A Note to Readers
Welcome to another school year and brand new posts to help you recommend books to your students and patrons!
Today, I am delighted to welcome Gayle Rosengren to talk about her brand new novel, MacKenzie’s Last Run.
Teaching MacKenzie’s Last Run
Tell us about your book. What do you hope your young readers will take away from your book?
On the surface, MacKenzie’s Last Run is a suspenseful survival story in the vein of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens. Thirteen-year-old Mackenzie (Mac) erupts in anger when his mother announces she’s getting remarried and runs away to force her to break off the engagement–then things go very, very wrong. He ends up seriously injured, miles from home, and unable to call for help.
But the underlying reason Mac runs away is because he’s never gotten past his grief and guilt about his father’s death in a mass shooting. His determination to protect his father’s place in their family makes him act out when his mother begins a relationship with Simon, and his increasingly hostile attitude eventually creates a bitter rift even between him and his twin sister Tessa, with whom he’d always been so close before.
When the novel begins, the strong bonds that once existed between the members of Mac’s family have been all but shredded. But when Mac runs away, slowly both he and Tessa remember what a strength and comfort their tie had always been, and it is Tessa who senses the true urgency of his situation and begins a frantic search to find him.
Told from the alternating points of view of Mac and Tessa, the story picks up momentum and intensity with every scene. Reviewers repeatedly said they couldn’t put it down. I think youngsters will be every bit as engaged. The underlying message of the story—to speak up and reach out for help when crushing emotional pain just won’t go away—is made clear at the end when Mac finally decides to open up to his psychologist.
What are your book’s hooks for teachers, librarians, and community leaders?
Topics for discussion abound during and after reading MacKenzie’s Last Run. To highlight some of them I included a list of questions at the end of the book for potential use by library reading clubs or the youngster reading on his own. My website also contains a page with a combination of questions and suggested activities to supplement the text. But most useful for classroom teachers is the 36-page Educator’s Guide I had prepared by a teaching professional that outlines a complete course of study from pre- through post-reading. It includes activities and quizzes and discussion topics.
Can you share an exercise or activity that teachers can do with students after they’ve read your book?
One of the activities, for example, is to design a different cover for the novel. Another asks the student to suggest issues aside from mental health and gun safety that are important to them and they would like to see addressed in a book.
Best of all, everything is connected to the 7th and 8th grade Reading, Writing and Language Standards for Wisconsin (which presumably can be adjusted easily enough to meet standards in other states as well). The guide is available to download free from my website www.gaylerosengren.com and I will include a spiral bound color copy of the guide free with any order of a classroom set of 15 books or more.
For libraries, I have created a game called Save MacKenzie! Players draw cards that cite events in the book and take Tessa forward or backward on the path to Mac’s hideaway. The events referenced should inspire even the most reluctant readers to read the book.
An exciting story with a healing message, I hope MacKenzie’s Last Run will find its way to a great many readers.
About the author. Gayle Rosengren writes full-time in her home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Don, and slightly neurotic rescue dog, Fiona. She is living her dream, she says, writing books she hopes will make the same difference in children’s lives as her favorite books and authors made in hers.