A Summer of Novels, Bios, Class Reading, Read Alouds and Graphic Books

I am sharing out some of the books in my “stack” this morning as part of the day’s Summer Reading for teachers, which I believe may have started over at the New York Time learning blog and then attracted a bunch of notice from other organizations including the National Writing Project — and folks are encouraged to use the #summerreading hashtag on Twitter to share out all day today … and well, here I am with my pile of books in front of me.


First of all, this is the first year that our school is launching a mandatory summer reading program for our students. I struggled about which book to pick because I wanted something engaging, something most of my incoming sixth graders had not read, and something that would also allow for some neat teaching and writing moments. I ended up withThe Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. What is cool is that I have started a collaborative effort with a teacher in Texas who is also doing the same book with her incoming sixth graders. She had reached out to me, asking for some guidance on using technology in her classroom, so I suggested we do a shared book with our students and use Edmodo as a summer response space for our kids. It’s one of those “grand adventure” ideas because she is new to technology and I have not used Edmodo. So, we’re going to see how it goes.

I am constantly, every day, reading aloud to my seven year old son. We are now in the midst of the second book of The Lord of the Rings, but then we will take a break from that epic adventure to read A Hero of WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi. This is the second in a series about a girl caught up in an adventure on a strange planet (is it Earth?) that is a great adventure. We loved the first book — Search for WondLa — and are looking forward to getting back into the mix. Waiting for books in a series to get completed and published … requires patience, doesn’t it?

And now on to my own personal reading list.


I recently picked up Every Night’s  a Saturday Night, an autobiography of saxophonist Bobby Keys (who has played with the Rolling Stones and many other legendary rock bands). I am a sucker for the backroom stories of musicians, and Bobby Keys was one of those icons of my childhood. When my friends were listening to the lead guitar parts, I was listening for the horn parts, and Keys is one of those over-the-top characters that can easily steal the show and the stage from the main band members.


The other day, I got a package in the mail containing Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? I don’t remember registering, but I won the book via a contest at The Graphic Novel Reporter. I was happy to get it, since I did enjoy Home and have read lots of positive reviews about this graphic biography of Bechdel’s mother. I am sure it is infused with smart writing and storytelling. (By the way, don’t confuse this one with the children’s book Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman. But that one is a good one to read with the little ones. Bechdel’s book? Not so much.)

I also have had Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies waiting my attention. I absolutely loved Wolf Hall, and the narrative devices that I can’t even quite explain except to say that Mantel’s writing completely hooked me into the head of Thomas Cromwell, and never let up. This novel continues the story of the reign of King Henry. The problem with this book is that it really does require a lot of my attention, and summer means home with three boys. I’ll need to carve out some space for this historical drama.


And I have been reading tons of great responses about The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate — so much so that I finally bought the book only to have my middle school son snap it up with a “I saw that at the bookstore” and it has now disappeared into the netherworld of his bedroom. I’ll head off on an expedition to get it back one of these days. It looks interesting, and I do so trust my #nerdybookclub friends when it comes to book suggestions, particularly ones that might interest my students when I am done with it.

Finally, no summer is complete without a little professional reading, right? I am hoping to get a copy of this collection of essays (some from National Writing Project teachers) called What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms. I’m always curious about my fellow educators’ perceptions and experiences.

Peace (in the pages),






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