When I taught Year Six, I was always on the lookout for books that would appeal to my reluctant readers. Usually these children were boys, and often they were reluctant to read because making sense of print was so darn difficult for them. I loved to find books that would tickle their funny bones when I read them aloud. They loved humorous poetry in particular, and would fight over these read-alouds for their independent reading. The rhyme, the short pieces, and the pay-off of humour all helped make the book attractive. The fact I’d repeatedly read certain poems meant these students could predict text more easily, and decode difficult words with the help of their auditory memory.
A huge favourite of my eleven- and twelve-year-olds was Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns, by Doug MacLeod. I followed MacLeod’s career as a writer of TV shows like The Comedy Company and SeaChange, and was delighted to learn that Ford Street Publishing had recently ( May, 2009) brought out MacLeod’s My Extraordinary Life and Death.
This book is not a book of poetry. Nor is it a chapter book. It’s not exactly a picture book, although there is a charming, old-fashioned picture on every page. But rather than continuing to list what it isn’t, here is the blurb from the back cover:
What exactly is The Tight Trouser Club?
Where do you buy children at bargain prices?
How do you survive a father who buries you in the garden whenever you misbehave?
And whom do you contact when your wife starts to shrink? None of these questions are answered in My Extraordinary Life and Death, though what do you expect if the author is dead?
A roller-coaster of madness and surreal comedy awaits the reader brave enough to open the pages of this truly remarkable book.
I enjoyed it. My husband enjoyed it. Together we grinned over MacLeod’s clever twists of humour and bizarre interpretations of the old engravings. More importantly, I think young teens would enjoy it. I hope the crew from Monty Python can get back together and produce it as a musical!
The age guide for My Extraordinary Life and Death weighs in at 13+, but I found nothing offensive in the book to make it unsuitable for slightly younger children. Get a glimpse at Ford Street's website. Alas, I’m no longer teaching Year Six, but if I were, I know this book would become fought-over, and find a firm place in all our hearts.