Summer Book Club - Designed by Kez

This book club is the highlight of our summer camp.

The books will not be provided, however.

The students will need to get the book designated for the session before starting.

Having the books is just the beginning of the summer fun; we will offer a journey to the great wealth of classic literature.

 
In this summer, we will journey through a great mix of classics from several genres as well as new and old-- plus a good variety within each grade group so that students will remain engaged with different enjoyable yet challenging materials.
 
This selection should not only encourage them to read, but also inspire them to write! The authors represented here have written more than one great book, so hopefully the students will check out more of those.
 
We are very excited that this curriculum will help them develop the passion toward literature.
 

Rising Gr3-4

Reading is fun, and nothing shows you like these books about adventure, which have had lasting appeal among kids for multiple decades—and even centuries! In this age, when it’s all too easy to be distracted by a phone or TV, it might seem useless to read. But not when you get lost in the adventures in these pages.

These stories—published in 1865, 1962, 1990, and 1960—have been entertaining kids for countless years. Why? Because they are totally unforgettable. Once you read one of these books, you never want to stop reading. These books have shown a lasting ability to influence us through a seemingly endless amount of time, and they are just as prescient today as they were 50-150 years ago.

Let the wandering begin.

❶ 6/21 - 7/2  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll  272 pages, 8 - 11 years old
Published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s beloved story about Alice, the rabbit, the mad hatter, the Cheshire cat, and the deck of cards has literally never failed to entertain a curious kid. Some stories are meant to last, and for over 150 years, Alice and the world of Wonderland have captured the heart of every kid who’s ever wanted to follow the rabbit down the rabbit hole. Inspiring dozens of Disney adaptations, parties, fictional spinoffs, and shows, this is the original tale. As they say, the book is always better, and this one is a complete delight. Where will your daydream take you?  

❷ 7/6 - 7/16 Scorpions – Walter Dean Myers  216 pages: 12 years old
Switching from way out of rural America, we enter New York City. And we enter a world that is entirely different from the predominantly white, expansive, natural setting of the previous narrative. Now, we are in the primarily black areas of the largest city in America, famed for its culture and diversity, during one of the roughest times in its history. Jamal’s life couldn’t diverge more from Billy’s: Jamal’s brother is in prison, and he’s being pressured to join a gang and deal drugs. How does he navigate this kind of world, without getting in trouble and while ensuring a future for himself and his family? What sacrifices can or should a kid make, for the reality that he is given?

❸ 7/19 - 7/30 Maniac Magee – Jerry Spinelli  180 pages, 8 - 18 years old
An unforgettable classic, Maniac Magee is about a kid who loves to run. Set in racially segregated Philadelphia, Maniac enjoys running between the black and white sides of town. As an orphan, he doesn’t have any family of his own, but he finds one. Kids who love sports will relate greatly to Maniac, the kid who never stops running and hits so many home runs, a star of his neighborhood, something that may seem like a lost concept these days. Maniac Magee, like the previous book, goes deep, and even years after the fact, kids will remember the slap of sneaker flaps from the ’90s, as if they had been there themselves. There are some characters you never forget, and Maniac Magee is one of them.

❹ 8/2 - 8/13  Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell  192 pages, 8 - 12 years old
On an isolated island, a Native American woman lives practically alone for 18 years. This is a true story, of the closest real person to Robinson Crusoe that we know. Unlike similar books in this type of genre, Island of the Blue Dolphins centers the Native American experience and features a protagonist whose method of living is rooted in real traditions. The mystical, detailed way in which the story is told remains in the marrow of the soul—years after reading. This is one of those rare books that has a seemingly straightforward plotline, but yet roots deep, taking the reader into the very heart of one person’s amazing experience.

Rising Gr5

Home, sweet home. In this series, we study the question of home. Where is home? Who is home? What do we want to be home? The answers are more complex than we might think. In four stories, we explore tales of what home means—whether that is a place, a family, an identity, or something more.

❶ 6/21 - 7/2 Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls  304 pages, 8 - 12 years old
Who is “man’s best friend”? Some say: a dog. Kids who love dogs, cats, rabbits, frogs, or any other animal are likely to never forget this classic set in the Ozark Mountains, a very rural part of America. Here, nature runs wild, and the culture is entirely different from what many kids in suburbs and cities are used to. Yet, for a lot of folks in America, this is America, and this is home. Even with these types of differences, nothing can change the essential bond between a human and an animal member of their family. But what happens when something upsets that? How can you find hope, if something tragic happens to someone in your family? We find out through Billy’s experience.      

❷ 7/6 - 7/16 Scorpions – Walter Dean Myers  216 pages: 12 years old
Switching from way out of rural America, we enter New York City. And we enter a world that is entirely different from the predominantly white, expansive, natural setting of the previous narrative. Now, we are in the primarily black areas of the largest city in America, famed for its culture and diversity, during one of the roughest times in its history. Jamal’s life couldn’t diverge more from Billy’s: Jamal’s brother is in prison, and he’s being pressured to join a gang and deal drugs. How does he navigate this kind of world, without getting in trouble and while ensuring a future for himself and his family? What sacrifices can or should a kid make, for the reality that he is given?

❸ 7/19 - 7/30  The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman  320 pages: 10 - 12 years old
We exit rural and urban America to a totally new sort of setting: a graveyard. In this fantastical book, we meet a kid whose name is Nobody Owens. Yes, that is his name: Nobody. Nobody’s background is a bit strange. He is an orphan, and the nature of his parents’ murder remains a mystery. In fact, he was to have been killed too. Yet, for unknown reasons, he has been sheltered, and raised, in the most unlikely of places—a graveyard— and by the strangest sort of “people”—ghosts! This is the tale of a kid who grows up in completely unusual circumstances, whose life follows a bizarre trajectory, and whose existence has no foundation. Unlike the previous books, in which there is a family and a root, Nobody has neither. What do you do when you don’t know who you are, and when you’re not even in the same state of dead or alive as everyone else around you?! Kids who love The Series of Unfortunate Events will resonate with the Halloween vibe of this intricately-told story.

❹ 8/2 - 8/13  American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang  240 pages:12 - 18 years old
Returning to America from the otherworldly graveyard, we run into an experience that few authors have really addressed for a kid audience, especially in the accessible format of an American-style comic. American Born Chinese explores the question of what home means when it consists of two different nations, countries, and cultures. Born in America, but being ethnically Chinese, how can an immigrant or first-gen kid fit in, especially with pressure from parents or racism from classmates? Such is the issue of the ABC. But, something unexpected comes to rescue the thread of colliding worlds: the Monkey King, the main character of the great Chinese fable. What can we learn from our origins, and which pieces of our identities can we keep intact, especially if that coherence isn’t easy? This funny, fast-paced graphic novel addresses such poignant topics as stereotyping, cultural assimilation, and the value of myth in clarifying our nuanced histories.

 

Rising Gr6-8  
In this series, we are greeted with four worlds in four books. The first two texts (Remains, Persepolis) take us through two historical worlds narrated from an autobiographical perspective. In these pages, we explore the experiences of individuals whose stories are not commonly told: that of an English butler and that of a child growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Is there a link between these vastly different worlds, separated by twenty years? Where does the world at large overlap, in their stories? Can we think of history as its own dystopia?

The latter part of our series (Pet, Disposssed) imagines two utopias: one in the future, which has remedied the ills of today’s society, and another in a totally different universe, where space travel and advanced technology is possible. Both utopias present alternative visions to our social structures, yet explore individual experiences within these. What do we find when we dip into these new modes of being? Do our thoughts change? Our concepts of ourselves?  

Literature offers us portals into places that we have never been and can only imagine, whether in the past, present, or future. Yet, in these worlds, what do we find, but a glimpse of our own?

❶ 6/21 - 7/2  The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro  245 pages
Set in the English countryside in 1956, Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day imagines the ruminations of a middle-aged butler who goes on his first vacation after serving the old aristocracy of Great Britain for many decades. Written in an exacting and meticulous manner, the butler’s narration is one which, while infinitely tedious, make an indelible impression. Reflections on class, society, and the meaning of time and “greatness” are inevitable with this thoughtful exploration. Is the butler’s world dystopic? Myopic? Functional? Normal? How do worlds change based on the statrum of society you occupy? What worlds do we make in our own minds? Students be aware: this book will feel much longer than it takes to read, but you’re unlikely to ever forget it.   

❷ 7/6 - 7/16 Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi  160 pages
We fast forward from the slowness of rural Britain, 1956, to a much more uptempo world in Persepolis, an intense graphic novel reimagining the author’s own middle school years during the Iranian Revolution. Marjane Satrapi illustrates for us a childhood spent in the horror of a war-torn regime, yet from the view of a child who is still able to find small moments of love, joy, humor, and rebellion, even amidst unfathomable destruction. Our protagonist’s fresh voice brings us up-front and personal with figures and times that often seem far-off: God, revolutionaries, regimes, and parents. This is one ordinary teenager’s experience during an extraordinarily destructive time. What’s it like to grow up as your world is falling apart? What clarity can you find in the chaos?

❸ 7/19 - 7/30 Pet – Akwaeke Emezi  208 pages: 12 – 17 years old
Moving on from historical portrayals, we enter the world of Jam, another teen—but this time, one who is growing up in a world seemingly free from problems. The revolutionary fervor of previous times has been resolved in utopian Lucille, where there are no more “monsters,” and far-off ideals like peace, equality, and community have been achieved. In Lucille, someone like Jam can live without fear, bigotry, violence or prejudice, leading a safe and happy life with her family and friends. But is a society like this actually free of the monsters that it has striven to eradicate? We begin to find out, when one day, Jam stumbles upon something literally out of her world. Akwaeke Emezi’s Newberry Award winner Pet is a fun, suspenseful hunt on the other side, full of magic realism and inventive dialogue. What happens to history when you try to rewrite it? Does it ever come back, and if so, in what forms?  

❹ 8/2 - 8/13 World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  by Max Brooks 342pages: 13 - 17 years old
Departing from the autobiographical style of the previous books, we zoom out to view the world at large. Rounding off our exploration of utopia and dystopia is something eerily reminiscent of 2020 and 2021. A zombie apocalypse has broken out, and the cause of it is a disease! In this tale of a pandemic gone bonkers, we see the collapse of civilization as we know it. Published in 2006, World War Z influenced a number of zombie books and films that came after, which you may have seen on TV, like The Walking Dead. Its premise, a catastrophic disease outbreak, is unfortunately a lot closer to reality today than when it was published. Through this novel, students can explore how an “imaginary” natural catastrophe compares to the real one that did occur and is still occurring: the COVID-19 pandemic. How does the author portray the apocalypse? Is that accurate? What stereotypes, assumptions, and imaginations of human responses does the author use? What images of colonialism and various global power structures are presented? How does this compare to lived experience? Let’s unpack the impact of the pandemic we really did experience—and learn about sci-fi horror dystopias as craft.

Note: Paperback is recommended not just because of its low cost. It is easier to bring and read, without any visual harzards. Buy (under $10) or borrow each of the following best sellers before the session starts. You must bring the book for reading each day of your attended session.