August Reading, 2016: Something for Everyone!

Summertime and the reading was fine and  breezy and uplifting and weepy and, at times, gut-wrenching. The titles below offer something for all ages from picture books, to novels, to YA fiction to a great adult read.

PICTURE BOOKS, ages 2- 5 (sure to be ‘Read it again!, Read it!’ again favourites)

Apples and Robins by Lucie Felix

This book is both simple and sophisticated in design. As each page is turned, one thing transforms inot another (eg. an oval becomes a bird). This book will appeal to classroom teachers who want literature to help teach about shapes and/ or seasons. More important, however, Apples and Robins is an artful specimen that ignites the imagination and strengthens visual literacy.

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

This picture book is a great read aloud for pre-school students, a great side by side read for adult and child and a book taht will quickly have young reader reading to you. Appeal: catchy title, rhythmic refrain, suspenseful story, nocturnal setting, great (simple) illustrations make this book a winner. Thanks to William (age 2) and Peter (age 3) for recommending this title.

NOVELS: ages 9 – 13

Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper

Whenver Elyse is called a name (good or bad) the words suddenly appear on her skin.  I can accept this intriguing premise (‘and words can hurt forever’), but I found much of this novel to be unengaging (The big event is the quest to be Explorer Event for the school trip or credible (the love story of 11 year olds, the expensive and extravagant birthday party in a Chicago apartment, and the school trip (Why didn’t mother make an effort to find her lost daughter?). But I’m not a grade six girl.

Nine, Ten: A September 11 story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

This novel tells the story of four young people, each living outside of Manhattan, and their connections to the Twin Tower disaster. Like Towers Falling, this novel helps readers who were not living in 2001 to come to an understanding of this significant event in American history.

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

Product Details

This title is my favourite of all  this month’s listings. A young teenage girl takes charge of her brother when their mother dies. The family struggles to keep the local gas station afloat.  When a vagabond suddenly arrives, a plan is hatched to ‘hire’ him as their father to prevent the trio from being send from an orphanage. This is Bayard’s first novel for young people. I loved it and expect/hope it will be a Newbery contender. Great writing. Great humour. Great heart.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Deja’s family has moved into a shelter with her family. A school project sets Deja on a journey to learn about the falling of the Twin Towers as well as uncover the trauma her father seems to face. This is a novel layered with compassion and provide information and questions about the 9/11 tragedy.

The Misadvntures of Max Crumbly by Rachel Renee Russell

Russell is the author of blockbuster sereis Dork Diaries and Max Crumbly is the hero of this new series.  I chose this book because I am always intrigued with school bully stories. The font, the graphic-style illustrations and the breezy storytelling will lead to another success for the author. Spoiler Alert: Max’s adventures are not wrapped up in this book. Final page, “I bet you can’t believe I’m leaving you hanging, just like they do in my favourite comic books! Sorry, but all i can say at this point is.. TO BE CONTINUED…I, for one, am not going to get the book(s) so I guess I’ll be left hanging.

NOVELS: Young Adult

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Adrian Piper is a sci-fi geek, a talented artist and an out-of-the closet gay student. A gay bashing incident ignites Adrian and his two pals to take action and fight for justice using his own powers and ‘draw the line’ through the fictitious superheroes he presents. This novel is interspersed throughout with black and white drawings from Adrian’s graphic creation.

Freak Boy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (see below)


Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Sam loves going fishing with his father, but this year, Sam’s pesky Big Fishy younger sister accompanies them. The special appeal of the book is that each brief chapter is told in an idenitfied poetic format (e.g., ‘All Aboard’ / List Poem; ‘My Big Fish’/ Quatrain

Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer

More than anything Mark wants a dog, must have a dog, needs a dog. Dog owners and certainly wannabe dog owners will enjoy reading about Mark’s quest to own a dog of his own and the quest for Buddy (a girl dog) who wants to belong to someone who can love and care for him. A heartwarming tale enriched  by the free verse format.

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen; Illus. Amy June Bates

Kara, an eleven year old girl born with a deformed hand, was abandoned  as an infant and was secretly mothered by an elderly American woman living in China. Kara longs to be with her father who lives in Montana but is challenged with a strict adoption system that is preventing her from finding true happiness and a family. Kudo’s to Bates’s spot illustrations that appear throughout.

Freak Boy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (Young Adult)

More than wanting to be with the perfect girlfriend, Vanessa, seventeen year old Brendan Chase wants to BE like her. A star athlete, a star student, Brendan struggles with sexual identity issues. This free verse novel is told from three viewpoints and offers significant insights with adolescents who strive to come to terms with their place on the transgender spectrum and the friends and family who support them.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Not just because  its a 2016 Oprah Book Club selection, but  this remarkable novel should continue getting to get the buzz – and possibly the awards – it deserves. We have read many novels about the plights of slavery, but the premise of this story, is that there was, in fact, an Underground Railroad that brought African American slaves to freedom. Colson centres his narrative on the life of  Cora as she takes flight from a cotton plantation and journeys through several Southern Southern states, attempting to escape the horrors of bondage. For better or worse, a book that will probably be in Book Club settings and beyond.

Comment: I loved the first half of the The Underground Railroad. Found the second half plodding.

Comment: The Gospel Truth. the free verse YA novel by Canadian Caroline Pignat was a book about slavery that, for me, had more ‘punch’ than Whitehead’s book.

SHOUT OUT!Product Details

Literacy 101 by David Booth, Pembroke Publishers

In preparation to teach two literacy courses this fall, I just finished reading Literacy 101 by David Booth. Booth outlines 101+ questions about literacy programming and provides answers to these questions, turning theory into effective best practice. Throughout the book, David Booth shares dozens of anecdotes  informed his own remarkable life as an educator and serve as data to support his answers. As I read through the book, page by page, new questions formulated in my head and seeking answers to these questions is the stuff of being a reflective practitioner. Literacy 101  offers me the opportunity to work alongside the teacher candidates I work with to formulate their own questions, to gain understanding of effective language arts programming as they begin and continue their careers.  For experienced teachers, Booth serves as a guide and mentor as his words challenge and stretch their assumptions.

KEY QUESTIONS: Chapter Headings

  • Chapter One: Why is ‘literacy’ such a popular term in teaching today
  • Chapter Two: How do I actually teach students to read?
    Chapter Three: Should students always respond to a text?
  • Chapter Four: How can I organize an effective reading program?
  • Chapter Five: Is writing a period in the school day or part of every subject?
    Chapter Six: How do I develop a literacy community?
    Chapter Seven: How can I use tests to teach?