War of words underway at MacLean Elementary as MacLean Reads kicks off

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 2nd, 2011

There’s a battle of the books going on over at MacLean elementary school these days as a group of fourth and fifth grade readers duke it with fists of fiction over whose chosen book is best. 

Sparked by an idea that was sparked by an idea, the genesis of MacLean Reads lies in CBC’s Canada Reads competition. Canada Reads sees a group of well-known Canadians engage in a Survivor style weekly debate about books they individually champion. Each week a book is voted off the shelf until the Canada Reads winner emerges.


Earlier this year Carey Rudisil and the Rossland Library board localized the concept and launched Rossland Reads in the same format. Christine DeMarco, a teacher at Maclean, was one of four participants in the competition and successfully defended Kim Echlin’s The Disappeared to victory. DeMarco then brought that idea to Maclean, thinking it could be a wonderful learning opportunity for the students. Carmen Davis, the librarian at Maclean who already was running a library club, loved the idea and brought it to life.


Ten students took up the challenge and have been reading up a storm since the contest launched in January. The participants were divided up into three groups as reading and debating all ten books would be a big challenge for any reader. At the end of February each group of three will debate and defend the books in their group until one winner of each group comes out on top. Those three will then face off in a final to become The Maclean Read of 2011.


Sammie Gaul summed up how reading books in a debating competition format is different than just reading books normally.


“You kind of have to read all of the books. Sometimes you can be lazy and say, “I’m not reading that book,” but now you have to because when we debate them we have to know what people are saying and be able to answer questions and say why we like our book best. I’m reading like crazy. I do like an hour of reading each night.”


Thus far the kids have all completed their own book choice and are diving into the others in their group. This week The Telegraph caught up with the young readers in the MacLean library to chat with them about their book choices.


Ella Knight (A Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson): It’s a good book. It’s about a girl whose name is Corey. Her family is slowly falling apart and she’s really sad about it.


Sophie Dorman (Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel): This kid has parents are scientist. They do a project on teaching a monkey sign language. It’s a good book. I like Zen in the book the best. He’s the monkey.


 Ali Ferguson (The Nine Lives of Travis Keating by Jill MacLean): It’s a book about a boy who is trying to save lost cats that were abandoned and along the way some cats almost die and he almost sometimes dies too. I actually kind of like sad parts in books. At one point there are seven cats at an old fisherman’s dock. A pack of wild dogs came. Travis feeds the cats and the dogs smelled the cat food. Some dogs came and killed baby cats. My favorite cat almost died too but they took it to the vet and saved a bunch of the cats. I have a cat too so it’s something I can really relate to in the book.


Hannah Klemmensen (Libertad by Alma Fullerton): Libertad is about two boys who live in Guatemala and they live in the dumps. Their dad is in America. When their mom dies they try to make it to America but they are illegal immigrants so it’s not easy. It’s really good. It won an award for reluctant readers because it’s a really simple book but it’s good. It sort of shows how giving up doesn’t get you anywhere.


Payton Reed (The Shadow of Malabron by Thomas Wharton): It’s about a boy named Will who crashes his motorcycle and enters a different realm. It’s where all stories come from. Everything you can think of; Heroes, mysteries and things like that. He saves the realm and it’s really cool. It’s really amazing because I do not understand how the author came up with all of this stuff. It’s very very interesting. It kind of has everything in it; Mystery and adventure.


 Sammie Gaul (The Diary of Laura’s Twin by Kathy Kacer): It’s about a girl named Laura. She’s Jewish and she’s having her Bat Mitzvah celebration. She has to do a twinning project so she goes to Mrs. Mandlecorns and gets a diary and reads it. There are sad parts and happy parts but mostly sad because it was during the war. Then she finds out that Mrs. Mandlecorn was the person who wrote the diary. It has a twist ending. I just started a diary now too.


Eva D’Odorico (Splat by Eric Walters): It’s a pretty cool book. It’s about two boys and they want to try and build a skate park. They make up a tomato toss game to raise money with a bunch of rotten tomatoes. They made some ramps and they skateboard on the ramps and people try to throw the tomatoes at them.

Cameron Cosbey (Pete’s Gold by Luanne Armstrong): It’s about a boy named Pete. His parents get divorced and so he spends his summer at his grandma’s house. At first he thinks it’s going to be boring but then his grandmother tells him about a story about her friend that’s dead hiding some gold around where her farm is. He goes off on a quest to try and find the gold. It’s a treasure hunting book and it has lots of twists and turns. I like it.


Alisha Thatcher and Lily Huttermann are also participating in the competition and are reading Dear Toni by Cyndi Sand-Eveland and The Tomorrow Tunnel by Kristen Butcher respectively.

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