Spoiler Alert! Is This Decodable Text a Good Match for Your Student?
Well, not that kind of spoiler. But, seriously. If you consider skipping ahead in book to peek at what happens later in the story a literary crime, then don't read this post. It is full of spoilers for Ed and Mel's Decodable Adventures books. But why?
Well, it's because I've experienced that finding the right decodable book can be difficult in more ways than one. I want to help parents, teachers, and tutors make informed decisions about my books to help them use their resources wisely.
If Ed and Mel's Decodable Adventures is not a good fit for your student, I want you to know that before you buy the books.
So, here is what I have already provided to help you know what is in my three books.
- First, I have listed the scope and
sequence used on each book's web page. It is also listed on the Amazon page under "Editorial Reviews: From the Author." Book 1: The Black Silk Path, Book 2: The Hunt for R. L. Nox, Book 3: The Path's End The scope and sequence matches Barton Reading &
Spelling's scope and sequence for Levels 3-5.
- The books' formats are shown in Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. The Black Silk Path, The Hunt for R. L. Nox, The Path's End (P.S. Sometimes the paperback and Kindle Amazon "Look Inside" options show different pages. You will see the most pages if you look at the "Look Inside" for the paperback and the Kindle editions.)
- I have a video showing another view of The Black Silk Path (The Black Silk Path video, scroll down to see the video.)
The Black Silk Path: The story begins with an introduction to Ed and Mel. They are twins in a family of adventurers who love to travel the world. Unfortunately for them, there is a villain who wants to borrow their parents' expertise of travel for a "special" project. He has kidnapped Ed and Mel's parents. He doesn't want any trouble from Ed and Mel, so he puts a magical spell on them. This spell steals their ability to communicate through reading, speaking, or spelling. This greatly restricts their ability to get help or find their parents themselves. But Ed and Mel are determined to rescue their parents. They have found that learning to read again helps them weaken the spell. They can speak only the words they have learned to read again. It isn't easy. This part of the story is given in the parent/tutor/teacher read section of the first chapter.
The decodable text is introduced when Ed and Mel begin to speak. They don't speak as fluently as when they could speak any word they wanted, but they still work to communicate with the small number of words they have learned to read again. They continually work on their reading to add skills and words they can speak throughout the book.
The journey to find their parents takes Ed and Mel to Spain, Argentina, and China, before they find The Black Silk Path. It is a doorway and path to another realm that is connected to the Silk Road that we know from our world. New challenges arise as they follow the path from the Silk Road in Kashgar, China to the other world of Ebrin.
In Ebrin, Ed and Mel face trials and discouragement before they make a new friend, Jax, and rescue their parents. But not all ends well. The villain, R. L. Nox, is now on the run, and he has devious plans which will harm the people of Ebrin. Ed, Mel, their parents, and Jax agree to stop R. L. Nox together. They don't want any more people to be hurt by his actions.
Throughout The Black Silk Path, you see Ed and Mel struggle to communicate, but they push forward. They study their reading lessons. They communicate with the words they can use. They encourage each other to take one more step towards finding their parents even when the obstacles in their way seem too big to conquer. Sometimes the obstacles come from within in the form of discouragement and fatigue. Grit and determination define the spirit of this book.
The Hunt for R. L. Nox: After a brief summary of The Black Silk Path to catch readers up, we see Ed, Mel, their parents, and Jax, following clues to hunt R. L. Nox down. Each of them must lean into their strengths on the journey ahead. Before long, they find they are on the right trail as they come across a town ransacked by R. L. and his men. The group searches for and finds the missing townspeople who are beaten up and shaken. It becomes clear what R. L. is willing to do to get what he wants. Ed, Mel, and Jax quicken their pace in the search while Ed and Mel's parents stay behind to help the townspeople recover.
The search leads Ed, Mel, and Jax to an Ebrinite market. They find and rescue a merchant and his daughter who were locked in a trunk by R. L. The merchant regretfully informs the trio that under duress he told R. L. how to kill the dragons of Ebrin. Killing the dragons would allow R. L. to steal the dragon's gold. This creates a bigger problem for Ebrin. Since the dragon's gold mining activities prevent damaging earthquakes, killing the dragons will unleash reoccurring earthquakes, and Ebrin will no longer be hospitable to humans.
With Ebrin's future at risk, Ed leads a group of merchants to battle to help protect the dragons. They succeed in saving the dragons, but R. L. escapes capture. He continues to steal from and destroy parts of Ebrin as the dragons and merchants recover. R. L. also has some tricks up his sleeves to stop Ed and Mel. Later, R. L. sneaks back to steal the dragons' babies and takes them back to his world. The continuous struggle during the chase and some close calls cause Ed to doubt himself and his strengths. Whatever he does never seems to be enough. But when Ed is at his lowest, Ed and Mel receive a few wise words from an injured dragon. The twins once again pick themselves up and determine that the hunt isn't over.
The Hunt for R. L. Nox leans into the exploration of strengths. Ed, Mel, and Jax each help out using their unique abilities, but they find the support of the community around them is another strength. When they are tested, and when it looks like their strengths won't be enough to save the day, they realize they are not defeated unless they quit.
The Path's End: Again, readers are brought up to speed with a basic summary of the first two books as Ed dreams about the recent past. We find Ed, Mel, and Jax preparing to rescue the baby dragons from R. L. But first they must go on a journey in Ebrin to collect items for medicine for the baby dragons. When R. L. took the babies back to his world, he didn't know that a toxin there will eventually kill them. Ed, Mel, and Jax must make the medicine if they have any hope of rescuing the dragons and Ebrin's future. This task isn't so easy. There is great risk involved in obtaining one of the ingredients, and the medicine itself is toxic to humans. Ed, Mel, and Jax continue despite the risk, and it might cost Jax his life.
Ed and Mel return to their world with the ingredients for the medicine while Jax fights for his life in Ebrin. They start navigating through the town of Tashkent, Uzbekistan to find a chemistry lab where Mel can make the medicine. Meanwhile in Tashkent, R. L. Nox and his right-hand man, Fred, work to profit from the plundered Ebrinite goods and the dragons. They have purchased a circus and are preparing for people to flock to see the baby dragons. After seeing one of R. L.'s circus advertisements Ed and Mel arrive to save the dragons and stop R. L. Ed and Mel are so close to completing these important tasks when R. L. captures the twins.
The Path's End gives readers a glimpse into R. L.'s past. He also struggled with language and school difficulties when he was younger. He didn't have a supportive community and has made some bad choices to gain some control of his life. We see a defensive R. L. who believes he has to get respect and acceptance by stealing and bullying. We also see R. L. blaming Ed and Mel for his actions. He tells them that if they had only stayed at home in the beginning to wait for him to let their parents go, none of this trouble would have happened. He hopes to convince Ed and Mel to see things his way so they leave him and his plans alone. Ed and Mel have to sort through R. L.'s accusations. They also have to decide if they will continue to fight or make an agreement with R. L. to have the communication spell removed. They must choose who they are going to be and what their priorities will be in the midst of this decision. They decide to save the dragons and Ebrin over the option to be free from the spell. They are willing to accept their communication difficulties in order to save Ebrin which now feels like their home.
The Path's End leans into the choices we make in the midst of difficulties. There are consequences that come with those choices. One of those choices is to accept who we with our difficulties and our strengths. Overcoming a difficulty doesn't always mean being completely free from it. Often it means that we embrace hope, pursue growth, and live in community.
I feel that younger students will get the basics of the story line - good, evil, never give up, encourage one another, rescue the parents and Ebrin, and stop the bad guy.
I feel older students have the opportunity to dig deeper into some of the content. The story has within it elements of my family's experiences with dyslexia. I feel like many of our experiences are shared by others. Here are some possible questions that can be explored because of that shared experience. When have you felt like giving up? (Ed and Mel both struggle with continuing on at times.) What helped you continue? (They help each other and are helped by their community.) What preconceived ideas of success affect your view of your difficulties? (Jax describes the education system in Ebrin. It is a little different than ours.) What obstacles are put into place because people don't understand your language difficulties? (The teacher at the international school denies Mel access to the chemistry lab because he thinks she must not be qualified to use the lab since she can't talk very well.) Have you experienced someone blaming you for their lack of understanding or not wanting to change what they are doing? (R. L. wants to blame all the chaos on Ed and Mel since they tried to stop him from stealing from Ebrin. He doesn't think his plans are the problem, so Ed and Mel are the problem.)
I've also included a few details so older readers can infer a budding relationship between Mel and Jax and a relationship between Fred and Bree. There is an basic level of character development that can be explored. A student can research some people and places mentioned to have greater comprehension of the context of the story. I've mentioned a few explorers, inventors, and real places, including the Silk Road.
Well, I hope I didn't spoil too much. But as I said before, finding the right decodable book can be difficult. Hopefully this post will make it a little easier to know if Decodable Adventures is a good fit for your student or students.