Sunday, November 13, 2011
This week, I was offered the Vocab Cafe book series to review. This set of 4 books (also sold individually) offers high schoolers and older middle school students that chance to increase their vocabulary while reading high-interest fiction stories. The titles include: Planet Exile, The Summer of St. Nick, I.M for Murder and Operation High School. In each title, students will find at least 300 new vocabulary words used in context, in bold print and footnooted with the definition at the bottom of the page.
I pride myself on a pretty decent vocabulary knowledge, but I think there are words in here that even parents could learn. I think the author has a great idea here and I believe putting the words in story form will be much more effective than using flashcards to prepare for the SAT. Reading difficult classics can increase your vocabulary, sure. But having to look up each unfamiliar word in the dictionary will try the patience of even the most dilligent student. I like this approach.
An example from some of the stories....
"Not having a car required quotidian walks, which was both a blessing and a curse..." (Quotidian: adj. occurring every day)
"Matilda was a kind-faced woman, beautiful with a corpulent figure. (Corpulent: n. fatness; portliness)
"Terrified by the thought of being put into a moribund situation, Emma remained still (Moribund: adj. near death)
Here's what the Vocab Cafe company promises: "We are a family-based company, our goal is to make a quality product that can be enjoyed by everyone. Thus, these stories contain no magic, sorcery, swear words, illicit situations, nor do they encourage negative behaviors. However, we recommend that parents should read every book that they give their children (not just ours) to make sure the messages coincide with their beliefs and standards. The VocabCafé Book Series does contain boy-girl relationships (non-sexual), mild violence, and mature thematic elements."
In I.M. for Murder, there is mention of a family pet being beheaded, which may be a problem for some families. This seemed very tame, though, compared to what is in most murder mystery series these days, even those categorized as teen fiction. I work part-time in a bookstore and I will tell you that what's out there for teens is VERY adult. This series will be a welcome change of pace to offer your teenager, while helping them increase their chances of doing well on the SATs. If this scene bothers you, then don't discount the whole series. Just don't purchase this title.
Summer of St. Nick was the other title that I had a chance to thoroughly read and I thought the overwhelming theme of charity was nice. The characters seem real and the modern setting and language will appeal to today's teenagers. I know what teens are drawn to, and it is definately not preachy stories. They want some adventure and escapism, just like most adults.
When the books go into their next printing, I would suggest an editor look over some typographical errors that appear here and there. Other than that, I applaud a very good effort on behalf of Vocab Cafe.
You can purchase the books as a set or individually at http://www.vocabcafe.com/
**Disclaimer: I have received the full set of Vocab Cafe books to review in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.
Click here to read other reviews of Vocab Cafe.