It should come as no surprise that the staff at CLiF – where our mission is to nurture a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural children in New Hampshire and Vermont – loves to read! Here’s what we’ve been reading this summer.

 Stephanie & the Kucinskas Family’s Summer Reads


When not keeping the CLiF office running smoothly, Stephanie can often be found at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier with her daughter, Tess (pictured at top with her weekly haul). Stephanie and Tess send out a big thank you to Nicole, the Children’s Librarian at Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier! The picture above shows a rare sighting of “Lizzie the Scaredy Cat” checking out Tess’ latest reads.

Since Stephanie’s a Nebraskan native, she and Tess have also been reading “The Huckaback Family: and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back” from this list of 50 Picture Books to Celebrate Each of the United States recently posted on CLiF’s Facebook page. Tess says she “love, love, LOVES the Huckabucks!” Have you read your state’s picture book?

Stephanie and her husband Eric occasionally find time to read books and magazines not from the children’s section in the library. Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy (the third book, The Book of Life, is pictured on Stephanie’s nightstand, above) has been passed around the CLiF office this summer. The series is a fun take on the role of vampires, witches, and daemons in Victorian England. Have you read CLiF Presenter Tanya Lee Stone‘s new book, Girl Rising (also on the nightstand)?

Meredith (and Zoey)’s Summer Reads


Meredith and her daughter Zoey borrowed the stack of books pictured above from Zoey’s school library for the summer.

Meredith says “Little known fact – many school libraries let parents check out books, and this was the first year our school allowed kids to take books for the summer. Zoey picked six and I picked six, and we are trying to both read all twelve. She selected the Dorothy Canfield Fisher nominees, and I chose classics or books that I had heard recommended. We both have been reading our own selections too. We both loved Peter Pan in Scarlett, Pie, Beyond Courage, and Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. I skipped the Rick Riordan books, and enjoyed The Sympathizer (also on Erika’s list this summer), Anything is Possible, and Rocket Boys.”

John’s Summer Reads


CLiF’s Summer Intern, John, is a rising junior at St.John’s College in Annapolis, MD, where he is studying Liberal Arts. His program focuses on great works of literature and philosophy, so  John spends a lot of time reading, which is just fine with him.

Here’s what John’s reading this summer:
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco was lent to me by Duncan. I’ve only just begun it but I can already see why he likes it, and why I will too: the mystery is thrilling and the author’s academic understanding of words and symbols shines through.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins was lent to me by my girlfriend, Zoë. It has a sort of intentional irreverence that I like and it got me thinking about evolution in a more literary/romantic way. It’s also funny.
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa was bought for me at Bridgeside Books! It is a novel written like a disheveled diary and it captures a sort of angst that, to me, feels deeply real and romantic at the same time, and is highly provocative.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, trans. Edith Grossman is my summer reading for school. I recognize both of the main characters (and their dialogue) as “classic,” but I’m still trying to figure out precisely why. I’m interested in whether there might be a Don Quixote and a Sancho Panza in each of us, and in how exactly to qualify that claim.



Duncan’s Summer Reads


Duncan founded the Children’s Literacy Foundation (“CLiF”) back in 1998, and if you’ve ever seen one of his energetic storytelling presentations, you know how much he loves books and stories! Here’s what he’s reading these days…

Tutti’s Promise by K. Heidi Fishman (about a Jewish family in WWII and their true story of courage during the Holocaust. Given to me by CLiF supporter Ruth Sylvester. Not in the photo because I passed it on to my mother to read.)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in French (to get my brain warmed up for a family trip to France)
Johnny Courteau by Dr. William Henry Drummond (a collection of Quebec poems written by my great-great uncle)
The Mathews Men by William Geroux (about seven brothers who served in the merchant marine in WWII)
Democracy Now! By Amy & David Goodman (I saw Amy and our good friend David at their event in Montpelier. This world needs many more people like them.)
The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien (I’m reading the Lord of the Rings and also listening to the recorded book as I drive between CLiF events
Second Suns by David Oliver Relin (about the two inspiring eye surgeons who are striving to rid the world of preventable blindness)



Erika’s Summer Reads


Erika (thats me!) is in her second semester of Bennington College’s MFA Program in Fiction, where students develop their own reading lists of 25-30 books each semester. I’m writing a novella that will be part of a linked short story collection I’m working on, so I’ve been trying to read a good mix of novellas, short stories, and novels (and the occasional poetry and essay collection), while squeezing in some stories from my favorite literacy magazines and a few old favorites.

Here’s my (sun-kissed) summer list:

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from the perspective of a Viet Namese spy was chosen by the Bennington Writing Seminars community for our June “One Book Initiative,” where we’re all encouraged to read the same book and engage with it at panels and in-depth discussions.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson: I reread this favorite after discussing it with writer friends at Bennington’s June residency. It’s a prose poem that follows a painful break-up through Nelson’s obsession with the color blue. If you love language (and imagery!), not to mention skilled writing, I highly recommend it. A favorite I keep going back to.

The Mothers by Britt Bennett: Her debut novel has gotten a lot of buzz in the literary world, and deservedly so. This novel follows three friends from their teenage years spent at a Southern California church into adulthood and shows how choices they made as teens impacted their lives and friendships.

Gold Flame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins: This novel has been on my list since I read Claire Vaye Watkins’ short story collection, Battleborn, and she gave a reading and craft talk at Bennington last semester. Her writing is so evocative and original, I can totally understand why Granta named her one of the best Young Novelists of 2017! So I was psyched to see it on sale at my favorite independent bookstore, Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, VT (also a big CLiF supporter)!

Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams: This was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, also an avid reader, who chose books for each of us from Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books of 2016 list. It’s a good example of blurring the lines between poetry and prose. Each “story” ranges from a single line to three pages, from the mundane and funny to profound observations on religion, spirituality, and humanity.

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro: Another reread of a favorite; I always love Munro’s stories. My favorite in this collection has to be “Dimensions,” beautifully-written and haunting, though parents be warned: it’s not a happy story.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar Letters compiled and responded to by Cheryl Strayed (the author of Wild was the formerly-anonymous columnist for The Rumpus’ “Dear Sugar” column). This collection compiles real letters written to “Sugar” on everything from marital to professional to existential crises, and her honest, irreverent, and well-written responses. I read this on the plane on the way to New Orleans and it nearly had me crying in front of a plane full of strangers. Chock-full of good (and hilarious) advice, no matter what your current life crisis is.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich: Even as a life-long reader who usually has a book or five on her and is studying fiction in an MFA program, the list of well-regarded writers I haven’t read is still shockingly long. I’m slowly working my way through that list, and Louise Erdrich has long been on it. (Flannery O’Connor and Lorrie Moore got checked off last semester.)

Coming up next on my list: We Love You, Charlie Freeman (the highly-acclaimed debut novel by my professor from last semester, Kaitlin Greenidge, whom I adore both as a writer and as a human), A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (described as a modern War and Peace), and the short short story collection I got from my writers’ group’s Holiday Yankee Book Swap, Christopher Kang’s When He Sprang from His Bed, Staggered Backward, and Fell Dead, We Clung Together with Faint Hearts, and Mutely Questioned Each Other (2017 winner of Green Mountains Review‘s Book Prize and a title I will never, ever be able to memorize).

 Jana’s Summer Reads


Despite coordinating 140 Summer Readers events, unpacking a new house, and having a toddler, Jana has still managed to find time to read and listen to audiobooks this summer!

She says:

I am currently listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Lin-Manuel audio version is great. 

I recently finished The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood   (now also a Hulu TV series).

My son Finn and I have also been reading a lot of Mo Willems. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy is a favorite.


What are you reading this summer? Any recommendations for us book lovers? Please comment below!

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