Considerations for Summer Reading

Now that summer is officially underway, it’s time for one of my favorite things which is summer reading. Of course we have the official summer reading lists for everyone and they are available at the Haverhill High School website. This is also the time of year when I prepare the book orders which arrive like Christmas presents by opening day in September. Needless to say, I have books on my mind. Here, are five books I ordered and look forward to reading, along with a little description of why I ordered them for our collection:

  • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix: I don’t usually go for the fairy tale retold thing (see Briar Rose, Wicked, et al.) but I have begun reconsidering my bias. This novel is one version of what happens to Cinderella after the ball is over and the rest of life begins with less than happily-ever-after realities.
  • Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel: I saw a beautiful photo essay in TIME magazine a while back by the same name and remember thinking that it would make a great book. Especially now, that we are all reexamining everything about our own eating habits, this book looks like it would make a great conversation starter in so many classes.
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago: On one level this novel is about what happens to humanity if everyone was suddenly left blind. On another level, it seems to be pointing towards our inevitable connectedness. Reviews of it are mostly favorable, and it promises to be a good read and hopefully a book that finds some fans in our school.
  • Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife: As a skeptic, I tend to be swayed by arguments that present numbers as quantitative evidence for one side or the other. I have learned from years of experience and many Mark Twain quotes, however, that numbers can be made to lie. I’m always looking for good books about math, and I hope this one delivers.
  • Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Meth Addiction by David Sheff: A few years ago one of my guilty pleasures was watching A&E’s program Intervention. All the while, I couldn’t understand why so many of our students loved reading depressing stories of people hitting rock bottom or going through personal hell, such as Go Ask Alice, A Child Called It, Smashed … For me Beautiful Boy represents the much darker journey of the parent who has to watch their child endure or die.


  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: This graphic novel appealed to me because of its play on George Orwell’s Big Brother from 1984 (a personal favorite). The story line also deals with issues of personal privacy and governmental powers.

So there’s a handful (plus one) of books that I hope will find many fans in our school. I am still preparing a second book order, so I encourage all students and teachers to contact me at with recommendations and feedback. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something worth reading.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Ideas for the Summer

          I originally intended to write a post (like a month ago) about great summer jobs for teens, and I was researching summer jobs, thinking I might be able to help someone find meaningful employment this summer. I did come across a handful of interesting articles that had some good ideas, like Allison Doyle’s Teen Job Search article  from, but I didn’t like much of what I read, because the truth is (as everyone who is not a teenager knows) we are going through some difficult economic times, and there aren’t many good jobs waiting for high school students. So I decided that I would share my ideas for what teenagers should do this summer if you don’t find yourself working for pay.

  • READ: Like you didn’t expect this from a librarian. Teens are not spending enough time reading literature, and it shows. One recent author, Nicholas Carr suggests that not all reading is alike. Reading online is not like sitting down with a book. I recommend that all teens grab a hold of their school’s summer reading list and read EVERY book listed for their grade. If you don’t think you can be that ambitious, then read just one of the recommended books from the list and spend the rest of your time reading DAILY through your collection of vampire or wizard or baseball or (fill-in-the-blank) books. Reading should be a daily part of your life, and you should find a quiet place to practice reading for at least a half hour a day. Besides training yourself to be a better reader through the daily practice, you will also expand your vocabulary and see what good writing looks like.
  • DEVELOP A GOOD HABIT: Seriously, it may be a myth that it only takes about three weeks to develop any habit, good or bad, but setting goals three weeks at a time may not be such a bad idea. Pick one positive thing that you’ve always wanted to do (play guitar, paint, write, run) and start doing it. Do it seriously and furiously and make it your mission for at least three weeks, and you can begin to rewire your brain to love doing that thing. The beauty part about developing good habits, is that they often have other positive serendipitous benefits that come with them. Start running, and you’ll probably sleep better and feel more alert during the day without “monster” drinks. Start writing, and you might discover that you’ll learn things about yourself that you never knew as you express your feelings on paper.
  • CLEAN/ FIX SOMETHING: The world is full of broken and unkempt places and things. Just look around you and find something that needs your help being restored and refurbished. Get some sandpaper and find the wood beneath an old painted chair. Get some paint and make a room or hallway in your house or building look like new. Find an old radio, a broken bicycle, a collection of books that need mending. There are plenty of sites that will help you with your project, including YouTube videos. Leave the world in better shape than you found it. 
  • CREATE A PHOTO ALBUM: It probably sounds really quaint to a generation that lives instantaneously on the internet. The idea of a photo album is like recommending Gutenberg hire a scribe to prepare his scrolls … (too much?) But a photo album is still a really valuable personal keepsake. When I was a teenager, we only had 24 chances per roll of film to capture a moment. Nowadays digital technology means you not only have hundreds of chances to get a good picture, you can also crop and edit photos to make them look better than they actually looked when you took them. The best part of a physical photo album is that it is all yours, and will still be here even after Friendster, Classmates, MySpace, LinkdIn and Facebook have been replaced by the next great digital site.
  • VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: During hard economic times like these, paid work is extremely hard to come by. There are still plenty of opportunities for hard-working, ambitious kids, however, who can give a few hours of their free time each week to help non-profits and other community based organizations. Though you may not make any money for your efforts, you will be rewarded with real world experience and an extra line for your college application and resume. Most importantly, you will make a human contact who you may be able to use as a personal reference in the future or who may be able to hire you for a paid position in better financial times. … And think of the good work you’ll be doing.

Hope you find something worthwhile and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.