#summerthrowdown: Year Three!


Guess who’s back?
Back again.
Throwdown’s back.
Tell a friend.
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back?
(Na na na. . .)

Weeeeeeee’re baaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaack!

#summerthrowdown is back for its third year, and this year (as always) promises to be better than before.

Why? What could possibly make this year better?

You, of course!

You’re no doubt excited to read more than you did last year. And if you’re new to #summerthrowdown, then you’re definitely going to be all in, to prove to yourself the reading you can do. Right? Right. So. Let’s do this. If you’re new this year or if you’ve been around a while, make sure to read through the very few rules and regulations we’ve got here.

What is #summerthrowdown?

#summerthrowdown is a yearly summer reading challenge. We’ve tinkered with the setup a bit over the last couple years, and we think we’ve found something that works.

The first year, we pitted teachers against librarians to see who could read more. It was a huge success, with us reading 2873 books, for a unit rate of 17.8 books per participant. Pretty darn good! However, we didn’t really care for the idea of pitting these two champions of reading against each other. We should be celebrating this reading with each other, right?

Last year, we joined forces and threw down against ourselves. Everyone set a reading goal for the month of July, and we set out to beat the previous year’s total. And you know what? We did. We were even more successful last year, reading 3064 books, at a rate of 24.1 books per participant. We threw down against 2012, and we smoked ’em!

Who is this “we” you’re talking about? Are you just that full of yourself? Or. . .yourselves?

No, we’re not. I mean <ahem> I’m not. The we I’m talking about here is not the royal “we,” but rather the #summerthrowdown management team! The lovely Jillian Heise (my bonus sister), the esteemed Kathy Burnette, and the stellar Sherry Gick. Those links are their Twitter accounts, and you’ll want to be sure to follow them to get the full #summerthrowdown experience!

So I need to be on Twitter to do this?

No. You absolutely do not have to be on Twitter. However, Twitter, using the hashtag #summerthrowdown, will be our home base for the conversation as we read. The four moderators will be tweeting out statistics (for those of you who are motivated by those types of things), encouragements (for those of you who are encouraged by those types of things), and smack talk (I will largely be smack-talking Jillian as she struggles to keep up with the torrential pace I will no doubt be setting).

We also want the participants who are on Twitter to tweet the books they’ve been reading, encouragement to others, and, yes, perhaps a little smack talk towards their challenge partner. The best part of #summerthrowdown is the community it supports during July and the rest of the year. So please, come be a part!

Smack talk? Challenge partner?

Something we’re doing new this year (because it is our intention to mess with a good thing — to make it better, of course!) is having the participants call each other out on their reading goals. For example, I am going to challenge myself to read 25 books. I read 17 last year, and I think I can do more this year. BUT. I also am going to throw down against Jillian, and let her know that there is NO WAY she is going to read more than me. And she will no doubt do the same against me. This adds a friendly level of competition for those who may like that sort of thing.

How do I call someone out?

I’m glad you asked that, imaginary audience member. What I will be doing is recording a video for Jillian (and anyone else who clicks). In it, I will throw down the gauntlet and challenge her. We encourage you to do something similar. Sherry, on her blog, is going to provide us all with an image we can use and edit to call out our challenge partner.

Here’s the thing with this part, though. We need to remember: this is ALL ABOUT READING. We all love to read and want to encourage each other, and a little bit of friendly competition will help some of us with that. But. We need to be sure to keep it friendly. If someone doesn’t return your request to throw down, that’s perfectly okay. There may be a thousand different reasons why they don’t feel comfortable doing that, and whichever reason they have — even if they don’t give one — is perfectly valid and will be respected. If you do find someone to throw down with, keep the banter mostly positive. We don’t want to call people out for not reading — that’s called shaming and we will never do that with reading. We don’t want to make people feel inferior for not having read as much as we have — that devalues the reading they have done, which is worth celebrating, not berating. We want to give people a target. When you challenge someone, you’re putting the target on your back, saying, “Hey. Catch me.”

Of course, this aspect of #summerthrowdown is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. You do not need to have a challenge partner to participate. In fact, most of you probably won’t. And this is something that’s just between the two of you. We’re not going to have any place to formally register your individual throw downs. It’s just something some of you wanted, so we’re going to see how it goes.

Plus, there’s just no way I’m going to let Jillian beat me this year.

Okay. I’m in. How do I do this?

We have a spreadsheet set up for you to fill out. All you have to do is put in your name, your Twitter handle (if you have one), your reading goal, and then update your row every time you read a book. So if you read 2 books on July 2, you would put a “2” in the corresponding cell. Your totals are found at the very end of your row. The collective totals will be at the very top. Our goal, once again, is to beat last year’s total.

Please watch for your row — it’s possible that once we have people register, we will have to make some small changes that may accidentally involve re-ordering of the rows. Or we may find that it’ll be easier for everyone to find their row if we alphabetize them. Leave that to us. All you need to do is edit your row, wherever it may be.

Excellent. So, what counts as a book?

Is it a book?


Then it counts as a book.

No matter how long it is?

No matter how long it is.

So if I read a book that’s 750 pages long and my challenge partner reads 10 picture books, then she will beat me?

Well, that’s up to you. How do you want to frame your head-to-head throwdown? When I set my personal goal, I know I’m going to be reading mostly novels. When Jillian sets hers, she may know that she’s going to include a lot of picture books. So something I’m going to do when I challenge her is to admit that I might not read as many books as she does. However, I will assuredly read more pages. And that’s a way we will tweak our throw down so it allows for that. Feel free to do something similar.

Ultimately, though, for the spreadsheet, any book you read is a book. Plain and simple.

What if I’ve already started a book before July 1?

Great question. If you’re in the middle of a book when we begin #summerthrowdown, it will count as a  throwdown book IF you were less than halfway through as of midnight on July 1. If you were mostly done with the book, then it will not count for our purposes.

This post is getting long. Can I go now?

Yes, you may. Thanks for your help.

If you have any questions, please ask any of us on Twitter, comment here, or send a carrier pigeon. #summerthrowdown lasts for all of July, so get ready to get reading!



Top 10 (or 11) #summerthrowdown Reads

Brian’s Note: This week marks the end of the second round of the #summerthrowdown challenge. To celebrate, each of the four organizers has invited 4 teachers and librarians to blog this week about their favorite reads from the summer. That’s a total of 16 guest posters! Be sure to check out their blogs to get the full effect: Heise Reads & RecommendsThe Brain Lair, and Library Fanatic. Check back here throughout the week for more fun!

Today’s post here on Wyz Reads comes to us from Jennifer Fountain.

When the call went out to sign up for the teachers vs. librarians #summerthrowdown competition, I was super excited to join in and participate. I follow both Brian and Jillian on Twitter, and I love seeing their interactions when their sister-classrooms have #throwdown challenges during the school year. While I don’t really need motivation to read, I knew that this would be a fun challenge to start the summer.

I read books from so many sources during #summerthrowdown: some were my books from my classroom library, some were from my school library, some were from the public library, and some were books that were sent from Twitter friends on ARC Tours. (Ir)Regardless* of the source, here are 10 books I read during round 1 that I can’t wait to share with my students this school year!

Clicking the cover of the book will take you to the Goodreads page where you can add it to your TBR!

While the story is “about” basketball, that’s just a surface level aspect of this book. Basketball : Boy21 :: football : Friday Night Lights tv show…the sport is just a vessel for telling a story that is truly about relationships. I’ll get students (especially boys) to buy in because of the basketball, but they’ll love the story for the characters, just like I did. Source: classroom library.

This series is a great new dystopian series that will appeal to boys and girls. The protagonist is Deuce, a strong heroine who grew in an underground Enclave after Topside became inhabitable. She has to battle Freaks (zombie-ish creatures) and faces the unimaginable when she and her hunting partner, Fade, are banished from the compound. This is one of my favorite new series (the series is called Razorland), and I’m hoping to get some of my students hooked as well! Source: school library.

Thanks to Kathy from The Brain Lair (and one of the “hosts” of the #summerthrowdown challenges!), I was able to read book 2 in the Razorland series. Sometimes the second book in a series can feel…stagnant? Like, it’s there, but not really doing anything for the story? Not Outpost. Characters grew and developed into even more complex (and sometimes sympathetic) characters. I have a couple of passages from Outpost that I’m going to share as examples of great “show not tell” writing. Source: ARC tour.

I read the whole Babymouse series (minus Babymouse for President which came out during round 2) during round 1 of #summerthrowdown. Babymouse is such a fun, quick read that appeals to people of all ages. I can’t wait to introduce this graphic novel series to my students! Source: public library.


Sonya Sones is fabulous. Before this summer, Ellen Hopkins was really the only verse author that I’d read. I always try to get my students to read her books because I know she tells real stories that they can relate to. However, my students are all at-risk students who come to me as dormant readers (love that term my Donalyn Miller!), and the sheer SIZE of a Hopkins novel…well, it freaks them out. I tell them, “Don’t worry! It reads FAST,” but they don’t believe me. Now that I’ve got some Sonya Sones under my belt, I have smaller, more bite-sized verse novels that my students can start with so the larger Hopkins books don’t seem so terrifying. Source: school library.

So, if you read my blog, you know I’m a sucker for books told with alternating POV. I love it. Love. It. Legend (and the sequel Prodigy, which I read during round 2) are both told from alternating POV, and it is done beautifully. You know so much more about the different classes within the dystopian world due to the two narrators being from two completely characters. You also come to love each character more, which is always great when you have wonderful characters like Day and June. Another series that I’m hooked on! Source: school library.

What Happens Next is a perfect pairing with Speak and Just Listen. Cassidy, or Sid, is date-raped by “Dax” (a man posing as a college student) while on a school ski trip. The book explores “what happens next” when Sid’s life is forever changed by this encounter. I really loved Sid’s voice in the book, and Corey was the perfect bad-boy-reputation/good-boy-inside character. I can’t wait to get this contemporary book because I know my girls will love it! Source: ARC Tour.

OMG, I love the cover of this book! It looks pretty amazing at surface level; however, when you look at the cover after reading, it is even more amazing! Each piece of the cover fits together in the story. I loved Legend and Enclave because each heroine is strong and highly trained. The Forsaken stuck out to me because the protagonist, Alenna, has to grow and learn on her feet. There’s a love interest, but it’s her friend on the island, Gadya, who Alenna relies on throughout the book. My dystopian shelf is going to be bursting at the seams! Source: ARC Tour.

This book scared me. Literally. If there is a super-volcano that shuts down the country, I’m VERY unprepared!! Hopefully I’ll find a Darla (who can literally do anything) like Alex does! My students are always obsessed with the end of the world and all that. I can’t wait for them to read this book (or Life As We Knew It which I read in round 2) to see what life would be like after a huge natural disaster! Source: public library.

This is such a powerful and emotional story about a son and his struggle with his mother’s cancer and looming death. I’ve had quite a few students over the years who have had family members who are sick and/or dying. This will be the perfect book to share with these students as they struggle with their emotions during such a difficult time. Source: public library e-book.

I will see my new students on August 28th, and I can’t wait to share these books and get them into the hands of my students. As I share with them my reading community that I’ve built through Twitter, I hope that they are as excited as I am about the reading community we will build in our classes throughout this school year!

*The English teacher in my knows this isn’t a word, but I love when people use it in actual conversation.

Jennifer Fountain is a high school English teacher in Houston, Texas. She tweets at @jennann516 and blogs over at Fountain Reflections. Brian thinks she is just the worst type of person for using the “word” irregardless in this post.

My Top 5 Summer Throw Down Books

Brian’s Note: This week marks the end of the second round of the #summerthrowdown challenge. To celebrate, each of the four organizers has invited 4 teachers and librarians to blog this week about their favorite reads from the summer. That’s a total of 16 guest posters! Be sure to check out their blogs to get the full effect: Heise Reads & RecommendsThe Brain Lair, and Library Fanatic. Check back here throughout the week for more fun!

Today’s post here on Wyz Reads comes to us from Niki Ohs Barnes.

Or should it be called… “books that changed my life while I was trying to read the pants off a bunch of librarians”? What was I thinking? Hello!! Librarians read for a living! Have you looked at Mr. Schu’s book count lately on Goodreads? Lucky for me, he was not participating. But the teachers still lost the first round to the librarians. Did I mention librarians love to read? But then there was the second round and everything changed. Go Team Teacher! Anyway, here are 10 books that will change your life…and I’m not exaggerating just so you’ll read them. So what are you waiting for?! Open your Goodreads account or go the old fashioned route and grab a pencil and paper and write these bad boys down.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Okay, all you really need to know about this book I can tell you in five words: Better than The Hunger Games. I started off #summerthrowdown reading The Hunger Games and I loved it. In fact, I really felt bad for the book that would have to go after this series. I thought to myself -there is no one I will ever crush on harder than Peeta. I mean he is the boy with the bread for goodness sakes. Little did I know what was in store for me. And the ladies that have read Divergent know what I’m talking about. Divergent was my favorite YA series this summer. And I will give you one word why- Four. I think he is officially my first book boyfriend. We all picture different amazingly hunky boys in our head when we picture Four (mine was a blue eyed Adam Levine by the way). So I’m telling you- if you are a woman of any age- read this book just to meet Four. He will rekindle your inner teenager. Now in case for some odd reason you are not sold yet. This book has everything: people jumping from trains, amazing, pulse pounding action, factions (that remind me of the houses in Harry Potter) and a kick butt female lead character named Beatrice. Which makes me wonder, who do you think would win if Katniss and Beatrice took each other on?

I give Divergent 5 hunky stars out of 5 hunky stars.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Is this book going to make you cry? Yes! Is this book going to make you laugh? Yes! I did not read a more beautiful, heart wrenching and funny book than this one all summer. You will literally fall in love with the two main characters Hazel and Gus. And there is a lot of talk about the dreaded C word (cancer). You have been warned!

I give The Fault in Our Stars 5 boxes of Kleenex out of 5 boxes of Kleenex…you are going to need them.

3. One For The Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Apparently I love heart warming, tear inducing books about sassy, street smart main characters and the amazing people who love them. Who knew?  Karly is that funny, smart, and sassy character. She ends up with her foster family the Murphys after a brutal incident with her mother and father and law.  The Murphys are a sweet and caring family that Karly has a hard time embracing. The question is will she stay with the Murphys or go back with the mom who betrayed her. Well, you will just have to read the book to find out. So what are you waiting for? Add it to your “Books to Read” list now!

I give One For The Murphys 5 sassy, street smart stars out of 5 sassy, street smart stars!

4. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

I could just quote this book all day. Every line is my favorite and it begs to be reread along with Hate That Cat. If you ask really nicely- Mr. Schu might just read you a line or two to get you hooked. Unless you are living under a children’s lit rock then you have probably heard of Sharon Creech. Oops. I was the one living under that rock. I finally just read her books this summer. If it’s not too late for me…than it’s not too late for you. Run out and get this book now. Read it silently to yourself then rush out to read it to a group of children. I don’t care if you are a teacher or not. Find a random group of children and read it to them. They will love you for it.

I give Love That Dog 5 loud passionate barks out of 5 loud passionate barks.

5. Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Yes. It is that Suzanne Collins. I really had no choice after I didn’t pick The Hunger Games as one of my top 5 books, now did I? I loved this fantasy gem that you must read especially if you love Harry Potter. Gregor is a boy who can perform magic, is mean with a wand and fights off other evil wizards. Actually, NONE of that is true. But we are nearing the end of my post. So I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. But Gregor is brave like Harry Potter. And you should see what he can do with a can of Root Beer. I don’t think even the great Harry Potter is that ingenious. If you love damp, dark places with lots of rats, spiders and cockroaches then this is the book for you. You mean you don’t love creepy crawly creatures? Me neither. But I still loved this book.

I give Gregor The Overlander 5 creepy crawly creatures out of 5 creepy crawly creatures.

Just one more thing: GET ON TWITTER! I mean it. It is not just a place for celebrities to Tweet about themselves and for you to pretend you care. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It has changed me as a reader and a teacher. It is an amazing community of wonderful educators, authors and librarians. If you love to read…you will love Twitter. So look me up @NikiOhsBarnes and I will tell you who to follow to be a part of such awesome groups as the Summer Throw Down and Nerdy Book Club. Happy Reading!

Niki Ohs Barnes is a 2nd grade teacher in Michigan. She is also a proud (library) card carrying member of the Nerdy Book Club.

Best #summerthrowdown Read

Brian’s Note: This week marks the end of the second round of the #summerthrowdown challenge. To celebrate, each of the four organizers has invited 4 teachers and librarians to blog this week about their favorite reads from the summer. That’s a total of 16 guest posters! Be sure to check out their blogs to get the full effect: Heise Reads & RecommendsThe Brain Lair, and Library Fanatic. Check back here throughout the week for more fun!

Today’s post here on Wyz Reads comes to us from Shannon Clark.

I took part in 2 #summerthrowdown challenges this summer. We read books, books, and more books. It was the teachers against the librarians. That’s a lot of reading! 🙂

I read so many good books I can’t even begin to tell you about all of them- I would have to take a leave of absence from work to write thispost! I’m thinking about taking a leave of absence anyway so I can keep on reading. 🙂

When I told Brian I would write a guest post this week I must have lost my mind temporarily since we start back to school on Monday! This has to be the craziest and busiest time of the year to be a teacher. You would think after 8 years of teaching that it would be easier. Nope. 🙂

So this is going to be short. And sweet. 🙂

My number one favorite book of all time that I read this summer is (drumroll please):

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

It’s written from the point of view of a 9 year old boy during the Holocaust who’s father works closely with Hitler. He and his family have to move because of his father’s job. He sets out exploring one day and meets a friend. Who lives on the other side of the fence. Of a concentration camp.

I’m not going to describe anything else, but I do want to say that this book probably impacted me more than anything I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot! It is truly powerful.

I have decided to use it as a read aloud with my 6th graders since we will study WWII and the Holocaust. I can’t wait for the discussions that will take place because of this story!

Oh yeah, GO #teamteacher!!!!!!!!!

Happy Reading!

Shannon Clark is a 5th & 6th grade english/history teacher in Alabama. She tweets at @shannonclark7 and blogs over at I Run Read Teach.

My Top Ten Summer Throw Down Reads

Brian’s Note: Today marks the end of the second round of the #summerthrowdown challenge. Each of the four organizers has invited 4 teachers and librarians to blog this week about their favorite reads from the summer. That’s a total of 16 guest posters! Be sure to check out their blogs to get the full effect: Heise Reads & Recommends, The Brain Lair, and Library Fanatic. Check back here throughout the week for more fun!

Today’s post here on Wyz Reads comes to us from Crys Hodgens.

This summer I was pleased to discover #SummerThrowDown. What a great way to inspire teachers and librarians to read during the summer. As if we don’t already. But still – it was a great way to inspire us to a friendly competition, cheer one another on, and share what we are reading.

When I joined I thought I would be about to sit in my big, comfy chair and read from dusk to dawn all summer. And it started out that way too. But life always has a way of intervening, so the reading time I thought I had was cut into about a fourth of what I wanted, even with my competitive streak screaming from inside. But, I read a lot of great books, and I am pleased to share a handful of my favorite reads.

Here are my Top Ten Summer Throw Down Reads (in no particular order):

1. A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
A typical Clements school tale that almost inspired me to take a camping trip. ALMOST. But I enjoyed taking the trip with Clements’ characters. He has a way of making readers feel as if they too are in the moment.

2. Once by Anna Carey
I am so in love with this series, and this sequel did NOT disappoint. Imagine if the plague came back. How would we survive – and how would we re-populate the world? I read this in two sittings, which is impressive with how busy my summer was.

3. Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
I love witchy tales, and I thoroughly enjoyed Burgis’ sequel. I love the magical world she has created as well as Kat, who has quickly become one of my favorite witchy characters.

4. Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal
Loved every morsel of this book. I could not get enough of it – and if you teach Shakespeare or are thinking about it, you should add this to your reading pile ASAP. If you hate Shakespeare, you should add this to your reading pile. Really, everyone should add this to their reading pile. Period.

5. The Classroom by Robin Mellom
A clever idea for a novel, Mellom has a great cast of characters. This documentary-style novel was easy and fun to read. You will feel for the main character as he tries to muster through the first day of middle school sans his best friend, who has decided that they both must find a date for the dance before the end of the school day. A must-read for the “outcast” in your life.

6. The Grooming of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Oh Alice. I love her character, but I am starting to question her friendships. Of course, we pick our friends and love them no matter what, right? At least that’s true for Alice. This is one of my favorites from the series.

7. Alice on the Outside by P. R. Naylor
Another Alice book – Alice forever! Never thought of Alice on the outside of anything because she is always working hard at being herself. That’s why I adore her.

8. Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Usually not my cup of tea, but I loved this book. My husband read it and loved it too. That means you should add it to your reading list because the hubby can be a hard sell for YA lit.

9. Bewitching by Alex Flinn
Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. One of my favorite reads this year! If you read Beastly, then you will recognize the main character, Kindra. Loved reading her story.

10. ParaNorman by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
What a cute zombie Pilgrim story. No really, I promise. Very reminiscent of The Zombie Chasers series. This is age-appropriate and has convinced me to see the movie.

Crys Hodgens is a high school English teacher, aspiring librarian, avid gum chewer and exerciser, and reader. When she is not doing these things she can be found in the floor playing with her puppies Katniss and Knightley, grading essays, plotting to take over the world, or rooting for #TeamTeacher. You can find her on Twitter @thehodgenator and on her blog at Book ‘Em!