Education Opinion

The Dog-Eared Days of Summer

By Donalyn Miller — August 09, 2009 7 min read
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I enjoyed a wonderful summer. Traveling around the country promoting The Book Whisperer and teaching staff development, I appeared in eight cities, gave ten interviews, stopped in thirteen airports, rode in twenty-two airplanes, and read sixty books (lots of reading time on those planes!). Talking about books and reading with hundreds of teachers and zealous readers from Pennsylvania to Chicago to Portland, let me assure you that the book is not dead, enthusiastic reading role models exist in our schools and homes, and many children and adults love to read.

I met some great characters, both inside and outside of books: spunky kids like Gianna Z., Brendan Buckley, and Moxy Maxwell; cab-driving readers Bruce and Daniel; new goodreads friends like Rachel, Felice, Mary Ann, and Amy; Marvin the beetle and Christopher the pig. What wonderful memories I added to my personal reading story— including the perfect reading day--July 30th--when I read both Gayle Forman’s tear-jerker, If I Stay and Rebecca Stead’s intricate mystery, When You Reach Me. If I stopped reading forever after finishing these two books, it would almost be enough.

Of course, I didn’t stop…

Here is the final installment of my summer book-a-day challenge—the thirty-one books I read in July and the first week of August. School begins in two weeks and my glorious days of indulgent reading must end. I did not achieve my lofty goal to read a book every day, but I had a great time trying.

** Stars indicate my personal favorites.

Teaching Books

Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebooks by Aimee Buckner. In this companion to her hit book, Notebook Know-How, Buckner shares mini-lessons, rubrics, and her own tips for using readers’ notebooks in your classroom.

**Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For by Thomas Newkirk. Newkirk gives clarity and focus to reading professionals by reflecting on his own experiences and observing what matters in a literacy classroom and what doesn’t.

Adult Books

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.Translated from the original French by Alison Anderson, Hedgehog examines the self-indulgent lives of the wealthy through the eyes of alternating narrators who live in the same apartment building: Renee, the concierge and Paloma, the twelve-year-old daughter of a parliamentarian.

High School (9th-12th)

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. This anthology of short stories by YA’s hottest authors gives a shout out to geeks in bands, drama clubs, and role playing chat rooms everywhere.

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande. When Mena stands up for another student, she suffers the wrath of her parents, friends, and the conservative members of her church.

Vacations from Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski. After reading these five tales of horrific vacations complete with vampires, demons, and sinister prophecies, you gain a little perspective about your lost luggage.

**If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Critically injured in a car accident that devastates her family, seventeen-year-old Mia reflects on her life and struggles to decide if she should stay among the living or let go.

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman. Traveling to Selkie Island to help her mother sort out her late grandmother’s estate, Miranda learns about the legend of the Selkie, mysterious sea creatures disguised among the island’s inhabitants.

**Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Taylor Markham, reluctant leader of the Jellicoe School students, fights territory wars against the Townies and the Cadets, and discovers the intersecting stories behind the origins of the war and her own past.

**Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. Jennifer and Cameron, both social outcasts, are best friends. When Cameron disappears, seemingly forever, Jennifer reinvents herself into popular, thin Jenna, and fears anyone will find about her former life.

Middle School (6th- 8th)

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen. After nuclear war destroys the world, Eli and his family escape to a luxurious, underground compound built by Eli’s billionaire father. After six years, Eli questions his father’s sanity and his family’s continued existence underground.

**Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Matt Cruse, cabin boy on the airship, Aurora, rescues a dying man who claims he saw mysterious flying creatures that resemble winged cats. One year later, Matt encounters the dead man’s granddaughter, Kate, who wants to find the flying cats herself.

**Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. In the mid-1970s, when her engineer father loses his job and leaves India to look for employment in America, sixteen-year-old Asha; her seventeen-year-old sister, Reet; and their mother move in with their uncle’s family in Calcutta.

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury. Salisbury shares the forgotten story of the Japanese-American soldiers who were used as bait for training attack dogs during World War II.

Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent, and Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life by Alan Wolf. Crammed with poems, clever asides, and hip illustrations by Tuesday Mourning, this guide to living a poet’s life will inspire and entertain writers and poetry fans.

Intermediate Grades (4th-6th)

The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands by Louise Borden. Piet, a young Dutch boy who loves to skate, must escort two children from his village across the Belgian border to safety, skating the frozen canals and sneaking past Nazi sentries.

**Masterpiece by Elise Broach. Marvin, a black beetle, discovers that he has artistic talent, befriends a lonely boy, and plays a pivotal role in a plot to catch art forgers.

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier. Embraced by his black relatives, Brendan wonders why he does not have contact with his white mother’s family and secretly build a relationship with his estranged grandfather, who Brendan meets for the first time at a rock and mineral exhibition.

**Alabama Moon by Watt Key. Ten-year-old Moon Blake lives in the wilderness of Alabama with his father, who mistrusts the government and teaches Moon how to live off the land and prepare for war when it comes. When his father dies, Moon sets out for Alaska, unable to accept that he should find other people to take care of him.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Yes, I may be the last person on Earth to read it, but I finally gave in after my ten-year-old challenged me. I can see why so many kids love this comic book/novel about Greg, a loser-hero, who struggles to navigate middle school.

What You Never Knew about Beds, Bedrooms, and Pajamas by Patricia Lauber. This installment in the Around the House History series tells the story of human history through advancements in our beds, bedrooms, and bedclothes.

**The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner. Gianna, cross-country track star, must finish her leaf collection project by the end of the week or she won’t be eligible to compete in the upcoming meet. With complications like the evil Brianna, her family’s funeral business, and her grandmother’s fading health, Gianna turns to her best friend, Zig, for assistance.

The Big One-Oh by Dean Pitchford. Traumatized after an embarrassing party experience when he was six, Charley decides he must pull off the perfect birthday party for the big one-oh.

**Six Innings by James Preller. Alongside play-by-play commentary of a Little League Championship game, Six Innings describes the young players’ family lives, friendships, and their love for baseball, slowly revealing why one star player, Sam, announces the game instead of playing it.

**Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury. Based on true events and the experiences of his cousin, Salisbury recounts the harrowing story of a Boy Scout troop trapped by an erupting volcano during a 1975 camping trip.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka. Designed like a comic book with catchy art design and short chapters, Scieszka shares the hilarious stories of his own childhood growing up with five brothers.

Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert. This picture book describes the true story of the Circus Polka, choreographed in 1942 by George Balanchine, with music by Igor Stravinsky and performances by John Ringling North’s elephants.

**How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz. Delightful illustrations enhance Shulevitz’ autobiographical story about his family’s escape from Warsaw and their life as refugees.

**When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Stead deftly combines the $20,000 Pyramid, A Wrinkle in Time, and New York City in the late 70’s into a magical story of friendship.

A Library Story: Building a New Central Library by Jennifer Vogel. This nonfiction text describes the planning and construction of Minneapolis’ New Central Library.

Elementary Grades (3rd-4th)

Spiders by Nic Bishop. Nic Bishop’s close-up and personal photographs and clear descriptions provide an entry point for young children interested in spiders.

What books have you read this summer? Share your favorites with us. We can all squeeze in few more titles before school starts.

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.