Friday, 16 November 2012

Book Review: "Macmillan Readers" Editor John Milne






Macmillan Readers
Micheal Jackson
Nelson Mandela
I, Robot
Slumdog Millionaire
Much Ado About Nothing
Founding Editor: John Milne
Macmillan 2008-2011
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Sample blurb: "Michael Jackson changed the face of modern pop music and dance. Over twenty years after it was first produced, Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time. This Macmillan Biography looks at Jackson's early life from becoming a child star with the Jackson 5 to the height of his career as an international superstar."
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There are plenty of readers for learners of English out there and among the best collections are the Macmillan readers we are looking at today.

In their own words, 'This series provides a wide variety of enjoyable reading material for all learners of English. Macmillan Readers are retold versions of popular classic and contemporary titles as well as specially written stories, published at six levels.'

Macmillan have supplied me with one classic (Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing), one contemporary classic (Asimov's I, Robot) and a modern best-seller and hit film of course (Vikas Swarup's Slumdog Millionaire).

In addition I asked to see two biographies, one from the political field (Nelson Mandela) and one from popular culture (Michael Jackson).

The books are very straightforward and fairly 'meaty', without any in-text help or notes at the bottom of the page for understanding. I know that some people want notes and others abhor them, so it comes down to personal choice in the end.

Each chapter has a series of simple questions along the lines of 'Why was Michael angry with Berry Gordy?' and 'What happened when Michael was filming a Pepsi commercial?'. These are followed by a few pages of glossary and around ten pages of different exercises based on the text. These can be used in class or as homework if the book is being used by a teacher. In addition the story is recorded on CDs which come with each title.

The stories are illustrated with a few pictures and written in a clear, easy to follow style. The strong point of this series is its well-chosen titles and range of topics: classics, modern, biographies, sporting histories and the latest films; the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, is just out! The solid text without interwoven exercises, however, would make these volumes more suitable for the more mature, serious reader who enjoys feeling they are reading a 'real' English book and not one 'dumbed down' for learners.

Talking of movies, or films as us Brits would say, some of the titles are in American English (Michael Jackson, I, Robot), and the rest in British English. An interesting exercise would be to see if students can identify specific Americanisms or Briticisms in the stories and supply the equivalent in the other version. By the time they get up to levels 5 (intermediate) and 6 (upper) they should be well able to do such an exercise.

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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Macmillan Readers"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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