Retro Review: The SOS File
When a book can grab students from page oneÂ and hold their interest throughout,Â it’s a keeper. WhenÂ said book canÂ accomplish these feats in a read-aloud setting, well, it’sÂ a bookÂ that you need to have on hand. “The SOS File” is just such a book. A collection of short stories that will no doubt be aÂ read-aloud standby for upperÂ elementary students.
“SOS” works like this.Â The first pageÂ shows a file folder with the following instructions:
Have you ever needed to call 9-1-1, but you couldn’t get to a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell “help!” but your throat was dry with fear?
For fun and extra credit write your story and put it in this file.
The first chapterÂ begins with the teacher, Mr. Magro, addressing the class. He explains that theÂ SOS file is full and it’s timeÂ for students to read theirÂ stories. Mr. Magro even sets up some intrigue by mentioning that one SOS will not receive extra credit.
ForÂ the next twelve chapters, students present their stories. AllÂ are writtenÂ in the first person,Â drawing the reader into the action. Some stories are exciting (“The Pink Panther” is about a go cart test gone awry),Â many are funny (“Three Strikes, You’re Out”, “Pumpkin Man”),Â and some are touching (“Miracle on Main Street”). All are written inÂ a basicÂ enough style to make the reader buy into theÂ idea that they wereÂ written by kids. When Mr. Magro finally gets to the last story (it’sÂ his own, about being held back a grade) the reader realizes who will not be receiving extra credit.
Each chapter is brief, clocking in at just a few pages. ThisÂ structure is good for a couple reasons:
1. Stories never drag.Â Young readers who are easily turned offÂ by plodding storylines will want to keep on reading.
2.Â Short chaptersÂ giveÂ provide options in a read-aloud setting. You don’t have a lot of time? Just read one chapter – it’s still an entire story in and of itself. GotÂ more time? Read aÂ couple – kids will be asking for you to keep going.
It’s a pleasure to share a book that has beenÂ so usefulÂ to me as a school librarian. Be sure to add this one to your collection. If you read it to your students, beware – you may not see it on the shelves again for a while. My highest recommendation.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
Filed under: Reviews
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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