My first read aloud this year was Patricia MacLachlan’s Edward’s Eyes. I was reading it for the first time as I read it aloud to my students. I knew from reading reviews that the title character dies (oops, maybe I should have prefaced that with a spoiler alert!), but I assumed he died early on. Instead the author made us love Edward, and then killed him. I had to read aloud, forcing the words around the lump in my throat and sniveling. I did only slightly better when I read it to my second class.
As I read aloud Chapter 7 of Orbiting Jupiter this week, I had a similar sensation. I have not read ahead, but I’ve heard enough to make me fear that the story ends tragically. There was such a strong feeling of foreboding in the pages of this chapter. I was at least as close to tears as the librarian/foster mom. Maybe I was even as teary as Jack. There was so much tension in the scene with the police officers; though I must say I’m glad Schmidt didn’t portray them as bad guys. I was honestly surprised that the chapter ended as positively as it did for Joseph.
Still my worry remains, there’s the loose end of Joseph’s father, there’s Nick Porter and his friends, and there was a hint that Mrs. Stroud might be thinking about moving Joseph. How will it end? You can bet I’ll be reading that last chapter aloud first thing Monday morning.
Mini cliff hangers? This book’s got them. There was nearly a mutiny when I closed the book after Chapter 3, after the words “Joseph told us everything. Everything.”
Emotional impact? Orbiting Jupiter‘s got that too. Rarely is a classroom as quiet as it was today when we read Chapter 4. There was a quality to that silence – focused, filled with curiosity and then dread.
What’s next? We think more trouble’s coming, from the eighth grade boys, from Mr. Canton, maybe from Joseph’s dad. It’s hard not to read ahead!
When I was setting up this blog, I came across the Global Read Aloud. I truly believe in the value of reading aloud to students of all ages. I’m always looking for suggestions of new read alouds. I think there’s an art to choosing a read aloud. I think it needs to be short; otherwise the read aloud drags along for months. Short chapters help to create natural breaks. Mini cliff hangers are a bonus. I think it needs a strong emotional appeal whether it’s humour or tragedy. The text can’t be too description heavy, lots of dialog and action. You can’t just flip back to check something in a read aloud, so it shouldn’t have too many characters to keep track of. I was excited to see what was selected for junior high audiences and to see how it fit my criteria.
Beyond just reading aloud, I liked the idea of having students converse about the book they’re listening to, not only with their classmates, but also with other students from around the world. I hope we’ll get some responses from students in other schools, provinces, countries! We’ve also had a few Twitter interactions. Check out @8geniuses.
I’m enjoying the book so far. I’m having a hard time not reading ahead!