The Inly Summer Reading List – Part 9

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Two categories remaining….today’s list is for the Connecting Reader. This list, and the one I will post tomorrow for Independent Readers, are the lists from which many 6th through 8th grade students choose their summer reading.  This is where it all starts to come together. All of the elements that combine to make a mature reader developed as a young person made their way through the first eight lists. Now, as they select books from the connecting and independent categories, the characters and the issues become more complex and the language more sophisticated. 

These are the books I recommended to our connecting readers this summer:

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams

Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era by David Bristow

“In the beginning of human flight, those daring young men—and women—of song and story were not to be found in flying machines but, instead, in baskets hanging beneath hot-air and helium-filled balloons. The results were sometimes heroic, sometimes comic, but always fraught with danger. Bristow gives readers the spirited stories of nine of these pioneers of flight. Together they trace the evolution of ballooning from pleasure craft to occasion for adventure to scientific observation to use in wartime. The period covered is 1783 to 1912, the end of the balloon era. This historical setting is enlivened through the use of period photographs, drawings, advertisements, and visual records presented here in full color. The result is a quick but never uninteresting journey through a little-covered subject that is sure to inspire readers to search for more stories like these.” (Booklist)

Mission Control, This is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

“Black-and-white photographs and elegant typography give this gorgeously produced book an appropriate period feel, while alternating ashes – one set following Earhart from childhood, the other tracking her final flight – provide historical context as well as vivid pacing. But though Fleming allows Earhart her glamorous due, she also strips her of myth, giving readers the accuracy they deseve.” (New York Times Book Review)

Homefront by Doris Gwaltney

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

“A charming and inventive story of a child struggling to find her identity at the turn of the 20th century. As the only girl in an uppercrust Texasfamily of seven children, Calpurnia, 11, is expected to enter young womanhood with all its trappings of tight corsets, cookery, and handiwork. Unlike other girls her age, Callie is most content when observing and collecting scientific specimens with her grandfather. Bemoaning her lack of formal knowledge, he surreptitiously gives her a copy of The Origin of Species and Callie begins her exploration of the scientific method and evolution, eventually happening upon the possible discovery of a new plant species. Callie’s mother, believing that a diet of Darwin, Dickens, and her grandfather’s influence will make Callie dissatisfied with life, sets her on a path of cooking lessons, handiwork improvement, and an eventual debut into society. Callie’s confusion and despair over her changing life will resonate with girls who feel different or are outsiders in their own society. Callie is a charming, inquisitive protagonist; a joyous, bright, and thoughtful creation. The conclusion encompasses bewilderment, excitement, and humor as the dawn of a new century approaches. Several scenes, including a younger brother’s despair over his turkeys intended for the Thanksgiving table and Callie’s heartache over receiving The Science of Housewifery as a Christmas gift, mix gentle humor and pathos to great effect. The book ends with uncertainty over Callie’s future, but there’s no uncertainty over the achievement of Kelly’s debut novel.” (starred review, School Library Journal)

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

“In his ambitious novel, Kirby weaves together a good amount of reliably alluring elements. Initially distinct plotlines follow three children in an unspecified Victorian-era-ish American city: Giuseppe plays the fiddle on street corners for spare change, hoping to have enough left over after paying his wicked padrone for a ticket back to Italy; Hannah works as a hotel maid where she learns of a hidden treasure that may save her ailing father; and Frederick, an apprentice clockmaker, figures that the automaton he is crafting in secret will allow him to become a journeyman. The trio of strands coheres nicely as Kirby twists wisps of mysticism into the clockwork elements, clear-eyed environmentalism into the dour urban grittiness, and a timeless sense of family and friendship into the bold, can-do adventuring. Though he sometimes spells things out a little too bluntly and can’t escape a bit of contrivance to wrap everything up in the end, this remains a strong debut effort with memorable characters, hearty action, and palpable atmospherics.” (Booklist)

Whaling Season: A Year in the Life of an Arctic Whale Scientist by Peter Lourie

Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin

Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Book One) by Michelle Paver

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

“Steven Alper is a typical eighth-grader–smarter than some, a better drummer than most, but with the usual girl problems and family trials. Then, on October 7, his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, falls, has a nosebleed that doesn’t stop, and is diagnosed with leukemia. All hell breaks loose. Mrs. Alper’s days and nights revolve around getting Jeffrey to his chemotherapy treatments, and Mr. Alper retreats into a shell, coming out only occasionally to weep over the mounting medical bills. Steven becomes the forgotten son, who throws himself into drumming, even as he quits doing his homework and tries to keep his friends from finding out about Jeffrey’s illness. A story that could have morphed into melodrama is saved by reality, rawness, and the wit Sonnenblick infuses into Steven’s first-person voice. The recriminations, cares, and nightmares that come with a cancer diagnosis are all here, underscored by vomiting, white blood cell counts, and chemotherapy ports. Yet, this is also about regrouping, solidarity, love, and hope. Most important for a middle-grade audience, Sonneblick shows that even in the midst of tragedy, life goes on, love can flower, and the one thing you can always change is yourself.”  (Booklist, starred review)

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

“With a timeless writing style that invokes thoughts of children’s fantasy classics such as Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, author John Stephens weaves a gripping tale of mystery and magic into The Emerald Atlas. His enchanting prose and spot-on wit can only be described as both hip (Stephens was previously the executive producer of Gossip Girls) and Dickensian, a delightful combination that will both engage young readers with its relatable nature and fascinate them with its aberrant charm. If Stephens’s comic finesse and archetypal writing style aren’t enough to engage young readers, they will no doubt be captivated by the plot. Stephens’s complex formula for time travel and fascinating explanation for the disappearance of the magical realm is so convincing that readers might begin to believe that there is, in fact, far more to the world than meets the eye. Thought-provoking and enchanting, The Emerald Atlas has the makings of a children’s classic.” (Amazon)

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

“The dental case that Telgemeier documents in this graphic memoir was extreme: a random accident led to front tooth loss when she was 12, and over the next several years, she suffered through surgery, implants, headgear, false teeth, and a rearrangement of her remaining incisors. Accompanying the physical treatment came social rough spots with friends, while puberty delivered another set of curveballs with crushes, maturing bodies, and changing family expectations and judgments. Both adults and kids—including various dental professionals and younger siblings—are vividly and rapidly portrayed, giving quick access to the memoirist’s world. Telgemeier’s storytelling and full-color cartoony images form a story that will cheer and inspire any middle-schooler dealing with orthodontia. At the same time, she shows how her early career choice as an animator took root during this difficult period—offering yet another gentle reminder that things have turned out fine for the author and can for her reader as well.”(Booklist)

The Doom Machine by Mark Teague

A Faraway Island by Annika Thor

“In this gripping story, Stephie and Nellie, two Austrian Jewish sisters, are evacuated in 1938 from Vienna to a Swedish island and placed in separate foster homes. Twelve-year-old Stephie has promised her parents that she will try to ease her younger sister’s way, a burdensome promise to keep. Auntie Alma, Nellie’s Swedish mother, is warmer and more welcoming than Auntie Märta, Stephie’s more austere foster parent. At first it seems that Nellie will have a more difficult time adjusting, but the opposite happens. Loneliness and a sense of isolation engulf Stephie. The shunning and taunting of cliquish, bigoted girls intensify her longing for home and the familiar, but Stephie bravely perseveres, bolstered by the hope that she will only be separated from her parents for a short time. Unfortunately this does not happen, and the girls must remain on this faraway island. Children will readily empathize with Stephie’s courage. Both sisters are well-drawn, likable characters. This is the first of four books Thor has written about the two girls.” (School Library Journal)

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

“Fantasy is a field crowded with gifted newcomers. What happens when a veteran strides to the plate and takes another swing? If the veteran is Diana Wynne Jones, get your scorecards ready. She hits this irresistible new book out of the ballpark. Magician Jocelyn Brandon had always intended to pass his strange home, Melton House, and his trade secrets on to his grandson, Andrew. Unfortunately,Brandondied before he could complete his careful instructions, and Andrew, now grown, has forgotten much of what his grandfather tried to teach him as a child. The arrival of 12-year-old Aiden, who is seeking protection from dangerous magical beings, reawakens Andrew’s memories. Surrounded by a fabulous cast of eccentric allies, including a parsnip-loving giant, Andrew finds himself in the middle of a mystery surrounding an enchanted glass. With a gleeful nod to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jones hits all the bases, combining fluid storytelling, sly humor, and exquisitely drawn characters. The magical chaos culminates in a hilarious summer fete and a delightfully tidy resolution. This enthralling book proves that Jones is still at the top of her game.” (starred review, Booklist)

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