________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 10. . . .November 8, 2013


Curse of the Skull. (HIP Edge).

Paul Kropp. Illustrated by Charlie Hnatiuk.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2013.
106 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-926847-35-1.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

**** /4


Curse of the Skull Teacher’s Guide. (HIP Edge).

Lori Jamison.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2013.
20 pp., stapled., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-926847-36-8.

Teacher Resource: Grades 7-12.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

**** /4



“I’m going out, Mom.”

“Out where?” she asked, like always.

“Out, just out,” I shouted back. Like always.

No way I was going to tell her that I needed a smoke. She’d hit the roof. So I just went “out” and when I got halfway down the block, I lit a smoke.

And, yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. I know it’s a stupid habit. I don’t need a lecture.

I think I smoke because my life sucks. It didn’t used to suck, not before we moved to Edgemont, but now it sucks big time. I used to have friends I could goof around with. But here in the Edge, I just don’t fit in. All the kids are in groups or gangs, or else they’re loners. So now I’m a loner, or maybe that should be spelled with an s. Loser.


New kid in school and not fitting in, 14-year-old Jordan wants very badly to be part of a group, especially Cullen and his friends, the coolest kids in school. He just doesn’t know how to be anything but a loner. Then, while outside having a smoke, he meets an elderly lady, Mrs. von Lowen, who needs his help removing a rock in her yard that, when removed, will make a hole. She needs to bury something, and, as Jordan helps her, he finds out that it is a crystal skull that she believes is cursed. Mrs. von Lowen, a widow, believes the curse will end once the skull is buried. As Jordan gets to know her and begins to work for her, he finds out that her home is pretty amazing and that she was once wealthy, a Countess in fact.

internal art     Cullen and his gang begin to show interest in Jordan, using him for his homework and challenging him to prove that he can be part of their group. They challenge Jordan to steal the crystal skull and take it to them. He knows that telling them about Mrs. Von Lowen and her house and skull was wrong, but he just got caught up in the need to be a part of a crowd. Soon he realizes that things are getting out of hand, and, when Mrs. von Lowen ends up in hospital with heart trouble due to stress caused by a break-in and theft, Jordan must step up and do the right thing.

     Paul Kropp has written a high interest, low vocabulary (RL 2.8) novel that will interest students of all reading levels. His characters are real teens with real teen issues that teens face daily. Each reader can say, “Hey, I say that,” or “That’s the way I felt when I went to a new school.” Though the difficulty level of the vocabulary is low, the novel is written to “hook” the reader in the first few pages, and Hnatiuk’s illustrations provide visual cues to help with comprehension for reluctant or striving readers.

     Included with the novel is a comprehensive teacher’s guide written by Lori Jamison and designed to help students and teachers get the most learning from this story. It begins with a description of the HIP Novels for Struggling Readers program and explains how each novel is written and designed with reading level controls, gripping plots and real dialogue, to name a few of the supports. A synopsis, an introduction to the novel and chapter reviews focusing on comprehension and vocabulary have been written to help teachers present the novel and ascertain the level of understanding of their students. The chapter reviews will also help students with retention of facts and information from each chapter, comprehension and new vocabulary.

     Having worked extensively with reluctant and striving readers, I must say that this novel and others like it are much appreciated by students and teachers alike.

Highly Recommended.

Elaine Fuhr is a retired teacher of elementary and middle school in Alberta.

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

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