Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three Unforgettable Books

When I reflect back on this year, I will think of three books. Three books that have meant a lot to my students. Three books that have swept through my classroom like wildfire. And, as it so happens, three books that I love. Donalyn Miller says kids read what we bless. That is certainly true in this case.

The first two books started off strong – R. J. Palacio's Wonder was an all school read for the first month of school. Every student in my three reading classes heard this book, yet they still check it out at this point of the year. Some are rereading it, some borrow it for their parents to read. A truly special book.

Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan was a huge hit as well. It was my second read aloud of the year – to my homeroom only. Those homeroom kids talked it up, as did I, and my other two classes began reading IVAN. I loved watching children sell it to each other. When IVAN won the Newbery this year, I thought my classroom would explode with joy. Another special book.

The last book has been a quiet book. I book talked it at the start of the year and it was a popular book in one of my reading classes. When talking about it in early April with all three classes, my other two classes asked why they hadn’t seen it in the classroom. I quickly realized it had been passed from hand to hand in one classroom, never returning to the shelf. I promised the other two groups that I would go purchase two more copies that weekend – we’d have one book for each room. Since doing that, I have yet to see a copy ever on the shelf. Each copy is passed from child to child in each room. It has almost become a rite of passage, this book must be read before leaving fifth grade. The book? Jo Knowles' See You at Harry’s.

See You at Harry’s is one of those books that is tough to review. I tried HERE, but still come up short. Suffice to say, it is a special book. It also is very sad at a certain point. So sad that when I walked in my colleague’s classroom yesterday to give something to my homeroom class that was over there for math, a student walked up and fell into my arms. She was sobbing. I held her and didn’t have to ask. I knew where she was in the book. After a bit, she returned to reading – luckily she had finished her math. Returning to our classroom an hour later, she was still teary. I asked if it was worth it – sad parts and all. She said it was too beautiful not to read.

My year has been shaped by these three books. When we reflect on our year in a few days, remembering the highlights, I know these titles will come up repeatedly. If, by any chance, you’ve missed any of these, remedy that immediately. These are books you must own. Books that will require revisiting – not because you don’t understand them, but because they are too special to only be read once.