The SOS File
By Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, and Laurie Myers
Illustrated by Arthur Howard
Henry Holt & Company
ISBN: 9780805068887
Grades 3-5
In Stores

When a book can grab students from page one and hold their interest throughout, it’s a keeper. When said book can accomplish these feats in a read-aloud setting, well, it’s a book that you need to have on hand. “The SOS File” is just such a book. A collection of short stories that will no doubt be a read-aloud standby for upper elementary students.

“SOS” works like this. The first page shows a file folder with the following instructions:

Have you ever needed to call 9-1-1, but you couldn’t get to a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell “help!” but your throat was dry with fear?

For fun and extra credit write your story and put it in this file.

The first chapter begins with the teacher, Mr. Magro, addressing the class. He explains that the SOS file is full and it’s time for students to read their stories. Mr. Magro even sets up some intrigue by mentioning that one SOS will not receive extra credit.

For the next twelve chapters, students present their stories. All are written in the first person, drawing the reader into the action. Some stories are exciting (“The Pink Panther” is about a go cart test gone awry), many are funny (“Three Strikes, You’re Out”, “Pumpkin Man”), and some are touching (“Miracle on Main Street”). All are written in a basic enough style to make the reader buy into the idea that they were written by kids. When Mr. Magro finally gets to the last story (it’s his own, about being held back a grade) the reader realizes who will not be receiving extra credit.

Each chapter is brief, clocking in at just a few pages. This structure is good for a couple reasons:

1. Stories never drag. Young readers who are easily turned off by plodding storylines will want to keep on reading.

2. Short chapters give provide options in a read-aloud setting. You don’t have a lot of time? Just read one chapter – it’s still an entire story in and of itself. Got more time? Read a couple – kids will be asking for you to keep going.

It’s a pleasure to share a book that has been so useful to me as a school librarian. Be sure to add this one to your collection. If you read it to your students, beware – you may not see it on the shelves again for a while. My highest recommendation.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.