Mask Matrix Designation Jan. 15-21

HCS will be operating in Masks Mandatory beginning Saturday, Jan. 15 through Friday, Jan. 21. HCS utilizes a Mask Matrix which decides between Masks Optional and Masks Mandatory depending on the overall community transmission rate for Madison County during the preceding 10 business days.  Use the More Information button below to access the COVID-19 Infocenter and view the full Mask Matrix.

2021 Summer Reading

The purpose of summer reading is to encourage students to practice reading skills and develop an enjoyment for reading. This year, our focus is student choice. Therefore, a list of suggested novels has been created for all grade levels.

Families of students in grades K-5 are encouraged to add any books that are appropriate for your reader.  The staff in the Children/Youth Services area of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library and/or other local library branches will also have many wonderful book suggestions.

Students in grades 6-12 are required to complete a Book Talk assignment no later than Friday, August 27, 2021.  Please note that Honors, AP, and IB Language students in these grade levels also have an additional book requirement that is usually read and taught during the first nine weeks of school.  Book lists and instructions for the Book Talk assignment may be found below.

    Grades K-5 Suggested Reading
    • The Mixed-up Chameleon by Eric Carle
    • My Five Senses by Aliki
    • Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse
    • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
    • Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood
    • Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
    • Swimmy by Leo Lionni
    • Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
    • Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola
    • Chicken Little by Steven Kellogg
    • The Little Red Hen by Margot Zemach
    • Three Little Bears by Paul Galdone
    • The Three Little Pigs by Rodney Peppe
    • The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
    First Grade
    • Arthur series by Marc Brown
    • Berenstain Bear series by Jan and Stan Berenstain
    • Clifford series by Norman Bridwell
    • Franklin series by Paulette Bourgeois
    • Froggy series by Johnathan London
    • Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park
    • Rainbow Fish by March Pfister
    • Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
    • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
    • How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz
    • Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove
    • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
    • Owen by Kevin Henkes
    • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
    • Morris the Moose by Bernard Wiseman
    Second Grade
    • Berenstain Bear series by Jan and Stan Berenstain
    • Polk Street Gang series by Patricia Reilly Giff
    • Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler
    • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
    • Arthur’s Prize Reader by Lillian Hoban
    • The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe
    • The Day Jimmy’s Boa At the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble
    • Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
    • Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
    • Frog and Toad Together by James Marshall
    • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
    • The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
    • When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
    • Many Moons by James Thurber
    • The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel
    Third Grade
    • Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parrish
    • Arthur series by Marc Brown
    • Horrible Harry series by Suzy Kline
    • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • Boxcar Children by Getrude Chandler Warner
    • Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack
    • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
    • The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci
    • Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
    • Teammates by Peter Golenbock
    • Doctor DeSoto by William Steig
    • Pinky and Rex by James Howe
    • Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
    • The Village of Round and Square Houses by Ann Grifalconi
    • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
    Fourth Grade
    • Cam Jansen series by David Adler
    • Marvin Redpost series by Louis Sachar
    • Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol
    • Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville
    • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
    • Harriet, the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
    • Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
    • Julian, Secret Agent by Ann Cameron
    • Baseball Fever by Johanna Hurwitz
    • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
    • The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
    • The Stories that Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
    • Dog on Third Base by Constance Hiser
    • Little House in Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgleish
    Fifth Grade
    • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg
    • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
    • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
    • Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
    • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    • The BFG by Roald Dahl
    • Matilda by Roald Dahl
    • Holes by Louis Sachar
    • The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
    • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
    • Skinnybones by Barbara Park
    • Frindle by Andrew Clements
    • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
    • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
    • Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
    Grades 6-12 Suggested Reading
    • Students will read one of the suggested novels from the list for their grade span or a book of their choice.  The book should reflect quality young adult literature to include the following:
      • descriptive or figurative language
      • character development
      • plot development
      • thematic depth
      • substantial length (100+ pages)
    • Students enrolled in Honors English, English AP, and IB Language courses will have an additional reading assignment (see below).  This novel is normally read and taught the 1st nine weeks of the school year.
    • Students will be required to complete a "Book Talk" by Friday, August 27, 2021.  If a "Book Talk" is not presented or turned in, then a "0" will be placed in the gradebook. For more information, see the Book Talk information section below.
    Middle School Suggested Summer Reading

    by Sharon Draper

    "You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?”

    Eleven-year-old Isabella is used to these kinds of comments - her father is black; her mother is white - but that doesn't mean she likes them. And now that her parents are divorced (and getting along WORSE than ever), Isabella feels more like a push-me-pull-me toy.

    One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

    Being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. If you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

    Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

    by Rick Riordan

    Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper.  And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse--Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. 

    When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he goes to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father, he never knew is Poseidon, god of the sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends--one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena--Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.


    by Kwame Alexander

    "A beautifully measured novel of life and line." -The New York Times Book Review

    "With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

    Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

    Lost in the Amazon: A Battle for Survival in the Heart of the Rain Forest (Lost #3)

    by Todd Olson

    Peru, Christmas Eve, 1970. It was supposed to be a routine flight, carrying 86 passengers across the Andes Mountains and home for the holiday. But high above the Amazon rainforest, a roiling storm engulfs the plane. Lightning strikes. A deafening whoosh sweeps through the cabin. And suddenly, 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke is alone. The plane has vanished. She is strapped to her seat and plunging 3,500 feet to the forest floor.

    On Christmas Day, she wakes. She is injured, covered in mud, but strangely--miraculously--alive. And now, in a remote corner of the largest rainforest on Earth, the real battle for survival begins.


    by Gordon Korman

    Chase Ambrose doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. In fact, he doesn’t remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life over again … starting with his own name.

    Okay, he’s Chase. But who is Chase? Soon he’s hearing stories of the alpha jock and bully who held a reign of terror over an entire school. Is that the person he was … and is destined to be again?

    Is it possible to restart?

    Other Words for Home

    by Jasmine Wargar

    Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind her, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the U.S. –and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is. This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home, and most importantly, finding yourself.

    The Call of the Wild

    by Jack London

    There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

    The domesticated life of a powerful St. Bernard-Shepherd mix named Buck is quickly turned-on end when he is stolen away from his master and put to work as a sled dog in Alaska. His once life of luxury turns into a life of survival and adaptation as he learns the ways of the wilderness. Set in the Klondike region of Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, The Call of the Wild showcases the transformation of a canine as he learns to adapt to what life has given him, fair or not.

    Treasure Island

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    EVERYONE DREAMS OF FINDING BURIED TREASURE, and that is why Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island is such an enduring classic. Treasure Island gave Stevenson his first popular success, and it's easy to see why it remains a favorite of readers of all ages. The tale of young Jim Hawkins and his unlikely band of adventurers strikes at the very heart of our own desire to lose ourselves among hidden chests, cryptic maps, and treacherous companions.

    If you loved it when you read it earlier, you owe it to yourself to revisit the deceitful Long John Silver, the dull but reliable Dr. Livesey, and the pompously naïve Squire Trelawney. If this is your first visit to the high seas, find yourself a comfortable chair, because you won't be putting the book down until the last mutineer is brought to justice and last gold coin counted.

    This Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classic includes a glossary and notes to help readers unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary and nautical terms appreciate Stevenson's grand adventure.

    High School Suggested Summer Reading
    The 57 Bus

    by Dashka Slater

    One teenager in a skirt.
    One teenager with a lighter.
    One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

    If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment.

    The 57 Bus is Dashka Slater's true account of the case that garnered international attention and thrust both teenagers into the spotlight.

    Something in Between

    by Melissa de la Cruz

    Jasmine de los Santos has always done what is expected of her. Pretty and popular, she is studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship. And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation. For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she is trying to make sense of her new world, it is turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she is not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.


    by Tara Westover

    An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family, and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

    Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she had traveled too far if there was still a way home.

    Brown Girl Dreaming

    by Jacqueline Woodson

    Brown Girl Dreaming tells the story of my childhood, in verse. Raised in South Carolina and New York, I always felt halfway home in each place. In these poems, I share what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and my growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

    It also reflects the joy of finding my voice through writing stories, despite the fact that I struggled with reading as a child. My love of stories inspired and stayed with me, creating the first sparks of the writer I was to become.

    Trevor Noah: Born A Crime

    by Trevor Noah

    (Disclaimer: This book contains laguage that some may find offensive)

    Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

    The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional loveelse? Not good

    The Boy in the Black Suit

    by Jason Reynolds

    Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he cannot handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who is dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

    Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad cannot handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So, while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She has got a crazy name, and she has been through crazier than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She is tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he is drawn to her, and why he cannot seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

    Of Mice and Men

    by John Steinbeck

    They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.

    Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

    "A thriller, a gripping tale . . . that you will not set down until it is finished. Steinbeck has touched the quick." —The New York Times

    Lord of the Flies

    by William Golding

    Lord of the Flies explores the dark side of humanity, the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings. William Golding intended this novel as a tragic parody of children's adventure tales, illustrating humankind's intrinsic evil nature. He presents the reader with a chronology of events leading a group of young boys from hope to disaster as they attempt to survive their uncivilized, unsupervised, isolated environment until being rescued.

    Honors, AP, and IB Courses Required Reading

    by Alan Gratz

    Grade 6 Honors

    The novel follows the stories of three refugee children in three different geographic locations and points in time. Each child experiences traumatic losses and personal victories as they struggle to escape the political instability of their homelands. Josef Landau is fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939.

    Piecing Me Together

    by Renee Watson

    Grade 7 Honors

    A timely and powerful story about a teen girl striving for success in a world that too often feels like it wants to break her.

    Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And she has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for "at-risk" girls. Except really, it's for black girls. From "bad" neighborhoods. And just because Maxine, her college-graduate mentor, is black doesn't mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.


    by Neal Shusterman

    Grade 8 Honors

    In entries in her "gleaning journal," Scythe Curie gives the reader the history of her world. in 2042, humans became immortal and created the Scythedom, an organization of scythes—people trained to "glean," or kill others permanently—to control the population growth. This job is the only one not overseen by the Thunderhead, an advanced version of "the cloud" that has replaced government and oversees every aspect of the population. With immortality has come the sense that there's no longer a point to life, and people in Curie's age don't understand what it was like to live knowing that death was inevitable.

    Seventeen-year-old Citra is horrified when Scythe Faraday shows up on her family's doorstep and invites himself for dinner. She and her parents are terrified that he's going to glean them, and Citra angrily snaps at him. He admits he's here to glean their neighbor. Not long after, Faraday shows up at Rowan's school to glean the quarterback, Kohl Whitlock. Rowan stubbornly insists on holding Kohl's hand when Faraday electrocutes him, and for this, Rowan's classmates, including his best friend Tyger, shun him. When Faraday invites both Citra and Rowan to become his apprentices, they both accept; however, only one of them will become a scythe.

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    by Harper Lee

    Grade 9 Honors & AP

    Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep South—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred.

    One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

    Warriors Don't Cry

    by Melba Pattillo Beals

    Grade 10 Honors & AP

    In 1957, well before Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech, Melba Pattillo Beals and eight other teenagers became iconic symbols for the Civil Rights Movement and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the American South as they integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in the wake of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education.

    Throughout her harrowing ordeal, Melba was taunted by her schoolmates and their parents, threatened by a lynch mob's rope, attacked with lighted sticks of dynamite, and injured by acid sprayed in her eyes. But through it all, she acted with dignity and courage, and refused to back down.

    Just Mercy

    by Bryan Stevenson

    Grade 11 AP & IB

    After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian, who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson encounters racism and legal and political maneuverings as he tirelessly fights for McMillian's life.

    Life of Pi

    by Yann Martel

    Grade 12 AP & IB

    The beloved and bestselling novel and winner of the Booker Prize, Life of Pi.

    "A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

    After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound royal bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years.

    Universally acclaimed upon publication, Life of Pi is a modern classic.

    How to Give A Book Talk

    Hook your audience!

    • Read a quote from the book
    • Ask a question of your audience
    • Introduce the main character
    • Vividly set the scene

    You may use a combination of a few of the above techniques.

    Make sure to also give the title and author of the book.


    In a paragraph or two, summarize the plot of the book.  Be sure that your summary introduces the main character, identifies the problem, and leads us toward the solution - without giving away the ending!


    Share your opinion!

    • How did you feel about the book?
    • What did you think of the author?
    • Would you recommend it to others?
    • What would you rate it?

    Entice your audience!

    • Ask a rhetorical question
    • Read a quote from the book
    • Use a cliffhanger

    You may use a combination of the above techniques.

    Remember, your book talk should flow nicely like a commercial.  It should not be a giant list answering these questions.

    Commonly Asked Questions
    How can students access novels?

    Novels can be obtained from public libraries, school libraries, and home libraries or collections.  If you find the suggested books are no longer available through the public or school libraries, they are available for purchase via Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.

    What is a “Book Talk?”

    A “Book Talk” convinces or persuades a person to read the book. The essence of a “Book Talk” is to “sell, don’t tell.” Thus, a “Book Talk” is more of an advertisement or a commercial. When conducting a “Book Talk,” you may want to keep the following things in mind:

    • Do your own thing…create your own individual style.
    • Do not talk about a book you have not read.
    • Do not tell the ending.
    • Do not talk about a book you do not like or makes you uncomfortable.
    What about a student who is new to Huntsville City Schools?

    Students who enroll between August 4 and August 20, 2021 will be allowed to complete a “Book Talk” on a novel he/she has read over the summer. If the student has not read a novel over the summer, they may be given an additional 2 weeks (August 16th-September 7th) to read a novel and complete a “Book Talk.”  If he/she does not complete the assignment, then a “0” will be placed in the gradebook.  Any student enrolled after August 20, 2021 will not be held accountable for completing a “Book Talk.”

    How will teachers hold each student accountable for completing the summer reading assignment?

    Students will be required to do a “Book Talk” and turn it in on Friday, August 27, 2021. Teachers are expected to grade each “Book Talk” and record it as an “In-Class” assignment (counting as 40% of the student’s grade) for the 1st nine-week grading period.

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