St. Petersburg Times Online
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
Print storySubscribe to the Times

Hot Reads for a Cool Summer

Don't try this at home!

Editor's note: This is the final chapter of "Hot Reads." Watch this space for more Newspaper in Education fun in September.

Published July 28, 2003

Never back down
on a dare?

Dream of
far-off lands?

Reader Profile

If you are:

A boy age 9 to 14+

Who thinks shooting a waterfall inside a pickle barrel should be a new Olympic event

And who never backs down on a dare (but wrestle a bear?). . .

Then "Hot Reads for a Cool Summer" recommends Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name: And Other Outrageous Tales About Extreme Sports and King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher.

Grab this book, strap on your crash helmet and get ready for a wild ride as Paulsen (Hatchet, Brian's Winter) admits to some hilarious (and pretty stupid) childhood stunts. Paulsen dedicates the book "to all boys in their 13th year; the miracle is that we live through it."

Boys 14 and older who already know what an honest, this-is-real-life author Crutcher is (Whale Talk, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Chinese Handcuffs) won't be surprised by his straightforward talk about growing up in a small town in Idaho. King of the Mild Frontier is a laugh-out-loud book at its best. Be sure to pass this one along to dad when you're finished - he'll smile and remember, too.

Reader Profile

If you are:

A girl age 10 and up

Who dreams of far-off lands

And who wonders what it would be like to be a girl growing up in one of them. . .

Then "Hot Reads for a Cool Summer" recommends 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye and Julia Alvarez's Before We Were Free.

Last year, when the Times' "You Gotta Read This!" book club read Habibi, we traveled from America to Palestine along with the main character. We learned a lot about the people and culture of this Middle Eastern region, but we still have so many questions. In her National Book Award-winning collection of poetry, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, Nye, an Arab-American, takes us back once again to this fascinating world and writes with joy, sadness and affection for her father's homeland.

You might be able to point to the Dominican Republic on a map, but how much do you know about this island nation? Like 12-year-old Anita de la Torre, the main character in Before We Were Free, Alvarez grew up in the Dominican Republic but fled to the United States to escape the country's dangerous dictator. The courage of a young girl whose safe and beautiful world is changed forever will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

Suggestions from readers on the street, in the library, on the computer:

Dawn Lewis, 13, Sarasota Christian School, recommends Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

Stargirl was really amazing! This book is about a school that is totally mystified by the new transfer student. Stargirl wore strange clothes, cheered for both basketball teams and had secrets of her own. She was certainly NOT what you would call an average high schooler. (I don't think any teen can be considered average!) This book will leave you laughing, crying or both.

Lewis also recommends In My Father's House by Bodie Thoene.

This wonderful novel takes place during World War I. During the war Ellis Warne, the son of an Irish doctor, gets critically injured. He gets a piece of shrapnel imbedded un his leg. Unable to save even part of his leg, doctors amputate. This book tells of a fight for racial as well as religious freedom. I would recommend this book to anyone. It really touched my heart.

- Holly Atkins, a national board certified teacher, loves to read and write. She is a teacher at Southside Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg and has been an instructor at the Poynter Institute's Writers' Camp. She was the author of the past two Newspaper in Education series, The Wonders of Florida and Reading Matters. You can e-mail your comments to her at

[Last modified July 25, 2003, 12:49:05]

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111