I have been looking forward to reading On Track. We purchased this book last year for our library but it some how disappeared. Last week it 'turned up' hidden under a shelf.
Why have I been looking forward to this book?
1. It is a verse novel and I adore verse novels
2. It is about sport and I am always looking for books which might appeal to my senior boys
3. I read one glowing review and one less complimentary review and so I was curious - how could one book elicit such divergent views?
I read this book over two sessions. I read the first 80 pages waiting for a take away order of fish and chips and the remaining 215 pages today. I know this is an odd thing to say but if you read this book please stay with it until page 175 because that is when the action really kicks in.
Now don't panic. You will reach page 175 before you realise because this is a verse novel and so each page can be read very quickly.
Shaun and Toby are brothers but they don't really know each other at all. Each brother is wrapped up in his own worries and feelings of inadequacy. Toby is doing well academically - A grades for everything and yet he feels like a failure in his parents eyes. Shaun is not doing well at anything. School is hard, physical activities are hard and he knows he can never be as 'good' as his brother.
In these two extracts you can hear the voice of Toby.
4 hours and
older than me,
but that is enough
to make him
Toby : Not good enough
Sometimes it feels
like my body doesn't belong
to me, like I tell it to do stuff
and it doesn't. My feet stumble along
and trip over each other, my hands fumble
and drop, and it's almost like I'm wrapped in
invisible bubble wrap ...
This verse novel did have some emotional highs and lows as you would expect from this genre but not quite enough to satisfy me. I also had some difficulty distinguishing the two boys 'voices' at first. Perhaps I was not concentrating. This did pass after a while and I found there was a rhythm to the writing. I think my early problem might relate to the way the voices do not always alternate. Later in the book I enjoyed this structure. I am looking forward to putting this book into the hands of several of our Grade 6 boys - we read some verse novels last year and many of them enjoyed these books both for the way you can read them quite quickly and for their powerful storytelling.
You might like to think about the title with your students. The boys compete in an athletics carnival on the track. Toby has some major hurdles to over come and so he must stay 'on track' with his training. Shaun wants to win the discus competition and so he works hard to also stay 'on track'.
After reading On Track I recommend look for Motormouth and Tom Jones saves the world by Steven Herrick.
Here are a set of very detailed teaching notes.
Perhaps you would enjoy reading a range of reviews of On Track book:
Kids Book Review
Children's Books Daily