In the Stone Circle – Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

in the stone circleReading level: 5.5

Genre: mystery, paranormal

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: Middle school

I confess that I love ghost stories, and I was quite pleased with this one. Although it was a tad juvenile, I turned on a few extra lights when I went to bed.

Cristyn came off as annoying and spoiled at the beginning, but her true (non-obnoxious) colors showed when she befriended 8 year-old Dennis and served as mediator between Miranda and her family. She really turned into a likeable character in very little time.

Miranda is a little twerp annoying. She reminds me of Phoebe in Walk Two Moons in that her character was pretty unlikable, but underlying stressers were causing her nasty attitude. The lesson here is that to know someone truly, we must understand all that they’re going through, their past and present. This lesson also applies to Dennis who acted out for various reasons and to Dennis and Miranda’s mother. Essentially, judging people is bad.

I think this book could be powerful in the hands of a student who has lost a family member through death or divorce. Although in this story Miranda’s dad is sort of the bad guy, we see how divorce can tear apart families, but also how they can be put back together. It might be good for students to read about kids like them struggling due to their parents divorcing. This story might also help students with the loss of a loved one because it highlights how hard it is to talk about and that it’s impossible to “get over it.”

I recommending this book to middle schoolers; it’s too easy of a read for high schoolers, and the subject matter is, like I said, juvenile. There are a dozen or so instances of characters saying things like “My God” or “Oh my God” to the point where it was a little excessive. That might bug some parents/students. There’s also about half a dozen-ish curse words – but not really bad ones, or anything. I don’t think these two reasons are enough to keep it off the shelves. I mean, if zero swearing were allowed in school books, there would be no school libraries.

Something that did really bug me was one or two characters using the term “retard” in a derogatory way. The first time, I pretended I didn’t see it. The second time, I crossed it out with a pencil so students will know that the word is there (I’m not censoring) but will know that it’s “bad” essentially.

The book is good for ELLs, but there are colloquialisms throughout, not to mention Welsh names of places and people. But I think that in the hands of an intermediate student, it could be just the level of familiar and difficult to get students thinking a little harder than they’re used to (Vygotsky’s i+1, anyone?). I mean that the language is at a low-level and is written how people casually speak. Throughout, there are academic words, Welsh terms, and figures of speech that might be a bit confusing.