Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Island Sting

What better way to hook your readers than have your main character almost drown as she rescues an endangered Key deer and is fished out by a cute guy--all in the first 10 pages of your book? Those are the ingredients that author Bonnie Doerr uses to keep 5th-8th grade girl readers from putting down this illustrated eco-mystery.

Kenzie Ryan and her newly-divorced mother (Maggie) have just arrived in the Florida Keys. While Maggie is starting her job as a nurse, Kenzie is supposed to be unpacking boxes and setting up housekeeping in their grandmother’s cottage. Instead, she is quickly consumed by an obsession to discover the poacher who is killing the miniature Key deer who make the Big Pine Key their home. Kenzie’s anger towards the unknown poacher is joined with a desire to clean up the litter-strewn island. These two themes intertwine and constitute the backbone of this entertaining and informative book—and become the focal point for the Keys Teens Care group which Kenzie helps form.

Science and language arts teachers will be excited to find a contemporary mystery that can be used across the curriculum. Teachers and students will both be happy with the end notes which provide more history and information about the Key deer and their fragile island environment.

Bonnie Doerr lives in North Carolina but her intimate knowledge of the picturesque Florida Keys comes through on every page. When I wrote to her and complimented her on how well she described this extraordinarily unique setting she said: “I actually consider the setting to be a character in my work. Since I have an environmental theme, I need readers to care about the environment before they will care about any wrong or crime associated with it. I often say I hope readers feel like they're on vacation in the Florida Keys when they read my work. A free vacation with no bugs, no sun burn, and no crowds!” Here is one example of that well-honed description: “Cars poured out of the shopping center under an ever-threatening sky. Clouds darkened and billowed upward. Armies of great mushrooms, brewing thunderous time bombs.” (p. 192.)

Whether you read this as an adult or recommend it to your students, I have a challenge for you. How many ways can you find that Ms. Doerr uses the word “sting?” I found two. She told me of a third. Is there a fourth hidden in these pages? Read the book to find out! (Leap Books, 2009)


Unknown said...

I agree with everything you have to say, but my fourth grade boys were intrigued by the book. Since we study habitats in the fourth grade curriculum of our school, they were prepared to identify with the conflicts faced by the characters.

Margaret Van de Ree
Fourth Grade Teacher
Pine Lake Preparatory School

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and I'm happy to see that you have used Island Sting in your fourth grade classroom. I'll pass your comments along to Bonnie Doerr- I know she'll be pleased to hear that!
How did you find my blog? ALways curious to know how readers find me.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I AM going to read this. Glad it's doing so well.

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