CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 38. . . .May 31, 2013
"Crabtree Chrome" is a new series from Crabtree Publishing. The popular nonfiction publisher has long been a favourite of Canadian teachers and librarians.
The "Chrome" series has been created with struggling or reluctant readers in mind. The back cover of each book in the series indicates that the content is equivalent to guided reading level "L". According to the publisher's website, this Fountas and Pinnell style levelled reading level should roughly correspond to the end of grade two to the start of grade three. Also on Crabtree's site is a passage explaining that the "Chrome" series is intended to meet the needs of struggling middle-school and early high-school readers who are performing several levels below their actual grade. There is a big gap between grade two and high-school, and so teachers and librarians should keep in mind that this series may not be best suited to readers who are simply disinterested and that it is most appropriate for students who are genuinely lacking strong literacy skills.
The titles in the series include high-interest themes that are sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. Each title contains the same basic features and layout which lends a sense of cohesion and consistency to this line of books. This may also encourage under-confident readers to become familiar with the format and to continue with other titles in the series.
All books contain glossy, full-color images as well as charts, timelines and maps to add visual interest and to support understanding of the text.
The text, itself, is clear and easy to understand. The short paragraphs flow logically and present information in easily digestible "chunks". Any potentially difficult vocabulary is bolded in the body of the text. These bolded words are explained in a sidebar on the same page as well as in the glossary at the end of the book.
Each title in the series presents each section of the book in the same order. Each book begins with a table of contents and is followed by five or six short chapters of about ten pages each. Rounding out the contents is a list of books and websites for further reading, a glossary and an index.
The Emancipation Proclamation and the American Civil War may not be well known to Canadian students, yet most young readers will be familiar with the concepts of slavery and civil rights. For that reason, the contents of Emanicpation will be interesting to many students. The subject is especially relevant to those who might be working on projects in history or social studies.
Much like other books in this series, the information in Emancipation is presented in short, easy-to-read paragraphs. The full-color illustrations and detailed black and white photographs on each page act as a support to the text and help with the reader's comprehension of the contents. Explanations of important events are given without being overwhelming or incomplete, giving readers a good foundational understanding.
Although content shines in this title, there are a few small complaints. On some pages, the bolded vocabulary words and/or photo captions have inexplicably been printed in pale (almost translucent) white ink, making the text very difficult to read.
Another concern is the list of recommended websites found in the "Learning More" chapter near the end of the book. Giving website URLs in printed material is always problematic as links are notoriously unstable and may disappear before the book even makes it to press. A quick search of the three sites suggested confirms that one URL is already dead.
Despite its minor flaws, Emancipation is a quality nonfiction books suitable for students who might be struggling with grade level literacy skills. The subject is attractive to a wide range of readers, and the visual appeal is sure to sustain the interest of even the most fickle students.
March on Washington gives readers a good introduction to a pivotal event in American history – an event that changed the direction of the civil rights movement in the U.S.
Although the march took place only a few generations ago, many young Canadian students may not be aware of the history behind this important event. This title does a wonderful job of breaking down the many complicated details and players involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and aims to present the information in a manner that is interesting and easy to follow. The chapters progress in a more or less chronological order, making the contents easy to understand.
Also presented in the text are the many famous people who were involved in the march and in the American civil rights movement, people such as Josephine Baker and Bob Dylan. The book also notes that well-known Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the final speech on that historic day. This fact gives context for the famous "I have a dream…" speech with which many students will be familiar. This addition of important and recognizable players makes the content of the text more interesting and relevant to readers.
March on Washington is somewhat less visually appealing when compared to other books in the series as it contains very few illustrations, maps or charts. Instead, this title chooses to rely mainly on black and white photographs. However, it could be argued that this is a nice feature as the photographs really capture the spirit of the time period.
Overall, March on Washington is a good attempt at examining a critical event in American history. This title would be a welcome addition to the nonfiction collection of any classroom library.
Michelle Brown is a librarian in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.