The Dark Hills Divide (The Land of Elyon: Book One) by Patrick Carman
March 13, 2009 in Carman, Patrick, Elementary Educators, Making Predictions, Middle Grade Novel, six traits of writing Tags: middle-grade fantasy novels, Patrick Carman, six traits of writing, The Dark Hills Divide, The Land of Elyon series
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle-grade fantasy novel
12-year-old girl as main character
Rating: The Dark Hills Divide is a great start to an exciting series. I fell in love with the main character thanks to Patrick Carman’s fantastic voice in the story.
Short, short summary: In The Dark Hills Divide, the reader is introduced to Alexa, who lives in a world that a wall protects. Patrick Carman reveals the wall that surrounds the four cities: Lathbury, Turlock, Lunenburg, and Bridewell, and the reason why the wall was built in his first book of The Land of Elyon series. Alexa has never known life outside the wall, even though she is curious and has tried to glance outside of it from windows and with her mother’s spyglass. When she goes with her father on her annual summer trip to Bridewell, she has an interesting meeting with Thomas Warvold before he passes away. He gives her a way outside of the wall and sends her on a mission that will change her life forever.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Assign students a journal writing when they have read a few chapters of this book and then again when they finish the book. The topic is “What do you think of the wall?” Ask students to write about their opinion. Do they think the wall is a good idea to protect the people inside? Would they like living inside the wall? Tell students to answer the same questions in both journal assignments and see if their opinions changed after they finished the book.
2. One of the six traits of writing is voice. Patrick Carman shows the perfect example of a unique and captivating voice in The Dark Hills Divide. Word choice, another one of the six traits of writing, goes hand-in-hand with voice. What makes Alexa’s voice believable and special? Study the words she uses, her sentence structure, and so on. She is a 12-year-old girl, but she doesn’t sound like many 12-year-old girls who live in the United States. Why? When students are writing their own stories during writing workshop, remind them of the way Patrick Carman gave his character an authentic voice.
3. This book is the first of the The Land of Elyon series. The epilogue of this book foreshadows some of Alexa’s adventures in the next books. Ask students to predict what they think will happen in the series. Ask them if they would be interested in reading more books by Patrick Carman and have them support their opinions with specific examples from the first book. For example, instead of students saying, “I want to read the book because I like Alexa,” ask them to tell why they like her: “She is adventurous like when she goes outside the wall, and I think she will have more exciting adventures in the next book.”
If you have read this book or series with your students or your children, please leave a comment here and tell us how it went or what you did. For more information on children’s books, check out A Patchwork of Books.