It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/23/16

This week is the last week of my first year teaching! As my last day nears I am a mix of emotions: happy to have completed the year, sad to leave the kids, and anxious to start a new year. Of course, I’m also ready to have a summer filled with reading!

Last week on my blog:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? featuring The Underground Abductor, Something New, and Booked

Top Ten Books I Picked Up on a Whim

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog meme. The kidlit version is hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.


Here’s what I’ve recently finished:

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

go set a watchman

5/5 stars

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it in 8th grade. Last summer, with all the hype about Go Set a Watchman, I decided to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. Revisiting the characters who once charmed me, I found myself scoffing at the silliness. I wanted the renowned court case to be the focal point in the story, but Harper Lee spent so much time describing the misadventures of Scout and Jim.

After reading the less-than-stellar reviews about Go Set a Watchman, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon last summer. However, a few weeks ago I desperately needed a captivating audio book and I wanted a break from middle grades. Go Set a Watchman was conveniently placed on the library shelf. After reading that Reese Witherspoon was the voice actress, I quickly checked it out.

Go Set a Watchman follows Jean Louise as a young woman in her 20’s who resides in New York City but returns for two weeks to Maycomb County. Jean Louise reminisces about her teenage years growing up in Maycomb. While these stories were similar to To Kill a Mockingbird’s stories of Scout and Jim running amuck, the teenage years were more poignant. The memories had depth and bridged the gap between the young Scout we knew and the grown Jean Louise in this novel. Of course, these stories also spoke to my inner middle-grades-and-young-adult-novel-reading junkie. The addition of Dr. Finch (Atticus and Alexandra’s brother) kept the storyline fresh and kept me reading.

From the reviews I’ve read, people dislike how Atticus seems like a different man in this novel than he was in To Kill a Mockingbird. However, in Go Set a Watchman Jean Louise has grown up; she has a different perspective now. Her memories are thrown into turmoil because she realizes that Atticus is not actually who she thought he was. Scout put Atticus on a pedestal and deemed him the most upright man, but young Scout did not see that he was a man – a man who is imperfect. Now as the newfound information about Atticus collides with her ideal of Atticus, she is left utterly confused. As I grow and mature it becomes evident that my parents did not always make the better decisions – just as Jean Louise also begins to realize.

I found myself relating to Jean Louise again and again throughout this novel. Revisiting the place I grew up and the people I used to know is always a mix of emotions for me, as it is for Jean Louise. While I want my home to remain untouched by time to preserve my memories, I cannot prevent it from undergoing changes. The same is true about people I admired.

I am glad I revisited To Kill a Mockingbird before reading this sequel. I am equally as glad that I chose to read the sequel despite subpar reviews. After listening to this novel, I have greater respect for Reese Witherspoon as an actress. She played the part so well that I was absolutely convinced I was listening to Jean Louise. The emotions she conveyed seemed wholly authentic…plus, she sings 🙂

In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better by Richard DuFour

american educators

4/5 stars

My school district has recently moved from a “Phil Schlechty” focus with engaging students and has adopted the theories of DuFour which center on personal learning communities (PLCs). At my district when someone whispers “DuFour” it is a guarantee that there will be a chorus of ooooh’s and aaaah’s.

As a rookie to the district, I was given a copy of this book at our last new teacher meeting. Reading through the book, I realized that everything DuFour outlines is being done at my school. We build time in the schedule so that core teachers can have extra time with students to pre-teach and re-teach concepts and skills. The common assessments given throughout the district are designed by the teachers who will give them to students. We meet twice monthly with those teachers to have conversations about rigor and lesson design. The need for collaboration is continually underscored in this book…and that’s how it should be.

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

year without mom

5/5 stars

This title was a previous book I picked up on a whim. I was allured by the graphic novel format because I needed a quick, enjoyable read to get out of a reading slump. I was leery of the seemingly sad title, inferring that the main character’s mom would die. Thankfully, that was not the case.

Dasha, the author and protagonist, is twelve and lives in Moscow with her mother and grandparents. When Dahsa’s mom gets a new job in America, Dasha is left in Moscow with her grandparents. While Dasha tries to fit in with others, she also develops a crush and tries to adjust to her new life at home without her mom.

The illustrations in this novel are spectacular and the year in Dasha’s life is filled with trademark events that are distinctly that of growing up. I am now looking forward to reading much more from Tolstikova in the future.