Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflecting on my reading in 2011

Only five days left in 2011 and, as always, the years seem to be going faster the older I get. Today has been a snowy, slushy, day here in central Illinois, time to curl up with a book, hang out with my family, and reflect back on the year. While many events have made this year wonderful, for this blog post I want to think about how my reading life changed and grew stronger this year.

As of the writing of this post, I have read 255 books this year. In 2010 I read 184. These are the books I actually “counted” and recorded in Goodreads. I’m not terrific at remembering to do this but have gotten much better since a friend shared how she used her iPhone to scan books quickly in there. I was lamenting that 255 didn’t seem like a lot. However the Associated Press did a poll in 2007 with the findings that 1 in 4 adults read ZERO books a year, with the average number being 7 books. Seven! So maybe my number isn’t so bad.

Looking over the list of books I’ve read this year I notice a few things. I read a wide variety of books. Non-fiction picture books are more prevalent than other non-fiction books. Picture books in general are well represented. Graphic novels are clearly adored. Young Adult, beginning chapter books, middle grades – wide ranging levels of books. Realistic fiction, Fantasy, Mystery – a myriad of books can be found. But, after all of these books, what will be the books that I recommend over and over to my students? That’s a hard question – it truly depends on the student and their interests. So, for my own information – what are my unforgettable books of the year? What ones will stay with me as I move on to 2012? Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, here they are:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I read the ARC of this book last spring. Sobbing, curled up in a ball in my bed I remember sitting back, staring at the book, and wondering how this man is that brilliant.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. A picture book that became so much more. My class read it and debated if they were “team rabbit” or “team bear.” My friends on Twitter debated the book. Jen Vincent sent me a red hat. I gave out Bear and Rabbit ornaments at Christmas as “thank you” gifts to friends that had helped me out throughout the year. I bought several copies to give as gifts.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. This book had been on my table to read for several weeks. When I finally sat down to read it, I was swept away. I love when I feel that I “become” the character – and that happened with Hazel. I was trekking through the magical woods – looking for my friend. What an amazingly beautiful story.

Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder. My parents, luckily, have celebrated 41 years of marriage. But my husband’s parents divorced when he was in fourth grade. That happens to so many of my students – and I only have had a notion of how hard it is. After reading this book, I feel that I understand better. Laurel writes it so that your heart is torn in two. Rebecca is confused, frustrated, sad, and angry as her parents separate. As her mom deals with her own emotions, Rebecca isn’t consulted and often feels ignored. This is something I think many of my students can relate to and has made this one of the most popular books in my classroom this year.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner is a beautiful, quiet, picture book. The story follows a girl and her father as they go cross-country skiing through the woods and describes the animals that are present both over and under the snow.

The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson was an amazing introduction to what I am positive will be a popular series in my classroom. While I loved the book for what it was, I was further captivated by the NPR interview with the author. In it he talks about why he chose not to give the main protagonists magical powers and why the setting is Wisconsin. Love it and can’t wait to share it with my students.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt was incredible. When any of my students tell me they can’t relate to a main character of the opposite gender – I use this book to explain how you can. Doug made me want to dive into the book and adopt him. There is a particular scene where he is in gym class and you finally understand why he didn’t want to be on the “skins” team for all of those classes. I remember thinking I couldn’t hate a character more than I hated his dad at the point. So often during the story the voice of Doug was so clear that I felt I was living the book. Amazing writing.

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. Mattie is one of those characters I connected with right away. This is the book I wish was written when I was younger. In many ways, I was Mattie. It’s hard living in your head, not wanting to take risks, feeling it is better off not having friends than being rejected by them. I love this book.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall. I found the first book in this series years ago and adored it. I think I love the third installment even more than the first two. I love the little literary references dropped in throughout. This book focused more on the second oldest Penderwick, Skye, and how she had to be in charge on a family vacation while her older sister Rosalind and her Dad and stepmom went elsewhere. This book makes me wish the Penderwicks were real and I could be adopted into their family, so much fun.

Finally, Sidekicks by Dan Santat was an amazing graphic novel. You know a book is popular when it is passed from student to student in your classroom, never to touch the shelves. An amazing graphic novel that took Dan around seven years to create – you can tell he poured his heart into this book. I love recommending it to students. I love when they come up, beg the sequel, and how crestfallen they are when I tell them there isn’t one. Then they usually turn and recommend Sidekicks to a friend. Such a fun book.

And that’s ten. There are so many wonderful books I read, but those are the top ten in my mind. What a fabulous year for reading this was!  In setting my reading goals for next year, I’m doing a lot of thinking regarding a goal for how many books I want to read. I plan on thinking this over and then putting a Goodreads counter on this blog so I can track it throughout the year.

I also am joining John at Watch Connect Read and some other friends as we read all of the winners of the Newbery award through the years. This is a two-year goal and I will be reading them in chronological order. My goal is to average four Newbery books a month so I will finish with a little time to spare. What are your reading goals for 2012? Have you noticed anything about your reading habits? And did you have a favorite book of the year? Please feel free to share it here in the comments.