Tag Archives: adventure

The Phantom Tollbooth

Bibliographic Information: Juster, Norton. (1964). The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Random House.

Plot Description: Bored and disinterested 10 year old Milo, is never satisfied with anything. He always longs to be somewhere else and when he gets there he wonders why he bothered going. One day he discovers a package containing a toy tollbooth and map to the Lands Beyond. He sets it up and drives his little toy car through the booth and into a fantastical adventure. He meets an array of interesting and unusual characters, such as Tock the watch dog, who is both figuratively and literally a watch dog, since he keeps watch to guard against time wasting and also has a giant clock in him. Along his journey Milo visits several lands, learning something new in each one, until he finally figures out how to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 1000L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 6.7

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book features black and white drawings and is told by a third person narrator, who is credible, but only knows Milo’s thoughts. Figurative language is used throughout the novel. Many phrases in the story have both literal and figurative meaning. Some students may have trouble discerning the often multiple meanings behind names and ideas. The author uses satire and humor to convey meaning. Higher level vocabulary is used throughout the story. Students will likely expand their vocabulary reading this novel and can use context to help understand new words. There is most certainly a distance between the events of the text and the experiences of the reader and events will be unfamiliar to readers. However, readers may connect to Milo and his boredom, as everyone has experienced it at some point, though hopefully not as severely as Milo. Knowledge specific to the fantastical lands in the story are often explained to help readers understand how things work in the Lands Beyond, though the explanations may not always be clear.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Mathematics

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students identify figurative language in the text and determine the often dual meanings (figurative and literal) using contextual clues. As they read, ask students to record character traits of Milo, Humbug and Tock throughout the story. Have students respond to the following quote about Milo: “He regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all” (p. 2). Do you feel the same way? Why or why not? Why do you think Milo felt that way? How could you show Milo the importance of seeking knowledge?

Supporting Digital Content:




Awards: George C. Stone Centre for Children’s Books Award

Character names/descriptions: Milo, a ten year old boy who is in the doldrums. He is always bored and takes little interest in his surroundings.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed this book as a child and think it is still relevant today. Even with all the technology and countless ways to amuse oneself, many children are still bored by everything (maybe even more so than when the book was written). It has a great lesson for readers and it is very entertaining and funny.

High interest annotation: Everything bores young Milo, so perhaps a trip through the phantom tollbooth is just what he needs to embark on a journey of discovery that will change all that

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading For Pleasure (Chapter Books)

The Adventures of Tintin

Bibliographic information: Herge: The Adventures of Tintin: http://us.tintin.com/

Brief description: This website features a variety of information on the comic book character Tintin and his many adventures across various medias, such as books, films, cartoons and games. There is a section about all the Tintin books, which includes a summary of each story, key and supporting characters and pictures. There is also a section of the website about the characters that features more in depth information about each one, including the real life inspiration behind the character, fun facts, the titles of stories they appear in and an overview of their traits and qualities. There is another tab with information about how Tintin began and his author. The News and Happenings section tells about all Tintin related news and events. Then there is the Tintin store with numerous Tintin memorabilia and products. The last link is to the Tintin movie.

Qualitative  analysis: There are a series of Tintin books, so some knowledge of the characters is helpful, but not necessary for understanding. For those who want to find out more about the characters, the website features information about key characters, so there should not be a gap in understanding for those with no prior knowledge of the series. There is distance between readers’ experiences and those of the text; however there is plenty of explanation to bridge the gap. There is a wide array of text features to aid in comprehension, such as changes in font, notes, graphics, etc that compete for the readers attention. The visuals are used to augment and illustrate information in the text. The vocabulary is mostly contemporary and familiar. The language used, closely adheres to the readers linguistic base. There may be some dated phrases that readers are unfamiliar with, but they are easily understood in context.

Subject area: History, Language Arts

Personal thoughts: I found this site when looking for resources for my French class. The French version is a little better, but I still like the English version too. I think these websites that feature characters in various media are great for engaging reluctant readers. I also like the little tutorial on how to draw Tintin, though mine didn’t turn out so well.

Subjects/themes: adventures, Tintin

Series information: The Adventures of Tintin

Character names/descriptions: Tintin is a journalist who travels the world to uncover the truth (and help save the day).

High interest annotation: Join Tintin on his many adventures around the globe, as he investigates and makes his own headlines.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Items

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

Bibliographic Information: Andrews Edwards, Julie. (2004). The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. New York: Harper Trophy.

Plot Description: The Potter children meet an eccentric and brilliant professor who tells them of the special Whangdoodleland where the intelligent and magical creatures have gone when people stopped believing in them. Getting to Whangdoodleland is no easy feat and the children must use their patience and imagination in order to learn to see things in a new light and make the magical journey. Once there, they set out on a search for the last of the really great Whangdoodles (who is the king of the land and the wisest and most generous of all creatures). Along the way they meet a plethora of other magical creatures, such as sidewinders and gazooks. Most are good natured, friendly creatures, but some are not so nice. The ‘oily’ Prock, for example, will do anything he can to keep the humans from reaching the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 620L, Interest Level: Middle Grades, ATOS Book Level: 4.4

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The vocabulary is mostly familiar, but some phrases are a bit antiquated, such as ‘fiddlesticks’ and may be unfamiliar to young readers. There is also some academic language as the professor explains things to the children. As he explains it to the characters, it is also explained to the reader, so should not pose a challenge to comprehension. Some of the characters’ speech in Whangdoodleland is spelled phonetically to let the reader understand how it would sound, which may be a little confusing at first, for students with low reading levels. The novel also contains some more sophisticated vocabulary, which will challenge and help students grow their vocabulary. Illustrations are not used in the book. According to the author’s note in the front of the book, Andrew’s declined having illustrations added to the story because since it is a book about imagination, she felt it was more authentic to require readers to use their own imaginations to ‘see’ the land she creates in the story.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards: Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing: Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

Curriculum Suggestions: Make a Whangdoodle dictionary to keep track of all the Whangdoodleland specific terms and creatures you come across in the story. Your entries should follow the same format as a dictionary. Include the parts of speech, as well as a definition and example sentence from the text to show how the word is used in context. The professor explains cloning to the Potter children in the story. Do your own research about cloning (in particular animal cloning) and summarize your findings, using proper citation to avoid plagiarism.

Supporting Digital Content:


Character names/descriptions: The Potter children: Ben (13), Tom (10) & Lindy (7), who meet a strange and brilliant professor and travel with him on a quest to find the last of the really great whangdoodles. Professor Savant, a noble Prize winner who leads the children on their quest.

Edition: 30th Anniversary Edition with foreword by the author

Personal Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book as a child and I think its whimsical world holds up to the test of time. Andrew’s creates fantastical characters and lands that will capture children’s imagination well into the future.

High interest annotation: Join the Potter children as they learn to let their imaginations free and journey to the magical world of the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading For Pleasure (Chapter Books)

The Wanderer

Bibliographic Information: Creech, Sharon. (2000). The Wanderer. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.

Plot Description: This story is told in alternating viewpoints through journal entries written by thirteen year old Sophie and her cousin Cody as they sail across the Atlantic to England, the home of their Grandfather. Sophie is the only girl in a crew of five men (her three uncles and two cousins). There is another reason Sophie is different from the rest of the crew. They have always been family and Sophie only became a part of their ranks three years ago when she was adopted by the uncles’ sister. Sophie is excited to find adventure on the high seas, but she also takes a journey of profound personal discovery. The second narrator, Cody also takes a personal journey as he proves to himself and his family that he has a deep inner strength behind his clowning exterior.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 830L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 5.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The author uses figurative language, such as personification and similes to make connections within the text. For example, ‘Sophie is like the sea,’ she has different personalities like the sea: calm, still, rough, etc. The author uses alternating points of view in limited first person narration, to show the reader different views of the same story. There is significant complexity and multiple levels of meaning. Some meaning is stated, while others are left to the reader to interpret. Vocabulary is mostly conventional, conversational and familiar. Unfamiliar nautical and boat related terms are explained and easily inferred from context. Sentences are primarily simple and compound, with occasion for more complex phrases and transition words. Experiences portrayed are uncommon to most readers. Not many will have sailed (especially on a long journey) or been adopted (particularly in later childhood). Students may connect with themes of belonging, searching for yourself and grief.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Geography

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students create a map of the Wanderer’s journey across the Atlantic. Label the important places it sails and crucial events that happen there. Chart the changes that occur for key characters over the course of the journey. Support your answers with details from the text. Sophie is like the sea. Have students pick an element of nature that they are like and explain why.

Supporting Digital Content:



Awards: SLJ Best Book; State Award; Parent’s Choice Award; ALA Notable/Best Books; Christopher Award; Publishers Weekly Best Book; BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; Newbery Honor; Young Reader’s Choice Award/Nominee; Carnegie Medal/Honors; Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; Booklist Editors’ Choice

Character names/descriptions: Sophie a young girl whose parents died and was adopted three years ago, Cody is her new cousin, who is interested and intrigued by her.

Personal Thoughts: Sophie is a brave and tenacious young girl who makes a wonderful narrator. I also enjoyed the view of Sophie from both her words and those of someone getting to know her.

High interest annotation: Come along on an exciting and perilous journey sailing across the Atlantic, which is also a journey of self discovery for the six wanderers on board

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading For Pleasure (Chapter Books)


Bibliographic Information: Gaiman, Neil. (1999). Stardust. New York: Avon Books.

Plot Description: Tristan makes a promise to his beloved Victoria, that he will bring back a fallen star for her and then they will marry. This promise is the beginning of Tristan’s adventures. He sneaks through the only hole in the wall (which separates his sleepy English town ‘Wall’ from the world of the faeries) in search of the fallen star. The star turns out to be nothing like he expected and together they meet an assortment of unusual and mysterious characters, while braving all sorts of dangers on their journey through the enchanted world of Faerie. To complicate matters, Tristan is not the only one searching for the fallen star, which holds the key to youth, power and dark magic for evil witches in the land. These witches will stop at nothing to take the star from Tristan and destroy her to gain the magic they desire.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 970L Interest Level: Upper Grades ATOS Book Level: 6.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The story contains multiple levels of meaning. The genre is familiar, but the text bends and expands the rules of the genre. Organization adheres to most conventions, but often shifts the readers focus to another perspective, time, place or event before returning to the main characters. The story is told in third person omniscient narration, by a credible voice that provides an appropriate level of detail. The same graphic is used to mark the beginning of each new chapter. The text organization has more than one storyline and is at times difficult to predict. The text has complex sentences with subordinate clauses and transition words. The story explores themes of varying levels of complexity. As it is a fantasy story, experiences portrayed will not be common to readers. Though elements of the story will be familiar, as they are conventions used in fantasy/fairytales that readers likely know.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

Curriculum Suggestions: Discuss with students some common elements of fairytales. Have students look for fairytale elements in the novel. Have students write about whether or not they think the novel is a fairy tale, providing textual support to backup their claims, then have students share their ideas in a class discussion.

Supporting Digital Content:


Awards: Publishers Weekly Best Book; Alex Award

Character names/descriptions: Tristan, Victoria his beloved, the beautiful Fallen Star, Evil Witches who want the star for her magic and a number of other strange characters from the faerie realm.

Personal Thoughts: A highly enjoyable, magical adventure. Compelling characters who inhabit an interesting, fantastical world. I highly recommend this story and the film version as well.

High interest annotation: Tristan’s adventures begin when he promises to bring his love a fallen star. Little does he know, the task will take him to a magical world, where he will need all his bravery and cunning to keep the star safe from the others who pursue her.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading For Pleasure (Chapter Books)