Summer Reading for Teens 2013

It’s Book Bucket time again!

My daughter is just finishing up her homeschooling projects, so I haven’t yet presented her summer book bucket. Meanwhile, my Writing Workshop students have asked for summer reading recommendations.  So here you are:

Wonder

by R. J. Palacio

Knoph

Wonder

I fell in love with this book.  I listened to the audio version which was fantastic.  This story has heart, humor, and wit. It is the kind of book you want to talk to someone about after reading.  The story is told in multiple perspectives–from the main character, August, a fifth grader, his classmates, and  his sister in tenth grade.  So there is a wide range of interest here. Auggie has struggled all his life with a facial deformity which prevented him from attending school.  When he begins Beecher Prep, he hopes to be treated like a normal kid and to make friends. The story deals with friendship, bullying, empathy, teachers, and how a family copes with adversity and illness.  The author called her debut book, “a mediation in kindness”. I’d recommend it for both girl and boys ages 10-14, but adults will love it, too.  Wonder has been on many top ten lists this year. Don’t miss it.

Summer and Bird

by Katherine Catmull

Dutton 2012

summer and bird

A beautifully written fairy-tale about two sisters, Summer and Bird, who awake one morning to find their parents missing. They embark on a mysterious quest through a forest to find them.  The girls are then pulled into a fantastical bird world called Down, where birds speak and connect with humans.  The sisters alternate chapters in telling the story.  This is a great book for girls who enjoy fantasy, nature, and relationship stories. It has emotional intensity and dangerous situations. Ages 12 and up.

The Agency, Book 1

 Y.S. Lee

Candlewick Press, 2011

the agency

It is the 1850‘s London and twelve-year-old Mary Quinn is sentenced to hang for stealing. In the nick of time, she is secretly rescued by a member of the covert spy group called The Agency.  Working under the guise of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, the all female agency trains young females to be spies. Mary’s first assignment is to disguise herself as a lady’s companion and infiltrate a rich merachant’s home in order to uncover the mystery of some disappearing cargo ships. This is a great book for more sophisticated readers who enjoy historical fiction with romance and suspense. The lush details will transport you back to Victorian-era London.  Recommended for ages 12-18.

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Hyperian 2012

Code name verity

This Printz Honor book has made a number of top ten lists. It will keep you hooked to the very end. After surviving a plane crash, “Verity”, a young female spy, is captured in  Nazi-occupied France. In exchange for a lesser form a torture and a stay of execution, Verity agrees to write her confessions about her espionage work. We learn the story of how she crossed paths with Maddie, the young pilot of the plane and why Verity abandoned her after the crash. Will trading secrets with the enemy save Verity’s life? This multi-layered adventure story is quite a grown-up one, so I recommend it for 14 to adult.

Close to Famous

by Joan Baur

Viking 2011

almost famous

Twelve-year-old Foster dreams of growing up to become a celebrity chef despite her reading disability. Set in a rural town of West Virginia, where Foster and her mother move to escape an abusive boyfriend, the story is full of odd and memorable characters. You’ll fall in love with Foster, the narrator, with her big heart and pillowcase full of secrets. Can the quirky townsfolk of tiny Culpepper help Foster realize her delicious dreams?  Ages 10 and up.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

by Wendy Wan-Lon Shang

Scholastic 2011

great wall of lucy wu

Lucy Wu is a sixth-grade girl with a strong will and great ambition. This girl has plans for her future which include becoming a basketball player  and an interior decorator. Alas, everything seems to get in the way, from having to share her room with Yi Po, her grandmother’s sister, to dealing with the school bully. Then there is the dreaded Chinese school her parents force her to attend. Lucy will make you laugh as she navigates her bi-cultural life with flair. Ages 9-12.

Legend

By Marie Lu

Putnam, 2011

legend What would a summer reading list be with out a dystopian thriller? Seems like some young readers can’t get enough.  If that’s the case, Legend, first in a trilogy set in futuristic Los Angeles, should satisfy.  It’s a roller coaster ride that doesn’t stop. Though predictable and familiar at many points, it has emotion and compelling characters. The story alternates between fifteen-year-old June, a prodigy from the wealthy district, and fifteen-year-old Day, a wanted criminal born into the slums. This highly-visual book seems destined for the big screen. For boys and girls ages 12 and up.

Has your child you enjoyed any of these titles? What are you reading this summer?  

Celebrating Summer’s Swan Song


Sometime back when my kids were all in preschool/elementary school, I started the tradition of giving them each a book bucket on the last day of school.  This was simply a beach bucket with their name on it.  Tucked inside were paperbacks for summer reading.  I also included: puzzle books, comics, magazines, stickers, journals, bookmarks, pens, stationary, and the summer reading club sheet from our library and B&N. I tied a balloon to each bucket and then surprised the kids when they came home from school.

With celebratory music playing in the background, I’d congratulate them on a successful school year. Then we’d ring in summer vacation.

The kids loved this and it became a yearly ritual until graduation from high school. (Two down, one to go.) As the kids got older, I tailored the books to their interests. (This summer my daughter’s book bucket included a much coveted Hunger Games Movie guide.) Anticipation for the buckets began around June 1st.  The kids loved comparing their book bucket photos from year-to-year.

Thankfully, all three of my children enjoy books and creative writing.  Recently, I had the unanticipated pleasure of bringing my first grandchild her book bucket of baby books. I hope her mom will continue the tradition.

The book bucket idea came naturally to me as a reading teacher, book lover, writer,  and later, homeschooling mom.  But there is another reason: my love of summer.  Of course, no matter what I do to try to make the summer stretch out or to slow down, it always seems to pass in a blip.

When my fourteen-year-old daughter came down for breakfast yesterday, she sleepily said: “Mom? Is it really September 1st today?”

I gave her a hug.

“But I still haven’t finished my book bucket!”

Like me, she is definitely sad to see summer go.

As I write this post on the last official weekend of the summer season, it occurred to me that maybe we need an End of Summer ritual–a way of letting go and embracing the fall.  I’m not sure I could actually call it a “celebration”, like  at the beginning of summer, but I need some way to envision the upcoming school year without getting stuck in a snow scene.

So for starters, I decided to make a Looking Forward list that my daughter and I could write together, then display in our homeschool room.  This list would include events, happenings, and trips that we are looking forward to in the fall, winter, and spring.  We could add to the list as new items come our way.  Everyone needs something to look forward to, right?

Here’s what I came up with so far:

*Planning our mom/daughter trip to Washington, D.C

*Going to Albany to play with baby Chaya (her niece/my grand daughter)

*Visiting Sam at college

*Hot cocoa mornings  (Not sure about this one)

*Cousin Akiva’s bar mitzvah

So maybe the Looking Forward list, along with a final swim in our town lake, will become the ritual for celebrating summer’s swan song.

How do you say good-bye to summer? (Or hello to fall?)

Summer Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I live for summer.

As a sufferer of SAD,(seasonal affective disorder) the spring clock change kicks me into gear.  By June, I’m ready to fly. The summer break from my teaching job allows for more intense writing time.  These long stretches of time bring its own challenges and pressures.  Produce! Publish!

My self-imposed writing regimen also conflicts with another desire: to read a ton of books. In my world, one of the small pleasures in life  is coming home from the library on a Friday afternoon with a bag full of new books.  I’ve heard some writers say that they don’t read fiction while working on their novels.  This would be a hard practice for me to follow.  I find that reading certain authors inspire my own work.

When I was working on my YA novel, One Is Not A Lonely Number, I read  children’s novels with female narrators, like in my own story.  If I am working on a short story, I turn to my favorite writers for inspiration in language and voice. One of my favorite collections is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  The plotting, dialogue, insights, and language just blows me away.

When I get stuck, I reread my writing bibles: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont, On Writing by Stephen King, and Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. As for those beach books–they are my reward for putting in chair time, for typing those 1000 words.  So this summer I hope to read:  Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, More Cake and Lots of Candles by Anna Quindlen, Canada by Richard Ford, and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

What’s on your list?