So as I was writing that quick “I’m sorry” post yesterday, I ended with a statement that seemed like a great idea for a series of posts: things teachers do in the summer. And no, it’s not just a sit-around-on-the-beach-and-drink-Mai-Tais kind of thing, either. I’ve been busy! Let me tell you about it. 🙂
I love to read. My husband might disagree with that statement, as he is one of those people who goes to bed with a book (or his iPad) every night, and always has a new book, magazine, graphic novel or whatnot ready to be devoured. I, on the other hand, am more of a sporadic reader, choosing more carefully what I take time to read. Unfortunately, during the school year, that time is mainly spent on professional reading; I only have so much time and want it to be useful. Unfortunately, my “free” reading is usually saved for the summer. I like to get started on reading the new Mark Twain nominees that I might try for read alouds, as well as any other MG novels I’ve heard about and the other professional titles I didn’t have time for during the school year.
Here’s what I’ve been reading so far:
Pie by Sarah Weeks
This one was the first on my Mark Twain list, mainly because Sarah Weeks was the only author on the list that I recognized. I am excited to share it with my students, and I’m hoping it will be enjoyed by everyone. One of my favorite parts of the book is the recipes that are included at the end of every chapter. PIE is the name of the pie shop started by Alice’s Aunt Polly, and the story revolves around the fate of the shop–and Aunt Polly’s prize-winning pie crust recipe–after she passes away. Besides loving the story, I’m excited to try the pie, too! This book combines two of my loves–reading and baking. 🙂
Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach
Here’s another one from the Mark Twain list, and another one that I am excited to share with my class. This one is an adventure, and I love that there are both strong boy and girl characters. There were moments when the dialogue was a little unnatural, and it was a little long for my tastes, but I’m glad I made it to the end. This one will be great, too, because there are several others that kiddos could choose to read if they like this one. Reminded me a little bit of Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs, which was a Mark Twain nominee several years ago.
Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend
This is a city-girl-moves-to-the-country story (also a MT nominee) about Taylor McNamara. She moves to a farm just before school starts and fights to fit into the new world she’s in. I love the way Friend shares Taylor’s thoughts, as well as how the character interacts with her family and friends. She’s sarcastic–and so am I–which is probably why she’s such a likeable character for me. The story is a big predictable, but in some ways, that’s what makes it a good read. Read this one in a few hours because I couldn’t put it down!
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
This book was similar to PIE, in that it was a girl trying to find her way in the world with food as her guide. This time though, it was cupcakes! This was the first book I’ve read by Joan Bauer (but I’ve since found several that I’ve put on my TBR list!), and it was a good one. The only thing that was a bit annoying to me (just my opinion, obviously) was the Food TV personality that is in the book–the scenes where she pretended to have her own cooking show and idolized celebrity chef Sonny Kroll were a little silly. Overall, I enjoyed it, though, and I could see how many readers might like it, too! Now I can officially vote for my favorite Mark Twain book because I’ve read the required 4 titles. Oh wait…it’s not for teachers?? Bummer.
Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst
I figured here would be a good place to add in some professional reading (partly because some of the novels I read were recommended here!). I found this book during the spring, on Twitter, namely because my tweep Shannon Clark (@shannonclark7) started a Twitter chat (using the hashtag #nnnchat) and a Facebook group for teachers to discuss it. I have heard its ideas mentioned at more than one workshop this summer, too, so needless to say I was excited when it finally showed up on my doorstep! The main premise of the book is how to teach kids to read closely, by introducing them to “signposts” that are included in many novel texts; once kids know the signposts they start to find evidence of them in books they read independently and these noticings and notes help them better understand what they are reading. I’m definitely going to incorporate these lessons (and this mindset about reading in general) into our Reader’s Workshop work this year. This book made me really excited for school to start!
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Recognize the author’s name? Funny how I’d never heard of her, but then once I did, I find her work everywhere! This text is used as a mentor text in some lessons in Notice & Note, so I figured I should probably read it. 🙂 It’s food-related too, but this time is set in a diner. Again there’s a girl who is fatherless and is trying to figure out who she is and where she fits into the world. Included this time is a secondary plot that involves a mayoral race in the small town in Wisconsin, as well as a budding romance between the main character and the cook in the diner where she works. Hope Was Here was definitely a page-turner, and I enjoyed every word.
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
Here’s another one I found on Twitter (thanks to @donalynbooks), and one that I cannot believe I waited this long to read! I’ve always been a proponent of student choice in their reading, and this book helped me be more clear on why it’s a good idea. The stories she shares and the alternatives to help give students more say in their reading were inspirational. I really loved the “ultimate book list” at the end of the book where she shared some key titles to have in your classroom library. It’s become my new shopping list!
Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan
I hate to admit how many books I have in my class library that I know are great titles, but that I have never read. Also, it’s really sad to admit how little historical fiction I share with my students. So, when I saw that this book was on Donalyn Miller’s Ultimate Book List, I knew I had to read it. It was a great story based on the life of Charlotte Parkhurst, who (I learned) was a famous stablehand, stagecoach driver, and probably the first woman to ever vote! Add this to my read aloud list for sure. 🙂
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Last summer, I finally (I know–I shouldn’t admit this) read (well listened to) the classics by Christoper Paul Curtis–Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963. Like with so many other titles in my library, I have no idea why I’d never read them, but I had not. My husband (who I mentioned before is a very prolific reader, and a teacher, also) had shared these with his classes many times over and couldn’t let another minute go by without enlightening me as to why they were so fabulous. We listened to them in the car on the way to Florida during our vacation, and they were instant hits with our son (who was 5YO at the time) as well. So fast forward to this year’s vacation, and another CPC hit was made with our family. This one is set in Gary, Indiana, but has connections to Flint, Michigan where Bud is from, and if you pay attention (or if you know the story of Bud, Not Buddy) you realize that Deza Malone and Bud cross paths in a camp in Detroit along the way. I love the realism with which Curtis writes, and I love the conversations I was able to have with my son about the themes in the book. I’m excited to share this story with my 5th graders, and begin the conversation with them, too!
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
I told you we liked this author, right? Here’s another one that Grant had shared with his students that
surprisingly I didn’t know. Ok, not true. I have it in my classroom but I’ve never read it. Again, lame, I know. I have to admit that I liked the overall premise of this book, but then once we started listening I couldn’t get into it. Everyone else was entertained, but I just had a hard time following. And then I heard the end and it made the whole thing worth it. Now I want to go back and reread the whole thing over again, both so I can see the text (remember we listened to it), but also so I can catch all that I missed the first time around. Definitely worth my time, I think.
Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor
Just when I thought I was finished with my list of Mark Twains, I uncovered another one that I read that I’d forgotten about! I wonder if the reason it didn’t come to mind right away was that it was another one that took me a while to get into. It’s weird, and I don’t know if it was on purpose, but there seem to be similar themes running through many of the nominees this year–families that are displaced for some reason or another (who all seem to be running away from something), girls who don’t know their fathers (and are therefore searching for him), and food or food service. All of those are present in this one, too, with a little bit of art thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the style of writing of this book, and though it took me a while to get into the story, I eventually got on a roll and was satisfied with the ending.
So…there are still a few weeks of summer left (although they seem to be fleeting fast!), and so I still have some reading to do. I’m in the middle of two different professional reads (also about reading), have a book on Essential Questions by Wiggins and McTighe on my TBR pile, as well as some new writing resources from Calkins, new math resources from Fosnot and at least 3 or 4 MG novels that I want to finish. Will there be time?? Cross your fingers with me. And maybe try out something from my list that were new to you! Please let me know what you think! I love to talk books with other readers. 🙂