In between all of my writing and traveling, I did manage to read a few books this summer, and some of them were spectacular. I wanted to share them with you in case you are looking for something great to read as the weather cools down and we spend more time inside. Check out my list of books below, encompassing many genres, age levels and topics.
Even though I won’t be teaching middle school this year, I can’t dump my love affair with middle grade and YA books. This summer, I encountered two amazing ones.
Breakout by Kate Messner
Mark my words, this book will be willing all sorts of accolades come book award season. It tackles the really tough topic of racism, through the lens of the prison and media institutions. Set in a small town, this book tells the story of a real-life prison break, through the eyes of the Prison Superintendent’s twelve-year-old daughter, Nora. Captured in bits and pieces, this narrative is completely made up of letters, text messages, school announcements, newspaper articles, and recorded conversations. When Nora decides to take reporting into her own hands, many great ELA teaching components come into play including accurate quoting, reliable sources and the importance of doing research. Questions of prison and town demographics, reported incidents of prisoner abuse, stereotypes and societal rules arise as Nora digs into the events that are turning her town upside down. The final gem of the book is that Elidee, a newcomer to the town, reflects on her feelings via poems and song lyrics inspired by famous writers including Lin Manuel Miranda and Jaqueline Woodson. This book will inspire… inspire conversations, inspire activism, inspire writers and inspire friendship. I’m not kidding when I say dust off the Newbery. This book might get it. Bravo Kate Messner! Add it to your child’s bookshelf ASAP.
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This book is the sequel to the Newbery Honor winning book The War That Saved My Life. I will confess that it sat in my To-Be-Read pile for FAR TOO LONG. (Life is busy!) But once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Ada is living through WWII in the English countryside with her brother Jamie, and guardian, Susan. The war permeates everything they do and attacks their personal lives from every angle forcing the characters of this book to push on, move on and live on… even when they don’t want to. Who is your enemy? Who is your friend? What is family? What is right? What is wrong? Lessons abound and so do wonders. Especially wonders of the heart. This book is a treasure. I admire Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for taking on difficult and controversial topics with a grace that makes them accessible for middle grade readers. Her words tug at my heart strings and pull me entirely into her story. This historical fiction at its best, and even though it is written for middle schoolers, readers of all ages will love it. (Both my mom and I did!) Head over to Amazon and put this one in your cart; you won’t be disappointed.
Books My Boys Loved
Some of my favorite reading I did this summer, was with my boys. Whether in a tent on the deck, in the car, or just before bed, we were able to experience some fun stories this summer!
Hide and Seek-A-Saurus by Sherri Roloff
Dinosaurs, pizza and a game of hide and seek? What could be better? Pretty much nothing in the Zieba boys’ estimation. We have so much fun reading this book, counting down while the dinosaurs hide and then trying to find them in increasingly difficult spots in their backyard. And when the game is done, everyone gathers in the kitchen to eat the pizza that had been cooking while they played. This is not a passive reading experience! A perfect, interactive, read aloud. Bonus, Sheri is a Wisconsin author! Show her a little literary love by requesting that your local library add this book to their collection, or by buying it for your child’s classroom teacher as a back to school gift! (Pssst. There’s a coloring book version too!)
The Day of the Dinosaurs by Johnathan Rand
My boys have a favorite author, and it isn’t me. (I get the coveted #2 spot.) #1 belongs to Johnathan Rand, thanks entirely to his series Freddie Fernortner, Fearless First Grader. When I returned home from a trip to Michigan where I was teaching at Johnathan’s young writer camp (Author Quest), I brought back the newest installment in the series. The Day of the Dinosaurs starts in a sandbox, but quickly travels to a land of faraway imaginings, many, many years ago. My sons love the adventures Freddie goes on, and the delightful illustrations that occasionally accompany the story. There is no hope of reading just a single chapter with this series. As soon as I read the last word, they are begging, for just one more chapter. If you have little boys in your life that are ready for chapter books, add these ones to your list!
Books for Writers
Your shelves are full of these, right?!?!? Make room for two more. Don't worry, they are small in size, but not in power.
Steal Like and Artist and Show your Work by Austin Kleon
These two tiny books are the best pep talk I have read in a long time. The amount of quotable inspiration that comes from Austin Kleon in these pocket-sized how-to manuals is mind boggling. Almost every page bears the addition of my ink, underlining important thoughts or jotting down my ideas that it has spring boarded into existence. The books go beyond inspiration to practical applications creatives can take to move their work and their career forward. The best part is you can read these books quickly. Just a chapter in a few minutes, or the entire book in an hour or two sitting. It is great for writers to learn and read, but at the end of the day, writers need to write, and creatives need to create… if we spend huge chunks of our time NOT creating… for whatever reason… that’s a problem. These books are the remedies. I know that the holiday season is a long time away, but if you have a creative on your list, pick up these two books and you can check stocking-stuffer off your list. (Or just surprise them when a little pick me up… just because you love them and want to see more of their work.)
Okay, that's it.
I mean, not entirely. I did read other books. These were just my favorites from this season. What did you read? What did you love? What's next on your list/pile? Comment below!