The Sneaky Teacher

Remember when The Sneaky Chef came out last year?  Another similar book came out around the same time, and the two authors took turns sniping at each other in the press, each implying the other had ripped her idea off. (Women!)

In my mailbox at school today was a postcard promoting these vocabulary books.  Excerpt:
Can you resist the allure of Edward’s myriad charms—his ocher eyes and tousled hair, the cadence of his speech, his chiseled alabaster skin, and his gratuitous charm? Will you hunt surreptitiously and tolerate the ceaseless deluge in Forks to evade the sun and uphold the facade? Join Edward and Bella as you learn more than 600 vocabulary words to improve your score on the *SAT, ACT®, GED®, and SSAT® exams!

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, so I followed the advice I give to my own students and made a pros and cons list:


  • Seriously?  Combining studying with pleasure reading?  We might as well try to slip butternut squash puree into their macaroni and cheese.

  • I've read all four books, and I don't remember once running into a word I didn't know.  If someone needs a vocabulary primer to help them understand Meyer's language, I shudder to think of what they'd do with Fitzgerald or Whitman.

  • What makes charm gratuitous?  I think it's more gratuitous to specify surreptitious hunting.  What would non-surreptitious hunting look like?  A trip to the grocery store?


  • How are any of those words considered vocabulary for high-school juniors?

  • Most of my high school juniors probably couldn't define those words without the accompanying crutch sentences.

  • Will we ever expect students to read challenging works on their own, picking up vocabulary naturally along the way?

The jury's still out, but I'm taking votes.  I'm eminently practical, so who knows -- maybe it will work, and if so, kudos to the author for capitalizing on the latest pop-lit franchise.  But I'm also kind of a snob, and . . . Twilight?  In the classroom?!  The thought makes me shift uncomfortably in my chair.