Doing the time

Locked Up: A History of the U.S. Prison System, by Laura B. Edge (2009)

Opening line: “In September 1773, twenty-one-year old Levi Ames of Boston, Massachusetts, confessed to being a member of a gang of robbers.”

I am on the constant lookout for engaging, extended informational texts. Not only does the curriculum require it for Common Core, but to get my kids to read full-length non-fiction, it’s gotta be really good. If I was to continue my “opening line” with the rest of this first page of Edge’s history book, you would quickly find the major reason why I don’t think this one would hold up.

After the first paragraph, the short description of Levi Ames end by gallows, Edge jumps to a description of crime. And then back to the 1600s. And so she goes throughout her story. Although the basic structure of her text is chronological, Edge rather skips and hops between ideas and lacks the transitions necessary to tie these together. This can be really problematic when you are trying to convince middle schoolers to read the entire thing.

Perhaps a rare student could use this for some sort of research project. It appears to be good information and well-researched, with a full 22 pages of end matter. It’s an interesting and relevant topic — especially to those 1.5 million children who have at least one parent in prison, as Edge suggests. I can picture this topic as a thoughtful subject for project-based learning. But for pleasure reading? Not so much. I also wish there was a bit more treatment of the state of modern prisons.

Informative, but rather chaotic. 1.5 stars.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s