By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
The dog days of summer have long provided kids and young adults alike an opportunity to get lost in a book.
Whether it’s reading along the shoreline of a favorite lake or lounging in a hammock, summertime is an opportunity for young readers to pick up a book and read for pleasure.
Author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb (www.kristintubb.com) remembers “laying in the sun in a damp swimsuit” with her “popsicle-sticky fingers clinging to the pages” of a book.
“When I think of summer reading, that’s what I remember: hours of wandering through books that I picked for myself, the ones on the shelf that begged to be explored during the busy school year,” Tubb said. “‘Later,’ I’d tell these books. ‘I’ll come back later.”
Generations of readers have had similar experiences.
And Stewarts Creek Middle librarian, Stacie Whitlock, is hoping some of her students will be sharing some of those same experiences when they return to school in August.
She started a new program this year in which current sixth and seventh grade students were allowed to check out up to five library books to keep over the summer.
“We know our students have made so much progress this year with their independent reading skills,” said Whitlock, whose program mirrors one used at Central Magnet School, “so we wanted to encourage them to continue reading over the summer to help prevent the summer slide.”
Stewarts Creek had 36 students sign-up and check out a total of 140 books. The books are due back on the first full day of school in August.
“Not bad for our first year trying the program,” Whitlock said.
Like Tubb, who is releasing her fifth novel, A Dog Like Daisy, on June 13, Stewarts Creek readers and other middle grade and young adult readers will be paging through books of all types.
“Books didn’t always mean novels, at least for me,” said Tubb, who latest release is a middle grade novel. “I adored comics like Garfield and Peanuts and would spend hours tracing over the figures, trying to nail their likenesses. Snoopy isn’t too difficult. Woodstock is terrible to try and replicate.
“Books also included short stories – I still adore you, Encyclopedia Brown – and a dash of nonfiction — I still adore you, Erma Bombeck. And yes, novels by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and (gasp again) V.C. Andrews. These were the books we weren’t assigned to read. These were the books that assigned themselves to me.”
Whether reading inspiring creative cartooning – as it did for Tubb – or writing your own story – as it did for New York Times bestselling author Ruta Sepetys, who wrote and illustrated her first novel as a third grader – books and stories and even comics provide an escape for readers of all ages.
“So readers: enjoy your hammocks, enjoy your lemonades,” Tubb said. “But most of all, enjoy your comics and your manga and the books that pick you. Summer is one big playground, and those stories are just waiting for you to skip, kick, throw, slide, and juggle through them.”
Several librarians from Rutherford County, including Whitlock, provided a list of some of their favorite books they hope students have a chance to read this summer.
Marcie Leeman, Rockvale Middle School
“I am thrilled to share some great middle school titles. Scythe by Neal Schusterman, The Selection series by Kiera Cass, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Long Haul (before seeing movie), Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (due out in film version), The Descendants: Rise of the Isle of Lost by Melissa de la Cruz, and Jane Austen's Emma because it is such a literary illusion to many of today's popular book titles and films.
Kimberly Rein, Christiana Middle School
“The Crossover: Told through verse. It's a quick easy read that will hook both boys and girls. You won't want to put it down! The book reads as if you are reading a hip-hop song. The boys are trying to win the basketball championship but one boy loses focus when a new girl moves to town. Very humorous, but serious too with life lessons throughout.”
“Scythe: I'm a little over halfway through it. It's a dystopian in which no one dies. To reduce the population they have Scythes that "glean" people. Told through both a boy and a girl selected to train to become a Scythe.”
“Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Quick read. The main character literally had to run from his father when he pulled a gun on him and his mother. Since then he's been as fast as a ghost, hence the nickname. He doesn't fit in and can't seem to stay out of trouble at school and with his mom. Can he pull it together for his new coach?”
“Caraval is a great fantasy about two girls with a controlling, abusive father. One writes the grand-master to play in his games on a magical island. Don't believe your eyes.”
“Ruined is a dystopian. The main character loses to parents when the King from another region comes and murders them and kidnaps her sister. To seek revenge, she learns that a princess is set to marry their son. She kills this this princess and takes her place in hopes to get into the castle and plot her revenge. However, she develops real feelings for the prince when she learns that he isn't like his father; however, it's too late and the King learns of her real identity and he and his son are out for her head.
Kaitlyn Benavides, Rocky Fork Middle School
“Do you like historical fiction? Do you secretly enjoy getting a good page turner wet with tears? I love books based on true stories, especially when they involve the lives of people who lived through World War II. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys follows the lives of refugees of the holocaust, escaping persecution on a ship bound for freedom; however, secrets, lies, and hatred are also passengers on the ship. As four different teens hope for survival and a better future, their lives become entangled as secrets unfold. The chapters alternate points of view which allows for some great dramatic irony and amazing character development. Based on a true story, Salt to the Sea is a great summer read, but beware: you will shed some tears on the journey.”
Stacie Whitlock, Stewarts Creek Middle School
“I just finished reading the book Footer Davis is Probably Crazy by Susan Vaught. It is a suspenseful mystery with a touch of humor that I think many middle grade students would enjoy this summer.
“The main character is Footer Davis, an 11-year-old girl whose mother suffers with bipolar disorder. Nine days after a neighbor is shot on his farm and the man's two grandchildren disappear, Fontana "Footer" Davis, her best friend Peavine, and his younger sister set out to find out what happened. Their investigation takes them to the farm, which burned down that same night, and their interviews with townsfolk appear throughout, along with Footer's amusing school assignments.
“Complicating the investigation are Footer's visions of the fire. Is it possible that she was there that night and has repressed the memory? Or is Footer following in the footsteps of her mother, who has just been taken to a psychiatric ward?”
Christi M. Thomas, Thurman Francis Arts Academy
“I've always been a big fan of Disney movies and my most favorite is The Little Mermaid. So when Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch by Serena Valentino was published, I had to read it. This book tells the Little Mermaid story from the sea witch, Ursula's, point of view. It also tells how and why she became so evil. This would be more appropriate for fifth grade. Recommended interest level is 5th-8th.”
“A Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak is a book that will have your children laughing all the way through. It sounds boring by not having pictures, but the words you have to read are very silly! It's a great book for parents and children to read together. It helps with visualization and it's also the 2017 Volunteer State Book Award winner. The interest level is K-3.”
“Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry is a very cute book that teaches about bullying and friendship and can also help with rhyming. This book is on the 2017-2018 Volunteer State Book Award list. Interest level is K-3.”
HIGH SCHOOL SUMMER READING PROGRAMS
Each high school creates its own summer reading lists and requirements. Contact your zoned high school for more information on summer reading. All incoming seniors can participate in the MTSU summer reading essay contest.
PHOTO / James Evans
Marcie Leeman, librarian at Rockvale Middle School, is seated at a table filled with some of her favorite middle grade books. Leeman and several librarians from RCS shared the titles of books they hope students take the time to read this summer.