Sunday, September 30, 2012

Capture the Flag book review

Hi friends!

I'm so excited about today's post! Last week, Scholastic contacted me to ask me if I would read Kate Messner's latest middle grade novel, Capture the Flag, and write a review of it for this blog. Of course! (They sent me a free copy of the book, which I'm giving away in a contest below, but Scholastic did not compensate me for my review or influence my opinion of the book.)

They didn't know that I was already a Kate Messner fan! She is actually visiting our school next week, and we are all looking forward to her presentations. She's a former teacher, so she brings that enthusiasm for learning to her picture books and chapter books.

To prepare for her visit, I bought copies of Capture the Flag for all of our fourth and fifth grade teachers, and they've been reading it aloud over the past few weeks to their classes. They LOVE it! (And when I say they love it, I mean BOTH the teachers and the students! How often does that happen?)

Here's a video  of Kate Messner talking about the book and how she did the research at the Smithsonian for the story.

And here is a link to the Scholastic page where you can download a classroom discussion guide for Capture the Flag. The discussion guide includes: open-ended discussion questions for each chapter; a persuasive writing prompt; an informational writing prompt; and a mock-trial activity.

What do I like so much about Capture the Flag? I personally find history fascinating, but I have a hard time selling "historical fiction" to most of our elementary school students. It seems dry and distant to them, and they have a hard time connecting to events in our past. Capture the Flag is a fast-paced mystery/adventure, set in contemporary time, but it includes historical details. These details will tie in with what students are studying in the classroom, and stir their interest in American history.

The characters are believable middle school students (not sugary sweet, not juvenile delinquents) who find themselves in the midst of an intriguing crime. Someone has stolen the original Star Spangled Banner flag from the Smithsonian, and the three students are snowed in at a Washington, D.C. airport with the criminals and other interesting travelers. It's like the National Treasure movies, but with kids instead of adults solving the puzzle. I found that it was written at the right level for students to figure out the mystery at the same pace that the characters do, and to feel clever as they make those inferences.

If you have teachers at your school who are studying American history, this would be a great book to share with them. Print the discussion guide for them, and (if you have the budget), buy the book for teachers to keep in their classroom library. (Hint: you can buy the paperback edition from the Scholastic book fair!) You could also set up a Skype author visit with Kate Messner, to enhance classroom connections to this book.

I really like this book AND I really like all of my Centered School Library followers, so I'm delighted to be able to give an autographed copy of this book away to one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will contact the winner by email or Facebook (depending on how you enter the contest), and if you respond by midnight on Thursday, October 4, 2012, I will have your autograph personalized on Friday, October 5, then I will ship it to you the following week. If we are unable to make contact before Kate Messner visits our school, I will just have her autograph the book without personalizing it.

I'm delighted to share this book with you. If you're like me, you're always looking for positive ways to collaborate with classroom teachers.  I think that this is one step toward building those teacher-librarian bridges!

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