The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. James Bryce


As a teacher of English as a foreign language I truly believe that one of the greatest ways to make my students cherish the language and grasp its scope to the deepest is by prodding them to read, read and read.  Yet, I am not much in favour of graded readers, not so much because of their quality.  There are graded readers that are undoubtedly well edited and of great help to some students.  I started experimenting reading books for young people 10 years ago and since then I have never abandoned the idea of promoting authentic material in my classes.  I see that when my students read an authentic (unabridged) novel, they gain confidence and great satisfaction.  They say their reading a novel in English (a novel that mother tongue speakers themselves read!) gives them a great sense of achievement, fulfilment.  Obviously I do not plunge my students into an ocean of books without giving them any buoy (metaphorically speaking).  Quite the contrary: titles are suggested according to the level of English my students have and bearing in mind the overall interests.
I am much indebted to Stephen Krashen’s ideas and books.  If I had not read him I doubt I would have ever decided to abondon the safe island of the graded reader to embark on a riskier but greatly challenging vessel.

Why have I not set up a blog on reading in English before?  I started  promoting extensive reading years ago and I have been using blogs with my students for a while.  Well, the truth is that running a blog is timeconsuming and we teachers do not happen to have lots of time.  Yet, this school  year (2011) was marked by a special event for my 3F class.  Thus this blog is dedicated to them.  They are the ones that spurred me into creating it.  They read the novel “Beautiful Malice” by the Australian writer Rebecca James and then they accepted my challenge of attending a short workshop on how to create a booktrailer.  With the help of Andrea Princivalli they created the following:

The writer herself wrote the following e-mail to the students:

Dear Class III F
That is absolutely brilliant. I love it! It is Sunday morning here in Australia and I’ve just watched that trailer and I’m sure I’m going to be smiling all day!
Thank you so so so MUCH.
I think you’re all amazingly clever and I’m going to post that on my blog if you don’t mind?
With very warm wishes,

You will read the students’ reactions and comments on the book and on the booktrailer experience.
Since this blog is meant to promote ESL students to read novels in English but also colleagues to use free reading in their classes, I would love to share with you the introductory activity I devised along with two friends and colleagues (Nella and Laura), with whom I share ideas, projects, hopes and sometimes frustrations too.  This activity is meant to tickle the students imagination and if possible to spur them into reading the whole novel.
Beautiful Malice

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.  Author Unknown

beautifulmaliceThis is another interesting booktrailer what I invite you to watch.
Bye for now.


30 Replies to “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. James Bryce”

  1. When I had opened the book and I read the first page, I thought:” Oh my God! This book is more difficult than Refugee boy or Gangsta Rap”.
    I said that because of the language ( it was difficult ) and because of the story: it was confused, but after few pages I liked it!
    The main advantage is the choice of the writer that had subdivided the tales in chapters, therefore the reader was absorbed in the novel! It was impossible to switch off the light and to sleep because you was interested in knowing the end of the story.
    But for another thing, the choice of the writer, was a problem because sometimes when a story started again you had to go back to read the correct page to remember what was happened before.
    All the characters in the novel are essential especially Alice with her coups de theatre like the love story with Robbie’s father or when she was drunk and had met Ben. To my mind the worst thing was when she said her secret: her brother identity. He was one of the boy that had killed Rachel.
    The novel alternated hard times and good times, it was all a climax and suspense and the description of Rachel’s death was the worst moment in the novel, it was so hard so brutal.
    Unluckily Katherine has to live with a remorse even if she isn’t responsible of the murdered but she is responsible for the choice of went back with complete strangers! And to have left her mobile telephone at home!
    Another person who is responsible for what happened is Will, Katherine’s boyfriend at the time! How could he left her girlfriend with Greg and the others boys?
    I like this novel because can help you to judgy, think and to reflect! In the book there are many lovely phrases that I had underlined but my favorite is one’s of Mick. He said:” we couldn’t possibly kill something that we have made together. It’s our baby. Ours. A bit of you and a bit of me.”
    To be pregnant at Katherine’s age is a big responsibility but with a boy like Mick you’re more positive and confident
    Katherine is a strong girl she moved in another city to live with her aunt, she had to change her name due to Rachel’ story and she had to live with this suffering forever.
    Mick was the only good thing experienced in Katherine’s life, but he is died due to Alice!
    The two drawbacks in the novel are the description of Mick’s death and the conclusion of the novel! The first was confused and the second was too fast! What about Sarah? What about Katherine and Robbie?
    Nevertheless I recommend to read this book because it tells about love, friendship and alcoholism one of the big problems that have lots of boys!! Beautiful Malice can help you to make a reflection on all the drunk boys and that isn’t necessary to be drunk in a party to have fun!
    Unless Rachel had drunk so much, maybe she would be a famous pianist, now.
    Katherine’s story can help you to get stronger and happier!
    Giada Blasut 3^ F

  2. I would want to begin by saying that I loved Beautiful Malice”. When I received it and I saw the cover my mouth made a smile.Then Reading the plot I have immediately understood I was interested in this book, and one again my mouth made the shape of a big smile. I think I can say this book is the best one I have ever read. To mention some titles I appreciated a lot ” The Daydreamer”, “journey to Jo’burg” and “The boy in the striped Pyjamas”; but I loved “beautiful Malice ” much more. For example I didn’t like very much ” Gangsta Rap”even if it contained a lot of important issues, because I’m not interested in rap music. In fact the read of this one took me more time than “Beautiful Malice”. For the last one I took only 8 days!! When I finished it I was amazed of myself because I have never read a book in English in such a short time!
    This book in full of unforseen event that leave you breathless. Is just this the power and the magic of the book that don’t allowed you to stop reading; maybe this is the reason why I read it so fastly. But thinking, there is another reason that make me love Rebecca James poem, it is the book in which I recognised myself more easily. Oh fortunately and I underline Fortunately, I didn’t undergone Alice’s naughtiness and the pain she made Katherine feel ; but I have had a friend wasn’t loyal with me. I trusted her and I considered her my best friend, but she told me loads of lies. At least, I discovered she was envious of me even if I just said ” hallo” to a boy. This is not a friend this is a lear and evil person.
    Despite ths fact I really appreciated the way Rebecca James presented the character, expecially the different portraits she gave of Alice. At the beginning she seemed so understandable and lovable tha she would have done everything for Katherine, but then the ppoor Katherine and I in the part of a reader ,discovered the real evil nature ofthe bautiful Alice. In my opinion the choice of describe her in this way creates lots of moments of suspance that makes you feel thrilled. This is the feeling that every book should give, and … to draw conclusion I want to say that Rebecca James succeded in this. 🙂 lucrezia busato

  3. Katherine Patterson seems to be a teenager too similar a lot of most young people in this particular life’s season, but in reality she has a terrible past hidden of the other. Moreover she is incessantely tormented by the tragedy that has devastated her family; the death of her younger sister Rachel.
    The main problem is that Katherine feels guilty because of her sister death. In fact she is not able to forgive herself for her inattention towards Rachel at the night-party. For example because of she has permitted her sister drink too much and for the confidence given to the unknown boys.
    At long last she believes have found a pure friend, Alice, whom it could be possible to confide completely. But Alice will show herself a false, wicked and manipulator girl and Katherine’s life will become impossible because of her. By way of compensation, Robbie, Alice’s “boyfriend”, is a sweet, generous, friendly person; he will become Katherine’s best friend. Than an other important protagonist’s friend will be Philippa, her eye opener.
    Other events will change Katherine’s life-planes , but the end of the novel is equally positive for the heroine.
    In conclusion, BEAUTIFUL MALICE is good written and at the same time Rebecca James has given an interesting, meaningful, involving and fascinating content; so I have found this reading simply fantastic!
    Coletto Lisa 3H

  4. Beautiful malice is intricated book;because you discover it page after page,chapter after chapter.
    Katie is an outgoing girl, who lives in a wealthy family:she attends an expensive high school,with elegant uniform and qualified teachers, but this life doesn’t belong to her.
    She wants to be a ribel,she stands out in the crowd,goes often to parties,drinks alcohol,dances on the dancefloor since she feels dizzy,wears provocative clothes;in this way of behaving is just like the other young people.
    Her life changes drastically after a party; her sister,a very prodigy pianist,is not used to alcohol and when Katie is busy with her boyfriend,a group of guys make her drank beer.
    When,after a few hours,Katie reminds about her sister is too late:her sister is totally drunk.The boys persuaded Katie to drive them home,but their intentions are not these:while Katie is locked up in an hut, her sister is raped and killed.After that shock Katie decides to change enterely and becomes Katherine:she moves to Sydney,changes school,friends and her way of behaving,but incessant questions bombard her soul “Why I decided to accept their shift?Rachel was the more loved one and I am only a looser,why should destiny brought her and not me?What do my parents think about me now?They certainly think that was my fault only.”
    In Sydney Katherine finds new friends,Robbie and Alice,and tries to start a new life:
    They go together on holiday,they go clubbing every night,they talk hours and hours without being annoyed,they really seem the kind of people Katherine needs to overcome her shock,but Alice sometimes behaves in a strange way. Katherine starts going out with Mick and his sister,Philippa,because she is upset about Alice way of acting.Philippa is a real friend for Katherine;she helps her seeing Alice below the true light,and from that moment keeps distant from Alice.
    Katherine also falls in love with Mick and,for the first time in her life she feels good with herself.
    Katherine is stalked by Alice, and after a while she finds out who really is Alice;a sister of one of the guys,who raped and killed her sister.
    Katherine has got an other shock;realizes that all she had lived she will be bring with her forever.
    With Philippa and Mick try to start a new life;she falls pregnant and starts plan her future with Mick and their baby.
    Alice doesn’t want to let Katherine in pace;and just when Katherine seems to be really happy with her life,her past swallows her up.
    Alice brings away what Katherine really love:Mick.
    In this book you can find several themes,that are linked to adolescences;maybe Rebecca James in her life had got problems with alcohol and drug,and in this book wants to warn people,who drink only for being accepted or for being considered,that maybe this is not the right way of living and having true friends.
    In this book there is also a great way of describing the pain,but also the strenght of turning your page again.
    I did not like the end,that is not a real end,because it does not let you know how Katherine’s story end,but it gives you ideas of thinking on an end you like.
    After have read this book,you will be thinking a lot:you should be youself and your true friends should accept you for what you are,they should not make you do things you do not want to do,because after all you are the person you will be living forever,not you friends and your consciousness is more important than the other’s opionions.
    Overall I really liked this book,because it caught my attention and made me thinking about my life,and all the choices I have to make in my future,and all the choices I had made before.

  5. 1. I think that other reasons why people leave their home are: sometimes young people think of disappointing parents, sometimes it’s their own choice of lifestyle or even the parents who throw out their children because of pregnancy, proplems with drugs and alchool. They also think that leaving home they create their freedom and independence but without money, food, warm place and parents’ love.

    2.Certainly there are a lot of peolpe who can resort the problems, but sometimes is not necessary call on psychologists or expert, there are teachers willing to help their students or you can speak just with another member of your family.

    3. Our system helps homeless people but it is not enough, they need our support too. People think about Homeless like people who Samia described: sitting on the streets, looking horrible and shouting at traffic, but as jonny said, they are normal people with their hopes for the future like permanent accomodation, employment etc.
    Most of the times they are harassed by people and certainly we have a lot of prejudices towards them.

    Marta 4H

  6. I think that in Italy the fact of leaving is less than in other countries, as our English teacher pointed out; but this issue could happen if there is a difficult family’s situation ( for example divorce or separation of the parents), or the family has economical problems, or the boy in consideration is stifled by the school or what else and it becomes stressful for him: in fact not everybody is able to react in a good way and to overcome problems in a “normal” way. This would not be my case, but if i would decide to leave I’m sure i could resort to my relatives (my grandma, my aunt) or my dearest friends, i’m sure they would help me immediately! But i must confess that i wouldn’t know where to go in the case when i would have nobody by my side. I really don’t know what institution i could ask for help and i’ve never consulted any webpages, so i wouldn’t be prompt for the situation, but i think i would manage it by myself.
    I think the two British webpages are very good made up: the titles aim directly at the point, the arguments catch readers’ attention and the information is well schematized. But i think that instruments like these blogs can’t possibly reduce or limit or help materially homeless people: it is a responsibility of the System first, and then even ours. We can contribute giving this poor young people money or even some food but it is the State the one who should protect and help this people to hope for a possible future. But unfortunately it is not done and for this reason the number of this poor people is increasing more and more, overall in the big cities.
    I think a young like that feels naked, is smelly and perhaps he is even very hungry and thirsty. I think it is not an easy life, living on passers-by, sleeping on doorways.. and at the same time watching all around the world going on. I would really like to do something for these people but i’m sure my help would be not enough. It is not fair that some people have to accept ways of living like this one, but i think they first have to make other people (who judge them badly) realize that they are not ruining the landscape of the earth, but they can do something good like everyone.

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