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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Do you know Jake Maddox?

Jake Maddox. Author, book character, or series name for Stone Arch Books? As a cataloger, watching these books come in and out nonstop can be frustrating. You sit there wanting to tweak the record as soon as the books are on the shelf. Those darn books just won’t stay on the shelf long enough for you to argue with yourself again…. 

Do you file these in fiction as FIC MAD for Maddox? Do you put them under FIC and the three letters of the text editor? Do you file these in fiction as FIC $@# for the t-r-u-e brilliant brain behind these "high-interest fiction books for struggling and reluctant readers"? (I know a secret!) 🙂 Who is Jake Maddox? Is Jake a character? Nope! Must be a pen name for some author.

I give up. I’m putting them all in FIC MAD for the series because it will put them at exactly the perfect height for eye contact. My reluctant readers who come in desperate to get a book so the teacher will stop yelling at them to "find a book" in 2 minutes, will be able to easily identify all the titles in the series. Give me a break, you make decisions like this in promoting books all the time.

Oh? You want to know what these books are? They are from a grouping called Impact Books that are targeted to an interest level of Grades 4-8 but with a reading level of Grades 2-3. They are modern/contemporary stories. They involve sports, sportmanship, teamwork, and core values. The students report they are fun, not demeaning or condescending, and that there is just enough sports action to make their senses gear up.

I have most of the first series of Jake Maddox. There are 34 on the list. I wasn’t sure if I should donate them to my middle school library or not. . My old elementary school students loved these, too, so I debated donating them back to that school where I’d definitely be a hero. "Perhaps these are too young?" I wondered. "What if I process them and the students won’t read them?"So I took them in to my middle school Grades 6-8 and waited.

Nope! I have such an incredibly diverse group of students speaking 35 languages, from 47 countries, and totaling 882. You would be shocked at the wide diversity of students who are reading these titles. Students casually picked up a title and sauntered off to read. Before their classes left, they raced up to check out the books and returned to band class where they promptly got write-off’s for reading instead of rehearsing. 

I forgot and left a flyer advertising all of the new Jake Maddox books out on the table. Oops! I surely didn’t mean to cause the students to start demanding more in the series, or did I? You readers know just how much I hate to have to order more books. NOT! Now the students can’t wait for all of the 2009 Spring titles like:

  • Free Climb
  • The Hunter’s Code
  • Legend of the Lure
  • Wild Hike
  • Running Rivals
  • Soccer Spirit
  • Stolen Bases
  • Tennis Trouble

The top four have male main characters and the bottom four have female main characters. Boys are reading all of the titles even when there is a female athlete on the cover. The boys seem to have radar or tracking devices on the books, too. The minute a book is returned, a student is digging through the return box and checking it back out. 

The entire collection covers a broad range of sports. I have witnessed students beginning with the title focusing on their sport first, then rushing back to the library to pick ANY other title in the series. They have learned that the titles deal with issues they face in middle school and that the Jake Maddox series doesn’t sugar-coat the issues. 

I can tell the students love these books because they left me a note in the consideration bag:

Dear Ms Chen,
Please get every single one of the Jake Maddox books. Probably you need to buy more copies because they are so easy to read and I finish them in a day. Then I have to beat everyone to the library during advisor/advisee time and somebody else comes in and gets them first. That makes me sad. (drawing of sad face)  Could you please fly up there to Minnesota and tell your author friends that we need more Jake Maddox books? Maybe the author can write some about bouncing on the trampoline and playing dodgeball. Those are my favorite sports during gym but we don’t have a trampoline. 

<signed by> 
your favorite student

Who could resist a plea like that? Looks like we’re off to contact all my author friends and tell them to stop enjoying fall and get back to writing. In the meantime, I hope you purchase these books and test reader reaction for yourself.


  1. Mrs. Rasmussen says

    I agree. These books fly off the shelves. They come back the next day and want more. I have k-4 kids and my 2-4 kids love these! We are going to try to incorporate them into the school character program. These books are magical. School Library Teacher, Cary Il.

  2. Colton Sweeney says

    Hi. I’m a fifth grade student at Lincoln Elem. School in Merrillan, WI, and I enjoy reading books by Jake Maddox. They are at my reading level, and they are action packed. The last one I have read is “Motocross Double-Cross” and it is great. As I like to be outside a lot and play with friends, there are times when we “double-cross” each other, but then we are mad at each other for just a little bit and then are playing together again. This book, if a good one if you want to ride a dirt bike because it has a lot of instructional infomation in it that is right one. thanks again. Colton