Rogue‟, Rowell‟s „Fangirl‟, and Douglas‟s „After Eden‟. School Library Journal. Retrieved from: rowells-fangirl-and-douglass-after-eden/ Hadaway, Nancy L. 2003-2009. Lesson 3: Developing Oral Communication. Arlington: Distance Education at University of Texas at Arlington Langer, Judith A., and Elisabeth Close. 2001. Improving Literacy Understanding Through Classroom Conversation. Albany: Center on English Learning and Achievement. Nystrand, Martin, with Adam Gamoran, Robert Kachur, and Catherine Prendergast. 199. Opening Dialogue: Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom. New York: Teachers Collage. Routman, Regie. (2005) Writing Essentials Raising Expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann