Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common Core IRL: Spooky, creepy stories to grab you (ages 10 - 14)

Kids clamor for scary stories -- they love the adrenaline rush, the suspense, the feeling of needing to find out what happens next. When we started talking about how the Common Core might look in real libraries during October, our minds naturally turned to stories that give us a fright. We're sharing all types of books, looking at how they tie into the Common Core and serve different readers.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown is sure to grab tweens and teens who can stomach some gagging details and thrive on zombie chase scenes. But it also has plenty of depth to prompt kids' thinking. Share this with your kids and ask them what they're noticing in the text.
Zombie Baseball Beatdown
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown, 2013
your local library
ages 10 - 14
Let's just start with the cover. I know, I know -- your mom told you not to judge a book by its cover. But really, get a grip. Covers matter, and this one hits a home run with its intended audience. Even better, it gets readers primed for the story -- one that combines plenty of gore with action, but still enough humor for a tween audience.

Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his friends, Miguel and Joe, discover that the giant feedlot and meat-production facility in their small town is knee-deep in corruption. The story is told from Rabi's point of view, and he describes the view of the Milrow beef-processing facility:
"It was feedlots to the horizon, an ocean of cows all packed together, practically knee-deep in their own manure, feeding in long troughs full of whatever it was that Milrow gave its cows to fatten them up." (ch. 3)
It turns out that the crammed quarters and questionable feed leads to some serious mutations, as zombie cows start wrecking havoc. Bacigalupi gleefully describes the zombies in all their bloody, oozy glory -- this is certainly not a choice for the weak of heart. Just take this description of the final chase scene:
"The zombies came down on us like a tsunami. When we hit, I thought we were going down. A tidal wave of hungry monsters poured over us. I didn’t think we’d hold. Miguel and Otis and Eddie were screaming and swinging like crazy, smashing and slamming zombies aside." (ch. 36)
It’s up to Rabi and his friends to protect the town and convince the authorities to take action before it's too late. Bacigalupi certainly raises questions about how corporations try to silence whistle-blowers and how we need to think about big agriculture companies' practices.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown would make an excellent choice for small lit. circle groups, especially since kids will get more out of it by talking about the characters' points of view and the author's message. For example, 5th grade teachers thinking about the Common Core standards, look specifically at these:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.6 Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
As Kirkus Review wrote, "here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness."

Check out other great posts that are part of our recurring series: Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Today, we're serving up a great selection to grab students with chills and thrills:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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