The Inly Summer Reading List – Part 10

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This is as far as it goes – the reading list for Independent Readers.  This is always a tricky one in a school because not every student is an Independent Reader (as defined by the Bonnie Campbell Hill Reading Continuum) by the time they reach the 8th grade. Some students don’t become sophisticated readers until later, or for all sorts of of reasons, never experience this level of success.

But, there are Independent Readers in Middle School, and for them…this is their list. One other note: Students who select their reading from the Proficient and Connecting lists sometimes like to choose books from this one as well. That’s great. The only way to stretch is to pull a bit higher than we can reach.

The characterisitics of an Independent Reader are:

            –     all of the characteristics of a proficient and connecting reader, but issues may

                   be more controversial

–         text may have adults as central characters

–         text requires deeper levels of thinking

–         text may employ flashbacks or changes in sequence

Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters by Jeannine Atkins

In 1867, three women who achieved great success were born: writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker, and scientist Marie Curie. All three had complicated relationships with their daughters, relationships that Atkins explores in this unusual volume of poetry. Each section follows one daughter from young childhood to adulthood, sketching out the facts of her life, but creating impressions of the emotional lives beyond the facts. Rose Wilder Lanegrows up in rural poverty. Constricted by her mother’s expectations, she leaves the Wilder farm to work, marry, and travel, but returns and helps to shape her mother’s books. As a child, A’Lelia Walker watches her mother wash clothes for a meager living, but after her mother’s hair products make them wealthy, A’Lelia grows up to become a patron of the Harlem Renaissance. Curie’s elder daughter, Irène, knows early on that her mother’s focus is on her work with radium. As an adult, Irène continues that work, earning her own Nobel Prize. In vivid scenes written with keen insight and subtle imagery, the poems offer a strong sense of each daughter’s personality as well as the tensions and ties they shared with their notable mothers. Writing with understated drama and quiet power, Atkins enables readers to understand these six women and their mother-daughter relationships in a nuanced and memorable way.” (starred review, Booklist)

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos

Code Orange by Caroline Cooney

War Games by Audrey Couloumbis

The Brooklyn Nine by Alex Gratz

“Gratz builds this novel upon a clever enough conceit—nine stories (or innings), each following the successive generations in a single family, linked by baseball and Brooklyn—and executes it with polish and precision. In the opening stories, there is something Scorsese-like (albeit with the focus on players, not gangsters)  in Gratz’s treatment of early New York: a fleet-footed German immigrant helps Alexander Cartwright (credited with creating modern baseball) during a massive 1845 factory fire; a young boy meets his hero, the great King Kelly, who by age 30 is a washed-up alcoholic scraping by as a vaudeville act. The pace lags a bit in the middle innings, where a talented young girl stars in the WW II–era All-American Girls Baseball League and a card-collecting boy lives in fear of the Russians, Sputnik, and the atomic bomb. But the final two stories provide a flurry of late-inning heroics: a Little League pitcher’s shot at a perfect game told with breathtaking verve; and a neat stitching-together effort to close the book. Each of the stories are outfitted with wide-ranging themes and characters that easily warrant more spacious confines, but taken together they present a sweeping diaspora of Americana, tracking the changes in a family through the generations, in society at large for more than a century and a half, and, not least, in that quintessential American pastime. (starred review, Booklist)

New Boy by Julian Houston

“Rob Garrett, 15, leaves Virginiafor a prestigious Connecticutboarding school. His dentist father and schoolteacher mother are proud of their sons academic record and potential but anxious because he is the first African American to attend Draper. Rob quickly learns that bigotry takes many forms. He befriends Vinnie, whose acne, New York-Italian background, and vulnerability make him a target among the elitist students. On a weekend visit to a cousin who lives in Harlem, Rob unwittingly encounters Malcolm X and his followers and discovers a hostile, separatist attitude that disparages association with whites and Jews. When Rob learns that a lunch counter sit-in is planned in his hometown, he joins the protest, but then returns to Draper to pursue his dream of success. Although he is not in the activist trenches of the Civil Rights movement, his story sheds light on the social dilemmas that confronted privileged African Americans at the time. Wary but remarkably focused, Rob espouses the need to represent his race well and to make a difference. He is a well-spoken, reflective observer who empathizes with the pain of others but remains relatively unscathed. While maintaining honor-roll status, he contemplates the rise and fall of Joe Louis, is intrigued by the Harlemculture, and ponders the explosive rage of Minister Malcolm. The strong cast of characters, steady progression of events, realistic dialogue, historical facts, touch of romance, and coming-of-age awareness and reflection will appeal to readers.”  (starred review, School Library Journal)

Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca Johnson

Death Cloud: Young Sherlock Holmes byAndrew Lane

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy edited by Leonard Marcus

Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope by Beverly Naidoo

“This powerful collection takes readers on a sometimes harrowing journey through the nightmare that was apartheid South Africa. The stories take place at various times between 1948, the year that marks the beginning of apartheid, through 2000. The main characters, who come from different ethnic and economic groups, are all children, and Naidoo’s reliance on a child’s perspective ensures that the material remains emotionally manageable. The author’s touch is deft and sure, as she captures the ordinary details of life, along with the racism displayed in the speech and attitudes of white South Africans. In one of the most wrenching stories, “The Noose,” a boy of mixed race relates how on his birthday his father was reclassified “African,” thus imperiling not only his job, but even his ability to live with his family. Other stories tell of the white daughter of politically progressive parents who is trying to negotiate the racist world of her friend’s parents, and a black African girl whose grandmother is drawn into helping her activist granddaughter during the Sowetouprising of 1976. The final story, about a middle-class boy of Indian descent who comes to feel a connection to a child living in a neighboring squatter settlement, leaves readers with the hope that human kindness will eventually triumph over the divisions among people. A time line of apartheid laws linked to the stories helps to establish the social and political context. As well as enriching any study of Southern Africa or human rights, Out of Bounds will be embraced by children seeking to expand their understanding of the world and other people.” (School Library Journal)

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Trouble by Gary Schmidt

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt 

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The Good, the Bad and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone  

“In the prologue, Meg Cabot describes her desire for a Barbie and her mother’s reluctance to purchase one, basically summing up the conflict surrounding the doll since its introduction in 1959. Readers learn about Mattel Toys and the background behind Barbie’s concept and development, how it was a solution for girls who wanted to imagine adult roles rather than just play mother, and details about inventor Ruth Handler. But more than that, Stone reveals the pathos behind so many relationships of girls with Barbie: those who cherished her and those who were negatively influenced. Was she a destructive role model or just a toy? Experts disagree. In this balanced overview, both sides of the quandary are addressed. Barbie’s different roles, graduating from nurse to surgeon, stewardess to pilot, and always a woman of her own means, reflect societal changes over the past 50 years as well. Numerous black-and-white photos feature the doll in her various incarnations, while eight center pages deliver color versions as well as images of Barbie-inspired art. Inset quotes appear on a Barbie handbag icon. The author maintains her signature research style and accessible informational voice and includes extensive source notes and bibliographical information.”(School Library Journal)

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

“In 1941, 15-year-old Vidya’s life in Bombay stands in direct contrast to that of her relatives in Madras for whom the traditional path of an arranged marriage, babies, and a life of serving a husband is not only expected but is also considered a girl’s only proper option. Alternately, the goal of attending college like her brother is encouraged by her physician father. Turmoil is raging within Colonial India’s borders as many view their British occupation negatively, holding protest rallies. Nonviolence, one of Vidya’s father’s principles, motivates him to secretly attend to the injured and beaten protestors. The teen’s idyllic life changes in an instant when he is beaten by the British police and suffers extensive brain damage. Unable to earn a living and lead a productive life, this highly respected man and his family move in with his relatives. Vidya’s dreams are shattered as her father’s stature is immediately lowered to that of “an idiot” and she is forced to withstand her aunt’s sharp-tongued, abusive taunts. Vidya’s bright, bold, independent character remains determined to achieve her goals with the help and support of her grandfather, who first allows her access to his private library and later agrees to her formal university education. This is a poignant look at a young woman’s vigilance to break from expectations and create her own destiny amid a country’s struggle for independence.” (School Library Journal)

Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally Walker

“All of Walker’s impressive writing talents are on display in this book on the frozen continent. The author’s clear and lively narrative begins with a brief history of the first explorers, including some grisly deaths, and then describes in detail the work of current researchers. Walkerpaints a vivid picture of the hardships and special considerations required of those who work in Antarctica. Children will almost shiver as they read the description of the scuba diver’s preparations to enter an icy lake. Additionally, the author does a great job of explaining some really complex scientific activities, such as mapping the ground using ice-penetrating radar, so that readers without great knowledge of advanced science can grasp how this work is done. She also shows how Antarctic research can help them understand global climate change and other types of earth-science research. Nearly every page has sharp color photos of the continent and researchers in action or explanatory diagrams. With its superb design and Walker’s gripping prose, this book will draw readers in and keep them involved.” (School Library Journal)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

“Tally Youngblood lives in a futuristic society that acculturates its citizens to believe that they are ugly until age 16 when they’ll undergo an operation that will change them into pleasure-seeking “pretties.” Anticipating this happy transformation, Tally meets Shay, another female ugly, who shares her enjoyment of hoverboarding and risky pranks. But Shay also disdains the false values and programmed conformity of the society and urges Tally to defect with her to the Smoke, a distant settlement of simple-living conscientious objectors. Tally declines, yet when Shay is found missing by the authorities, Tally is coerced by the cruel Dr. Cable to find her and her compatriots–or remain forever “ugly.” Tally’s adventuresome spirit helps her locate Shay and the Smoke. It also attracts the eye of David, the aptly named youthful rebel leader to whose attentions Tally warms. However, she knows she is living a lie, for she is a spy who wears an eye-activated locator pendant that threatens to blow the rebels’ cover. Ethical concerns will provide a good source of discussion as honesty, justice, and free will are all oppressed in this well-conceived dystopia. Characterization, which flirts so openly with the importance of teen self-concept, is strong, and although lengthy, the novel is highly readable with a convincing plot that incorporates futuristic technologies and a disturbing commentary on our current public policies.” (starred review, School Library Journal)

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan

“While her British Army major father has been away in WWI, 15-year-old Rosalind has enjoyed freedom in her southeast Indian town, roaming the bazaar with her Indian friends rather than chatting with other Brits at the local club. Then her father returns, and she chafes against his strict colonial views. After she is caught listening to Gandhi at a rally, Rosalind’s furious father ships her off to her English aunts, where her free-thinking spirit once again shakes up the status quo. The historical and cultural details occasionally veer into docu-novel territory, but Whelan balances the facts with distinctive, sometimes comical characterizations and vibrant, original sensory descriptions, whether Rosalind is describing an aunt’s suit as the color of burnt bacon or the feeling, as ashes drift from the funeral pyres, that the dead had become part of me. Set during a pivotal moment in Indian history, Whelan’s vivid, episodic story explores the tension between doing what’s right, rather than what’s expected, and the infinite complexities of colonialism” (Booklist)

Into the Volcano by Don Wood

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin


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