Education Opinion

So Many Books, So Little Time

By Donalyn Miller — May 17, 2009 4 min read
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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…

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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