Tuesday, September 16, 2014

summer reading list

We did a lot of three days trips here and there this summer.  It used to be that I would do most of the packing for the kids, pulling the right number of socks, pairs of underwear, bathing suits, lovies, toothbrushes.  Nowadays, in some ways, items that need to be packed for each of them are more complicated.  Things like deodorant.  And acne face wash.  These are added to my mental list of things we should probably have with us to keep things pleasant.  It used to be extra onesies and diapers and those toys that made sounds when you shook them.  Sniff.  Each of the kids has an LL Bean bag with their own name on it.  Those small bags I had embroidered for them many years ago and which were perfectly sized for short trips away are now getting a little bit small.  But we still challenge ourselves to cram everything in.  And I enjoy what I find tucked in there sometimes.  Odd but sweet things, like small bits of fabric wrapped tightly with elastics and stuffed inside a sock.  Curious.

This summer, all three kids seemed to be able to work from the list that I write up on the white board and so I am now happily relieved of packing-for-them duty.   And, as long as I'm very specific (apparently putting bathing suits on the list does not automatically trigger Julia to include her swim shirt), we usually arrive where we are going with what we need.  Mostly.  The last thing I always put on the white board list is Reading Books.  Both Nicholas and Julia had requirements for summer reading, and we tried to make sure we devoted part of every day to independent reading time.

But this can be a little tricky.  Making sure we protected the time each day.  And their book completion dates are often difficult to estimate and I was often not sure whether they were going to finish a book during a trip and need another.  So we ended up with a funny hasty choosing process before each trip for the what to start if I finish this one book frenzy. Packing reading books was often even trickier with Elliott.  Sometimes quiet reading happened in the car.  And, unless it was a familiar book, he still frequently wanted someone right there reading with him.  That was hard to do when he was sandwiched in the backseat between his happily focused and silently reading brother and sister.  We began packing both the audio and paper version of the same book so that he do some text-based reading in those times.  He loved that.

I peek at what they save space for -- depending on where we're going, whether we've been to the library recently, and whether Julia is helping Elliott pack.  If left to his own devices, Elliott would always choose Mo Willem's Elephant and Piggie series and Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books.  But both Julia and I had a covert operation to make sure some unfamiliar titles end up with us on each trip, too.

When we aren't reading independently, we typically have an all family audiobook going on road trips.   Favorites this summer have included Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein, both rare all family audiobooks that we each truly enjoyed and looked forward to turning back on again as soon as we jumped into the car.  Mr Lemoncello was a recommendation from Julia who had read it independently -- and loved it -- a few months back since it was on the Maine Student Book Award list.  She was more than happy for this second reading but did specifically request: "could we listen to something I haven't read yet next time?"

Also, we listened to Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes because we have loved his books ever since Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse. And  I was mindful that we tend toward pleasing the older readers typically.  To tell the truth, as much as I love that audio books let us "read up" for Elliott, things he wouldn't make it through alone, I love even more that listening to books allows Nicholas to "read down" unselfconsciously.  I think all three kids enjoyed this book equally.

And then, yes Julia.  I was on it.  I snatched up One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake.  Oh my.  That one was fabulous.  I keep hearing the voice of Georgie inside my head.

There were several books on my mental list that we never got to.  No matter, we will. The Julian Chapters, an extension of A. J. Palacio's Wonder.  And The Battle for WondLa, the third and final book in Tony DiTerlizzi's WondLa series.  We have absolutely loved this trilogy, listening to the first and second installments as audiobooks.  But Elliott, in particular, loves to hold the book and peruse DiTerlizzi's incredible illustrations as the story unfolds and not after the fact.  So we'll likely read this one aloud.  At least the first time through.  Because I am not sure we can wait until it is available as an audiobook from the library.

And individual books?  Nicholas read Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner, a novel he thought would be a fantasy but was, in fact, realistic fiction.  Loved it.  Also? House of Hades, by Rick Riordan.   He would read anything by Riordan.  This one did not disappoint. And the newest Ranger's Apprentice book, by Joseph Delaney.  These books were loooong.  But he was motivated by their story.

Julia fell deeply into Saavy and then its sequel Scumble, by Ingrid Law.  Meanwhile she listened to Anne of Green Gables, her self chosen attempt to dabble in classics to challenge her realistic modern fiction preference.  That book is ridiculous, Mommy!  Everyone is obsessed with what people will think.  No matter how much I try to explain that it was a different time with different norms, she is having a hard time seeing it as a period piece.  I can't seem to convince her that the raspberry cordial disaster that leaves Anne's friend's mother furious with her would make perfect sense a century ago.  Maybe if we had read it together.  We will try again at some point.  She also branched out into Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins.  Despite her brother's rave review, she was not so taken.  Eh, she observed.  It was OK.  But I still like my realistic fiction much better.  Can't argue with her there.

Jonathan focused on his students' book interests.  Middle Grade and YA books that he might not otherwise have pulled off the shelf.  For his high school students, he read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, what he describes as a compelling but profoundly disturbing fantasy.  Following Julia's lead and focusing on his middle school students, he is also reading Gregor -- differing from Julia's take and agreeing with the student that gushed to him: "It's even better than The Hunger Games!"

And me?  I read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, and Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt.  I loved them all.  Especially how I felt like I was dancing around knee deep in the middle school aged child goo with a bit of coming high school sludge on the side.   Fantabulous.  Next up?  The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm.  Blub.

And so, the summer ended with Elliott's birthday.

Our celebration included an impromptu dance with the slightly creepy but oddly fabulous furry beast that dances to music played by the iPod. In twitchy hip region swirling movements.

Of course.

And books gifted to all three, as is our tradition for each child's birthday.  Wonderfully, the few days before Elliott's birthday were chock full of new book releases.

Julia and Nicholas had a hard time focusing on Elliott's birthday breakfast celebration.  So eager to read Kazu Kibuishi's next Amulet and Raina Telgemeier's Sisters were they.  

And Elliott.  Oh my.  For Elliott?  Kate DiCamillo's newest book, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.  It doesn't get much more perfect for him.

After breakfast Nicholas and Elliott scurried off to break open Elliott's new Minecraft Lego sets.  Julia didn't notice them leaving for several minutes, and then glanced up and looked with surprise at the empty seats next to her.  When I told her where they had gone she slammed down her book.  Ah man!  she exclaimed.  I have to choose between Minecraft Lego and Sisters?  Uuuuughhh!

She worked it out.  We had another road trip planned in a few hours.  I spied Nicholas and Julia silently swapping their books in the backseat mid-trip.  No words between them necessary.

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