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Summer Reading

As a staff one of our goals for the 2013-14 school year and beyond is to develop an appreciation and love for reading in our students.  We want reading to become part of the culture of our school and our students.  At our June staff meeting the teachers were enthusiastic and came prepared with tons of fantastic ideas for us to implement. Personally, as principal, I wanted to set the example to the students and get the ball rolling.  Therefore, this summer I am on a quest to read as many children’s chapter books as I can.  I am choosing my books from the list of the top 100 children’s chapter books of all time from childrensbooksguide.com.

I must say that as a child myself I was never much of a book reader.  My home was filled with newspapers and magazines which I read regularly but I missed out on reading the classics of children’s literature.  Some of the books I have read as an adult for teaching purposes but there are still many on that list of the top 100 that remain unread.  My husband on the other hand was often read to as a child and some of the classics on this list are found in our bookshelves at home.  Therefore, I didn’t need to go the library to start my personal quest.

 Let the reading begin.

Book 1:  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien.

 Whoever thought that a novel about mice and rates could be so engaging?  Once I started reading I had a hard time putting down the book.  Mrs. Frisby is a widowed field mouse who is trying to take care of her four children.  Her task comes greater when her youngest son Timothy falls ill and is not well enough to travel to their summer home and safety before the farmer starts plowing the fields. Mrs. Frisby shows love, courage and determination in seeking help to ensure the survival of her son and family.  On her journey she gains help from the rats of Nimh and learns a great secret about the rats and the heroism of her late husband.


Book 2:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I have seen this book on our bookshelf for years and frankly the book never interested me.  I actually thought the cover of the book was a bit scary and I have never been a huge fan of fantasy or science fiction books so, on the shelf the book remained.  I thought I was going to have to force myself to read and persevere through the book but again found myself pleasantly surprised and quite engaged.  In this story Meg Murray and her brother Charles Wallace go on an adventure through time and space to find and rescue their father. On their journey they are joined by their friend Calvin and receive help from the strange and mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.  It is interesting to read scriptures verses interspersed throughout a book with mysterious creatures, unknown planets and time travel.  In the end an important truth and message prevails – love conquers all.

Book 3: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

I picked this book up and read it in a day.  I love books with short chapters.  I find it keeps me motivated to keep reading.  I must say though the short chapters was not the only thing that I liked about this book and kept me motivated to keep reading.  Poor James Henry Trotter loses his parents when they are swallowed up by a rhinoceros.  His life gets worse as he his sent to live with his two very mean aunts.  Then everything changes when James is handed a sack of green crocodile tongues.  Yes, you read that right green crocodile tongues.  James is then taken on an incredible journey that you would have to read to believe.   

Book 4: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

I was unpacking books at the school when I found a class set of this book.  It was a nice afternoon read.  This book is definitely an example of quality over quantity.  In the story Caleb and Anna live on the family farm in the early 1900's with their widowed father. It is obvious how much the family misses their mother and the sound of singing in their home.  Their dad posts an ad for a wife and mother and Sarah, plain and tall replies. After letters back and forth Sarah arrives wearing her yellow bonnet and carrying her cat named Seal.  The reader is drawn in as you wonder if Sarah will leave her family and the sea to become the wife and mother this family so desperately needs.   

 Book 5:  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Even though I heard of this book I had no idea of the story before I started reading it.  This is a story about a boy and his love for coon hunting and the numerous hunting adventures he goes on with his hunting dogs.  In the end once you have finished reading the novel it is easy to realize that this is a story about so much more than coon hunting. It is a story of love, friendship, loyalty and sacrifice.   The book kept me engaged and I anxiously waited to find out the meaning of the title only revealed in the last chapter of the book. The book was so good that once I finished reading it I immediately went back to the first chapter to start reading the opening chapters again.

Book 6: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

This is a book I have read many times before - just not recently.  The story reminds me so much of BunBun a favourite toy of one of my students.  Most of us can relate to the one favourite stuffed animal that becomes a treasured friend.  Even though it is a familiar story I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and was even once again surprised by the ending.

Book 7:  The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

 This is the classic tale of the adventures of Mr. Mole, his good friend, Mr. Rat, Badger and Mr. Toad. I have to admit I found the book a bit slow until I got to the part with Toad’s misadventures that land him in jail, his great escape, and then the final battle to regain Toad Hall.  There are lots of lessons to be learned in this book about friendship, loyalty, and pride.  I would have to say the vocabulary found in this book would be difficult for most children ( and some adults) and I would definitely classify it as more of a read-aloud book.

Book 8: Sounder by William H. Armstrong

This book is not listed on the top 100 list I have been following but did receive the Newbery Medal in 1970.  Much to my surprise this is the second book I have read about a coon dog.  I found this to be a very sad story about a poor African-American boy growing up in the 19th-century South.  Sounder, the dog, has a place in the story but it is so much more a story about the boy.  It feels in the story that the boy is always searching for someone or something.  Even though the boy and his family live a difficult life the mother continues to share and recite Bible stories and trust in the good Lord.  Now I will need to get a copy of the sequel Sour Land to read about the boy's life as an adult.

Book 9: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

This was my first time reading this familiar story.  I have seen it on screen and stage many times before.  I love that the edition I was reading from had the original pictures from when the book was first published. It was a good reminder that I was reading a book first published in 1900.  The author uses so much detail and description it is easy for the reader to get swept into the land of Oz alongside Dorothy.  Even though I knew the story well the true creativity and mastery of writing is not fully appreciated until you read it for yourself.  

Book 10:  Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

This is one of Mrs. Hoornweg's favourite novels and she told me I would enjoy it and she was right.  I picked it up to read early one morning while I was away on holidays and had finished it by the next morning.  Whereas I appreciate and marvel at the creativity of fantasy writing; historical fiction is still my favourite genre especially in children's literature.  Bud, not Buddy is the story of a 10 year old orphan boy living in Michigan during the Great Depression.  After being mistreated by a foster family he runs away and is forced to survive on his own.  Bud has learned a lot of lessons in his young life and it fun to relate to them as you read His Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself (not that I am endorsing lying.)  For example take Rule Number 87. "When a Adult tells you they need your help with a problem get ready to be tricked.  Most times this means they just want you to go fetch something for them."  This book will now be added to my list of junior grades read aloud books.

Book 11: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

This is a delightful, heart-warming easy to read story of India Opal Buloni, the preacher (her dad), and her dog Winn-Dixie.  Opal is pretty lonely living in the adult only trailer park her dad and her recently moved to in Florida.  Her boring and lonely life soon changes after bringing home the stray dog she found at the Winn-Dixie grocery store. Because of Winn-Dixie the door is open for Opal to meet many new friends old and young alike. Through the story you realize that it is not only Opal that was in need of a friend, but there are many people around her in the community in need of conversation and fellowship as well.  For beginning chapter book readers the storyline, layout of the pages, and the short chapters make this book a good choice to read and enjoy.

Book 12:  Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Once again a book and a story I knew a lot about but had never actually read.  This is a story about true  friendship.  Jess is a boy who has one great ambition in life - to be the fastest runner in his grade at school.  On his first day back not only is he defeated, he is defeated by the new girl in his class- Leslie.  Jess and Leslie surprisingly end up being the best of friends.  They create their own fantasy world called Terabithia in which they are king and queen and reign supreme.  They are inseparable until a terrible tragedy occurs that changes everything.  Throughout the book the characters struggle a little bit about who God is and the purpose of church.  A good chapter book for older readers.

Book 13:  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

This book is an interesting read with lots of room for discussion afterwards.  In this novel the Tuck family drank from a magic spring which in turn gave them eternal life on earth.  While many people may see this as a blessing the family realizes that it is more of a curse than a blessing.  They try to keep the spring a secret and live their lives inconspicuously trying not to be noticed or have attention drawn themselves.  This changes when a girl, Winnie Foster stumbles upon their family secret.   In the end,  what measures will this family take to maintain the secret of the spring?

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