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June 17, 2016 Summer Must-Read Books By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    The end (of school) is near! Although we continue to work hard into the final week of June, the countdown to summer vacation has inevitably started. Before my students’ thoughts irrevocably shift completely to the endless days of summer, I take advantage of time now to share with them recommendations for must-read summer books that are guaranteed to be dog-eared during the dog days!

    I enlisted the help of my colleagues this year. I posed to them a simple question: What is the one book you hope your students will read this summer? Their recommendations did not disappoint. From the hottest new releases to stories told in elegant verse, this booklist includes a little bit of something for everyone, and is sure to keep my students, and hopefully yours, reading well into the summer months.  

     Bone Gap, Laura Ruby

     

    A colleague, and true connoisseur of books for young readers, recently named Bone Gap one of the best books of the year! This book is the ideal summer escape for readers who love mysteries and suspenseful tales.  

    The mysterious disappearance of a woman in a rural town full of secrets drives the novel’s suspense. The story unravels by alternating mainly between the missing woman’s perspective and the perspective of a character determined to learn the truth. As a result, this compelling narrative structure completely absorbs readers into the story. 

    The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker

    The Age of Miracles is perfect for fans of science fiction and dystopian novels. Even if you're not a fan, this pick might change that. It did for me!

    A trusted science teacher shared this book with me because she thinks readers with a scientific mind will find it to be a good fit. I usually steer clear of science fiction, but after reading it, I agree.    

    Imagine if all of the things you know for certain about our natural world are suddenly thrown out of order. Now imagine this time of sudden disorder happening while you are in middle school, a time when the world already feels like it is falling apart. In The Age of Miracles both of these ideas become a reality for the characters. In the novel the earth experiences a sudden slowing of its rotation, which affects other absolute truths of the physical world. As a result, the characters are forced to come of age in a world where nothing is certain.

    Stella by Starlight, Sharon M. Draper

    Stella by Starlight is my summer reading recommendation for readers who appreciate historical fiction and strong characters. 

    As a writer and observer of the world, 11-year-old Stella is developing an understanding of what it means to be African-American in the segregated South during the Depression.  The actions of the Ku Klux Klan and painfully violent personal memories of racism are shown through Stella’s eyes. It is through these experiences and with the support of her family and neighbors that Stella finds her unique voice in the world. 

    The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate

    The animal lovers out there must get their hands on The One and Only Ivan this summer. 

    This fictional tale is told from the perspective of Ivan, a gorilla. The story explores the bonds of interspecies friendships despite human cruelty. Protecting the welfare of all living creatures is an idea at the core of this charming narrative. 

    Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery

     

    Be inspired this summer by the compelling lives of amazing individuals!  

    Temple Grandin’s groundbreaking work as a scientist has revolutionized the field of animal science. As an individual with autism growing up in the 1950s, Grandin faced many challenges because others often misunderstood or ignored her unique abilities. This biography describes the impassioned ways Grandin responded to these challenges to become an animal behavior expert and advocate for people with autism. 

     

    Stories Told in Verse

    These books are especially recommended for readers who find beauty in words and language.

    Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson’s alluring verse captivates readers and guides them on a personal journey through her experiences as child in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Woodson’s perceptive language captures a developing sense of identity, race, and belonging while coming of age in the segregated South.

    Take advantage of the long days of summer to linger over the elegant language in Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.

    Booked, Kwame Alexander

    Kick back this summer with Booked, Kwame Alexander’s most recent novel in verse.

    Nick, the narrator, might be reluctant to admit it as a middle schooler, but he is a genuine logophile (a lover of words). Despite this reluctance, learning and unlocking the power of words helps Nick navigate challenges and changes at home and in his personal relationships. 

    Readers who were hooked by Alexander’s The Crossover are sure to be equally taken by his latest book. 

    Under the Mesquite, Guadalupe Garcia McCall

    Under the Mesquite is another must-read novel in verse. 

    Lupita is revealed to readers in these skillfully crafted lines of free verse poetry. As high school student and the oldest of eight siblings, Lupita’s strength and resiliency is tested after her mother is diagnosed with cancer and new responsibilities fall on the teenager’s shoulders. Like the firm roots of a mesquite tree, Lupita works to hold together the ties of love that unite her family. 

     

    Popular Graphic Novels

    If you’re looking for graphic novels to occupy your time this summer, here are three excellent examples. Being young is not easy, but being young and described by others as "different" can be excruciating. These three graphic novels explore the latter, and I would definitely recommend reading them as a set. 

    Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson

    El Deafo, Cece Bell

    American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

     

    A Special Recommendation

    Honor a legend with this knockout book!  

    The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Walter Dean Myers

     

     

    Regardless of the books you select, I wish you and your students a summer vacation full of amazing reading!  

    The end (of school) is near! Although we continue to work hard into the final week of June, the countdown to summer vacation has inevitably started. Before my students’ thoughts irrevocably shift completely to the endless days of summer, I take advantage of time now to share with them recommendations for must-read summer books that are guaranteed to be dog-eared during the dog days!

    I enlisted the help of my colleagues this year. I posed to them a simple question: What is the one book you hope your students will read this summer? Their recommendations did not disappoint. From the hottest new releases to stories told in elegant verse, this booklist includes a little bit of something for everyone, and is sure to keep my students, and hopefully yours, reading well into the summer months.  

     Bone Gap, Laura Ruby

     

    A colleague, and true connoisseur of books for young readers, recently named Bone Gap one of the best books of the year! This book is the ideal summer escape for readers who love mysteries and suspenseful tales.  

    The mysterious disappearance of a woman in a rural town full of secrets drives the novel’s suspense. The story unravels by alternating mainly between the missing woman’s perspective and the perspective of a character determined to learn the truth. As a result, this compelling narrative structure completely absorbs readers into the story. 

    The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker

    The Age of Miracles is perfect for fans of science fiction and dystopian novels. Even if you're not a fan, this pick might change that. It did for me!

    A trusted science teacher shared this book with me because she thinks readers with a scientific mind will find it to be a good fit. I usually steer clear of science fiction, but after reading it, I agree.    

    Imagine if all of the things you know for certain about our natural world are suddenly thrown out of order. Now imagine this time of sudden disorder happening while you are in middle school, a time when the world already feels like it is falling apart. In The Age of Miracles both of these ideas become a reality for the characters. In the novel the earth experiences a sudden slowing of its rotation, which affects other absolute truths of the physical world. As a result, the characters are forced to come of age in a world where nothing is certain.

    Stella by Starlight, Sharon M. Draper

    Stella by Starlight is my summer reading recommendation for readers who appreciate historical fiction and strong characters. 

    As a writer and observer of the world, 11-year-old Stella is developing an understanding of what it means to be African-American in the segregated South during the Depression.  The actions of the Ku Klux Klan and painfully violent personal memories of racism are shown through Stella’s eyes. It is through these experiences and with the support of her family and neighbors that Stella finds her unique voice in the world. 

    The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate

    The animal lovers out there must get their hands on The One and Only Ivan this summer. 

    This fictional tale is told from the perspective of Ivan, a gorilla. The story explores the bonds of interspecies friendships despite human cruelty. Protecting the welfare of all living creatures is an idea at the core of this charming narrative. 

    Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery

     

    Be inspired this summer by the compelling lives of amazing individuals!  

    Temple Grandin’s groundbreaking work as a scientist has revolutionized the field of animal science. As an individual with autism growing up in the 1950s, Grandin faced many challenges because others often misunderstood or ignored her unique abilities. This biography describes the impassioned ways Grandin responded to these challenges to become an animal behavior expert and advocate for people with autism. 

     

    Stories Told in Verse

    These books are especially recommended for readers who find beauty in words and language.

    Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson’s alluring verse captivates readers and guides them on a personal journey through her experiences as child in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Woodson’s perceptive language captures a developing sense of identity, race, and belonging while coming of age in the segregated South.

    Take advantage of the long days of summer to linger over the elegant language in Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.

    Booked, Kwame Alexander

    Kick back this summer with Booked, Kwame Alexander’s most recent novel in verse.

    Nick, the narrator, might be reluctant to admit it as a middle schooler, but he is a genuine logophile (a lover of words). Despite this reluctance, learning and unlocking the power of words helps Nick navigate challenges and changes at home and in his personal relationships. 

    Readers who were hooked by Alexander’s The Crossover are sure to be equally taken by his latest book. 

    Under the Mesquite, Guadalupe Garcia McCall

    Under the Mesquite is another must-read novel in verse. 

    Lupita is revealed to readers in these skillfully crafted lines of free verse poetry. As high school student and the oldest of eight siblings, Lupita’s strength and resiliency is tested after her mother is diagnosed with cancer and new responsibilities fall on the teenager’s shoulders. Like the firm roots of a mesquite tree, Lupita works to hold together the ties of love that unite her family. 

     

    Popular Graphic Novels

    If you’re looking for graphic novels to occupy your time this summer, here are three excellent examples. Being young is not easy, but being young and described by others as "different" can be excruciating. These three graphic novels explore the latter, and I would definitely recommend reading them as a set. 

    Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson

    El Deafo, Cece Bell

    American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

     

    A Special Recommendation

    Honor a legend with this knockout book!  

    The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Walter Dean Myers

     

     

    Regardless of the books you select, I wish you and your students a summer vacation full of amazing reading!  

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