VOYAThrough chapters on narrative technique, plot, character, setting, and themes and symbols, these volumes from The Engaged Reader series intend to help books blossom for teen readers. The series focuses on a handful of the texts most likely to be assigned in English classes and even feature a series of activities to sharpen reader skills. Their variety of subject is appealing, but the sliding level of quality from one volume to the next is not. For example, although Heims balances summary with insight in Reading The Diary of Anne Frank, Tibbetts in Reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry does far too much plot summary for a book that is supposed to be a complement rather than a supplement to the novel. And Tibbetts's best points (his attention to pre- and post-reading exercises) are unfortunately absent from the other books in the series. The greatest challenge in commenting on this series is that it has no consistent audience. For instance, Tibbetts's book defines "ain't" as though addressing a very sheltered beginning reader, but Heims makes fairly subtle insights about irony that would best be appreciated by an advanced reader. Tibbetts's use of the term "symbol" is quite broad, as though it is intended for someone only beginning to understand how literature works, whereas Heims makes observations about different editions of Frank's diary that require an understanding of both literature and publishing. In the end, the series is only ideal for independent students, such as home-schooled teens, who will need both basic and advanced insights. Other series titles discuss The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Giver, and Sounder. (The Engaged Reader). VOYA CODES:3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Chelsea House, 71p.; Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology., PLB $25.. Ages 11 to 15.
Joe Sutliff Sanders