Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Scholastic’s A+ Guide to Book Reports by Louise Colligan

Colligan, Louise. Scholastic’s A+ Guide to Book Reports. New York: Scholastic, 1982.

I found a copy of Scholastic’s A+ Guide to Book Reports, authored by Louise Colligan, at a library book sale. It is in near mint condition. There is no crease in the spine. The pages are yellowed after 30 years, but otherwise spotless. The corners of the unfaded cover are slightly foxed, but I think that came from my handling. I guess I’m the first person who read this copy of the book. Presumably, someone who may have been in high school about the same time I was deprived himself of the good advice in this book.

This book is aimed at teenagers, especially high school students, who are assigned to write book reports. I’ve been out of high school a while, but I assume that still happens. Colligan’s advice still applies to that task, and some of it is applicable to other writing.

Part of the system described in the book involves good study skills and organizing work. It is simplistic, narrowly focused and prescriptive, but that is probably appropriate for a teen. I did not have such good habits in high school, and the demands of college and work pushed me into taking an organized approach to my work, which is second nature now. I recommend learning this skill as early a possible.

The rest of the system focuses on the book report, though still in an organized manner. Colligan provides ideas on how to select and appropriate book, approaches to reading with the task of writing a report in mind, and tips for writing different types of book reports. She also lists a number of creative alternatives to essay-style reports.

The understanding of the book is that this activity takes place in a school. Students are encouraged to get appropriate input from the teacher and to focus on the assignment, not going off on tangents.

One of the things that interested me was the list of recommended books. Because of its age, it doesn’t include anything published in the last 30 years. Classics, though, don’t go out of style. I was assigned a few in high school, such as The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, which I recommend. Like many boys, I enjoyed science fiction and fantasy and on my own read Dune by Frank Herbert and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (the one fantasy trilogy that rules them all).

Another interesting thing about the book is that there is no mention of the Internet. It didn’t exist. I don’t know how the Internet has affected the high school book report. I suspect that it has had little effect. Colligan’s sound little manual is probably as useful today as it was when I was a freshman, and I have a very nice copy available for a reasonable sum.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard
You Can Write for Magazines by Greg Daugherty
Your Intelligence Makeover by Edward F. Droge, Jr.