"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ReedALOUD: BREAKOUT and Kate Messner's Blog Tour

Happy Book Birthday 
to Breakout 

Breakout is about a small-town prison break, and subsequent manhunt, that reveals residents' true beliefs and requires three middle schoolers to look at their town and its inhabitants in a new light.  

This engaging, thoughtful, and thought-provoking story brings readers into Wolf Creek and invites them to see that world through the middle schoolers' lens. Told through their letters, poems, text messages, and transcribed conversations along with photographs, news stories, and comics, we hear these middle schoolers' voices and we know what they are thinking. We are with them as they grapple with their emotions and those of the people around them. We are with them as they find that words have power -  power to hurt and to heal, power to grow hearts and expand minds, power to make change. These documents become part of the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project, a project which initially seemed frivolous and fun but grew into an opportunity for reflection and learning. 

I love how Kate drops readers into the story and allows us to begin to piece together what life in Wolf Creek is like and begin to know Nora, Elidee, and Lizzie, the middle schoolers whose uncensored and authentic voices guide us through the story. I stopped after each of the first three letters and asked students to share what they had learned about each of the characters, their families, and the town. it was so cool to see them realize what close readers/listeners they had been.

Kate has really captured middle schoolers thinking (likely because of her teaching experience. She gets the them. These characters feel familiar, like students we all know.

Along with reading excerpts, we began to visit Kate's blog tour, reading and thinking about her assignments, and sometimes putting pen to paper to answer them. Some of the students favorites were:

We just had a discussion here, but after looking at all the posts related to editing and revising, it was great to stop on this post and have students reflect on the books they have read and how this behind-the-scenes organization keeps characters and plots both relevant and realistic.

This was one of my favorite posts to share with students. I love Kate's honesty here and have told students what a valuable voice she is within the children's literature community. She recognizes where her own upbringing sets limitations on her ability to write for a character with a totally different experience. I read this blog post first and then read Elidee's letter to her brother Troy. The students could hear and see the impact of the work Kate had done to make Elidee's character have more depth and be more realistic. This letter is, once again, full of small details which shift the readers thinking. I especially love how Kate breaks down stereotypes about people in prison, showing Troy to be a good student, an interested learner, and a good writer.

Here are some things my students miss or would miss:

This is such a valuable one to share with students. It's enlightening and empowering for them. We ended up in an interesting discussion about the difference between the terminology or sensitivity readers and expert readers. The first feeling like the author is being sensitive to another viewpoint and the second feeling like the author is looking to expand and inform her or his thinking. 

Who doesn't love thinking about favorite or local foods? Kate's description of a Michigan makes them sound both unique and delicious. This is a fun post to share with students. Here are foods that my students tried to describe:

I had an advanced reader copy of the book, which has been circulating with students. 

Below are some of the comments, connections and questions they have noted while reading the book. Note, this is an uncorrected proof and not the final copy of the book.

Just a final note. I love the poetry in this book. Here's an example of how effectively Kate uses poetry to reveal Elidee's thoughts:

There are two hundred students who love what they have read from and learned about BREAKOUT. They have been preparing for a school visit from Kate Messner and are eager to meet her and hear more about the book and her writing process.

We started this whole process by exploring the Q and A with Kate  and books sections of her webpage. Below is the reflection form the students used:

Kate visits our school tomorrow and we are incredibly excited!

No comments:

Post a Comment