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Deltora from Scholastic

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Jul 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Located online at: http://www.scholastic.com/deltora/.

Source: Scholastic, 557 Broadway, New York, NY.10012; Phone: 212/343-6100; Internet: http://www.scholastic.com/.

Access Fee: Access to the Deltora Web site is free. The Deltora novels by Emily Rodda retail for $4.99 each.

Audience: The publisher recommends ages 9-12, however, both older and younger readers may enjoy the material.

Format: Web site and paperback novels.

Minimum System Requirements:

Any computer with a browser and a reasonably fast Internet connection will be able to access this site. The material is colorful and includes some animation and sound, but features no unusually large downloads.

Description: The Deltora Web site provides information and multimedia activities that explore and support the content of the Deltora book series. Deltora is a fantasy world created by award-winning author Emily Rodda through 15 books in three series: Deltora Quest (eight titles), Deltora Shadowlands (three titles), and Dragons of Deltora (four titles).

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: I accessed the site from several older computers, including a 933 MHz PC with a Pentium III processor and Windows ME and some older Windows models using Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla Firefox. The site worked very nicely with all browsers and computers. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: Successfully teaching students to read is all about engaging their attention. The reading that builds skill can be required, is often faked, but can't be forced. Engaging student attention when reading can be a problem these days, when text is competing with fast-action television and movies, electronic games, and more.

A number of publishers are using Web sites in support of books in one way or another, but Scholastic's Deltora site offers an interesting treatment sure to capture the imagination of many students. The Deltora site reinforces book interest with eight interactive activities, inspired by and supporting the content of the books, providing an interesting combination of print and Internet-based material.

With Emily Rodda's Deltora book series, this excellent Web site, and a dose of activities, Scholastic has created a sort of multimedia book. This mixture creates an engaging, exciting reading experience that should handily compete for student interest in this electronic age. While the books can certainly be read without the Web site, the interactive activities on the site, as well as the supporting information, enhance the reading, increase comprehension, and further engage student attention.

In the first series, Deltora Quest, Rodda introduces the world of Deltora, under threat from the evil Shadow Lord. The main character, Lief, travels around Deltora with the help of friends, searching for the missing jewels of the Belt of Deltora. Once all of the jewels are restored to the belt, the rightful king can again protect Deltora. The search for the magical jewels—roughly one jewel per title in the series—involves solving puzzles, including several secret codes, and overcoming other obstacles such as monsters and other evil beings serving the Shadow Lord.

These books remind me of some of the early computer and other electronic games and, as such, are hardly great literature. However, the genre works nicely with a generation of students so enamored of electronic games that movies are made from them.

The aura of this genre is increased by the outstanding artwork of illustrator Marc MacBride. His covers for these books are stunning, done in bright metallic colors and featuring dragons and various monsters. These themes are repeated with excellent illustrations on the Web site.

At this point, I should note that the books involve a level of fantasy that some may find objectionable, especially for educational purposes, in the same sense that some object to the Harry Potter books. The Deltora series includes magic, fantastic creatures, and some very evil beings.

The material on the Deltora Web site includes series book lists, information on the author, illustrator, and characters, as well as a supporting activities section.

The Deltora Quest series is supported by an activity called "Join the Quest." To begin, students have to go to a code described in the first book, decipher a message, and answer a question. Elements of all eight titles in this series are incorporated. The activity involves reading, thinking about what has been read, and using the information to advance in the game.

These are outstanding reading comprehension activities and are, in some senses, a test in disguise. If students have read the books, remember a reasonable amount of material, and can work with the books, they can complete the "quest." Three more activities support these books as well: Beat the Bird, the City of Rats, and the Maze of the Beast. These are simple arcade-style games.

The site also includes the Dragons of Deltora adventure, with four levels in support of that four-book series. Each level presents a set of challenges that roughly mirror the books. The graphics and action in these activities don't compete with electronic games, but are well done, with some animation and sound, and are age-appropriate. Five of the eight activities require reading, knowledge of the books, solving puzzles, and answering questions to advance.

Some educators and parents object to the use of computers for anything that might be considered "games"; they will probably object to this site as well. However, while observing my students and my own children over the years, I've seen that they are often most actively engaged when they are "gaming," or at least having fun.

My oldest son, now 25, did more reading and writing at age 12 in the early versions of games, chat rooms, Weblogs, and e-mail than he did for many of his classes. He matured considerably as a reader and writer through his willing engagement in these processes.

The Deltora Web site and the cleverly written, well-designed and promoted books tap into this same idea. Many students will put down their Game Cube willingly to read these books and work on the Internet activities—at least some of the time.In the process, hopefully, they will check out some other parts of Scholastic's well-designed Web site where other titles are supported with interesting and engaging activities at several age levels.

Scholastic has a number of excellent series and single titles in fantasy and other genres, including Harry Potter, Clifford, The Magic School Bus, Goosebumps, I Spy, Captain Underpants, Abby Hayes, Dear Dumb Diary, Dear America, and many more. It's not likely that any of these will become a major part of a reading curriculum, but all could be used to engage students in reading, comprehension, and writing activities. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The Deltora Web site is easy to use, offering straightforward navigation and clean online instructions as needed. There are no long video, animation, or sound downloads to slow the process. The site is well designed for easy use by 9-12 year olds. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: The site works easily enough that customer support won't be needed. The product support is excellent, however, in the sense that this site supports the books and the directions and navigation on the site are clear and easy. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: I highly recommended both the Web site and the book series for class, remedial, and independent reading at home or school. This material makes excellent motivational reading in upper elementary classrooms and remedial reading material for middle school. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, Elementary Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Central Elementary School, 509 S. Broadway, Hastings, MI 49058; 616/948-4423; charliegd@iserv.net.


 
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