@Tweenteacher, also known as teacher and author, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, has published a great review of Whole Novels for the Whole Class at Middleweb. She calls it, "Teaching Whole Novels for Love and Standards," and really taps into the double edge of the whole novels approach, where the "fun" of experiencing story is not divorced from the "work" of close reading and analysis of text, but rather a key to it.
Heather writes, "Sacks approaches literature as a means to teach critical thinking by acknowledging that deep thinking doesn’t happen until passion does. She gives advice on how to cultivate that enthusiasm for reading first and foremost before launching into ways to leverage that newfound passion into assessable knowledge... Sacks has done the work for you, unveiling the legitimate connections among love of reading, sustained narratives, common experiences, deep discussions, and student-centered activities, and a whole-novel approach can help address both the Common Core standards and the necessity to prepare our students for their futures."
Something else I really appreciated in her review is how she thought about using the book (and the whole novels concept) as a tool for collaborative inquiry into the teaching of literature among her colleagues.
She ends, "Among my own ELA department colleagues, I could go on and on about this resource. But I think I’ll go a different route. I’m planning to recommend Whole Novels for the Whole Class as one of our book club selections. Perhaps we’ll even experience some of the activities from a student’s perspective, participating as we would as learners. We’ll find the balance between whole class discoveries as a department and individual ones discovered through our own independent reading. After all, as Sacks states, there must be a balance between the two. It is this balance that Whole Novels insists is a vital component in any reading program, at any level."
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Tweenteacher! Middle school teachers should definitely check out her book, Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers and content area teachers should pre-order her latest, Writing Behind Every Door: Teaching Common Core Writing In the Content Areas.