Summer Reading

All posts tagged Summer Reading

Getting Ready: Summer Reading List 2014

Published May 2, 2014 by Dagmar

I’ve been asking my students which books are “must reads” for my summer reading list this year.  This is what my 3rd-7th grade students have been saying, plus some books I added to my list myself:

Middle School students have recommended:if I stay

  • Cherub, by Robert Muchamore (series)
  • Timeless, by Alexandra Monir
  • If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (series)
  • Anything!! by Sonya Sones (they added the !!)
  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

My 3-5th grade students recommended:the unwanteds

  • A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole
  • The Unwanteds, by Lisa McCann (series)
  • Peter and the Star Catchers, by Dave Barry (series)
  • Lauren Myracle’s Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen+One (series)

Here are some books I hope to be able to recommend to students next school year:same sun here

  • Caminar, by Skila Brown (middle school)
  • Same Sun Here, by Silas House and Neela Vaswani (5th-7th grade)
  • The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel (3rd-5th grade)
  • Dark Lord, by Jamie Lawrence (5th-8th grade) (series)



Review: Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave, by Deron R. Hicks

Published August 13, 2013 by Dagmar

Here’s a book I really enjoyed from my summer reading list: Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave, by Deron R. Hicks.  This is the first book in the Letterford mysteries.

Secrets of Shakespeare's graveBeginning in the year 1616 on Mont Saint Michel on the coast of France, the reader is immediately engaged as a man breaks into a church in order to remove an item that he has been asked to protect.  Flash forward to 1623 when a man is asked to built a mysterious device in a small room.  Flash forward again to the present day as newspaper articles tell of the misfortunes of one famous publishing house, Letterford Publishing.  Chapter 2 takes the reader to Manchester, Georgia where we meet Colophon Letterford, the 12 year old daughter of Mull Letterford, the beleaguered owner of Letterford Publishing.  As the family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, a mysterious and unkempt Cousin Julian arrives.  Colophon learns that Cousin Julian is trying to find a treasure, supposedly hidden by Colophon’s ancester, Miles Letterford.  Together, Colophon, her older brother Case and Cousin Julian set off to solve the Letterford mystery and hopefully save Letterford Publishing.

This is a fast-paced, intelligent mystery perfect for upper elementary readers.  I can’t wait to recommend it to my students.

Review: Jefferson’s Sons, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published August 6, 2013 by Dagmar

Here’s a book from my summer reading list that surprised me.  I was worried that this book would be heavy handed.  Instead, I found a rich story; and, although it is a fictionalized account, this story based largely on historical fact.

jefferson's sonsIt took me a little while to get into the book.  As I kept reading, the writing seemed to become smoother, and I became totally absorbed in the story. I couldn’t put it down. I will definitely recommend this book to tweens and middle school.

Jefferson’s Sons starts with the story of Beverly, Thomas Jefferson’s oldest son with Sally Hemings, his slave. Beverly pines for his father’s love and is constantly reminded that he may never speak about his father to people outside his family. I was starting to wear on this theme but became really interested in the book as it changed voices to his next son, James Madison, or Maddy for short.  Maddy’s voice is angry.  He feels the indignity of being a slave more deeply and is bitter that of all Sally Hemings children, he is the only one that can not pass as white because of his dark skin.  With each changing voice, the author provides another perspective to being Thomas Jefferson’s child. This technique added a lot of interest for me. As the story progresses, readers learn of the huge debts that plagued Thomas Jefferson’s household and how those debts would ultimately affect the lives of everyone at Monticello.

The author’s note at the end is excellent. She tells which parts of her book are based on historical fact and where she filled in parts of the story as she felt they might have occurred. This author’s note is great for students who wonder, “How much of this story is true?”

I was so interested in this story that it sparked my interest in Thomas Jefferson. I spent time on the web-site, reading about Sally Hemings and her children as well as looking at the Monticello grounds and pictures of Thomas Jefferson. There, on, you’ll find that there was a DNA study done that confirmed that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings children.

I’m excited to recommend this book to my students and teachers in the fall.

More summer reading reviews

Published July 25, 2013 by Dagmar

Moving through my summer reading list, I took on a a historical novel, Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata, a fairytale adventure, Robe of Skulls, by Vivian French, an environmental novel, One White Dolphin, by  Gill Lewis.

kira-kiraKira-Kira is a powerful, Newbery Medal-winning, story of the strong bond between two Japanese-American sisters living in Iowa and Georgia in the 1960s.  Katie’s sister Lynn best friend, her mentor and the person that taught her that kira-kira means glittering.  Kira-Kira takes many forms: stars in the sky, the sea, people’s eyes.  Katie’s family struggles.  Her family moves to Georgia where her parents find work in chicken hatcheries owned by a very rich man who does not treat his workers well. Katie’s parents work around the clock to make a living and are are devastated when Lynn is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

I was really touched by the beauty and the sadness of this book.  I loved the portrayal of Katie’s strong love for her sister, her quirky but sweet Uncle, her hard-working parents, her love for her little brother and how Katie manages her pain of her sister’s illness.  I will definitely recommend this to my tween and middle school students.

Robe of SkullsFor those of you in search of a fun, fairy tale fantasy, you may enjoy The Robe of Skulls.  I think this book would work best for third and fourth grade readers.  Robe of  Skulls is the first of a series of four books in the Tales of the Five Kingdom’s series.

Lady Lamorna has ordered a new fabulously creepy robe of skulls from the Ancient Crones.  Unfortunately, this wicked sorceress’s trunk of gold is empty.  She has no money to pay for her robe.  What will she do? Why, devise a nasty scheme to turn all the royal princes and princesses into frogs and ransom them, of course.  Little does Lady Lamorna know as she sets out on her evil mission with her troll, that she will meet a very evil stepsister who wants to steal the money Lady Lamorna earns and a young girl named Gracie Gillypot who might just foil her plans.

onewhitedolphinOne White Dolphin is an environmental story based in Cornwall, England.  Kara Woods is a girl who lives with her father at her aunt and uncle’s house.  Her mother, a marine biologist and environmentalist, disappeared while on a scientific mission.  Kara is bullied at school by the sons of powerful fishermen whose parents opposed her mother’s efforts to save the local reef from destruction and dolphins from being caught in fishing nets.  When an albino dolphin calf washes ashore, Kara and her new friend Felix team up to help the dolphin survive and to fight to save the reef that fishermen will destroy as they dredge it to find scallops.

I found myself rooting for Kara on her quest to save what her mother had fought so hard for.  There are several exciting and suspenseful scenes that I really enjoyed as well.  I’d recommend this book to tweens and middle school students.

Summer reading update continued

Published July 4, 2013 by Dagmar

Happy 4th of July!  Summer is my favorite time to hunker down with my books, and I’ve read three more books from my summer reading list.  You can see the reviews of the first three summer reading list books I read, here.  My hope is to find great books to recommend to my tween and middle school students next school year.  I’m happy to say that I found one book that I absolutely love, one that I liked, and one that I know I should like but feel lukewarm about.  Let’s start with the good news.

PSBeElevenThe book I absolutely loved and just know will fly off my shelves is the sequel to One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven.  I think it’s best to first read One Crazy Summer (click the link to see my blog post).  Briefly, in One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of Delphine, Vonetta and Fern.  These three young girls leave Brooklyn, where they live with their Pa and grandmother, Big Mama to fly to Oakland, CA, to meet the mother that abandoned them. Their mother, Cecile, is unapologetic about leaving her children to become a poet in CA.  Life in Cecile’s neighborhood in North Oakland means learning and living with members of the Black Panthers, something very foreign to the girls’ family in Brooklyn.  (My public school is located just blocks from where One Crazy Summer takes place in Oakland.) The girls, who have always taught not to make a spectacle of themselves, learn the words “oppression”, “revolution” and “Black Power”.  I didn’t know what to expect from P.S. Be Eleven, but I was so pleased that it picked up right at the end of One Crazy Summer.  In P.S. Eleven, the girls continue their relationship with Cecile by writing to her often.   But, in this book, you enter their lives with Pa, Big Mama, their uncle Darnell, fighting in the Vietnam War, the sensation of the Jackson Five, and the girls’ new stepmom. I love the way the three sisters interact, and I had to smile every time they said “Power to the People”.  I also love getting to know Delphine and her family a little more.  This book is excellent – just as good as One Crazy Summer, but different.  In One Crazy Summer, you admire Delphine’s strong, independent and reliable nature.  In P.S. Be Eleven, you wish that she didn’t have to be quite so strong and reliable, and you root for Cecile as she tries to convince Delphine to just “Be Eleven”.  While I think I got even more out of this book, because I lived at this time, I think kids will get a valuable glimpse into the late 60s and early 70s.  I can’t wait to recommend this to my students.  My son, who loved One Crazy Summer, has already declared that he plans to read it.

Lincoln's Grave RobbersI am a big fan of Steve Sheinkin’s books.  Although I haven’t written about it yet, I loved his book, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, as well as his award-winning book, Bomb: The Race to Build – and steal – the Most Dangerous Weapon in the World. Lincoln’s Grave Robbers was a good book, but it wasn’t great.  It tells the story of a fantastic plot by counterfeiters in the 1870s to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and ransom it.  The book begins with various stories of counterfeiters and the birth of the United States Secret Service, the organization formed to catch them.  Only after several chapters do you understand how their stories link to the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body.  Once the link is made, the book is off to the races, and lots of suspenseful chapters ensue.  When the story is completed, the book goes into true tales of body snatching that are somewhat interesting (a little gruesome, maybe) but again, disconnected from the rest of the book.  So, while an interesting premise and a suspenseful story, this book just didn’t knock my socks off, as Sheinkin’s other books did.

out of the dustI was really looking forward to Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, after reading her fabulous book, Witness, about the infiltration of the KKK into a small town in Vermont in 1924.  Out of the Dust won the 1998 Newbery Medal.  Written in verse, Out of the Dust tells the story of girl named Billie Jo who lives with her mother and father on a small farm in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.  Her father tries to make a living farming through the many dust storms and drought.  The family becomes very poor.  The family’s struggle extend beyond their financial circumstances to a terrible tragedy.  I can appreciate that this book is powerful and tells of an important time in our nation’s history.  I just can’t move past the grim feeling I had as I read much of the book.  I was glad that it took a happier turn at the end, but think it will be tough to enthusiastically recommend this book to my students.

Summer reading recommendations

Published June 13, 2013 by Dagmar

My last summer reading list was my own – books that I have been meaning to read but haven’t had the time to read yet.  Here’s a list for kids of books that I’ve loved and students in my library have loved.  Of course, as I was writing it, I remembered all the books I still have to write about that are missing from this list.  Here’s a great start, though.  I hope you enjoy the list.  I’d love to hear your own recommendations.

I’ve listed books by an approximate age group and added links to my blog articles so you can read more about each title and see cover pictures.

Favorite Picture Books

Early readers (K-2nd grade)

  • I love the Mr. Putter and Tabby series, a sweet series by Cynthia Rylant with short chapters.  Click on the link to my blog article.
  • Katie Kazoo, by Nancy Krulik
  • Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne is a suspenseful series great for either read aloud or to read alone.
  • My Weird School and My Weird School Daze by Dan Gutman and Jim Paillot are very funny and full of snarky humor, perfect for this age.  Short chapters work, too.

Favorite chapter books (2nd-tween):

  • Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai a wonderful book in verse about 10 year old girl’s transition from war-time Vietnam to the United States.
  • Moon over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool.  The story of a girl who goes to live in a new town with a friend of her father. There she discovers new friends and a mystery that might tell her more about her father.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams is an award-winning book about a strong and resourceful 12 year old girl who, along with her sisters, flies to see the mother that abandoned her.
  • Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan is a fantastic fantasy series about an orphaned boy who is taken on as an apprentice to the elite but mysterious Rangers who work to protect
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio the story of a boy with severe facial disfiguration and his entry into school.

Favorite chapter books for tweens and middle school:

  • Conspiracy 365, by Gabrielle Lord an exciting and suspenseful series about a high school boy who has to solve a mystery in order to save his own life.One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt was my favorite book of the year.  Realistic fiction about a girl in foster care and her new foster family.
  • Okay for Now, by Gary P. Schmidt, the story of a boy with a difficult home life that finds his way in a new town and discovers a love for the drawings of John Audobon.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams is an award-winning book about a strong and resourceful 12 year old girl who, along with her sisters, flies to see the mother that abandoned her.
  • One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  My favorite book of the year.  Realistic fiction about a girl who winds up in foster care, her relationship with her foster family.
  • Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan is a fantastic fantasy series about an orphaned boy who is taken on as an apprentice to the elite but mysterious Rangers who work to protect
  • Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai

Great non-fiction:

Summer reading lists

Published June 5, 2013 by Dagmar

I’m finishing up the school year, inventorying books, cataloging my book orders and giving hugs to kids stopping by wondering why we aren’t holding classes.  Once our shelves are filled with new books and we host our fabulous library book giveaway and sale today, it’s time to lock the doors for the summer and read, read, read!

I’ve got a pretty ambitious reading list for this summer.  Here are some of the chapter books I’m looking forward to reading this summer and hopefully recommending to students next school year.  Some of the picks are by authors I love, some were recommended by students, some are simply books on my library shelves that I haven’t read yet, including books sent through my fabulous Junior Library Guild subscriptions, others are award winners.

So many books, so little time! 🙂  Ok, here goes nothing!

PS. Be Eleven – new book by the wonderful author of One Crazy Summer (see my blog article)

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin – author of the incredible book Bomb: the race to build – and steal – the world’s most dangerous weapon (see my blog article)

Witness, by Karen Hesse – a very moving book about KKK activity in a small town in Vermont in 1924

A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy – when I asked my students about their favorite books of the year, one student enthusiastically recommended this book – a Junior Library Guild selection.

The Robe of Skulls by Vivien French- a popular mystery in my library and a Junior Library Guild selection.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass – recommended by a young blog reader!

Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse – 1998 Newbery Award winner

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey – 2012 Michael L. Printz Award winner

Ida B by Katherine Hannigan – a Booklist starred review

One White Dolphin by Gill Lewis – a book for animal lovers – a Junior Library Guild selection

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – 2010 Newbery Honor book

Kira Kira by Cynthia Kodohata – 2005 Newbery Medal

Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave by Deron R. Hicks and Mark Edward Geyer – a Junior Library Guild selection

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – a Junior Library Guild selection

I’d love to hear about your top summer reading picks!  Comment with some recommendations, please!

Have a wonderful end of the school year and summer ahead,