May 16, 2008

On The Run (series) by Gordon Korman

Just finished reading this out loud to my fourth graders. It was a heck of a ride, let me tell you. It came from an argument with my fourth grade group when they said, "Reading is boring." I was determined to snag them. This was what I used:

Two kids, Aiden 15, and his sister Meg, 11 become fugitives from the law as they run around trying to find evidence to exonerate their imprisoned parents. The parents are professors, criminologists, who have been duped by a guy claiming to be a CIA operative. He has them write detailed analysis on how a terrorist network could hide out in the US. When Homeland Security and the FBI come knocking--I mean bashing down the door--because an actual terrorist network is found using their analyses as an operating manual, their mysterious CIA contact vanishes, leaving them holding the bag.

It's like 24 for kids. There are assassins, chases, split-second escapes, and a giant guard pig. It's almost plausible, but never lets up long enough for your to over think it and is grounded realistically enough to keep it somewhat believable.

We had a US map up the whole time, plotting their course. We used Google Maps to zero in on cities and neighborhoods. The book takes you fall over the country, even out to sea. They run through cities like Chicago and Boston and through countryside on horseback. The students were kept busy with their dictionaries and I found my ELL fourth graders discussing police jurisdiction (local and federal), ballistics, and the relative ethics and economics involved in being a fugitive.

I tortured the kids by stopping our reading at the most cliff-hanging points. They would literally fall on the floor and beg me to read just one more chapter. Every time I would smile and say, "But I thought reading was boring?"

Sometimes the adult characters became confusing, so I used and Google Images to cast an imaginary movie. I printed out these pictures and labelled them with the characters names and hung them up on the whiteboard when we read so my kids could keep everyone straight. I also printed out pictures of mentioned vehicles and building types as references.

Now I find out there is another three-part series of these kids on the run! They'll have to get it at the library over the summer...