Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Post: Wads of Tissue Summer

Today's #summerthrowdown guest post is from Kelly. Kelly teaches high school English in Northern Indiana, not far from Notre Dame University. She’s determined to find the right book for each of her students, and help them understand the importance of being a life-long reader. She really needs to start a blog, but would rather spend her time reading. She can be found on Twitter at @kelvorhis.
Wads of Tissue Summer
I like to call the past few months my Wads of Tissue Summer. It seemed like I was consistently finding myself in a public place when I encountered an especially heartwarming or heartbreaking scene in the book I was reading.  More than once I had to scrounge around in my purse for a tissue or three and try to make it look not so obvious that I was all choked up about something. My ten and twelve year old daughters got to the point where they would roll their eyes and say, “Another wad of tissues book, Mom? Really?” My response was always, “We really need to read this together,” or “Your teacher would love this book, trust me.”
Now not all of the books I read were tearjerkers. The list included picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction along with professional development titles.  As I was looking through my GoodReads account and chatting with my daughters about their favorite reads of the summer, I realized that it was going to be almost impossible to whittle my list down to only ten titles.  After much consideration, here are my Top Ten Favorite Reads from the Wads of Tissue Summer, rated in number of wads of tissue used on a scale from 1-5, with five being the most wad-worthy:

Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder
This book kicked off the summer reading at my house in early June. I told my daughters I’d be ordering a few middle grade books and would like them to read at least a couple of the titles. My 12 year old snatched this one up right away and read it in one sitting. I loved hearing her reactions to Rebecca’s choices. Her most-telling comment was about how she now understood one of her classmates better because of what the main character had went through. I’d rate Bigger than a Breadbox a 3-wad book.

Divergent/Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Divergent was a reread for me, as I wanted to refresh my memory before heading into the second book of the trilogy, Insurgent. Out of the many Dystopian YA novels I read this summer, these two books resonated with me the most. Maybe it was because I live in the Midwest and was familiar with Chicago, Navy Pier and the surrounding suburbs. After reading Roth’s books I spent a few days being thankful for the world I live in, imperfect as it is. I also wondered if I could face everything that Triss did, and still be strong at the end of the second book.  I do think that Insurgent is the better book of the two, simply because the stakes are so much higher and the ending – well, I won’t give it away, but suffice it to say that I can’t wait for the third book! These books didn’t cause me to pull out the tissues, but were a favorite read none-the-less.

Innocent Darkness (Aether Chronicles, Book One) by Suzanne Lazear
I originally read this book as an ebook from NetGalley earlier in the summer. I had taken an online class with Suzanne last year that focused on the Steampunk genre and received wonderful feedback and encouragement from her. I was initially intrigued because she’d said her novel was a mix of Steampunk and Faery, and I thought “how do you mix the two in a YA novel?” Well, Suzanne has done just that. The protagonist, Noli, is a teenage girl who loves all things mechanical and just happens to live next to a faery prince. She finds her way to the faery world, falls in love, and has decisions to make. This title was a favorite read and no tissues were required. I can’t wait to share this title with students this fall!

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polishner
I love it when I come across a novel that I can use in connection with a title I teach in one of my high school English classes. The Pull of Gravity is one such novel. The references to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men makes me excited to use it in my eleventh-grade literature class later this year. Ms. Polishner is one of the sweetest YA authors I’ve gotten to know over the summer, and I’d love to arrange a Skype visit with her in the Spring.  Zero wads required for this reading.

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman
I had gotten away from reading a lot of picture books since I began teaching at the high school level a few years ago.  I fell in love with this book from the very first reading. It has just the right mix of humor and sensibility. Ms. Dyckman is such a funny and kind person, she even sent a package of goodies to my 10 year old and included extras for our local children’s librarian! I’m determined to find a way to incorporate this title into my class curriculum somewhere this year. The reading of this book required zero wads of tissue.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
I had heard buzz about this book on Twitter and thought it would be a good book to read with my daughters. I ended up reading it on my own, as my girls were immersed in other MG titles at the time. Oh my, what a ride this book was, and in a good way. For her entire life, Melody, the main character, has been treated as a body. She has cerebral palsy and almost everyone in her life assumes that her brain is as disabled as her body. Throughout the book, Melody proves to everyone around her that she is smart and has a wonderful sense of humor. As events unfolded, I found myself on a rollercoaster ride alongside Melody, from scenes where my heart overflowed with love and admiration to a gut-wrenching event near the end that caused a massive amount of tissues to be used (while sitting in public no less).  This is a book that helps readers of all ages better understand the lives of those who are limited physically but not mentally. Out of My Mind earned a four wad rating.

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

I put off reading this title until later in the summer because I knew it was a tear-jerker. Reviews along with people on Twitter and Facebook all said that a totally unexpected plot twist happened and to make sure to have a box of tissues handy. After reading three other titles that had me wallowing in soggy tissues in public, I was hesitant to add a fourth title to my Wads of Tissue summer. The book kept beckoning to me as I would peruse my TBR piles for something new to read. I finally picked up See You at Harry’s and began reading. And it did not disappoint. Talk about reminding me how precious family and every single person’s life is makes me all teary-eyed as I type this. I won’t give away what happens, let me just say that I’m going to go hug my girlies just because I can. Everyone should read this book at some point. See You at Harry’s earns a 5+ wad rating.

One for the Murphy’s by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I was pulled into this novel from the very first page. Carley’s voice is very authentic and I loved her sense of humor. She’s adept at adjusting to new situations, and not at all good at letting her defenses down. The idea of family as many know it is a foreign concept to Carley, and through the love and patience of the Murphy family, especially Mrs. Murphy, Carley comes to know exactly what family means. At the end of the book, Carley knows what she wants but isn’t given the chance to choose. As a mom, my heart was torn at the end, not only for Carley but for Mrs. Murphy as well. I have a new appreciation for parents who choose to open their hearts and homes to foster children. One for the Murphy’s earns a four wad rating.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

In a departure from her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Stiefvater combines her love of equestrians and storytelling in The Scorpio Races. My 12 year old read this first at our house, and couldn’t stop talking about it. Mind you, I had purchased it to read and include in my classroom library, but that was not mean to be. I have long admired Maggie’s (I hope she doesn’t mind I use her first name) gift of weaving a story that entrances her readers. Puck Connolly, the main character, is a young girl who I admired simply because of her determination to save her family home when it seemed that no adult cared what happened to her and her younger brother, Finn. Sean, the long-running winner of the Scorpio Races, faces a similar battle. My favorite line from all of my reading this summer comes from Puck: “I’m so full of an unnamed wanting that I can’t bear it,” (page 54). The last few pages focus on a life-changing decision Sean is forced to make, and the twist at the end had tears streaming down my face. The Scorpio Races easily earned a five wad rating at the Vorhis house.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wow, what can I say about this book? It is definitely my FAVORITE read of the summer. Experiencing the world as Auggie does is humbling. I have shared this book with everyone I know, teachers and non-teachers alike. A common phrase heard at our house is “Choose Kind,” which reminds each of us how precious and wonderful life is. I’m looking forward to reading this to my 10th-graders this year, and know that I’ll have to have wads and wads of tissues once we reach the end. Definitely a 5+ wad book.

Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly! Don't forget to check out all of the #summerthrowdown guest posts at the blogs of all of the coordinators: Brian, Kathy, Sherry - and check back on Sunday for my own personal Top Ten list from my #summerthrowdown reading!


  1. Hi!
    I just came across your site and it is really lovely! I happily followed you and will enjoy reading your updates. You can find me over at Rainy Day Reads, It would be great if you could stop by and I would love to have a fellow book lover as a new follower.
    Christine x
    Rainy Day Reads

  2. Kelly, feel free to contact me through twitter or my email if you want to set up a Skype visit.