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Project X series of books for boys – By Various authors

| September 24, 2010

Published by Oxford University Press
(Example, Just in Time, by Jon Stuart and Tony Bradman,
ISBN: 978-0-19-847621-4)
Reviewed by Nikki Sulter, Librarian: St John’s Preparatory School for Boys

Raising the level of boys’ reading has been a concern for many years. Oxford University Press has published a guided reading programme on topics designed to appeal to boys, particularly those who are not interested in reading or who find it difficult.
Each set of books in the Project X series comprises four fiction and two non-fiction readers, and a teacher’s guide. All the fiction stories follow the adventures
of Max and his friends, who are able to shrink themselves and embark on adventurous exploits around the world. There is the inevitable baddie, Dr X, who appears in the later books with the intention of shrinking the entire world. Many of the tales suffer from predictability of plot. However, the stories and descriptions are certainly intriguing enough to hold the reader. The language, too, is sufficiently challenging to sustain interest, but not so difficult that the child will easily give up.
The factual books are packed with fascinating information on each theme, an approach that will undoubtedly engage boys, who often seem to favour the real world over fiction. For example, What’s Your Time? looks at records set by sportsmen and women, and includes titbits such as the remarkable story of the man who cycled 29 275 km around the world. When we tested these titles on a group of grades 3 and 4 boys, the reactions to the non-fiction books drew comments such as “very interesting” and “I really enjoyed it”.

Reactions to the fiction books were more mixed, from “very nice” to “I didn’t like it”. A disappointing feature of the story books is the illustrations, which are designed to imitate computer graphics and are a rather obvious attempt to win over avid gamers to the world of words. On the other hand, the pages in the nonfiction books have attention-grabbing diagrams, maps and photographs, and add significant value to the text.

Useful suggestions are given in the teacher’s guide, which offers notes on building vocabulary, mastery of comprehension and opportunities for cross-curricular and writing activities.

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Category: Book Reviews, Spring 2010 Edition

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