Saturday, May 24, 2008

Four days left and yes, I'm counting

There are only four student/teacher days left of school. One week from today at 3:40pm I will be standing out alongside the highway waving goodbye to this year's crop of seventh graders. They are so tired and done, and so am I. I love teaching, but let's face it, at this point there is very little teaching their tired, summer obsessed little brains will allow me to do.

Summer is coming for them and for me. Summer is when I start my list of books read this year over again. My students are required to read three books over the summer from a prepared list and do a project on each. If they don’t, they have to do it during the first 9 weeks of school. In the spirit of that, I thought I’d suggest some summer reading titles that are excellent for parents and kids.

Touching Spirit Bear- We are reading this as a class right now and this story is a look at a young man who is a juvenile delinquent. Cole Matthews has been in trouble with the school and the law for all of his life. Now he’s made a big mistake. His rage has boiled over and he seriously injures a classmate. Cole has a choice-jail or Circle Justice. Circle Justice is a Native American system of rehabilitation that teaches the individual compassion, empathy and the importance of restitution and healing. Circle Justice is mostly about healing. As Cole heals from the anger and the wounds of his life, he learns that he can never be fully healed until he helps the boy he hurt to find healing too. This is an excellent book by Ben Mikaelson. It’s a great boy book and the survival aspect of it is generally appealing to boys.

Surviving the Applewhites- This book by Stephanie Tolan is about another Juvie. Jake is a scary kinda kit to E.D. Applewhite. No school will take him so he’s sent to live with the Applewhites and attend their unique home school. But only E.D. seems to see that this is a disaster waiting to happen. Her father is producing the local musical, her mother is writing her new novel, her aunt is focusing on cleaning her aura and polishing her chakra while her granddad and uncle are making furniture that looks more like it belongs in an art museum than a livingroom. No one has time for E.D, but that’s okay, she doesn’t really fit in with the creative family into which she was born any more than Jake does. But she definitely doesn’t fit with Jake. While surviving a year with the Applewhites, Jake learns the importance of family, self respect and what it really means to be yourself. It’s a funny and endearing and a generally good read.

Poppy- Poppy is the story of a brave young mouse. Poppy and her family live in a state of weary truce with the great owl that hunts their farm land. The problem is, the owl isn’t always very good at keeping his side of the bargain. The family has no choice but accept that the owl must occasionally punish evil doing mice by eating them even if no one remembers what the mouse did that was wrong. The Poppy hears of a place where there is more food for her hungry family. But to reach it she has to cross the forbidden zone. Defying convention and the large angry owl who actually doesn’t want the mice to move to the new house because he’s afraid of it and won’t hunt there, Poppy leads a triumphant quest to a new and better home for her family.

Homeless Bird- Set in India, 13 year old Koli has just been married off to a young man who turns out to be very ill. As she undertakes her new life with a mother-in-law who doesn’t like her, a new sister-in-law who does, but who is soon to marry as well, Koli discovers a whole new world of wonder. She discovers reading. Always quick with her needle, Koli is equally as quick to learn to read and to appreciate books. But tragedy strikes two blows. First Koli’s husband, who was actually a very sick boy, dies. The family only arranged the marriage so they would have money to take Hari to bathe in the Ganges, hoping it would heal him. A widow at 13, life is over for Koli. No man would marry a widow. She must be bad luck if her husband died so young. But when Koli’s father-in-law who had been teaching her to read, dies; Koli finds herself on a train to a big city. Only she and Sass, her mother-in-law, are left and they must go to Sass’ brother. Tricked by Sass, Koli finds herself homeless and abandoned in a large city. Help comes her way and soon she is earning her keep with her clever needle. Life still holds wonders and the promise of family and love for Koli, but only if she is brave enough to grasp it.

Oh, another great book, but for grown-ups this time:

I’m Okay, You’re Dead by Cheryl Dragon. This release from The Lotus Circle was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. Dr. Deanna Oscar has come to New Orleans to seek a teaching job, not an entirely new life. But the ghost of her recently departed grandmother has other plans. When Deanna’s choice of cabs embroils her in the search for a serial killer, Deanna doesn’t back away from helping. But it will be only this once, right? This book combines memorable and layered characters (the secondary characters are some of the best parts of the book) and a well developed plot. It will keep you turning pages.

I had this book on my ereader when I was called for jury duty. Now jury duty is probably the most boring thing you can ever be forced to do. As I sat for almost 5 hours in the jury pool room with nothing to but sit and read, I found myself so engrossed in this book that I didn’t really mind so much. Fair to middlin’ coffee and this story made jury duty much less of a chore.


Anny Cook said...

They all sound like WONDERFUL choices. Thanks for the recommendations!

Kelly Kirch said...

Cheryl is a hoot in real life too. I'm gonna pop a message to her and let her know you liked her book.

JacquƩline_Roth said...

I really liked it. I was so glad that I'd put it on my ereader before going to jury duty. The time just flew.