Book List for Summer Reading 2017
 
 

James Thurber. Louis Slobodkin, illustrator. Many Moons. 1943. Reprint. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981. A humorous story in the style of a fairy tale. None of the “wise men” of the court can accomplish the ill princess’s wish, but the court jester is able to do so.

Gloria Houston. Susan Condie Lamb, illustrator. My Great-Aunt Arizona. HarperCollins, 1992. A girl dreams of visiting the faraway places she reads about, but instead becomes a teacher in a rural one- room school. May be best for introducing children to the historical setting described.

Eve Bunting. The Wednesday Surprise. Clarion, 1989. A girl teaches her grandmother how to read.

Gretchen Woelfe. Nicola Bayley, illustrator. Katje the Windmill Cat. Walker, 2001. Based on a historical account of a fifteenth-century Dutch village. A cat that is often shoved aside becomes a hero after saving a baby during a flood. Other themes include friendship and familial affection.

Charles Perrault. Malcolm Arthur, translator. Fred Marcellino, illustrator. Puss in Boots. 1992. Reprint. Square Fish, 2011. This literary fairy tale from the Renaissance humorously represents a trickster cat.

Beatrice de Regniers. Beni Montresor, illustrator. May I Bring a Friend? 1964. Reprint. Atheneum, 1971. A charming, simple and imaginative storyline carries themes of friendship and hospitality.

Sally Pomme Clayton. Virginia Lee, illustrator. Persephone. Eerdmans, 2009. Fully illustrated retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone, who personifies the changing of the seasons.

Margot Zemach. It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale. 1976. Reprint. Perfection Learning, 1990. A humorous fable about contentment.

Late Elementary and Early Middle School

Wallace Edwards. Monkey Business. Kids Can, 2004. This book takes English idioms (such as monkey business) and renders them literally in humorous surrealistic paintings. Can be used to teach both the concept of idioms and the meanings of specific expressions.

Arthur Ransome. Uri Shulevitz, illustrator. The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968. In this Russian folktale, the unpromising but humble, simple and generous man accomplishes what his clever older brothers could not.

* Elizabeth George Speare. Sign of the Beaver. Published in 1983, The Sign of the Beaver is an award-winning children’s novel which has won numerous literary awards. The story is based on a real incident concerning a boy who was abandoned for a summer in the wilderness and was befriended by a Native American and his grandfather. Keeping the Promise is a film based on the novel, which aired on television in 1997.

Arlene Mosel. Blair Lent, illustrator. Tikki Tikki Tembo. 1968. Reprint. Square Fish, 2007. A lesson in humility in the form of a Chinese folktale.

Anton Chekhov. Gennady Spirin, illustrator. Kashtanka. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995. Rich illustrations and an accessible translation allow children to appreciate this story by the well-known Russian author. Themes include friendship and loyalty.

Paul Geraghty. The Hunter. 1994. Reprint. Andersen, 2011. A girl decides that she does not want to become a hunter after returning an orphaned elephant to its herd.

Thomas Locker. Lenny Hort, illustrator. The Boy Who Held Back the Sea. Dial, 1987. A boy with a reputation as a good-for-nothing saves a Dutch town by plugging a hole in the dyke.

Conrad Buff. The Apple and the Arrow. 1951. Reprint. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001. Retells the story of William Tell and his son.

Clyde Robert Bulla. Bruce Bowles, illustrator. The Sword in the Tree. 1956. Reprint. HarperCollins, 2000. Set in Arthurian England. Text intended for early readers, but the story is not overly simple.

Eleanor Estes. Louis Slobodkin, illustrator. The Hundred Dresses. 1944. Reprint. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. A poor Polish-American girl is ostracized by her classmates, who experience regret when she leaves the school.

Hugh Vernon-Jackson. Yuko Green, illustrator. Susan L. Rattiner, editor. African Folk Tales. Dover, 1999. These folktales from West Africa were first published in 1958 and 1963.

Scott O’Dell. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1960. A  fictionalized account of a young girl stranded on an island on the coast of California in the nineteenth century.

Anna Harwell Celenza. JoAnn E. Kitchel, illustrator. The Heroic Symphony. Charlesbridge, 2004. The historical background to Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous symphony, which was originally intended to honor Napoleon.

  1. *Brian Jacques. The Pearls of Lutra. Published in 1996 as the eleventh book in the popular Redwall series, The Pearls of Lutra is a fantasy novel that deals with otters and a valuable treasure of pearls.

  2. *Christoph von Schmid. The Captive. The Christian protagonist of this 96-page tale is Anselmo, who finds himself in dire straits; however, he shows his faith and character when he refuses to take the easy way out.

  3. *Sheela Chari. Finding Mighty. Published by Amulet books just this spring, Finding Mighty is a mystery book that “explores the nature of art and the unbreakable bonds of family.”

Upper Middle School / Early High School

  1. *Eleanor Estes. Ginger Pye. A 1952 Newbery Medal winner, Ginger Pye is an animal story book that concerns a man named Jerry Pye who buys a puppy (Ginger), who becomes lost.

  2. *E. Nesbit. The Railway Children. Three children live and play near the railway and make a new and interesting friend.

  3. *Enid Blighton. The Famous Five Series. Four children and a dog attempt to solve mysteries.

  4. *Charlotte Hope. The Young Tennyson. An account of the famous Victorian poet’s childhood, written for children.

  5. *Marguerite Henry. Sea Star. A horse named Sea Star is raised by two siblings Paul and Maurine.

  6. *Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie Woodlawn. A girl makes friends with an Indian in Wisconsin.

  7. *Patricia St. John. Treasures of the Snow. Lucian’s mischief causes little Danny to break his leg. Although Lucian becomes remorseful, Danny’s sister Annette holds a grudge, but learns forgiveness.

  8. *Marguerite Henry. Misty of Chincoteague. Two siblings show perseverance as they tame a wild horse.

  9. *Louis Lenski. Indian Captive. A true story about a girl who is captured by Indians. She learns their ways, and when she is given a chance to return to her former life, she decides to stay with her captors.

  10. *Meidert De Jong. Along Came a Dog. A stray dog tries to stay on a farm to be with his friend, but is unwelcome.

High School

Francis Bacon. New Atlantis. Just a few weeks ago I finished rereading this 17th-century classic, which I believe I first read about thirty-five years ago. The novel shows Bacon’s interest in science and Christian ideals. Although most likely high school students won’t find this a thriller, it is short and like all truly good science fiction, it contains ideas that are thought-provoking. A writer of both scientific and religious works, Francis Bacon is often considered the father of the scientific method, which is outlined in his work Novum Organum.

Anne Bronte. Tenant of Wildfell Hall. All of the Bronte sisters—Anne, Charlotte and Emily—were known for the Gothic elements contained in their novels. With its abandoned mansion as its setting and the many dark secrets it contains as what drives the plot, the Tenant of Wildfell Hall is no exception.


William Dean Howells. The Rise of Silas Lapham. Although not as famous as the contemporary classics The Scarlet Letter and Huckleberry Finn, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) deals with the all-important issue of doing what is right despite all the pressure to do otherwise. Written during the Gilded Age, when materialism was threatening to take hold of the American spirit, the protagonist in this realist novel must make an important decision, as all Americans today must: should he follow after filthy lucre or make the moral choice?


Rudyard Kipling. Kim. American author Henry James once said that Kipling was “the most complete man of genius, as distinct from fine intelligence, that I have ever known.” The genius of Kim might just be the way in which Kipling is able to draw a picture of then exotic culture of India.


Elizabeth Eliot. The Savage, My Kinsman.  Published in 1961, this real-life account was written several years after her husband’s death in Ecuador. Speared to death in the jungles of Equador, her husband Jim Eliot and four other missionaries became modern-day martyrs for the cause of Christ.


Alfred Lansing. Endurance. Published in 1914, this gripping account of Ernest Shackleton’s journey of exploration to the Antarctic is a favorite in my family—not just the among the men.  In 1914, Shackleton sailed to the South Pacific in the Endurance, and on November 21, 1915, she sank under ice and had to be abandoned.


Natalie Sanmartin Fenollera. The Awakening of Miss Prim. New York: Atria Paperback, 2014. A debut novel and international bestseller, The Awakening of Miss Prim involves a literary woman who moves into a small Spanish village to work as private librarian.

Anthony Trollope. The Last Chronicle of Barset. Dare I put a 900-page novel on the list? I dare. It was just last year that I finished reading this last book in the Barsetshire series. Although I enjoyed the first in the series, The Warden, best, the novel’s protagonist Mr. Crawley is very memorable as the overconscientious clergyman. This book suggestion is not just an English teacher’s recommendation: my daughter loved the novel as well.

Note that the following books are those currently not read during the school year. I will not cover them in class or test students on their content during the school year; they are completely optional. The asterisk indicates books that were recommended to me by students themselves at the end of the year.

Book List 2017

Early Elementary

Arnold Lobel. Fables. 1980. Reprint. Perfection Learning, 1983. While ostensibly a parody of Aesop’s fables, these lighthearted stories contain lessons of their own. May provide another way for teachers to talk about fables.

Marcia Brown. Once a Mouse... 1961. Reprint. Atheneum, 1972. Humility and thankfulness are valued in this fable from India, illustrated with charming woodcuts

Alma Flor Ada. The Lizard and the Sun. Dragonfly Books, 1999. A folktale of a lizard, set in ancient Mexico.