Monday, December 28, 2009

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

More than just a baseball story! I love the title and cover, which may be enough to draw in some reluctant, boy readers. This novel-in-verse by Koertge was a quick read, but with lots to recommend. Perhaps this book would not appeal to the older, more sophisticated reader, but for freshmen or sophomore boys, or for an older, struggling reader, it is a hit. (Ha!)

I thought the concept of writing a journal about writing poetry using different styles of poems was a clever technique, and would be a great way to introduce a poetry unit to an ELA class. I think most kids know sonnets and Haikus...but a sestina?! What a great introduction to poetry. Not that it is of the same caliber as The Braid, but what an interesting pairing these two books could make for a pre-poetry unit! Anyone remember that book from an older blog? It is still in the blog history...check it out!

I loved how Koertge slowly unfolded Kevin's story...and he does it with such sparse words, in only 116 pages. One review I read said, "This funny and poignant novel celebrates the power of writing to help young people make sense of their lives and unlock and confront their problems." I agree! This I thought, is what I liked best about the book. Makes it a home run in my book.

Anyone else?

14 comments:

Cherie said...

I liked this book also. I thought it offered a unique way to target boys into reading, poetry, and dealing with deeper issues.
I have to admit I had some trouble digesting the poem format since I am not an Enlgish teacher, but the book could serve a good use as instructing students the format for the various types of poems. I also really liked how the author used poetry to allow the main character to express his personal emotions concerning the death of his mother. The author allowed the main character to use poems to work through feelings that he might not be able to express otherwise for fear of being wimpy or girlie.
Overall I thought it was a quick easy read that had deeper and hidden meaning to the book.

Erika said...

I loved the book. I enjoy writing poetry and thought it was fun, quick and easy to read. I agree with Cherie that it would be a great place for students to learn the various styles of poetry and offer students an outlet to their emotions that they might not have played around with before. After teaching Read 180 for one year, I quickly learned how hard it was to find books that targeted boys. I am glad to know about this book.

I like the authors use of a tough situation (like being sick) and showed how it can turn into a strength in your life. Throughout the book, I saw growth, maturity and clarity in the main characters identity. He became more confident, more willing to take risks, and more insightful about his values and what is important to him.

I agree with the author, and from my own experience, see poetry and writing as words that can open doors to the soul. I hope that a few of us are able to use this book in their classroom or share the title with young teens to inspire others to explore finding their own inner voice. We deal with many students who have hard lives outside of school and don't necessarily have an outlet for those feelings.

Dawn said...

This book was a very easy read. I think it would be great to use when teaching poetry. Students often cringe at poetry, and I think this book would open up more students to it.
I like the main character, Kevin. I loved when he started to open up in his writing about his mom. I do wish I had more information about her and what happened to her, but I was glad that he found a healthy way to deal with the stress of losing his mother. I was happy when he kept writing after he returned to baseball. It showed that one can have many interests in multiple areas.
The part of the book that I liked the most was the point that Kevin was writing and at times he was not thrilled with the outcome of the piece. He looked at it as a jumping off point, and he even mentioned revisiting pieces later. It may open up students to the revising and editing process a bit.
I would recommend this book to any teacher who plans to teach poetry. It is creative and keeps one’s attention based on the story. Yet, it is easy to understand/comprehend.

Maria said...

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, which some students would like, with likable characters. Kevin Boland was an interesting teen, who had a tragedy occur in his life with the loss of his mother. He doesn’t rebel or act out, but throws himself into baseball, his passion. Mono hits and he is out of school and sports for months, where he turns to his journal to take up his leisure time. He realizes he is able to better express himself in this way through poetry. Through this type of storytelling (poetry in journal form), the reader learns of Kevin’s character and his life. I loved the format in which this book was written and I think it could be a great teaching tool to teach poetry. I agree with everyone that it better targets boys, which may help pull in some reluctant readers. It also slips in many styles of poetry that many kids (and adults) may not have been exposed to before. I also like how it shows writing as a process and that Kevin commented on his own work expecting to go back to some pieces to improve them. Many kids expect their work to be done in one draft. The caharacter shows that the ideas should be put down first and cleaned up later. I would love to use this book as an introduction to poetry.

cvanslyk said...

I agree that this would be a great book to use in starting a unit on poetry. It would especially entice boys to read it and enjoy it. It was easy to read, fast moving and dealt with issues many of our students can identify with. These include loss of a parent and mono. It would give them an example of a very positive way to express their emotions. The characters were likeable. It was obvious that Kevin had great respect for his dad who was very nice to kids and to old people. I think this would be an excellent book to use with my Reading Classes and with Senior English. I agree with Erica, that it is easier to find books that interest girls rather than boys, especially in the Read 180 program. This would be a good motivator book for the reluctant readers and for the reluctant writers.

Kathy J. said...

I'm just curious...do you reading/ELA teachers think that stories in verse, as a whole, turn kids off? Or are they more appealing because of the sparseness of words? I know that we are seeing more and more of this format and wondered what your thoughts were.

Kim Seeley said...

Kathy, I think you found a hit for the ELA teachers! It would be a great introduction to poetry, especially for my 15:1 Sophomore ELA classes. As for your question about verse, I think the students who have completed a book that is written in verse (like Ellen Hopkins books) they would love this. Others may have a hard time at first with it. (If you haven't read Ellen Hopkins, they are written in verse and are fantastic). As for this book, I would have the author to have given more details about the characters, expand on them a little. I loved how the author brought in Mira towards the end but would have liked more detail. I liked how references to his mom were interspersed throughough. Overall, a great pick Kathy! :) :) See, I do like some books! haha

ksalecki said...

While I am not an ELA teacher, I could definitely see the appeal of this book in kicking off a poetry unit. I think that more reluctant readers are more likely to read books in verse because they are so quick. It also helps to show students that poetry can take on many forms and does not always have to rhyme or fit a mold to be good poetry.
I think that along with helping students to appreciate different types of poetry, this book also shows students that writing can be a great outlet for expressing one's emotions. So many students have so much to say and so much that they keep inside them. Maybe this book could inspire them to use poetry or just writing in general as a positive outlet.
I would definitely recommend this book as either a kickoff book to a poetry unit, or a book to recommend to reluctant readers and/or students who are struggling with their own personal issues. It was a quick read with a good story. Great choice!

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Lisa said...

I think Koertge found a great way to appeal to the adolescent male population. This book would definitely work well with my 15:1 students. Kathy I loved your idea about pairing this novel with The Braid. This would be a great way to introduce poetry in a subtle manner. I also enjoyed how the author portrayed Kevin as an athlete, yet showed that there is life beyond sports. I like how he was able to express himself without having the fear of being judged. He also demonstrated that revision is an important piece of the writing process. Kevin shows that he takes pride in his work by going back to pieces and revising them. This is so important for our students because they just want to turn their work in ASAP, without editing it. I feel that this book would definitely have a lot to offer students and they could relate to some of Kevin's issues. Overall, this was a quick, easy read that would appeal to both boys and girls.

Kathy J. said...

I agree with many of your comments, and I do think that this book would be a great way to introduce writing or journaling as a way of expressing emotions. Great idea.

Wendy said...

This book reminded me of "The Neverending Story" and "Pagemaster" both videos my sons enjoyed when they were younger. It is a great way to interest boys in topics they might otherwise avoid. Poetry and baseball, who would have ever put them together! Although I do not have a place for this in my curriculum, I can see it as a great asset in other areas. I would recommend it to introduce boys to poetry because they would relly enjoy reading it and might use it as a springboard to other readings.

rebeccakryger said...

This was a quick read; I love that it is both a narrative and could be used to look at the different types of poetry that Kevin explores. It could be a tool for getting younger students to look at poetry by being a bit sneaky by using the book to do it! I agree with Cherie in that the author shows how poetry helps the narrator consider and deal with his feelings. This is definitely a read for younger students (maybe even middle rather than high school), but I would recommend it to students, especially those who are interested in writing poetry themselved. It could also be paired with other narrative poetry like Out of the Dust.