Book Review: Tracking Pythons by Kate Messner

Leave a comment

I recommended Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem to a student and I found that I loved it, too. I’m not a snake person, but this research trip that turned into an informative and interesting book for (older) children made me motivated to read more, as the back matter of the book suggests.

Author Kate Messner traveled to meet and travel with the team of scientists, including Ian Bartoszek, who were charged with tracking pythons and studying the ecosystems these gigantic snakes destroy. I learned how (NOT!) to catch a python, how much one python can eat as it grows to 15 feet long (!), and even something about responsible pet ownership of snakes. Many of the stories were humorous, such as Ian’s story of weighing one of the captured pythons at a supermarket’s scale (109 lbs!). Another scene included (gross!) pictures of a python who had eaten a deer. Back matter included “Invasive Species Most Wanted List” and a timeline of the Burmese pythons’ Florida invasion.

I was left in awe: “It’s always a mistake to underestimate the power of a Burmese python.”

This is an excellent nonfiction read for older elementary children or teens who need a mentor text for their own research projects.

 

IMWAYR: Breakout by Kate Messner

Leave a comment

I’m so lucky to have met many awesome authors in the last few years, and Kate Messner is one author I’ve followed closely. Her newest book, Breakout, released on June 5th, and I finally got my pre-ordered book in the mail today. I haven’t finished yet, but I wanted to share this post immediately so you can add this book to your “To Be Read” list.

Breakout is written as a collection of newspaper clippings, letters from the characters (mainly Nora Tucker, a middle school student journalist and Elidee, a new student at the school), poems, text messages, and other documents. This design choice is the main reason I think middle school students through adults are going to love this unusual story. The setting is summer vacation in the mountain town of Wolf Creek, and Nora wants to enjoy her break. But two inmates from the town’s prison break out (hence, the title) and the town and its residents are forever changed.

One of the main reasons I love this book so far is that I can see myself using it in my middle school — the story starts with a writing assignment for the students at Wolf Creek Middle School — and beyond. “How I See My Community” is the premise that is already changing as the story unfolds in the letters, texts, and transcripts of “recorded conversations.” I believe (as Kate Messner does) that all humans have stories to tell, and the author certainly weaves these characters’ stories together in an interesting way.

I have to get back to reading now (I won’t put this book down, I’m sure, until the last page). By the way, the end of the book provides book lists for further “thinking” texts, separated into age-appropriate categories for readers. Thank you, Kate! That’s a nice idea! If you want to read more about how Kate Messner created this book and her writing process, please visit her website. The Breakout section of her blog is interesting, informative, and inspiring for teachers, students, writers, and everyone else. Check it out here.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

IMWAYR: May I Please Read Blog Posts?

Leave a comment

I’m giggling silently because I remember the last conversation I had with a student (fall of 2016) about the sentence, “I don’t like to read.”

“I don’t like to read.”

“Sure you do!” I responded.

“Nope.”

I said, “You like to read Facebook posts from your friends, right?”

She giggled, as I am now.

I am reading blog posts today from my new personal writing adventure, “Teachers Write!” Hosted by Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Jen Vincent, Gae Polisner, teachers can sign up on Kate’s blog (www.katemessner.com) and spend a few weeks writing with other teachers from all over the country. You can choose to participate in each day’s prompts, work on your own project and get feedback from experts, and read guest authors’ advice. It’s a great way to be more active in a safe, friendly writing community.

I’m trying it out. Back to reading, now!