I finally placed a large order for Stone Arch books this week. I say "finally" because I have been intending to get these ordered since last February, but ran out of funds. My order included many Vortex, Shade, and Pathways titles plus additional titles in many of the series where we had only individual titles. The graphic novels we own are always checked out so I knew any new graphic titles would be avidly received.
While I was ordering, I had members of the Library Club checking and rechecking my lists against books received, books ordered, books owned, books lost, and books being previewed. They loved debating every title on the list and making sure enough people intended to read it as soon as it was ready. I kept stating, "I’m not going to buy a book that just sits on the shelf unread." They worked so hard on this list that you would have thought they were spending their own funds. Our last recheck involved removing the multiple copies that they kept slipping in. "I know you love Claudia," I’d say, "but we can’t purchase 8 copies of the same book right now. Let’s get 8 different titles instead."
Now that the order is finished, I can go back to reviewing and previewing the elementary titles I’ve received from Capstone Publishing. Have you seen the new Stone Arch Readers? The publisher’s series summary states:
Stone Arch Readers take a well-known concept and revived it. This three-level reader series combines fresh story concepts and enticing art. Each level will have it’s own look and feel. Sight words and basic sentence structures will keep every level true to its purpose, and a parent letter will keep everyone on track. Stone Arch Readers bring the excitement back to learning to read.
One aspect of these that I liked better than some of their competitors was the information on the back of the book showing what makes a title a Level 1, 2, or 3 reader. For example, Level 1 titles have
- simple sentences
- easy vocabulary
- word repetition
- red banding
Level 2 titles have
- longer sentences
- higher vocabulary
- easy dialogue
- turquoise banding
Level 3 titles have
- full paragraphs
- higher word count
- high-interest topics
- purple banding
So many different publishers have brands, levels, and unique terms that I get confused. As a parent and a librarian who taught in elementary for 19 years, I appreciate this simple information on the back of a book. Of course there is information on the reading level (RL) and the Guided Reading Level and each book in the series is color-coded to match the level as I indicated in the bullets above.
For level 1 I read Mud Mess by Melinda Melton Crow. Illustrated by Ronnie Rooney. ©2010 ISBN: 9781434216229 $15.99 Total word count: 106
Mud Mess is part of a four-book set on level 1 with the same three truck characters. Other titles include Road Race, Snow Trouble, and Truck Buddies. Simple reading with trucks. Sounds good to me. I do question why it was the dump truck that got stuck in the mud instead of the generic blue truck or green truck. In my experience the dump trucks get stuck LESS often than generic pickup trucks, but I did research and find photos of dump trucks that were stuck and needed bull dozers to push them out. I would buy this level for elementary schools. The illustrations are important to the story and the illustrator has hidden a little bunny on each page for the reader to locate.
Robot and Rico have 3 additional titles in their level 2 adventures: Skate Trick, A Prize Inside, and the Scary Night. The dialogue contained in this title sets it apart from level 1. There are more words and usually two sentences on each page. Anastasia Suen has included a variety of punctuation which will help reinforce first grade concepts. I could see two students reading this aloud and learning how to take turns reading dialogue. Another good choice for elementary students with male characters.
The level 3 title in my hand is Three Claws, the Mountain Monster by Carol Meister. ©2010 ISBN: 9781434216335 $15.99 Total word count: 362
The three additional titles in their level 3 adventures include Ora, the Sea Monster; Moopy, the Underground Monster; and Snorp, the City Monster. I wish I’d received all of these because I have a concern about how the characters in Three Claws solve their problem. You see, Three Claws has bad breath and chooses to only eat smelly rotten fish. When his monster friends are unable to convince him to try other foods, instead of telling him that his breath smells bad, they trick him into moving to the top of a mountain where his stinky breath will be far away from them. He is a good sport and bows to his friends for the honor of protecting them from the top of the mountain.
So, I warned you that I’m feeling picky today. Most readers will enjoy the story and pick up the next title in this set. My concern is that ostracizing people with bad habits is not how I suggest solving problems. Still, I could use this title to teach problem solving and friendships. I’ll have to call up Stone Arch and ask them if the other monsters have been banished to unique habitats due to bad personal hygiene or not. Readers, if you have these other titles, let me know.
One improvement I would make in these series is for the note to Parents and Caregivers by Gail Saunders Smith, Ph.D. to change for each level. Since there are unique features for each level, parents and caregivers could utilize tips for incorporating these into the listening experience without it becoming a lesson. The note by Gail Saunders Smith does remind parents that "reading with your child should be fun, not forced. Each moment spent reading with your child is a priceless investmant in his or her literary life."