I realize that most people are probably in the thick of beach book extravaganzas, but here in Chicago, I’m only just beginning. Even though school let out a few of weeks ago (we’re a late finish here), I’ve been mired in end-of-year tasks Now that I’ve tidied the collection and closed out for the season, I’m finally ready to get down to what I’m really excited about: summer reading.
Even more than in years past, I’ve got quite an unrealistic stack going: I brought home 24 books from school to read over the summer. Most of them are books on next year’s children’s choice lists—the Bluestem and Rebecca Caudill awards here in Illinois—and the few titles that have been released for next year’s Battle of the Books. In years past, before I had kids of my own, I read everything on the children’s choice-nominated lists, even if I’d read those books before. Now, I tend to stick to ones I’ve never read, so Tuck Everlasting didn’t make the cut—although it once certainly would have.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, on the other hand, did, and it’s one of the books I’m anticipating most. Two teachers told me separately that they loved it so much that they got through its 680 pages in a single day during the school year. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is another. I pushed it on a couple of fifth-grade girls based on its stellar reviews, then it flew through the class based on word-of-mouth. Rounding out my top three is Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase; I so enjoyed his Bartimeaus Sequence. As anyone who works in a school knows, summers tend to fly by, so we’ll see how many of these books I end up finishing.
Although I had my summer reading plans accounted for, I was curious about my students’, and so, at the end of the school year, I asked my third- to seventh-graders to tell me about them. We talked about where we might be reading. “The beach!” I told them, rather stupidly. (All my beach time has been spent trying and failing to keep my 15-month-old from eating sand.) “And on the couch, maybe when it’s raining outside and I’m curled up listening to the storm,” I said, and saw a few nods from my fourth-graders. (This too proved foolish. There is nothing so enticing to a three-year-old as a grownup who is clearly not paying attention to him.)
When it was their turn, the students told me they planned to read in a variety of enticing locales, some only briefly described: “In a fort,” “In my bed,” and, with implicit multiple exclamation points, “Anywhere!!!!” Some gave less prosaic destinations, like a playground with a tree that happens to be “the perfect laying-down spot.” My favorite answer came from the child who planned on “reading with my siblings in a different room.” As for when they might be reading, one fifth-grader gave me a detailed itinerary: “I will be reading twice a week, on Monday and Friday.” As a slightly obsessive planner myself, I can definitely respect this—though I can’t imagine getting to read only twice a week.
Then my students and I came to the question of what they plan to read. As it happens, younger kids have no real concept of a beach read, or that they might want to read something light during the summer, whereas many of my seventh-graders were on the hunt for easygoing reads. Well over half of my students planned to reread old favorites as well as new books, and many mentioned wanting to finish various series. One of my sixth graders wrote that he wanted to read “a series I have never heard of but will enjoy.” I sincerely hope this kid goes to his local library to ask for help, as that sounds like a fun readers’ advisory. There’s a good chance he will: a good three-quarters of my students indicated that they plan on heading to the public library this summer, and I’m certain that, by now, many of them have gotten further along in their summer reading plans than I have.
At last I’ve gotten started, but so far, I’ve only read “kid” books. I finished Sharon Draper’s absorbing Stella by Starlight, then zipped through the lovely The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. Perhaps I’ll eventually break things up with a book for adults someday. I’ve been eyeing my copy of Kate Atkinson’s Emotionally Weird. (I’ve found she can do no wrong, but this book looks different from her normal fare, so I’m intrigued.) But first, I’ll have to finish Gordon Korman’s Masterminds, which I sat down to read for “just a few minutes” during my youngest son’s morning nap, before I began a to-do list. Somehow, I never put the book down, and now the laundry will have to wait. The clothes will still be there tomorrow, but today, trouble’s afoot in the fictional town of Serenity.