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So Many Books, So Little Time


Keenly aware of how little time we have left together, my students and I race to finish the books we have borrowed from each other. Students wistfully return books held hostage in their lockers and bedrooms. Donations for our school-wide book swap arrive each day, and I cull and examine our classroom library in preparation for my move to a new classroom down the hall (the only time I have ever admitted we might have too many books!). The end of the year is a bittersweet time for me—a mix of pride in my students’ reading accomplishments, and sorrow at losing the wonderful children I have grown to love. Soliciting reflections about their reading experiences, I ask my students to make reading plans for the future, encouraging them to maintain reading habits they have cultivated over the past nine months. Class discussions revolve around our favorite books of the year and those books we want to read in the future. As part of my reading community, I share our list of favorites with you, as well as a few titles from my never-ending to-read-pile.

Class Favorites

Elephant Run by Roland Smith (historical fiction/ ages 10-13). After Luftwaffe bombings destroy his London apartment building, Nick Freestone is sent to live with his father on the family’s Burmese teak plantation. When his father is captured by invading Japanese, Nick strikes out on a dangerous rescue mission. Roland Smith’s action-packed books are consistently popular with the readers in my class.

H.I.V.E.: The Higher Institute of Villainous Education (science fiction/ ages 10-13). Move over Hogwarts, the hip, new school for gifted teens may be inside the dormant volcano of HIVE, a school for budding criminal masterminds. Who knew I had so many evil geniuses in my class? Fans of this book will love the sequel, H.I.V.E.: The Overlord Protocol, too.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (science fiction/ young adult). Travel into the future world of Panem (formerly the U.S.), where each of twelve districts must choose two teenagers to compete in the yearly Hunger Games, a battle which brings glory and riches to its single winner and death to the losers— all broadcast on national TV. My students and I must wait all summer for the sequel, Catching Fire, slated for release in September.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (fantasy/ ages 10-13). The final installment in Riordan’s modern day Greek Mythology adventure finds Percy and Co. fighting the Titans to save Mount Olympus. Released on May 5th, half of my class has already read it and declared it one of the best books of the year. A movie version of The Lightning Thief, the first book in this fantastic series, is currently in production.

Author Rick Riordan is the spokesperson for Barnes & Noble's Summer Reading program this year. Kids read eight books, document the titles on a downloadable book log, and earn a free book. I love this program because it requires readers to finish books, not just log minutes.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (realistic fiction/ young adult). Lia, an anorexic teen, struggles to cope with the sudden death of her estranged friend Cassie in this powerful book, which documents the mental and physical decline of a girl battling an eating disorder. Considering the enthusiasm the more mature girls in my class have for this book, my money is on Wintergirls to win next year’s Printz Award.

Books I Plan to Read (My goodreads “to-read” shelf bows under the weight of 373 titles; I chose five that beckon loudly.)

The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings by Alan Gratz (historical fiction/ ages 10-13). Set against the backdrop of 150 years of American history, this book follows nine generations of baseball-loving children in one Brooklyn family.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. (various genres/ young adult). The list of authors contributing to this short story anthology reads like a roll call of YA’s best: John Green, Libba Bray, Wendy Mass, Scott Westerfeld, and others in this homage to all things nerdy from Star Trek to baton twirling. (This book will be released in August.)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (historical fiction/ young adult). Calpurnia questions the survival rates of the grasshoppers on her Texas farm and develops a relationship with her cranky grandfather, a naturalist. Set in 1899, this book offers readers a spunky protagonist ahead of her time.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (realistic fiction/ young adult). Left behind in India while her father seeks work in America, Asha, her older sister, and their mother wait in Calcutta. Forced by culture to follow the decisions of her uncle and grandmother, Asha resists the control and loss of freedom she must endure while her father is gone. Recommended to me months ago by book blogger extraordinaire, Jen Robinson, this book is sure to be a standout.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (fantasy/ young adult). The Lass, the unnamed ninth child of a woodcutter, develops the ability to talk to animals after rescuing a magical deer. Lured with promises of riches, the Lass follows a mysterious polar bear to his castle where she must save him from the clutches of an evil troll queen. This retelling of the Nordic “Beauty and the Beast” tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon promises adventure and a strong heroine.

While it will never make it near my classroom, I must admit that I am intrigued by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (fantasy/ adult) by Seth Grahame-Smith. The Bennet Sisters as zombie killers? Sign me up! Everyone should have at least one guilty summer read!

It’s your turn. Which books call to you with promises of reading bliss over long summer days? Whether preparing for your students next fall or reading them for yourself, share your summer reading plans with us! I can squeeze a few more titles on that shelf…


As a middle school librarian I rarely get to read all of the titles in a series so this summer I want to finish some series I started and loved:
Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A.Meyer
Starclimber by Oppel in the Matt & Kate series
Sisters Grimm series by Buckley (never read but the devotees of this series tell me I'm missing the latest title! OOPS!)
Lightning Thief series by Riordan (especially so I'm ready for his new series that is a take off from the first)

And I'll be first in line for the next one in Margaret Haddix's new series, The Missing. The first title is "Found" and I feel like I've been waiting forever for the next one -- probably will re-read Found.

I also want to catch up on some authors I love, but am behind reading newer titles:
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Swindled by Gordon Korman
Chains by Laurie Anderson (and the title you mentioned in your post)
Various books by Wendy Maas ("Mango Shaped Space" is one of my favorites)

And then there are all the Pennsylvania Young Readers titles for next year...

And last but not least - I want to start reading to my grandson, a return to picture books!

I also have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on my list, Donalyn (it's going on my next trip, even). Also the Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (which comes highly recommended by many of my blog friends). I'll be continuing to the read the Mortal Instruments trilogy (I'm half-way through book 2). Longer-term, I'm looking forward to Catching Fire, of course. And to Kristin Cashore's Graceling sequel, Fire.

So many books... I really need to do something to create more reading time in my life. Happy end of school year, Donalyn.

I'm working with our librarin to start two new reading programs at our school. (They're not really programs, just fun projects I want to get running.)

One I have affectionately called "I know what you read last summer." We had a bunch of laminated cutouts of books, and when the current school year began, we asked kids to write down the titles of the books they read over the summer. It was neat to see what they had read. Hopefully, that will get more kids to read over the summer. We'll see.

The other is going to be a book reading challenge. We've been hashing out the details, but we're trying to challenge kids to read a certain amount of books per school year. On the low end is six books -- one per six weeks. On the high end, the number is at about 150. We have three categories with three levels for each category. Still working on the details.

Anyway, I'm currently reading The Last Olympian, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (!), The Bartimaus Trilogy, What is the What, and Robot Visions, by Isaac Asimov. For the summer, I don't know what I'm reading yet! Probably some Laurie Holston...Halsten??? I want to read several of her books this summer: Fever, 1893; Speak; and Twisted. Oh, and my daughter recommends Angel, by McNish.

The Last Olympian - should arrive from Amazon.com next week and will be devoured asap, but I want to re-read the whole series b/c I just read through them with LIGHTNING speed...

Nancy Farmer books - only read The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (love this sci fi novel - just wrote a little review on my blog), but want to read more, like A Girl Named Disaster, The House of the Scorpion

Everyone raves about Gordon Korman, Neil Gaiman, & Andrew Clements, so I want to read at least one from each...

Hope you don't mind shameless self-blog-promotion here:

I recently read your book. Loved it! I work as a librarian now but your book made me want to be back in a classroom encouraging kids to read. I want to buy copies of your book to give to every teacher I work with here.

Your list of class favorites and summer reads gave me several ideas for myself. After seeing several books I've already read and loved, I quickly ordered the ones I haven't read from my library.

I am a huge fan of Jen Robinson and read her blog daily. She has given me so many great reading suggestions.

Thanks for the inspiration! Keep up the great work in your classroom. I hope your ideas and methods get to classrooms everywhere!

Rick Riordan is such a great author. I love his books for grownups -- Big Red Tequila, et al.

Several of my students have read The Last Olympian and also declared it the best yet. The Sister Grimm Series has also been a big hit; so far I have only read the first one because all of my books are constantly out, but I am looking forward to finishing it this summer. The first book hooked me in with an interesting twist on fairy tales. Another series that took off this year for my boys is the Alex Rider Series; it is about a teenage boy who becomes a spy. The boys love the action and all the cool gadgets. Some of the girls even started picking it up at the very end.
I read the comment about starting a reading challenge, and I support the idea. I do a reading challenge every month between my English classes. The class that wins gets to add a book to my library. It has been a huge success. The students are reading more than ever, and my library is growing by leaps and bounds.

I just finished reading Double Identity by Margaret Haddix, and I highly recommend it. My summer reading includes The Book Whisperer (I began it this weekend and must say I am loving the validation- I feel like I have met a kindred spirit). I also have the Book Thief in my pile.

If I may humbly suggest new books to read, I have written and self-published three novels for young readers. The link to the site is www.lulu.com/andara. I am a special ed teacher and a life-long reader and writer of fantasy and science fiction tales. And next year I'm moving to fourth grade from first, so now I can do literature circles with my own books! I enjoy your posts very much, Donalyn, and look forward to reading your book this summer.

We started Pride and Prejudice and Zombies before the end of the school year because my boys (14 and 15) couldn't wait. So far it's much more P&P than Zombies.

I read Elephant Run and loved it! I'm now reading more of Roland Smith. Thanks to those fabulous students for recommending!

Also finished Brooklyn Nine and loved it! Can't wait to read the other books recommended! Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was one of my students' favorites! They were crazy about zombies and things of that nature this year. When i saw the book, I knew it was a must have for my class book collection. A nice combo with the old literature and a splash of the grotesque!

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