Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading!

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I ordered I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora because To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite all time books and I was fascinated to see how someone would spin this classic. As it turned out, it's not really a spin on TKAM, but more of an endorsement of it. Three clever middle schoolers launch a plot to increase the interest in TKAM. Their theory is that if they make the book more inaccessible, the perceived value would increase. Their plan spins out of control via social media and the press, and there were definitely moments when I wanted to jump into the pages and ask them what on earth they were going to do next in order to keep themselves out of some serious trouble. Woven into the text are some not so subtle messages about bookstores, readers, curriculum, and literature. I'd be interested to hear how a middle school reader would interpret them. I'm not sure that reluctant readers would enjoy this book, but strong readers will appreciate the layers of conflicts, and may even be inspired to pick up some the classics that are referenced, including To Kill a Mockingbird.

 What an adorable picture book The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat is! This book could be a great read aloud at the beginning of the school year, as the central conflict has to do with the struggle to find a friend. Beekle waits and waits to be claimed as a friend, but finally sets off on his own, struggling to connect with anyone and to find his special person. Reading this book could lead to some important discussions about how we decide who to become friends with, as well as the potential pitfalls of having just one person. Discussions could also happen about inclusion, kindness, and empathy because of some of the pages and pictures within this one. Enjoy!

Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters is not a new release, but it was on my daughter's summer reading list. I started it with her, reading it out loud. She had just come home from camp, so she went to bed early, and I finished the book. As a further endorsement, my daughter, who is not an avid reader, finished it also this morning before we did anything else. While there are some discussion questions listed in the back of the book, we did not need them in order to engage in a pretty deep conversation about the messages and the characters within this story. Antonia and Jazz are two strong middle school girls who provide significant and complex evidence that things aren't always what they seem. If you have missed this book, I strongly recommend it, and if you have forgotten about it, it is a wonderful book for reluctant readers, girls and boys.

Happy reading!


  1. I'm also not sure how MG readers will react to the Acampora book. TKAM is a 9th grade book in my area, and my daughters both took a strong dislike to it when they had to read it! I read in in high school myself and was lukewarm about it, so the book didn't speak to me much, either. Teachers who love TKAM will adore it, though!

  2. I'm interested in I Kill A Mockingbird, too, Melanie, but won't get to it soon. So many others... Thanks for sharing your ideas about it! I loved Beekle too! It should be a good one for the beginning of the year, you're so right! And I've read Define Normal more than once with groups-a wonderful story about making assumptions about what people "seem" to be, and being open to getting to know people who are perceived to be different. Glad you and your daughter enjoyed it!

  3. Beekle is my top contender for the Caldecott this year. I loved it so much.

    I need to get around to reading I Kill the Mockingbird. So many people are reading it right now. I feel like I'm missing out on a conversation.

  4. I haven't read Beekle yet. Thank you for reminding me to add it to my TBR list. I too wonder about I Kill a Mockingbird for MS students. I teach 6th grade reading and I am not sure the book would resonate with even my strongest readers the way it would with high school students. I like the original premise and I could see HS students starting their own campaign to "save a book" -- hopefully without breaking any laws :-)

  5. Great recommendations! I just got Beekle from the library this week and was also taken with it. I especially liked how Beekle's friend turned out to be quite different that he had imagined too.