Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New Book Alert: Breakout by Kate Messner

I love Kate Messner! Her books are incredible, and she does great work for kids, teachers, and other authors alike. If you don't follow her blog, you should, if only to get notified when the annual list of authors offering free Skype visits for World Read Aloud Day goes live!

Her latest book, Breakout, arrived last week. I was so excited about this book, that I actually preordered it twice from different retailers (once in December and again in February). But having read it, now I'm glad to have two copies to circulate in my classroom!

Two prisoners escape from the local prison, shattering the quiet in the sleepy town of Wolf Creek. Nearly everyone in town has some connection to the prison, and the lockdowns, police searches, and news media affect everyone. How long will this search go on? And what might the community learn in the process?

Breakout is told through a collection of documents to be added to the town's time capsule project. This format really allows the voices of the various contributors (friends Nora and Lizzie and new-in-town Elidee) to shine. It also provides multiple perspectives on certain incidences during the story, and the reader gets to witness the characters' understandings of themselves and their town evolve.

Kate has done a great job of weaving the big issues of racism, privilege, and prison reform into an engaging and entertaining story. Middle grade readers are gently introduced to various microaggressions, and issues such as racial profiling, the disproportionate incarceration rates of African-Americans, and more. This is a book that will spark some great discussions and (hopefully) reflection in its readers.

Kate also published an amazing blog series, Countdown to Breakout, that covered the 23 days before the book launched. In it, she explored a ton of different topics in the "behind the scenes" of the book, including how she got the idea, insights into drafting, the positive impact of her sensitivity readers, and more. There are a TON of great resources for teachers of writing too, including samples of her editorial critique letter, her giant revising diagrams, and more! I can't wait to incorporate some of these real-world examples into my curriculum.

This one is must-have for middle grade and middle school! (Click here for more reviews of new books.)

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