*5th-grade boy as the main character
*Rating: Karmack by J. C. Whyte (MuseItUp Publishing) is a good novel about a bully who learns a bit about karma through the creature pictured here. Filled with humor, interesting characters, plenty of pranks, adventure, and a subtle lesson, children will enjoy this book immensely.
Short, short summary: Sully is the Big Cheese of the 5th grade. He got that way by being tough (a bully) and playing pranks on everyone from classmates to his teachers. He has a gang, and he has enemies. . .until one day, when he sees a little creature, Karmack (stands for Karma) playing pranks on him and his friends. He’s able to catch Karmack and question him about what he’s doing. Karmack’s basically there to even out all the bad things that Sully and his friends are doing. If Karmack doesn’t do his job, all of their bad deeds will add up, and some doom will happen to them. In the end, Sully figures out how to beat bad Karma, and he changes as a result of it. Although it sounds like this novel could be preachy, I don’t feel like it is. The lesson is there, but the characters and situations are interesting enough to get kids into the novel and discuss the lesson afterwards.
Buy this book from the publisher: MUSEITUP Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museityoung/karmack-detail
So, what do I do with this book?
1. This is a great book to work on reading skills, such as character arc, character emotions, and character motivation. Sully goes through amazing changes in the book–you can discuss why with kids–and also list characteristics he has BEFORE he meets Karmack that might have led to him being able to make these changes.
2. Give students a journal writing prompt: If you could have a conversation with Karmack about your good and bad deeds, what would you say? Write a one-page conversation between you and Karmack OR a letter to Karmack. Are you “balanced”? Could you get “balanced”? What if you are leaning in a good way–more good than bad?
3. Before you read the end of the book with children, stop at the part where Sully says he put the mustache on the photo. Ask: Do you think he really did it? Why or why not? How did it get there? Why is it there? What’s going to happen now that Sully admitted it, but maybe didn’t do it? Ask students to use their knowledge of the story world to make some predictions. Then after reading the ending, see who predicted correctly. (As long as a prediction is logical, even if not correct, it works for this activity.)