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Runaway Magee: A Language Arts Study Review by Dawn Oaks

Katie Kubesh, Niki McNeil, and Kimm Bellotto
In the Hands of a Child
6222 Pierce Street
Coloma, MI 49038

What a blessing this study was for our family! Like many other homeschooling families that incorporate a lot of literature, we have focused extensively on familiarity with the vocabulary used in the text, questions that evaluate reading comprehension, and family discussions ("What did you think about..?"). Runaway Magee: A Language Arts Study takes each of these tasks a few steps further.

It's not just learning the meaning of vocabulary words. Within the activities provided in the study, the student finds synonyms, uses a word atlas to find the origin of some of the vocabulary words, and uses contextual clues in the reading to help determine the meaning of "slang" or "street" terms.

The parent or student can also choose from a multitude of activities to explore the plot of the story. Wonderful tools in the form of story maps, scene summarization, character relationships, story structure, and Venn diagrams are all utilized to aid the student in fully digesting the plot and its themes.

Ever finish a book with your children to find that it has sparked a whole new level of interest in a related topic? The authors of the study have incorporated some additional information to help in that regard--from the concrete world of baseball and its origins to the much more intimate issue of prejudice and how it affects our lives.

At the very beginning of this unit study, the authors and publisher give clear directions for completing the project pack. As with most unit studies, Runaway Magee supplies so many activities that you can almost select only your favorites and still have achieved a thorough reading and understanding of the text.

I would be negligent if I did not voice my support for the work that this study is based upon, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Spinelli's book addresses the harsh issue of modern-day prejudice and the even larger issue of homelessness in a very gentle but real manner.

The labeling on this product suggests that it would be appropriate for students in grades 7 and up. I would contend that many upper elementary students would understand and benefit from the material as well. The authors do provide suggestions for using the study with younger students. As with any unit study, you will need additional materials such as file folders, colored paper for copying of activity templates, scissors, glue, and markers.

Product review by: Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008