Mayne Island Aliens : A Review
Book Review: Mayne Island Aliens by Amber Harvey
Prepared by Fiona Morrison
K-8 teacher Mayne Island School
Our multi age (Grades 4-8) class at Mayne Island School engaged in various author studies in the 2016/2017 school year.
One of our selections was Mayne Island Aliens by Amber Harvey. Ms. Harvey was well known to our students and community as she was a teacher/counselor at the school at that time. Several of the students knew and loved her stories and had read others in the series.
In this story, the themes of friendship, acceptance and inclusion fit well with our school goal of social and emotional learning. The mystery genre, the setting and the intriguing plot were literacy elements that I wanted our students to examine more closely. The characters in the story, Magda and her friends were well developed and I knew their character traits would resonate with our students.
I decided to select Mayne Island Aliens as a read aloud for the whole class for a number of reasons. My intention was to focus primarily on visualizing and connecting comprehension strategies .The setting for the story, Mayne Island, really facilitated the use of these strategies as it is the community where these students live, learn and play. In addition, I wanted the students to have an opportunity to have an authentic conversation with the author about her writing process.
The process we engaged in was as follows. I read aloud the novel and during each session the students were invited to sketch in their response journal with a focus on visualizing and making connections. This text was an excellent resource for using these strategies.
We also focused on character traits and each student chose one of the characters from the novel and wrote a descriptive paragraph about their character.
As a culmination to our work with Mayne Island Aliens we invited Ms. Harvey to our literacy class for an author visit. In preparation for the visit each student generated a list of questions for the author. They were encouraged to formulate “juicy questions” about the story itself and about the author’s craft, her writing process. They decided that they wanted to have tea and cookies and make the event conversational and inviting.
On the day of the author visit , Ms. Harvey was welcomed into the group, served tea and cookies and a wonderful conversation ensued! Each student asked their questions and reflected upon the thoughtful responses of the author. It was a wonderful experience for all!
As a teacher with 40 years of experience, I believe strongly in students having rich, authentic learning opportunities .Spending time listening to and reflecting on a novel set in their community, visualizing, making connections and sharing their insights and questions
are all worthwhile literacy activities. Having an opportunity to formulate and ask ‘juicy questions” of the author deepens the learning.
I would highly recommend this process to other teachers and encourage them to invite Ms. Harvey to their classroom for an author visit.