________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010


Orca Echoes Resource Guide.

Alex Van Tol.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
157 pp., spiral, $45.00.
ISBN 978-1-55469-240-8.

Teachers of Grades 2-3.

Review by Keith McPherson.

**½ /4


The Orca Echoes Resource Guide is a curriculum guide geared towards grades two and three educators wanting to incorporate literature based instruction in their classroom. Drawing upon 41 short chapter books written by Canadian authors and published by Orca as part of its “Orca Echoes” series, the guide presents an overview of each book, notes about the author, teaching ideas, links to related websites and a list of each book’s awards and reviews.

    The first 10 pages of the guide offer educators information on how to use the guide. These pages also present overviews of four classroom teaching ideas, outline the literature circles process, delineate three types of literature responses, and briefly sketch the guide’s philosophy of assessment. The information contained in these pages is greatly lacking in detail and would not be much use to new educators or those wanting more in-depth information about any of these processes. However, if educators are accustomed to using a literature based program in their classroom, these pages will allow them to immediately launch directly into the teaching ideas outlined on successive pages.

     The next 17 pages are by far the most valuable pages in the guide. This section lists each book’s guiding reading level (A-Z), then groups all the books by subject and theme, and provides a brief summary of every book. This section represents a great deal of work and will help teachers quickly determine if the books meet their curriculum needs. Furthermore, teachers who have helped level books for their school library and/or classroom will know how much time and energy this guide will save them (not to mention the time hunting for subject-related and or theme-related literature). However, because there are only 41 books in this series, some teachers will be disappointed that there are only one or two books represented in some theme and subject listings.

     The final 125 pages make up the bulk of the guide and contain a summary of the book (repeated information from the previous section), a blurb on the author, a list of teaching ideas for the book, a list of related books and websites, and a list of the book’s awards and reviews. With little doubt, teachers will find the teaching ideas section for each book to be the most valuable information in the guide. This section presents: 1. prereading strategies that activate students background knowledge, 2. discussion questions that focus children on the issues presented in the story, and 3. learning activities that are engaging and appreciative of the wide variety of ways in which children come to know (e.g., visually, spatially, textually, kinesthetically, etc.). Unfortunately, any educator looking for fully developed lesson plans or detailed instructional information that contextualizes the discussion questions will be sorely disappointed.

    The price listed on the cover of this guide is $45.00 Canadian. Combined with Orca Book Publisher’s online cost of $6.95 for each chapter book, the total price for one copy of each chapter book and the guide would likely be around $300.00. Anyone buying print classroom materials for a literature based program knows that this is very reasonable price indeed.

   Orca Echoes Resource Guide is best used by experienced educators well acquainted with setting up and running a literature based program in their classroom. Such educators would benefit most from the ‘succinct’ but engaging teaching activities listed for each book. However, all Canadian educators will be pleased that the guide only uses Canadian resources (many of which have either been nominated or won awards), and all educators will appreciate how the theme, subject, and reading level lists will save them valuable curriculum planning time.


Keith McPherson has been a primary and elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984 and is currently a lecturer for the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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