Summer presents a wonderful opportunity to get engaged in a good book (or two), learning about new places and ideas or stepping into the shoes of a fictional character. To encourage the joys of reading, all ACMS students are required to read two books this summer before returning to school in August: our "all-school" book and another book chosen from a list of options.
Most all of the books listed below are available on loan throughout the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System or for purchase at local bookstores and online at Amazon.com. Students can also use an audio copy of a book as they read. Bound to Be Read Books on Flat Shoals Road in East Atlanta will be stocking these books and will make them available to students at 20% off the retail price for paperback. Bound To Be Read Books also has a standing policy of giving all teachers a 20% discount on ALL book purchases with their school ID to support educators and appreciate their role in promoting literacy.
All-School Book - All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall
All students, teachers, and (we hope) parents/guardians will read the school's first school-wide text and will take part in activities related to the book when we return to school. All of the Above is a novel, set in an urban middle school, that shows how “Mr. Collins, the seventh-grade math teacher, inadvertently challenges several students to build a tetrahedron (a 3-D multiplane structure) to break the Guinness world record. The students feign disinterest, but gradually the idea takes hold, ultimately drawing in troublemakers and well-behaved kids, parents, relatives, and community members alike. Told in alternating chapters by Mr. Collins and four of his students, Pearsall's novel, based on a real event in 2002-is a delightful story about the power of a vision and the importance of a goal. The authentic voices of the students and the well-intentioned, supportive adults surrounding them illustrate all that is good about schools, family, friendship, and community” (from the Booklist review).
In addition to reading the all-school text, each student should pick one book from the list below to read before returning to school in August. During the first week of school, students will participate in discussions and activities with other students who have read the same book, so it will be helpful to review the book before school starts. Also, after reading his/her choice book, each student should complete the following assignment:
Write or type a letter to your advisor that gives a brief overview of the book (one to two paragraphs), explains any messages or themes you noticed in the book and their importance (another one to two paragraphs), and gives your opinion of the book (another one to two paragraphs). Advisors will collect these letters during the first day of school.
Choice Book List (pick at least one of these books to read, but feel free to read more!):
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (easy reading level)
Coraline lives with her preoccupied parents in part of a huge old house-a house so huge that other people live in it, too... round, old former actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and their aging Highland terriers and the mustachioed old man under the roof, Coraline contents herself for weeks with exploring the vast garden and grounds. But with a little rain she becomes bored-so bored that she begins to count everything blue (153), the windows (21), and the doors (14). And it is the 14th door that-sometimes blocked with a wall of bricks-opens up for Coraline into an entirely alternate universe.
What's on the other side of the door? A distorted-mirror world, containing presumably everything Coraline has ever dreamed of... people who pronounce her name correctly (not "Caroline"), delicious meals (not like her father's overblown "recipes"), an unusually pink and green bedroom (not like her dull one), and plenty of horrible (very un-boring) marvels, like a man made out of live rats. The creepiest part, however, is her mirrored parents, her "other mother" and her "other father"-people who look just like her own parents, but with big, shiny, black button eyes, paper-white skin... and a keen desire to keep her on their side of the door. To make creepy creepier, Coraline has been illustrated masterfully in scritchy, terrifying ink drawings by British mixed-media artist and Sandman cover illustrator Dave McKean. This delightful, funny, haunting, scary as heck, fairy-tale novel is about as fine as they come.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (moderate reading level)
With her sixth novel, award-winning author Sarah Dessen offers up another generous helping of finely crafted storytelling about real teens dealing with real life. In The Truth About Forever, when asked how she is coping with her father's death, invariably seventeen year old Macy Queen's answer is "fine," when nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, she is drowning in grief while maintaining a flawless façade of good grades and unblemished behavior. Though she feels lost when her boyfriend heads to "Brain Camp" for the summer, she finds herself a job with the quirky Wish Catering crew, and meets "sa-woon"-worthy Wes, whose chaotic lifestyle is in direct opposition to her own. As the two share their stories over the summer, Macy realizes she can no longer keep her feelings on ice. Though it feels like her future ended with her dad's death, Macy's learns that forever is all about beginnings. Dessen charts Macy's navigation of grief in such an honest way it will touch every reader who meets her. All of the Dessen trademarks are here: a girl in transition, a wonderfully fleshed out cast of secondary characters, and of course, the luminous, powerful writing itself. The Truth About Forever will more than satisfy Dessen's legion of fans, and will win her countless more as well.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (moderate reading level)
Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely-to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father's child-romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother's child, too-deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith's poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book's humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics-and in the hearts of readers, young and old.
Heat by Mike Lupica (easy reading level)
When Michael Arroyo is on the baseball diamond, everything feels right. He's a terrific pitcher who dreams of leading his South Bronx All-Stars to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. It's a dream he shared with his father, one they brought with them as they fled Cuba and wound up living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Michael's ultimate dream is to play in the major leagues like his hero, El Grande, Yankee star and fellow Cuban refugee. Tragically, Papi died of a heart attack a few months back, leaving Michael and his older brother, Carlos, to struggle along on their own. Afraid of being separated, they hide the news of their father's death from everyone but a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Cora, and Michael's best friend, Manny Cabrera. When a bitter rival spreads rumors that Michael is older than he appears, the league demands that he be benched until he can produce a birth certificate. Readers will find themselves rooting for Michael as he struggles with the loss of his father, stumbles into his first boy-girl relationship, and yearns to play baseball.
Tangerine by Edward Bloor (easy reading level)
So what if he's legally blind? Even with his bottle-thick, bug-eyed glasses, Paul Fisher can see better than most people. He can see the lies his parents and brother live out, day after day. No one ever listens to Paul, though-until the family moves to Tangerine. In Tangerine, even a blind, geeky, alien freak can become cool. Who knows? Paul might even become a hero! Edward Bloor's debut novel sparkles with wit, authenticity, unexpected plot twists, and heart. The writing is so fine, the story so triumphant, that you just might stand up and shout when you get to the end.
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (moderate reading level)
Lightman's slender but substantial fictional debut is a daring re-creation of Albert Einstein's dreams during May and June 1905, when the Swiss patent clerk was putting the final touches on his special theory of relativity. Each dream embodies "one of the many possible natures of time." In one world time proceeds in circles; in another its rate varies with location. In a third, time reverses unexpectedly; in a fourth, it stutters and skips. Each variation spawns its own weird psychology, yet magically, touchingly, each also echoes patterns of events that take place in supposedly ordinary time. There is no plot in this small volume-it's more like a poetry collection than a novel.
Hoot by Carl Hiassen (easy reading level)
Roy Eberhardt is the new kid-again. This time around it's Trace Middle School in humid Coconut Grove, Florida. But it's still the same old routine: table by himself at lunch, no real friends, and thick-headed bullies like Dana Matherson pushing him around. But if it wasn't for Dana Matherson mashing his face against the school bus window that one day, he might never have seen the tow-headed running boy. And if he had never seen the running boy, he might never have met tall, tough, bully-beating Beatrice. And if he had never met Beatrice, he might never have discovered the burrowing owls living in the lot on the corner of East Oriole Avenue. And if he had never discovered the owls, he probably would have missed out on the adventure of a lifetime. Apparently, bullies do serve a greater purpose in the scope of the universe. Because if it wasn't for Dana Matherson...
In his first novel for a younger audience, Carl Hiaasen plunges readers right into the middle of an ecological mystery, made up of endangered miniature owls, the Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House scheduled to be built over their burrows, and the owls' unlikely allies-three middle school kids determined to beat the screwed-up adult system.