Summer Reading

My list of books this summer was very eclectic as a result of a new teaching assignment: English 8, English 9 and Social Studies 10 focusing on Canadian history.  But fortunately this meant discovering some engaging reading material!

Sisters in the Wilderness – The Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill by Charlotte Gray proved to be a most interesting books on Canadian history, while read as a fascinating biography on these two sisters.  The day I finished the book, both sisters were mentioned in articles in the Globe & Mail – not bad for a couple of women who died over a hundred years ago.  How Canada was ‘sold’ to potential immigrants makes for a fascinating back story.

The Fault in Our Stars by  John Green This is a book that I plan to use in my English classes.  I think it would be a great book to link with Romeo and Juliet while looking at an inquiry project on “what makes a good relationship?”, or perhaps  “Should you walk away from someone you love to protect them?” In reading this I also discovered John Green on twitter, and he makes some very interesting and informed comments on literature for young adults.

Esther – The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright by Julie Wheelwright brings a personal focus to Canadian history.  Esther’s descendent, Julie Wheelwright, traces the life of her ancestor who was kidnapped as a young child from Maine, adopted by a native family, released to a French Jesuit and taken to live in Quebec where she became a Catholic and refused to return to her family.  All of this before she was 18 years old!

While I remain hopeful, with only 7 days left before school starts, there are a few books that might remain on my shelf tempting me while I should be planning lessons…

Guys write for Guys Read, a collection edited by Jon Scieszka

If Walls Could Talk – An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World – The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and The Endurance by Jennifer Armstong.

But the ultimate reward from this summer is finding a book that my teenaged son would read and complete… After several false starts including The Diviners by Libby Bray and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams, it seemed that the densely worded books simply weren’t going to hold his attention long enough to complete the story.  So I adopted a different approach, suggesting a shorter paperback novel that isn’t much heavier than his iphone.  Upon finishing The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, my son said it was a “powerful story”.  And that was enough to make me happy.

YA Fiction–Moving Away From the Post-Apocalyptic Themes

It has been a heavy few years in the world of YA fiction. Vampires, werewolves, and the end of the world as we know it have flooded the market.

I do appreciate the portrayal of strong female characters in some of these books. Katniss in The Hunger Games Trilogy is a good example. While Sarah Dessen writes a great love story, her novels don’t typically have a lot of substance.

That said, here are some of my recommendations for YA novels that are real, thoughtful, and do not have any vampires in them.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior’s decision to go to an all-white high school off-reservation has his on-reservation friends and family criticizing him for his choice. Filled with serious topics and a lot of humour to offset them, this is one of my favourite YA books. This one is my 14 year old’s favourite.

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman

Reluctant Dahlia goes to sleep-away camp and finds herself caught up in a mystery surrounding the camp.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A story about young women pilots in WWII, the plot is complex with amazing twists. A great choice for older teens (and parents), especially those who like spy novels.

Hoot by Carl Hiassen

Kids standing up for what they believe in, and encouraging adults to do the right thing.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My 12 year old son recommends this one. Artemis is a millionaire, genius, and a criminal mastermind.