This year, I again participated in Donalyn Miller’s Book-A-Day challenge. My goal was pretty simple, I aimed to read at least a book per day over my kids’ summer vacation. I love summer reading as the less structured schedule allows lots of here-and-there time to enjoy a book. This year, their break was 75 days long and today is their first day back, so it seemed a great time to look back at what I read. Keep in mind that well over half of my books were picture books, but all books count–fiction, nonfiction, adult, picture books, graphic novels. Below, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites.
My goal: 75 books
Actually read: 85 books
Hopefully summer time meant plenty of reading time for you, too! I’d love to hear what you enjoyed this summer!
My favorite picture books of the bunch . . .
Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown >> This is a touching look at divorce and the many worries that young kids have around the technical parts of divorce. I loved the Picasso facts sprinkled throughout the story, which is divided into smaller chapters.
Little Elliott, Big City by Mike Curato >> Adorable Elliott is feeling quite incompetent but soon finds a friend who needs his help. Together they make quite a pair. I’m certain Elliott and Ella the Elegant Elephant from Carmela and Steve D’amico.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd>>A wordless look at nighttime with one boy’s flashlight. I loved it, though wonder if the cutouts really are necessary.
The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo>> I adore Castillo’s illustration style and look forward to more of her work. One young boy causing trouble encounters another creature making mischief of his own.
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson >> Sometimes we feel out of sorts, even in our own family. Gaston wonders if there has been some sort of mix up. His attempts to find out, just might prove him wrong. Funny with a heartfelt message at the same time.
The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara >> I probably loved the art more than the story on this one, but it is fun to think that animals need books, too!
Dog Days of School by Kelly DiPucchio and Brian Biggs >> I loved this funny “Freaky Friday” style mix up with a boy and his dog. I predict younger kids will find this hysterical.
A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham >> Sweet tale of friendship with darling illustrations.
My favorite non-fiction titles . . .
The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis >> A super interesting look at the life of author (and adventurer) Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I did a have a few qualms about the book design that made the flow of reading choppy or difficult when you had to read very tiny text presented in a circular format.
Goal by Sean Taylor and Caio Vilela >> A marvelous photographic look at soccer (or football!) as it is enjoyed around the world. Each page spread is focuses on a different country and some soccer related facts on that sport in that country.
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Catia Chen >> An autobiographical look at the author’s own struggles to overcome stuttering in tandem with developing a career devoted to animal conservation. Great illustrations!
Edward Hopper by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor >> I’ve always been a fan of Hopper’s work, so I found this to be a fascinating look at his creative process and influences. The notes in the back on some of his famous works provide some thought provoking prompts.
How to Make a Planet by Scott Forbes and illustrated by Jean Camden>> A thorough look at the creation of planets and our galaxy. Pretty complex stuff, but it is presented in an accessible way with some great illustrations and analogies. It’s longer format makes it best suited for upper elementary or even middle school readers.
My Favorite Novels and Graphic Novels for Middle Grades . . .
Aside from . . . And Now Miguel, these titles were all really great reads! Here I will focus on the novels I read. It seems I’ve been drawn to a number stories with deeply sad plotlines. Hmm . . .
Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko >> I loved this, the second book in this historical fiction series, almost as much as the first one. Lots of suspense will keep the readers turning the pages.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson >> A fun buddy-caper story that might appeal to fans of Kim Baker’s Pickle or Chris Rylander’s The Fourth Stall series.
Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner >> The well crafted story of Circa’s challenges after her beloved father’s death. I loved her for determined hopefulness through even her darkest moments. I too wanted to believe. It reminded me in many ways of Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons.
Revolution by Deborah Wiles >> I’m fascinated by the social-political-economic firestorm of the 1960s, so I was just riveted by this book. Wiles masterfully combines primary source material with an engaging, page turning story.
Manhunt by Kate Messner >> A highly entertaining mystery in the Silver Jaguar Society series with likable tween characters. Messner has such a great touch for research that really shows in the Paris setting for this book.
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean >> In this Schneider Award winning story, Cally tries to carry on after the death of her mother. Her own dad is emotionally absent and struggling with his role as a single parent. Cally finds comfort and insight in the friendship she forms with a blind/deaf neighbor boy and the sudden appearance of stray dog with a story of his own.
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin >> A haunting tale of loss and love infused with a touch of magic. The plot has undertones of urgency but is slow to crescendo to a heartfelt ending. I think it would make for a thoughtful read aloud and I’m curious to hear how kids might respond to this one.
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary >> (Newbery Medal 1984) A quick but heartfelt read aloud with my fifth grader. Beverly Cleary perfectly captures the tumultuous emotions of Leigh, a sixth grade boy, dealing with a new divorce and a move. The mix of his letters to his favorite author and diary entries are the perfect insight to his feelings. Despite it’s age, it holds up well with only a few dated references.
How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating >> This is a great book from debut novelist Jess Keating that will be a hit with upper grade school and middle school readers. Ana, a seventh grader, deals with many relatable issues around changing dynamics with friends, crushes, and being true to yourself. I love Ana’s honest sounding voice and the humor that fills the pages along with these heartfelt issues. I’m glad there will more Ana stories coming!
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech >> (Newbery Medal 1995) Ack, Ms. Creech! You broke my heart a plenty with this marvelous story. Great characters that you find yourself rooting for immensely.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin >> (Newbery Honor 2010) I am not normally drawn to fantasy stories, but this is a lovely blend of fantasy and Chinese folktales wrapped up in a wonderful story of friendship. It was lovely to share as a read aloud with my 10-year old.
Young Adult titles . . .
None of these titles were horrible, but there were several I just didn’t seem to enjoy as much as other bloggers and reviewers I know. Just goes to show every book is not for every body!
My favorites from the pile:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart >> A title who’s plot is best not discussed, but it did indeed left me with my jaw hanging wide open. Probably a book that readers will love or hate.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer >> A great read aloud with my now seventh grader. Jenna hasn’t ever really fit in and in many ways has been forced to grow up quickly. Great characters emerge as Jenna decides to take a cross-country road trip with her boss in a last ditch effort to save a family business.
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles >> A emotionally powerful look at how a teenage pregnancy affects four friends.
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner >> An enjoyable young adult title, with a likable main character in Nick. With another mutual friend, Nick goes on a quest to fulfill a dying friend’s last wish. I wish I could have gone deeper into the motivations of some of the characters like Nick’s friend Scooter and Nick’s dad, but those gaps would make for good discussions. Light romance between the characters stays along the lines of first kisses. I loved all the references to Of Mice and Men.