Reading Binge

November 19, 2012

Recently I went on a little bit of a reading binge. I had a small opening in my schedule a few weeks ago where I had some time to either pick up a book or watch a tv show and I knew exactly which I was going to do. I had two books sitting on my bookshelf that I recently purchased at Ollies (both under $3!) and so I picked up Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann and began reading.  I’m not sure if it was because the book was riveting, because I hadn’t read for pleasure in weeks, or both but I blew through this book. (FYI- this book is appropriate for student in grades 8/9 and up.)

The story takes place in the small town of Cryer’s Cross in the potato farming community of rural Montana. Tragedy strikes Cryer’s Cross when a young freshman disappears from the small town without a trace. Her disappearance goes unsolved and doesn’t particularly affect high school senior and protagonist Kendall Fletcher. The story really takes off when someone near and dear to Kendall goes missing just as quickly and expectantly as Tiffany had. Kendall’s world begins to head in a downward spiral when her OCD is pushed into overdrive by her emotional loss and she starts to think she’s gone crazy when she starts to hear voices, and not just any voices; voices from the missing. Kendall tries to battle her OCD and these voices which begin to sound more and more like her friend when she sees a message scratched into the desk where the missing student used to sit. Kendall tries to unravel the mysteries of Crayer’s Cross while trying to manage her grief, OCD, and desire to let go and move on with her senior year and her plans for college.

This story was really well written. It’s captivating and edgy, and the point of view of a person struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder is a new approach for such a story. It was well done and such a quick read. So quick, in fact, that I picked up another book in two days time.

The second book, Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe, was similar in that the protagonist is a girl who is working to overcome personal struggles while solving the mystery of one young girls disappearance and the connection it has to another girls murder and her beyond wealthy and dysfunctional family. This book is at a higher reading level and most likely more appropriate for someone 16 or 17 and up. It is also a really great story. This one had me reading into the early morning hours because of the amazing cliff hangers and constantly changing suspects and suspicions. Overall it was a good read. So check it out!

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I must admit that I am not a huge fan of Halloween. Growing up my family didn’t celebrate it like most families did and to this day I’m neither here nor there on the traditions that come with it. I am, however, the biggest fan of the most legendary writer of Gothic fiction and twisted horror stories, and that man is of course, Edgar Allan Poe.

My love for the works of Poe came during my studies in college as an English literature major. I took a course on Gothic fiction and Poe was one of the focuses of our studies. Ever since I have enjoyed reading and re-reading his works. I feel so passionately about his writing style and his unique ability to thread a story and his use of language. I’ve tried to bring Poe into the classroom whenever I had an appropriate opportunity because I believe that his stories are not only gruesome and totally cool, but that educationally, his works are filled with great learning opportunities. I especially like to use his works to show students examples of imagery and figurative language. I’m sure by now you are wondering why I’m going on and on about Poe, and it’s for two reasons.

1.) Tradition. My tradition. Every year around late October (Halloween) I like to read Poe’s tales. I always find myself going back to my favorites; Ligeia, The Cask of Amontillado, Morella, and my favorite- The Black Cat.

2.) Educational Benefits. Just today, I was in a team ELA meeting in a local Middle school and we were reviewing the sample of this years NYS ELA exam. I was noticing the large amount of high-level and truly difficult vocabulary words in one of the fiction passages. The passage was an older work, and true to its nature, many of the words are not commonly used or known by students today. Poe’s works are ripe with challenging words, however the content is engaging and exciting.

When you combine these two reasons, I think it is easy to see how these opportunities are not ones we can pass up! I feel that when we can bring texts into the classroom for a read aloud or a mini-lesson, and we bring relevance and passion or excitement, the students can easily be engaged, not to mention they are working with a more complex and challenging text for a very specific purpose. When I read Poe’s stories I read the originals, for myself, but I own two AWESOME graphic novel versions of his stories that I love to read and share with students. Check out this book, illustrated by Gris Grimly. There is more than one but this one has The Masque of the Red Death, Hop-Frog, Fall of the House of Usher, and my favorite, The Black Cat!