Tag Archives: summer vacation

The Upsides of Summer Vacation

29 Jun

Of course, having unlimited free time is one of the best upsides of summer vacation. There are other perks – few responsibilities, unlimited walks with Lucy, puttering about in the morning. The greatest upside is unlimited reading time. Ah, sweet summer reading! My local public library, like many nowadays, has a summer reading program for adults, too.

I’ve mentioned before that 4 of the 5 Morris finalists my committee selected have books coming out this year. So far, I have only read one of the 4, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, but I now possess the other 3.


Publisher’s Summary: From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.


Molly is a real “every teen” – just an ordinary girl with no super powers, unless you count cookie dough. The book maintains the same lively tone we encountered in Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda without seeming repetitive or trite.

Shipped off

10 Jul

I’ve encountered them in at least three novels this summer: kids shipped off to distant relatives for the summer. I mean the word distant in two ways. The relatives  live far away and they are relatives essentially unknown to the protagonist. There is usually a time of awkwardness, then a crisis that further distances our protagonist that is followed by a reconciliation and a feeling of connection with the family.

The one I want to talk about today is Sea Change by Frank Viva.


This short novel tells the story of Eliot, whose parents ship him off to a tiny town in Nova Scotia for the summer.

Publisher’s Summary:One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies, and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more – a hidden library, starry nights, and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth. Critically acclaimed author and artist Frank Viva (Along a Long Road) brings us this warm, funny, and innovatively designed coming-of-age story. See Point Aconi through Eliot’s eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn’t want to leave.

This is a short novel that would be suitable for kids ready for a more challenging chapter book, but aren’t quite ready for Harry Potter. The book is published by Toon Books, producers of high quality comics for kids, and is part of their Toon Graphics series. Viva’s art is woven into the fabric of the story, making this more like an illustrated novel than a traditional graphic novel.

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Although fiction, the story is based on Viva’s own experiences being shipped off to Nova Scotia for the summer, making the story rig true. I am thinking that I could use a chapter or two when we do our narrative writing unit in September.



Friday, Saturday, Sunday

14 Jun


My teaching partner thinks of summer holidays as a weekend. “June is Friday, July is Saturday and August is Sunday.” It makes perfect sense.

Here we are in June. We have to work most of the month, just like we have to work most hours on a Friday. But as the clock ticks closer to the end of the day, or the end of the year, we get happier. There is a sense of energy and excitement at the coming rest.

July is Saturday because it is all about doing what we love. Don’t get me wrong. I truly love teaching, but on Saturdays I get to indulge my passions and avocations. Oh, there are occasional obligations, but really, July is all for me.

August is Sunday. Brains start to shift and teachers start thinking about going back to work. The big difference is that Sunday nights are sad, but by August, I am ready to get back to work.

We have four days left with students and my team is trying to keep thing as normal as we can for as long as we can. Come Friday afternoon, though, we will be as happy as the kids.


The Halfway Mark

19 Jul

We’ve hit the halfway point in summer.Five weeks of summer vacation have passed, there are only five more to go.

That got me thinking about this A. A. Milne poem I loved as a kid.

Halfway Down

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
It’s somewhere else

It comes from When We Were Very Young a book my Grandma Gillespie gave my sister and I and there is just something about that poem, and the illustration by Ernest Shepard, that spoke to my heart. And still does.


There is a contentment there, which I am feeling these days. My summer routines are clearly established. My pace of life has slowed “And all sorts of funny thoughts / Run round my head”.

The thing about this second half is that, in about two and a half weeks, I begin going back. I have my first back to school meetings on August 6th and  7th.

But I’m not ready to think too hard about August yet. I’ll just leave you with this.

Summer School

25 May

This week I handed out  summer school flyers. Summer school is completely optional, of course, though highly recommended for those receiving the “invitations”. There were definite groans. In his debut novel, Return to Augie Hobble, 


Lane Smith introduces us to the eponymous character who failed his creative arts class and must redo his final project. His dad runs a seedy amusement park and Augie’s summer assignment there is collecting garbage. Augie’s summer is does not look promising. Smith takes this unpromising summer and shakes it up by adding a plan to run away, bullying, werewolves, missing pets, robbery, visions and government agents. With so many weird and wonderful things happening, the thread of the story could get lost, but Smith ties up loose threads and leads readers to a satisfying ending. This would make a great end of the year read aloud or a great book for upper elementary/lower middle school kids to read as they kick off summer vacation.

Enjoying local color

4 Aug

There are no big trips for me this summer. Between summer school Fiona’s surgery and workshops, I was too busy to go anywhere so I filled my summer with local activities.

Henry is not a pig who likes to wander. He likes his neat, tidy sty and considers the farm he sees outside his window, a messy place.


But Henry’s Map, by David Elliot soon, sees Henry venturing outside, around the farm, mapping it. Along the way he makes friends with the other animals who tag along as he makes his map. When they sit atop a hill and compare the farm to the map they realize something terrible: they are not there. The story is simple,  and well-paced. His illustrations have a classic farm book quality, but I especially like the simple black line maps that look like something any child could create.

Yes Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth and illustrated by Maris Wicks ventures away from him, but only for a day.


This sweet story celebrates low tech family outings. Each page has a rhyming couplet and each line begins with “let’s”.

“Let’s wake up extra early, / before the day gets hot. / Let’s pack a picnic, hurry up / – ready or not.”

In the detailed pictures we see the family  (a mom, a dad, their four kids, and a dog) get up, and get ready then head into the car for a day trip to a local forest.  They enjoy a hike,, a swim , some games, and a picnic  before they, head on home and collapse, exhausted, happy and eager for another adventure on another day.

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