Summer reading, having a blast …

by Susan Chenelle, NJCTE blog editor

While many look forward to their first beach trip of the summer, for me, especially this year, it was my first trip to my local library in more than a year(!) that marked the start of summer. It felt so good to walk through the stacks, carry away an armload of books, and dive into them. Ah, bliss!

So far, Danielle Evans’ The Office of Historical Corrections is the standout of my summer reading. I’ll definitely be recommending Evans’ story “Boys Go to Jupiter” or the titular novella to the English teachers at my school. And I’m thrilled to finally be joining the N. K. Jemisin fan club, even while I’m only half way through the first volume of her Broken Earth trilogy.

And of course, I’m not alone in my summer reading revelry. NJCTE board member Nicole Warchol writes that she recently finished Jeff Zentner’s forthcoming In the Wild Light (August 2021): “As a musician with an appreciation for poetry, readers will find a certain lyricism in Zentner’s prose. Similar to his other novels, this story focuses on what teenagers care about most: the depths of friendship, trying to navigate circumstances that are many times out of their control, and exploring who they are and who they want to be. Cash Pruitt’s story reminds me of the line from Anaïs Nin, ‘And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’ I’ve had a difficult time reading during the pandemic. Cash’s story about deciding whether to cling to the safety of home or leap toward his future is one of the few books I have been able to finish and enjoy.”

NJCTE membership chair Denise Weintraut shared these recommendations: “When one thinks of fairy tales, we often recall the sanitized versions that comforted us in our childhoods. In The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country by Melissa Albert, fairytales take a dark turn with some magical realism. Set in the modern-day, urban location of New York City, the story examines the extremes that one will undertake in order to save one’s family, and possibly one’s self. Seventeen-year-old Alice is thrust into a series of strange events after her estranged grandmother, an author of a cult-classic book of dark fairytales, dies alone on her hidden estate. Driving the story is the kidnapping of Alice’s mother, supposedly by a character who claims to be from the Hinterland, the cruel world where her grandmother’s stories are set. The only clue left behind is a message from her mother to stay away from the Hazel Wood, the estate where her grandmother lived. One need not be familiar with any of the classic fairytales in order to enjoy this story. If you like adventure, intrigue, and a fast-moving plot, this story will do the trick!”

NJCTE president Valerie Mattessich reports that she “just finished Shiner by Amy Jo Burns and was blown away by the beautiful language and heartrending storyline. I am also currently enjoying World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, which also features beautiful turns of phrase and captures the natural world as it relates to the author’s life.”

Finally, NJCTE board member Joe Pizzo has “been reading A Suitcase of Seaweed & more by Janet Wong. It features poems about Wong’s three cultures: Chinese, Korean, and American. The poems are brief, and there is a backstory and discussion questions accompanying each poem. I’ve also been reading Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 (second edition) by Dr. Debbie Silver. She has updated her original book to include Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, and more.”

We’d love to hear what you’re reading and enjoying! Please share your summer reading reviews and recommendations below in the comments. We are also looking for recommendations for our next Muriel Becker Award for Literary Excellence winner. If there’s an author of young adult literature you’ve recently discovered and would like to recommend, please send your suggestion to njctepresident@gmail.com.

And don’t forget to sign up for our Summer Learning Virtual Sessions, which kick off tomorrow, July 8, at 4pm, with “Love & Literacy: Developing Student Voice and Agency in Discourse,” led by 2015 NJCTE Teacher of the Year Stephen Chiger.

Summer reading, having a blast …

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