This has been the summer of a lot of things; speaking, writing, airports and traveling, meeting incredible people, trying to help better education. Of endless days and longing for home at times. Of new adventures and having to become more extroverted. But that is not all, it has also been the summer of pool-time, of ice cream, of snuggling with our kids in the morning and sometimes also at night. Of days at the movies and dinner with friends. And then it has been the summer of books. Of glorious moments spent in the company of brilliant writing, of can’t wait to turn the next page, of I cannot wait for a child to discover this book. A summer of books and those books now fill the tables in our classroom, waiting for others to discover them, love them, and then book talk them to others, much like I am book talking them here.
So what has been some of my amazing reads? (You can follow me both on Goodreads and on Instagram if you would like to keep up live with what I am reading).
I started my summer with The Best Man by Richard Peck. Spurred on by my friends’ love of this book and by the sad fact that I had never read a Richard Peck book before, I was glad to start the summer with this one. I was delighted, surprised, and ever so wonderfully tangled into the story and yet I have had the hardest time booktalking this book other than to tell people they should read it. In fact, I handed a copy of it to someone at ILA and said just that. This is a great addition to classroom libraries 5th grade and up and I will definitely be revisiting all of my Richard Peck books because of this story.
Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer,; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth—Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school.
But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn’t see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he’s the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.
How amazing of a storyteller is Kate Messner? I loved The Seventh Wish so much that it got it’s own stand alone review on this blog, and I stand by those words. This book belongs in our classrooms, in our libraries, and yes even with elementary children.
Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish.
My students and I have been obsessed with the MiNRS series from Kevin Sylvester since the inaugural book last year. In fact, they kept asking whether I could somehow get them a copy of book 2 before school was out. Alas that did not happen but I did receive an ARC this summer. It is so good. Page turner, sucks you in, can’t believe I now have to wait another whole year to wait for the third book. This is a must add series 4th grade and up and yes my 7th graders love it too. (Note: Only available for pre-order)
They are coming to get you.
The children of Perses have been receiving this message on repeat, from Earth, for weeks. Christopher, Elena, and the other survivors of the attack on their space colony know two things: their victory over the Landers will be short-lived and a new wave of attacks is imminent.
New Landers arrive sooner than expected. Led by the ruthless Kirk Thatcher, and armed with a new lethal kind of digger, they vow to hunt down and destroy everyone.
The kids have nowhere to go but underground. Again. But resources and patience are running low and the struggle to keep everyone safe is complicated by all the infighting amongst the kids.
As Christopher navigates the burden of leadership, he also has to decide whom he can trust. There are no easy answers. And with deadly consequences on the line, there is no room for mistakes.
Will Christopher be able to successfully lead the group back to Earth? Or will Thatcher make sure no one survives?
How I have managed to go these years without falling in love with The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefwater I am not sure. This has been one of my most recommended books this summer because I dropped everything just to read this whole series in a week. Now that that the whole series is out there is no reason to wait to get this for your classroom library, I would recommend middle school and up.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
Hands down one of the best non-fiction autobiographies I have ever read. Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer! about E.B. White is a masterpiece in visual layout as well as text. I have ordered another copy to house permanently in my classroom and will be using it to teach writer’s craft. I cannot wait for children to fall into the delight of these pages and to be inspired to write more themselves. (Note: Available for pre-order).
“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is the first book I plan on booktalking this year. This is the book I hope most of my students discover. This is the book I keep recommending. A masterpiece in story-telling that I could not put down and neither could those I have handed it too. This debut author has taken everything that is right about a great YA and put it into a book. I cannot wait for his next book.
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.
Another incredible non-fiction text, this time in free verse (Oh how I adore free verse), Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland is a must add to your library. This text sheds light on the landmark case of marriage equality and is riveting in how it unfolds. You fall in love with the Lovings and their simple fight to simply be allowed to be married. (Note: Available for pre-order now).
From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.
I was handed Fenway and Hattie by the author herself, Victoria J. Coe, and read it the very next day. Delightful, fun, and imaginative I have recommended this book to many people since. I love how Victoria Coe writes it from the perspective of a dog and will be using this to show perspective writing with my 7th graders. While this is geared toward a younger audience, I think some of my 7th graders will enjoy it as much as I have. This is also a contender for Global Read Aloud 2017.
Fenway is an excitable and endlessly energetic Jack Russell terrier. He lives in the city with Food Lady, Fetch Man, and—of course—his beloved short human and best-friend-in-the-world, Hattie.
But when his family moves to the suburbs, Fenway faces a world of changes. He’s pretty pleased with the huge Dog Park behind his new home, but he’s not so happy about the Evil Squirrels that taunt him from the trees, the super-slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room, and the changes that have come over Hattie lately. Rather than playing with Fenway, she seems more interested in her new short human friend, Angel, and learning to play baseball. His friends in the Dog Park next door say Hattie is outgrowing him, but that can’t be right. And he’s going to prove it!
What an incredible book Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is. In fact, I would be surprised if we did not see this book receive awards later this year. Unlike anything I have read in a long time, Wolf Hollow draws you into a world that speaks of simpler times and yet the story unravels in a way you would not expect. From 4th grade and up, this book is also a must add in middle school.
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
I loved the scary tale and the beautiful language of The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. I rooted for the main character Corinne as she fights for her father and the rest of her island, protecting them from the supernatural beings that live in the forest. For kids that love a great scary story, I cannot wait to book talk this, and even better; there is a sequel coming.
Corinne La Mer claims she isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, and shining yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the trees. They couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger at the market the very next day, she knows something extraordinary is about to happen. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, danger is in the air. Severine plans to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and to save her island home.
Although I hail from Denmark originally I tend to not read many Scandinavian childrens’ books. They simply do not fall into my hands often. I was therefore thrilled when a copy The Ballad of a Broken Nose by Arne Svingen made it into my hands. Refreshing and honest and also very Scandinavian, I think this book will provide a wonderful read for 5th grade and up. This is also a global read aloud contender for 2017.
Bart is an eternal optimist. At thirteen years old, he’s had a hard life. But Bart knows that things won’t get any better if you have a negative attitude. His mother has pushed him into boxing lessons so that Bart can protect himself, but Bart already has defense mechanisms: he is relentlessly positive…and he loves opera.
Listening to—and singing—opera is Bart’s greatest escape, but he’s too shy to share this with anyone. Then popular Ada befriends him and encourages him to perform at the school talent show. Ada can’t keep a secret to save her life, but Bart bonds with her anyway, and her openness helps him realize that his troubles are not burdens that he must bear alone.
Some of the most important graphic novels to be published ever are the March trilogy created by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The first two books were already popular with my students, in fact, I had to re-purchase my set as the first two had left my classroom. I thought I knew a decent amount about the civil rights movement and its history and yet the March trilogy just proves once again how little I know. I am so grateful for the knowledge these books will pass on to my students.
Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.
After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence — but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the movement’s young activists place their lives on the line while internal conflicts threaten to tear them apart.
But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell is a book I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. I had heard from others that it was a great title and yet whenever I picked it up, I just didn’t quite fall into the appeal of it. Its tale of honor, family, and yes, wolves left me mesmerized from page 1. This is the best of books; nature and survival, historical fiction and fast paced adventure. This is a must for 4th grade and up.
A girl and the wolves who love her embark on a rescue mission through Russian wilderness in this lyrical tale from the author of the acclaimed Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms.
Feo’s life is extraordinary. Her mother trains domesticated wolves to be able to fend for themselves in the snowy wilderness of Russia, and Feo is following in her footsteps to become a wolf wilder. She loves taking care of the wolves, especially the three who stay at the house because they refuse to leave Feo, even though they’ve already been wilded. But not everyone is enamored with the wolves, or with the fact that Feo and her mother are turning them wild. And when her mother is taken captive, Feo must travel through the cold, harsh woods to save her—and learn from her wolves how to survive.
One of these days I might write an entire post about how much I admire the talent and work of Jacqueline Woodson. The conversations she invites us to have in our classrooms are profound and I am so thankful I finally discovered her book If You Come Softly. While the story is set in high school it is not high school langue which makes it even more accessible to many students. This book about race and love and growing up is one I won’t forget. I also read, and loved, Behind You, the follow up novel.
Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he’s in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he’s going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don’t exactly fit in there. So it’s a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock and after that they know they fit together — even though she’s Jewish and he’s black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that’s not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way.
We loved the first book in Sabaa Tahir’s series An Ember in the Ashes and so I was so excited to read the sequel A Torch Against the Night. Sabaa Tahir delivers a masterful follow up to this great YA series, fast-paced with magic, adventure, and a little bit of love, this is the type of books that many of my 7th graders gravitate toward. This comes out at the end of August and I cannot wait to book talk the two books to my students.
Elias and Laia are running for their lives.
Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars’ future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side…even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom.
But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.