There’s nothing better than a good summer reading list. Recently we asked our alumni to recommend good books to read during this coming summer. Here are the first of the suggestions.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, nonfiction

Recommended by Pam Caudill

Donalyn Miller says she “has yet to meet a child she couldn't turn into a reader.” No matter how far behind Miller's students might be when they reach her sixth grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller's unconventional approach dispenses with exercises and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they choose themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended children’s literature to help parents and teachers find the books students really like to read.

The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright, inspired by a true story

Recommended by Jodi Low (and Pam Caudill)

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not effective. Just when things seem like they couldn’t get worse, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money—a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope: of one woman's journey to save her son and another woman's chance at redemption.

Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills, fiction

Recommended by Rhonda Peck

Schweibert and DeKlyen tell the story of Grandy, who is bereaved at a recent loss. Bills illustrates Grandy’s healing journey. Even though she had good support from her husband, Pops, and her faithful dog, Grandy knew that she would need to cook a big pot of tear soup to handle this loss. The ingredients for this homemade broth would be her abundance of tears, memories, misgivings, and feelings.

This is a touching children’s story with great art. What the story doesn’t tell in words, it shows in pictures. It touches on just about every aspect of the grieving process that one can possibly think of—from insensitive comments made by concerned friends to questioning God’s part in the loss. The authors include a list at the back of the book to help orient individuals to grief resources. There is not much to dislike, except perhaps that the story never does tell who Grandy lost.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray, nonfiction

Recommended by Paige Kronmiller Beal

Similar to The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age 15 was living on the streets but eventually made it into Harvard.

Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls’ home. At age 15, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.

When Liz’s mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman’s indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.

The material in these books is not the endorsement of the McKay School of Education Alumni Office, but of the alumni. The book descriptions were retrieved from