CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 31. . . .April 12, 2013
Frozen, by Saskatchewan writer Lori Jamison, is a new high interest, low vocabulary novel from High Interest Publishing. Like all six books in the "HIP Xtreme" series, this novel targets "the reluctant adolescent reader who is reading at a grade 3 level" Its features include illustrations, realistic dialogue and a tested typeface the publisher claims will facilitate fluency. But the most important feature of Jamison's novel is the exciting plot. Set in Canada's Arctic Circle, Frozen is the riveting tale of a pair of teen boys who become stranded on the frozen tundra during a blizzard. Their story is told from the point of view of Ray. Ray is a relative newcomer to the north, and it is because of his inexperience with the harsh environment that Ray fails to recognize the danger in his friend Frank's invitation "to do a little hunting and fishing." Without telling anyone where they are going, and with only a chocolate bar for supplies, the two boys borrow a Ski-doo and set out for a vague location along the river that Frank has heard his uncle describe. But there is no room for this kind of careless planning in this inhospitable environment, and the adventure quickly turns fatal when the Ski-doo breaks down. Over the next three days, the two boys will find their skills, endurance, and mental health strained to the max as they strive to survive in the dangerous cold.
Jamison skillfully avoids simplistic or obvious character development in the presentation of Ray and Frank. Both boys go through moments of despair and moments of strength. They quarrel, they laugh and they cry; and all of this is revealed through realistic, authentic dialogue. Unfortunately, the artwork is less skillful. There is no doubt that readers will enjoy examining the simple black and white drawings, and that they will support comprehension of the text, but the illustrations are fairly simplistic, perhaps a bit too crude and, as a result, are disappointing.
Also available is an excellent and thorough Teacher's Guide which includes a nonfiction piece entitled "Winter Survival" that can be reproduced for classroom use, as well as lots of language activities inspired by the text. These vary from activities that ask students to explore their understanding of the characters to activities that call for personal reflection to an activity called "Ray's Tweets" which should harnesses student interest in social media to delve into a deeper understanding of theme and character.
Under any circumstances, Frozen would be a really good book. It's interesting and exciting, the characters are real and also interesting, and the ratio of exposition to dialogue is just right. But given the restriction of a grade 2.3 readability level, Frozen is actually a remarkable little novel. Teachers of adolescent boys who struggle with reading or who are daunted by longer more complicated texts will likely find success with this engaging story of adventure.
Charlotte Duggan is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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