2018 Summer Reading

2018 CSMS Summer Reading for Honors-level English Classes

As a student enrolled in an Honors-level English class, you will be expected to do some reading over the summer.  Don’t use Cliff’s Notes or SparkNotes or any such thing. Just read the books and respond to them according to your own understanding.   You will read a novel AND a biography.

NOTICE : Young Adult titles often cover mature subject matter and may include strong language. Parents should review all titles to determine if the book seems appropriate for their student reader. You can find information about most titles on the following websites:

Amazon Book Reviews

Common Sense Media

A Self-Selected Novel:  It is our deeply held belief that academic and personal advancement through reading is to be encouraged throughout the calendar year, not just the school year.  As in the past, all credit earning English I students will select and read a novel of their own choosing. Unlike in the past, however, students are free to choose any age-appropriate work they wish (previously, we have required students to read from the Junior Book Award List).  English One students are encouraged to choose a book that is not only thematically appealing but challenging as well.  Students are encouraged to involve their parents with the selection of the book and discuss it with them throughout their reading.  (Try asking parents and teachers what their favorite books were/are as 8th graders!)  Students will be required to complete a book review (format attached) for their selection displaying their understanding of the deeper themes of the book and its place within the broader literary canon.


Plan on being given a writing assignment or other task about this book, after the first two weeks or so of school this fall.  

Although it may be tempting to read a short, easy book about somebody like a pro athlete or rock star that you like, these choices will not accomplish the same as better, more serious books.  But that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring! There are many excellent, fascinating, exciting, inspiring, or beautiful books about all kinds of interesting people. You may not even know who the person is before reading the book; you may be surprised.  Try an athlete or entertainer from the past, or try reading about someone you’ve heard of but never knew much about, or try a person whose life is the most different from yours. While the books don’t have to be long or difficult, there should be some lower limit: choose a book that is not written obviously for kids and is at least about 150 pages.  Biographies and autobiographies are usually shelved together in the library, and organized by the last name of the person they’re about.


Make a chart for your biography.  This chart may end up being used throughout the course when studying other texts.  You may use notebook paper & pencil, or you may type it or use your iPad—whatever is most convenient for you.  Just be sure it is your own work.

As you read your biography and prepare your chart you should take notes using Cornell notes or a similar two-column format:

On the left write down specific quotes, images, turning points from his/her life, etc., from the book, along with the page number; on the right write down your response to each of those items—perhaps a question (“Why did she do that?  Doesn’t she know who he is?”), perhaps a statement of your understanding (“I’m confused; I thought she despised him.”), perhaps a prediction (“I bet she is going to react violently to that!”), perhaps an insight about the person (“It really wasn’t her fault; he overreacted.”), or even a comment about the author’s style (“What a beautiful image!”).   

You may not necessarily include every one of these things.  You must include some instances & comments about historical facts you are learning.  These facts should help establish the historical context of your figure (the world he/she inhabited) including, but not limited to: where, when and the subject’s place in that world.  The chard should also include any major accomplishments or defeats suffered by the subject and how such affected his/her larger life. The chart should have at least one entry per chapter, but no fewer than 10 entries total.  

Both Assignments are Due August 28, 2018!

Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful when I sit down to write about a book. Give them a try!

  1. Before you begin writing, make a few notes about the points you want to get across.
  2. While you’re writing, try thinking of your reader as a friend to whom you’re telling a story.
  3. Try to mention the name of the author and the book title in the first paragraph — there’s nothing more frustrating than reading a review of a great book but not knowing who wrote it and what the title is!
  4. If possible, use one paragraph for each point you want to make about the book. It’s a good way to emphasize the importance of the point. You might want to list the main points in your notes before you begin.
  5. Try to get the main theme of the book across in the beginning of your review. Your reader should know right away what he or she is getting into should they choose to read the book!
  6. Think about whether the book is part of a genre. Does the book fit into a type like mystery, adventure, or romance? What aspects of the genre does it use?
  7. What do you like or dislike about the book’s writing style? Is it funny? Does it give you a sense of the place it’s set? What is the author’s/narrator’s “voice” like?
  8. Try using a few short quotes from the book to illustrate your points. This is not absolutely necessary, but it’s a good way to give your reader a sense of the author’s writing style.
  9. Make sure your review explains how you feel about the book and why, not just what the book is about. A good review should express the reviewer’s opinion and persuade the reader to share it, to read the book, or to avoid reading it.
  10. Do research about the author and incorporate what you learn into the review. Biographical information can help you formulate your opinion about the book, and gives your review a “depth.” Remember, a book doesn’t come directly from a printing press, it’s a product of an author’s mind, and therefore it may be helpful to know something about the author and how she or he came to write the book. For instance, a little research will reveal the following about author Harper Lee:
    • To Kill a Mockingbird, which won the Pulitzer Prize, is the only book she’s ever published.
    • The town she called Maycomb is really Monroeville, Alabama. Many of the residents thought the author had betrayed them by writing the book.
    • Some people think she based the character Dill on Truman Capote, a famous writer who was her childhood friend.

Every book review is different, but each successful review includes a couple of key elements. As you think about what you want to say in your review, complete these challenges. They’re designed to help you work on telling your reader what’s most important.

  • Describe the setting of the book. How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? A book’s setting is one of its most vital components — particularly for a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, which is set in the past. Does the author make you feel like you’re a part of the setting? Can you picture the book’s setting if you close your eyes? As you write, try to pass on to your reader the sense of the setting and place that the author has provided.
  • Describe the book’s main characters. Does the writer make you believe in them as people? Why or why not? Think about whether you like the characters and about how liking them or disliking them makes you feel about the book. As you write about the characters, use examples of things they’ve said or done to give a sense of their personalities.
  • Give your reader a taste of the plot, but don’t give the surprises away. Readers want to know enough about what happens in a book to know whether they’ll find it interesting. But they never want to know the ending! Summarize the plot in a way that will answer some questions about the book, but leave other questions in the reader’s mind. You may want to make a list of questions about the book before you begin.

Now that you’ve completed the challenges and written your first draft, it’s time to begin revising. As many published writers will tell you, rewriting is one of the most important parts of writing anything — from book reviews to actual books! These guidelines will help you prepare the second version of your review.

  1. Check back through the writing tips in Step 2 and make sure you’ve incorporated as many of the suggestions as possible.
  2. Read through each paragraph and make sure the main point is clear. For instance, the point of one of your paragraphs might be to describe the book’s main character. As you read that paragraph, make sure that it gets across what you most want to say about the character. That way, the character will be vivid in your reader’s mind.
  3. If a sentence or paragraph seems awkward or unclear, it has to be rewritten — and rewriting is what separates good writing from bad. Begin by trying to simplify. Here’s an example of an awkward or unclear sentence:

Boo Radley is this mysterious man that lives next door to where Scout lives, and she and her friends tell stories that are scary about Boo, except they don’t really know much about him, which is one of the reasons To Kill a Mockingbird is so suspenseful.

Let’s break these thoughts up into three clearly defined sentences that stand alone as a paragraph:

A man called Boo Radley lives next door. Very few people have ever seen Boo, and Scout and her friends have a lot of fun telling scary stories about him. The mystery about Boo Radley is just one of the reasons you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  1. Check to make sure you’re not repeating yourself. (This can be easy to do when you’re trying to get an important point across!) Make sure you state your main points clearly and emphatically. Then explain why the point is important, instead of saying it again. Repetitive writing makes for dull reading.