Thursday, May 7, 2015

What Book I Am Recommending to My New Students Next Year...

I gave an assignment to my fifth graders yesterday. If they could recommend any book to all of my new students next year, what would it be? We talked a lot about possible books and then, I shared my recommendation. I had been keeping a certain ARC I had in my possession a secret until then. I wanted to see what their reaction would be to my essay. Could I persuade them to read it? Oh boy, yes. The waiting list is a bit nuts. I recommended Linda Urban's forthcoming book, Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. 

Below I wanted to share my essay that I gave my students as a mentor text. I cannot wait to see what they will recommend to my new classes. I will bind these letters and put them in our library next year for new students to peruse and find recommendations. At the end of my essay you will see the requirements I gave my students yesterday in case you want to try something similar with your class. Have fun and look for Linda's book next fall. 


Have you ever read a book that just transported you to another place? If you have, you know what a magical experience that can be. I have recently read a book that fits this exact description and it is called Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. Milo is an amazing fantasy book written by the wonderful author, Linda Urban. There are so many reasons you should pick up this book, but today I’m going to focus on two – the author and the character of Milo.

Linda Urban is a brilliant author. She has written books such as: Crooked Kind of Perfect, Hound Dog True, and Center of Everything. Her writing amazes me every single time. She does an amazing job of keeping her books short – without any extra words – but they are the exact words you need. In this book I was impressed at Ms. Urban’s desire to stretch herself as a writer. Her other books are all written in the realistic fiction genre and are pretty serious. In Milo she explores the genre of fantasy and the element of humor. Even in a new genre and attempting to make the book funny, Ms. Urban’s writing is still superb.

In writing this new book, Ms. Urban has created the character of Milo. Milo is small for his age, his grandmother refers to him as “scrawny.” His dad travels for work and his grandmother watches over him. She is a bit grouchy. When Milo goes after a lost sock in their basement dryer, he is pulled through to a fantasy world named Ogregon. Unfortunately for Milo, Ogregon is inhabited by ogres. You would think a kid like Milo - a quiet, small, and timid kid – would freak out and become dinner the moment he was captured, but that is the beauty of this book. Through Milo we learn that all of us can be heroes. We learn that we can all be brave, in our own way. And along the way we learn with Milo a little bit about loyalty, friendship, and accomplishing the impossible. Through Milo, Ms. Urban teaches us a lot.

I hope you will pick up this book when it comes out this fall. I was impressed with Ms. Urban for trying something new to her as an author and teaching me that even authors can be brave in their choices. Also, I loved “meeting” the character of Milo, cheering him on during his quest to get home, and learning a bit about myself through him. Books can make us better people if we let them. Milo Speck, Accidental Agent certainly does that. 


Persuasive Essay Requirements:

·      Assigned on May 6th, due by the end of the day (1:10pm) on May 13th.
  • ·      This is an essay, not a letter.

o   Do not write Dear Mrs. S or the like.
o   Do not sign it From, Susie. Your name should be at the top.
  • ·      Think of a book that every fifth grader should read. This is not necessarily your favorite book. For example, The Fault in Our Stars is a great book, but not appropriate for most fifth graders.
  • ·      Think of reasons why this book is one you would recommend to other fifth graders. How can you organize these reasons with evidence to back them up? Some reasons you might recommend a book could be:

o   Characters
o   Plot
o   Theme
o   Genre
o   Writing/ author
o   Illustrations
o   World building or setting
o   Format (Free verse/ graphic novels/ picture books/ prose/ etc.)
o   Part of a series
o   Personal connection
o   Etc.
  • ·      Your persuasive essay needs an introduction, at least two body paragraphs where you provide evidence for why someone should read this book, and a conclusion.
  • ·      When looking at your body paragraphs, make sure they are on the same topic. For example, if one of my reasons is “character”, I wouldn’t talk about setting, format, and author in that paragraph as well.
  • ·      This can be typed or handwritten. In both options, please pay attention to capitalization, spelling, and punctuation. In the handwritten option, make sure to use your best handwriting.
  • ·      I should be able to hear your voice in your writing. Talk to the incoming fifth graders. Convince them to read your book. I cannot wait to read your writing.