Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Oliver Olson Changed...

...my mind about skinny chapter books.

I've been a little frustrated as I've read recent easy beginning readers, such as Mighty Monty, Uh-Oh Cleo, and Alvin Ho.

Many easy beginning readers follow a certain path: there's a young person who takes center stage, and each chapter shows us a different "chapter" of their life. So we see the karate lesson, the birthday party, the trip to the ER, and so forth.

I was starting feel like the characters were flat, the stories episodic, and the themes a little rote. I was worried that I was reading them with too much of a grown-up brain, and couldn't evaluate them fairly for 6-8 year old readers. After all, how much character, plot, and thematic development can you squeeze into a skinny book for a less than fluent reader? And what evaluative criteria should we use on such slender stories as a result?

Then I read How Oliver Olson Changed the World, from Colorado's own Claudia Mills.

Claudia Mills reminded me that thematic coherence, believable voices, generous humor, authentic character development, and real-life issues are all possible, even at 100 pages, tops. No, really! Read it and find out.

(Fuse liked it, too.)

Want to see her do all this in a picture book, too? Find Ziggy's Blue Ribbon Day.

Other great easy chapter books from Claudia Mills are 7 x 9 = Trouble and Being Teddy Roosevelt.

1 comment:

Alyson said...

Oliver is great - that's why he is a Summer Showdown pick.