Summer Reading Assignment

Grade 9

Theme: Growing Up

Select ONE book from the following options:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  • When I Was Puerto Rican (Esmeralda Santiago)
  • The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon)
  • Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

Essential Questions:

  • What does the main character learn about his/her world?
  • What does the main character learn about himself/herself?
  • What significant experiences help shape the main character?
  • Who influences (hurts or helps) the character?


Take notes on the questions regarding the main character's journey throughout the novel, and be prepared to discuss and write about the idea of growing up with support from the novel.

Grade 10

Theme: Sources and Abuses of Power

Select ONE book from the following options:

  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Mark T. Sullivan)
  • Chinese Cinderella (Adeline Yen Mah)
  • Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)

Essential Questions:

  • What types of power are present in the novel?
  • How does the narrator (or protagonist) respond to the abuses of power?


Annotate the book as you read for details pertaining to setting, characterization and sources/abuses of power. Be able to summarize main ideas and identify supporting details. Use the Essential Questions to guide your annotations. Be prepared to discuss and write about these topics, supporting your answers with examples from the novel. 

Grade 11: English 120 & 121

Theme: American Identity 

Select ONE book from the following options:

  • The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (Reyna Grande)
  • Dry (Neil Schusterman)
  • I know why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing (Jesmyn Ward)
  • The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek (Kim Michele Richardson)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)

Essential Questions:

  • According to the novel, what does it mean to be an American?
  • What picture of America does the author paint?
  • What are some positive and negative aspects of American society.
  • How does the author use his/her characters to explore the need/desire to fit in to a group, community, or a family?


Identify passages/moments in the text that:  

  • you enjoyed reading (poignant, interesting, thoughtful, relatable, etc.).
  • relate to being a dreamer or a rebel.
  • relate to being an outsider or characters’ desire to belong to a group, family, etc.
  • show a major character’s internal AND external conflict(s).
  • define or relate to the American experience for a character or characters.  What is his, her, or their America?
  • relate to one of the Mercy Critical Concerns (Poverty, Racial Equality, Immigration, Nonviolence, Women, Earth).
  • address the idea of storytelling.  What stories are told and how these important stories told, passed down, etc.?

You will be asked to discuss and write in response to the text when school resumes and reference the text throughout the first quarter (be sure you have access to the text and your annotations for the duration of the school year).


Consider the essential questions before you read and think about how your summer reading selection answers these questions in some way.  As you read, annotate by highlighting, underlining or otherwise notating specific passages and examples in your book.

Grade 11: A.P. Language

Theme: The impact language and mediums of communication have on shaping the American culture

Read the following book:

  • Amusing Ourselves to Death (Neil Postman)

Essential Questions:

  • What does the author want the reader to get out of this book?
  • Why do you either identify or resist the cultural values identified in this book?
  • Are you an insider or outsider to the culture identified in this book?
  • How does this work reflect the values in American culture?
  • How does your own culture reflect the values in American culture?


Take careful notes as you read and be prepared to have in depth discussions and a writing assignment.

Grade 12: English 110 & 111

Theme: Appearance vs. Reality

English 110-Select ONE book from the following options:

  • The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)
  • Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)

English 111-Select ONE book from the following options:

  • The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
  • Thirteen Blue Little Envelopes (Maureen Johnson)

Essential Questions:

  • Why are appearances sometimes deceiving?
  • How do you distinguish between illusion and reality?
  • What is the result when deception leads you astray?


Annotate the book as you read for details pertaining to the following questions:

  1. In what way does this novel blur the lines between appearance and reality? And what does that contrast reveal about human nature?
  2. Describe the main character and her duplicity in the text. How does she change over the course of the novel and what influences these changes?
  3. Describe the setting of this novel. How does the time and place influence the outcome of the story?

*Be prepared to write about these topics and support your answers with examples from the novel.

Grade 12: A.P. Literature 

Theme: The impact of environment on our value system

Select ONE book from the following options:

  • Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  • Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys)

Essential Questions:

  • What is it about the environment that makes us behave in ways that can often be destructive?
  • How is personal identity impacted by the environment around us?
  • Is mortality personal or environmental?

These questions will be explored in depth through discussion and writing.