Tag Archives | summer reading

Give me a good mystery

Sum­mer­time is syn­ony­mous with read­ing for me.

My grand­moth­er kept a light blue blan­ket by the back door so I could spread it out under the elm tree and dis­solve into sto­ries. Some­times a lemon­ade, some­times a piece of water­mel­on … but always a book. Some­times a friend would sit next to me absorbed in a sto­ry of their own but most often it was just me, the birds, the sounds of sum­mer, and a hard­cov­er book.

I was remind­ed of that blan­ket under the tree this week­end when we were in Som­er­set, Wis­con­sin. We had to be some­where at 11 am but we were ear­ly. We had brought books with us — of course — and we sat under a tree reading.

Eddie Red UndercoverFor me, it was Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile. Read­ing mys­ter­ies is a pas­sion and a com­fort for me. This book by Mar­cia Wells, with inte­gral illus­tra­tions by Mar­cos Calo, swept me in and con­nect­ed me to the girl who read dur­ing her sum­mers, as many books as they’d let her check out of the library.

Eddie Red lives in New York City with a dad who’s been down­sized from the library and a moth­er who’s a real estate agent. Although he’s been attend­ing Sen­ate Acad­e­my, a school for gift­ed stu­dents, his family’s finan­cial duress puts him in a state of anx­i­ety over not being able to afford tuition next year. He likes his school but he real­izes he won’t see his best friend, Jon­ah, any­more. Jon­ah is bril­liant but he’s chal­lenged by hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty and a num­ber of med­ical con­di­tions … all of which make him a per­fect sidekick.

You see, Edmund Lon­nrot, our hero, is a 12-year-old with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a star­tling abil­i­ty to draw detailed, life­like por­traits of peo­ple he has seen recent­ly. When Edmund and his dad are drawn into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion in an alley, Edmund is lat­er able to draw the crim­i­nals for the police. It turns out these par­tic­u­lar bad guys are part of the Picas­so Gang, inter­na­tion­al­ly-want­ed art thieves. The police hire Edmund as a police sketch artist, code name Eddie Red, to observe the com­ings and goings of peo­ple on Muse­um Mile in NYC, any of whom could be a dis­guised art thief.

Plau­si­bil­i­ty? Well, let’s just say that the phrase “will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief” is apro­pos. I was will­ing to over­look the NYPD hir­ing a twelve-year-old for a stake­out as far­fetched  and get com­plete­ly involved in Edmund’s and Jonah’s sto­ry, a chess game of a plot, and Edmund’s like­able sense of humor. The author does a good job of mak­ing Eddie’s tal­ents feel uni­ver­sal­ly adopt­able — if only we had a Jon­ah to give us that extra oomph in the mys­tery-solv­ing arena.

Eddie Red Undercover - Marcos Calo illustratorCalo’s por­traits are a part of the plot, essen­tial to the sto­ry. They’re as full of char­ac­ter as the author’s sto­ry. At the end of the book Eddie Red offers advice on how to draw a por­trait. That’s per­fec­tion because I found myself itch­ing to pick up a pen­cil and draw the peo­ple around me while I was solv­ing the mys­tery along­side Edmund.

It’s an engag­ing sto­ry, per­fect for read­ing any time, but espe­cial­ly sat­is­fy­ing on a sum­mer afternoon.


Middle Kingdom: Shakopee, Minnesota

The books that most delight mid­dle school and junior high read­ers often strad­dle a “Mid­dle King­dom” rang­ing from upper mid­dle grade to YA. Each month, Bookol­o­gy colum­nist Lisa Bullard will vis­it the Mid­dle King­dom by view­ing it through the eyes of a teacher or librar­i­an. Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to cel­e­brate the work of these edu­ca­tors who have built vital book encamp­ments in the tran­si­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of ear­ly adolescence.

This month’s jour­ney takes us to East Junior High in Shakopee, Min­neso­ta, where Lisa talks with media spe­cial­ist Amy Sticha.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog read­ers should know about your com­mu­ni­ty, school, or library/media center?

ph_shakopeeeastAmy: East Junior High is one of two junior high schools in Shakopee, Min­neso­ta, a rapid­ly grow­ing sub­urb of the Twin Cities. Because of our district’s growth over the past sev­er­al years, we have gone through a lot of recon­fig­u­ra­tion of grade lev­els at all of our build­ings. Cur­rent­ly, our junior highs house stu­dents in grades 7 – 9, but with the pas­sage of a ref­er­en­dum to build an addi­tion to our high school a few weeks ago, we will be chang­ing to grades 6 – 8 by 2018.

As a result of all this shuf­fling, the EJH library has been split twice in the last eight years to accom­mo­date oth­er schools’ libraries. It has been chal­leng­ing to main­tain a rel­e­vant col­lec­tion with the loss of so many mate­ri­als, but thanks to a sup­port­ive admin­is­tra­tion and com­mu­ni­ty, we are in the process of adding tech­nol­o­gy like medi­as­capes, charg­ing tables, Chrome­book carts, and 1:1 iPads, and updat­ing our district’s media cen­ters to add mak­er­space areas and oth­er spaces to stay cur­rent with­in the chang­ing scope of a school library/media cen­ter space. I invite you to vis­it my media web­page

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often? 


  • the Miss­ing series by Mar­garet Peter­son Haddix
  • I Hunt Killers by Bar­ry Lyga
  • the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans
  • the Broth­erband Chron­i­cles series by John Flanagan
  • the Mor­tal Instru­ments series by Cas­san­dra Clare

Lisa: What book(s) do you per­son­al­ly love to place into stu­dents’ hands?


  • Won­der by R.J. Palacio
  • Bruis­er by Neal Shusterman
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Swim the Fly by Don Calame
  • Drums, Girls, and Dan­ger­ous Pie by Jor­dan Sonnenblick
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Emako Blue by Bren­da Woods
  • Black Duck by Janet Tay­lor Lisle
  • The Scor­pio Races by Mag­gie Stiefvater

Lisa: Could you share some infor­ma­tion about your most popular/successful/innovative pro­gram for pro­mot­ing books and reading?

Amy Sticha's list

Amy Sticha’s list

Amy: Pro­mot­ing read­ing is prob­a­bly one of my favorite things to do as a junior high media spe­cial­ist.  In addi­tion to book talks and dis­plays, my para and I work close­ly togeth­er to come up with a vari­ety of fun and inter­ac­tive read­ing pro­mo­tions through­out the year. We use Face­book and Twit­ter accounts to announce con­tests, spe­cial events, and updates about new books or what we are cur­rent­ly read­ing. I actu­al­ly just fin­ished putting up my favorite dis­play of the year, which is our Top 10 Sum­mer Must-Reads and is made up of my para’s and my favorite books we have read through­out the year and would sug­gest for fun sum­mer read­ing. Both stu­dents and staff mem­bers around the school make com­ments about our lists every year. Sev­er­al times over the last few hours today, I have looked up from my desk to see some­one tak­ing a pic of our lists with their phone. 

Para's List

Para’s List

Every month, we have a stu­dent book club that is led by a dif­fer­ent staff mem­ber. At the begin­ning of each year, I ask for staff vol­un­teers who would be inter­est­ed in lead­ing the club for one of the months of the school year. In prepa­ra­tion for the upcom­ing month’s book club, the staff mem­ber and I decide on which book they would like to choose, and stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate get a free copy of the book and free break­fast at the two meet­ings held dur­ing the month. Some months have bet­ter par­tic­i­pa­tion than oth­ers, but over­all, it is a fun way to show stu­dents that staff mem­bers read for plea­sure out­side of school, too. 

We also have a Tour­na­ment of the Books every March to coin­cide with the NCAA bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments. Thir­ty-two books take on each oth­er in our annu­al tour­na­ment to see which one is cho­sen by our stu­dent body to be the ulti­mate win­ner. This year’s win­ner was The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. 

This year for the first time, we had a spring break read­ing com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing which we encour­aged stu­dents to take pics of them­selves read­ing in unique, strange, fun, or inter­est­ing places. Our over­all win­ner took a pic of him­self read­ing in front of a moun­tain range while vis­it­ing his grand­par­ents in Ari­zona. This year we also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Young Adults’ Choic­es project spon­sored by the Inter­na­tion­al Lit­er­a­cy Asso­ci­a­tion and were intro­duced to a num­ber of real­ly great titles! 

We have a great time pro­mot­ing read­ing to EJH students!