Saturday, May 14, 2016

The LEAGUE and the LANTERN Review
My homeschooler and I received a copy of "The League and the Lantern" to review. I always want to qualify the fact that I am reviewing from a special needs perspective. I am homeschooling a teenager who is on the autism spectrum. She has academic delays and we use materials meant for children who are younger than she is. She has been a reluctant reader in the past and will refuse to read if the book looks too difficult with too small print, too many words on a page. We review books as read alouds. My daughter has an unusual rule that she reads just four pages at a time and she will stop reading in the middle of a good part of the story if her four pages are up, which means we are not even halfway into the story. Part of the issue is that I stop her sometimes to check for meaing. When the character shuffles through a dark tunnel, does she know what "shuffles" means? Can she imagine not being able to see where she's going after an explosion? Does she realize that stumbling upon the "lifeless eyes of the redheaded security guard" means they found a dead body?

I am trying to work on her flexibility and occasionally can get her to read a little bit more, but often she tells me I have to wait to hear what comes next. There has not been a read aloud yet that she has gotten lost in enough to keep reading through the story and that is probably an autism thing. 
From an autism perspective or a special needs perspective, the chapters are relatively short. Visually, a lot of children would be able to finish a chapter of The League and the Lantern in one sitting (as opposed to reading four pages at a time). I do like how author Brian Wells made the chapters short. Now to convince the girl to read a chapter at a time rather than four pages. Easier said than done.

I knew this book was going to teach us a lot of interesting stuff when I read "heterochromia iridum" on page 4 in a description of one of the characters. When Wells mentions a matchbox, I wonder if any of my children have ever seen a box of matches and if they found one in the dark if they would know what it is? These are the kinds of stories I like, because they teach my daughter something as we figure out what new terms or unusual words mean. There are 140 key vocabulary words sprinkled in the text with historic sites offering more learning opportunities.

If you have quick access to the internet while you're reading together, you can look up terms together. What is "commando crawling"? You can show your child a video demonstration. There is much to learn here.

The book web site, btw, is packed with fun stuff. The bonus material is especially fun (I think of it as "value added" to the story).

More added value is the fact that the by buying one book, you participate in a  buy one - give one campaign to get books into the hands of kids who cannot afford their own copies. List price of this 282 page hardbook is $17.99.

Since we haven't finished with the book yet, I'll borrow the synopsis from the publicity materials:
The League and the Lantern is the first book in a new adventure series for middle-school readers. It all starts when a dangerous organization invades Jake Herndon’s seventh-grade sleepover. He escapes along with two new classmates, Lucy and TJ, only to face a 48-hour fight for survival on the streets of Chicago. The kids unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War, and an incredible secret about Jake’s family. Along the way they learn unexpected lessons about courage, family and friendship.
We live in an area of the country where Civil War battles were fought (and lost) and we keep adding to our knowledge about the war. The League and the Lantern is interesting to us because of the Civil War history. (The bonus features on the book web site take us to more history.) I get a little more nerdy about Civil War history all the time and the tidbits in this adventure add more to my nerd factor.

Caution: The book is a thriller, and some of the story may scare some sensitive children. I would not have liked it as a child. I have children who loved this type of material.

The book is 'clean', no cursing, no dating relationships. Wells's storytelling is inviting, and as I read ahead of where my daughter and I are in our read-aloud, I want to keep going at the end of each chapter. Learning that author Brian Wells is employed in network television comes as no surprise. He knows how weave a tale. Honestly, I am concerned that my girl will miss a lot of the meaning in the story at this point because of her delays (a heads up for those of you whose children w special needs struggle with reading), however, I am enjoying how the story plays out. I wish the series had been available when my kids were little. They would have loved this.

Thank you, Brian Wells, for the autographed and numbered copy of the book!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

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