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Looking to list a few good books to read this summer

My friends Carol, Sharyn, Linda and I used to love to read our summers away. For a while we even had a book club and met near this humongous apple tree on a wooded lot, which has since been replaced by a convenience store.

We swapped our Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr mysteries. We read the Anne of Green Gables series and everything we could find by Louisa May Alcott. We also read some oddball selections like "The Peterkin Papers" by Lucretia Hale and "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch" by Alice Caldwell Hegan, and lots of random books about teenage girls, one of which inspired the whole tree house book club thing. We were totally self-directed readers and certainly haven't suffered as a result of how we spent our time. But I wonder what we might have read and how much more worldly we might have become if our school had put out summer reading lists like they do in Gwinnett County.

As a substitute teacher, I love reading along with my middle school kids. This year my favorites included "Red Scarf Girl" by Ji-Ji Jiang about her experiences during the Cultural Revolution in China and "Well of Sacrifice," a novel by Chris Eboch about a young Mayan girl who experiences conflicts with her primitive culture. As I peruse the summer reading lists for the various middle schools in the county, I see a lot of books I plan to check out.

Alton C. Crews Middle School's list includes the classic "Swiss Family Robinson," which I must confess I've only read in the condensed version. Maybe it's time I read the real thing. On a more contemporary note, the list includes "Rules" by Cynthia Lord, about a 12-year-old girl's struggles with her autistic brother. With one in every 160 children being diagnosed with autism, reading this Newberry Honor winning book could be more enlightening that reading a doctoral dissertation about the subject.

Dacula Middle School lists lots of classics like "Sounder" by William H. Armstrong, which I read through tears to my fourth-graders when it first came out in 1970, and then read four times again with my own kids.

As I look over the lists for all the schools in the county, knowing how many millions of books there are out there, I wonder who chooses these books and why. As I think about my own favorites, and the books kids seem to love, my thoughts turn to my readers.

Parents, is there a book out there you think every child should read? And kids, is there a book out there you think every parent should read? Send me your suggestions. Maybe everyone will get to read about them in a future column.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.