Author: Kate Messner
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Genre/Format: Science Fiction - Thriller/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Meet Quentin, a middle school football star from Chicago...
Sarah, an Upstate New York girls’ hockey team stand-out...
Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest...
And Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California. The four have nothing in common except for the head injuries that land them in an elite brain-science center in the Florida Everglades. It’s known as the best in the world, but as days pass, the kids begin to suspect that they are subjects in an experiment that goes far beyond treating concussions….and threatens their very identities. They’ll have to overcome their injuries – and their differences – to escape, or risk losing themselves forever.
What I Think: A book like Wake Up Missing is so hard to review! I hate trying to review a book that I love so much. I always have a ton to say that I have no idea where to start. Having read so many of Kate's books, met her a few times, and worked with her on Teachers Write, I know Kate is a wonderful person and writer. As I read Wake Up Missing, I could hear her reading and even imagine her doing research and writing it. With Eye of the Storm and now Wake Up Missing, Kate has been able to really infuse her love of science into her novels. I love reading her books and feeling that each one is just so Kate. If a class was lucky enough to do a in-real-life or virtual author chat with Kate, I think it would be a great chance to discuss voice and to really have them read Kate's blog, learn about her, pay attention to her demeanor and then connect all of that with her writing to see how they can see her in her books.
Wake Up Missing centers around a group of kids who have all experienced head injuries that led them now to a brain-science center. My husband is a huge sports fan but especially a football fan. As we listen to sports news, the topic of head injuries and the danger associated with them is often discussed. I'm not sure how much kids really think about head injuries - and avoiding head injuries - when they want to play sports like football. What I absolutely love about Wake Up Missing is that it really brings the issue of head injuries to the forefront in such a fascinating way that shows how it truly is a big deal while also gripping readers. Kate does such an excellent job of writing entirely real characters that readers connect with them. By connecting with the characters, it makes things those characters deal with - like head injuries - so much more real and important. Over the summer I read an article called "Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer", which explains how readers are given the opportunity to empathize differently because they have experience imagining what it might be like to be inside a character's head. I'm not entirely sure how reliable the article is, but the idea is intriguing. I do believe that as I read Wake Up Missing, it encouraged me to think more about head injuries and I think it would definitely encourage young readers to recognize the severity of head injuries after reading the experiences, albeit fictional, of Cat. Kate strikes a remarkable balance of incorporating science and facts into a gripping fiction novel.
One last thing! I love Kate's description throughout the whole book. There are so many wonderful examples of great descriptive writing. The snatch of text I pulled is from the very beginning of the book. Two pages in and she has already pulled readers in with the imagery she creates by comparing the character to feeling like a puzzle that's missing a piece. This isn't just a simile for the sake of including a simile...it's not. It's really not. As a mentor text, this snatch of text is awesome for thinking about author's purpose and author's craft and really asking them to think why this simile is just so strong. In my mind, there are a few reasons. First of all, I would venture to say that most people have done a puzzle. And with finishing a puzzle comes that awesome contentment in knowing that the puzzle is finished. Likewise, puzzle pieces are notorious for being lost. It's easy to remember how horrible it feels to get to the end of a puzzle and not have the last piece. It just doesn't feel right. Not only does Kate make the connection between the feeling of having a head injury and the feeling of not being able to finish a puzzle, she then adds to the description. Just think of how differently the simile would be if it ended with the words jigsaw-puzzle pieces. This is a whole mentor text mini-lesson on similes right here! And then students could hone in on noticing what Kate does with description throughout the book as they read. Love it!
Oh, one extra last thing! Kate has a great author's note at the end that discusses connections between the fictionalized parts of the book and non-fiction resources that Kate referred to as she was writing. This book is a great opportunity to encourage students to do further reading. I love that reading fiction can lead to reading non-fiction and I imagine this story and then the information in the author's note would definitely encourage that.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 12
Read With: Eye of the Storm, Capture the Flag, and Hide and Seek by Kate Messner, Heat and others by Mike Lupica, Cover Up and others by John Feinstein, Football Genius and others by Tim Green
Snatch of Text:
"The most terrifying thing about hitting your head so hard is when you wake up missing pieces of yourself. Pieces of the person you were before it happened." (p. 1)
"I thought if I went to I-CAN, I'd wake up found.
And all the missing parts of me - lost balance, scattered memories - would snap back into place like the jigsaw-puzzle pieces Mom pulled out from under the wicker sofa. She blew the dust off and placed them into the holes in our carnival scene, one by one, until the last piece patched an empty gap in the sky. And then it was whole.
That was what I wanted. To be whole again." (p. 2)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing, Analyzing Author's Purpose
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Imagery, Craft, Voice, Similes, Persuasive, Expository
Writing Prompts: Read more about head injuries or another current issue in science and/or sports.
Write a persuasive essay that explains both sides of the issue and then takes a stand for or against practice or happenings.
Topics Covered: Courage, Family, Friendship, Identity, Determination, Instincts, Problem-Solving, Ingenuity, Integration - Science, Integration - Sports
I *heart* It: