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Education

Summer Reading Recommendations from the Community for Adults and Kids

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zara preveen
Zara Praveen

To read or not to read… is not the question. The real question is… what to read this summer? We asked librarians, community leaders, students and more to give us their top title choices for a great story or an excellent poolside read.

Big Nate series, written by Lincoln Peirce

The books are a humorous comic for young readers with 15 books in the series. It is about a 11-year-old boy whose friends are named Francis Pope and Teddy Ortiz. His hobbies are playing chess, baseball, basketball and cartooning. He is often sent to detention by his least favorite teacher, Mrs. Godfrey.

His enemies are Gina, a girl who always says she is smarter than him, which is true — and usually finds herself in academic competitions with Francis. Another one of his enemies is named Arthur. He is great at everything and makes Nate jealous. Also, Nate is the all-time record holder for detentions in school and is convinced that his destiny is unshakable.

Zara Praveen

A Series of Unfortunate Events, written by Lemony Snicket (real name Daniel Handler)

The series details the journey of three orphans being relentlessly pursued by a wicked Count out for their fortune. It’s a series that is more than likely to keep you busy, spanning 13 main novels as well as some extension works. It’s suitable for a plethora of ages.

I originally read it around 7 years old and loved it. I recently reread it and found that my love for it had not faded. It is a completely immersive experience. You find yourself immensely frustrated at most characters that aren’t Violet, Klaus or Sunny for not realizing the threat of Count Olaf. In other words, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to practically anyone!

Sharika Awasthi

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

This book is an easy and inspiring read. What I love about it is that it challenges you to pursue your zone of genius, your natural gifts and to keep a positive mindset. It also lays out the steps to teach you how to do this. It’s perfect for those who are searching for “more” out of life. I hope that others enjoy this book as much as I do.

Rena Williams

What If? by Randall Munroe

It answers questions like “What would happen if you threw a baseball at 90% the speed of light?” or “What if you made a periodic coffee table out of all of the elements of the periodic table?”. It is a (mostly) well-researched and fun tour through physics, computer science, chemistry and Earth science.
I recommend this book because it teaches me to think creatively with science. It poses creative questions and answers them with solid research and novel ideas. Also, the art includes some of the best stick figures you could ask for.

Brandon Horsley
Physics and Robotics, Paul Duke STEM High School

Choice 1: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson — Great read for any teenager who just went through our modern pandemic.


Choice 2: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson — It is just so detailed and beautifully written. The author connects the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. The book is so detailed and combines extensive research with nail-biting storytelling.

Dr. Jonathon Wetherington

Principal of Paul Duke STEM High School

Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis

This is a sweet summer read about a young boy who explains to his grandfather in a letter that he has not forgotten about school because he continues to enjoy writing, math and geography through the imaginary world of ice cream!

Dr. Taffeta Connery
Principal of Simpson Elementary School

Cloth from the Clouds by Michael Catchpool


This is a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations that teaches children (and adults) to treat the Earth with care and to take only what we really need. It’s a great lesson on stewardship over our planet.

Angelina Whitaker
Blue Sky Law

Picture Books:

The Good Egg by Jory John — Funny story that encourages self-care and accepting others.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers — All about loving who you are!
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins — Hilarious story about a dinosaur named Penelope meeting her classmates.
The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freeman — A great story about leaving your comfort zone.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes — Celebrates individuality!

Novels:

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer — Combines the modern-day world with fairy tales.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper — A must read for everyone! The story is told through the eyes of a child with cerebral palsy.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley — Set in WWII, this story presents a love/hate relationship with its characters.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang — Story full of empathy and compassion and tough lessons about today’s world. The themes address poverty and injustices in a migrant community.

Allison Anderson
Greater Atlanta Christian School Lower School Media Specialist

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate — This book chronicles the journey of three very young and different women looking for the one person who binds them together just after the Civil War, and a young teacher in modern times who rounds out the connections. I found the bravery, the persistence and the innovation displayed by these women inspirational and entertaining.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd — Since Jewish men in the culture of his time either married or were ostracized, what if Jesus were married? I gained deeper understanding about the culture, as well as the rules and expectations of women.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig — What if we could experience the consequences of different choices in our lives, and what if the outcomes of a different choice don’t match our imagined outcomes

The Guardians by John Grisham — People who are unfairly incarcerated need advocates, and this story introduces us to some interesting characters who are on a mission.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah — This painful description of life in the Texas dust bowl and the disappointing alternative awaiting the family in California puts wearing a mask to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 into vivid perspective.

Betsy Corley Pickren
WoodFire Leadership, LLC and Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce board member

Sixty Things to Teach College Kids Before They Graduate by Cliff Bramble (local author)

This life skills book is not only concise, thoughtful and easy to read, it is a perfect gift and keepsake for any young person heading out into the world. It also covers a lot of topics that parents may worry they “forgot” to teach their children when they leave home.

Cathy Nilsson

Boundaries with Teens: When to Say, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend


I picked up this book since I now have a teenager in the household. While much of the book is common sense, it serves as a good tool navigating this next season.

Colin Creel
Principal of Cornerstone Christian Academy

Know What You’re FOR by Jeff Henderson

Two thought-provoking questions are the foundation of this book: 1) What do you want to be known for, and 2) what are you actually known for? After reading this book as a company in “book club” format, our team reflected on vision, purpose and core values. We worked together to identify gaps between the questions and develop strategies to narrow them. We experienced awesome discussion, enthusiasm and excitement about potential to positively impact our communities, clarity on how to do so and opportunities for additional growth. This is not just a business book, it’s a strategy for life book that will challenge and invigorate you to dream big!

Wendy Willis
Business Development at Tandem Bank, Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce member

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler


I have enjoyed reading (on several occasions) a book titled, Crucial Conversations. Stephen Covey wrote the foreword for the book: “Crucial Conversations draws our attention to those defining moments that literally shape our lives, our relationships and our world…This book deserves to take its place as one of the key thought leadership contributions of our time.”

Steve Dorough
Past Chairman of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson


It’s Brooklyn, 1970s. Hot and humid with the corner fire hydrant spraying water and Stevie Wonder blaring out a window. Adult August is transported back to this time, hanging with her friends on the block, weaving their way through adolescence, innocently seeing the city and its people as beautiful but quickly learning the dark side to another Brooklyn. This short read is a poetic coming-of-age story about friendship, loss and resilience, and the weight memory holds for a black woman visiting home.

Erin Twohig-Canal
Lockridge Forest, Peachtree Corners

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

The perfect book for lovers of history and historical fiction as well as those who are interested in Civil War and Georgia history. I discovered this treasure as I worked my way through all the winners of the Pulitzer Prize. While I hesitate to call it my “favorite,” I will say that I found myself deeply engrossed and some of the stories continue to swim around in my brain. Andersonville tells the story of one of the most horrific prisoner of war camps from the perspective of multiple players both historic and fictional.

Erica McCurdy
McCurdy Solutions Group

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Science fiction is not a genre I used to read before picking up All Systems Red. The narrator is the self-named enhanced artificial intelligence Murderbot who has hacked their governing module and gone rogue. Keeping the humans they’ve been assigned to alive (contrary to their name) while dealing with, at times, crippling anxiety and a desire to watch sitcoms and TV shows on repeat is extremely entertaining, as is the action that kept me glued to every page, and devouring the other novellas and novels in the series!

Chanpreet Singh

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green


This book was a hidden gem for me. I was not too sure about reading it but was so glad I did! It is a historical fiction about the settlement of Louisiana, with a lot of history thrown in. It is a well-written page-turner, and I always recommend this book when someone asks for a recommendation. Not your typical HEA [happily ever after] book, and definitely an emotional ride, but so good!

Candace Ross

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

This book inspires you to think about all of the daily activities and things around us that we many times overlook. It makes you wonder about what other details you can include to describe life on Earth and all of its wonders!

Maria Sabino
2nd and 3rd grade ELA and Social Studies Teacher at International Charter Academy.

The Flying Cutterbucks By Kathleen Rogers —The story of how strong women in an abusive military family protect themselves and craft a new life.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue —A young woman in an African village starts a revolution against an American oil company that is destroying the land.

Invisible Women: Data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Perez — Describes how data does not take into account gender in many areas.

Broken Places Outer of Spaces by Shyama Golden — It is a story of how creativity is born from hardship.

Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari — An examination of the history of human civilization in the 21st century

Charles Hawk
Assistant Principal at GIVE Center West

For middle school students, especially the boys: Code of Honor by Alan Gratz
Code of Honor is an action-packed celebration of heroism and family that asks us to look past the exteriors. When an Army Ranger is taken by Al-Qaeda and makes anti-American videos, it is his younger brother who knows his brother isn’t a traitor and decodes the messages he is hiding in the videos.

For middle school students, especially the girls: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling — I promise this is not a book about cacti. After all, the huge cacti in Arizona have multiple arms and Aven has none. People in her hometown are accustomed to the girl who does everything with her feet. So moving is going to be hard. Her move will require her to solve a mystery, make a friend (with a boy who has an entirely different challenge) and help run the family business, all without arms.

Fiction for adults or older teens: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby — The face we show the world is never all of who we are. Bone Gap is a book about what we see and who sees us. It’s no surprise that someone evil would want to kidnap beautiful Roza, her mother told her “there will be boys who will tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.” What is strange is the eyewitness; he can’t tell anyone what he saw. Told from the perspectives of both the stolen Roza and the misunderstood witness, it’s a book you won’t forget.

Nonfiction for adults or older teens: Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin — Jim Thorpe, known as the greatest athlete of all time, excelled in football, baseball and won Olympic medals in the decathalon and pentathalon. Jim’s story covers the evolution of college football, the Native American boarding school system and his extraordinary athletic success. You will learn how Pop Warner fits into his story and why his Olympic medals were revoked. It’s a great read and an exceptional audiobook as well.

Bonnie Baker
Library Media Specialist at Greater Atlanta Christian School

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Education

Simpson Elementary Cuts Ribbon on New Track

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Students now have facilities suitable for exercising the body as well as the mind.

For something to be important and special, it doesn’t necessarily have to be huge. That’s what Simpson Elementary students, staff and Peachtree Corners officials realized on Nov. 7 with the ribbon cutting of the school’s new track.

“Today is a joyous occasion because we’re here to celebrate the renovation of our school’s playground,” said Simpson Elementary Principal Dr. Taffeta Connery.

The four-month long project took a lot of effort. In addition to trimming the overgrowth of trees beyond the fence surrounding the track and a playground area, numerous potholes needed to be filled. The playground was leveled with truckloads of dirt and gravel, and the actual track was rubber striped.

What was once a potential hazard and mini wetland has been transformed into an inviting recreational space for students and staff to exercise. For safety reasons, the track isn’t open to the public.

“Not only is it attractive, but it’s also safe and enjoyable for all of you to run around and play,” said Dr. Connery.

Previously, the Simpson Superstars had to meet for Kilometer Club at the nearby YMCA. The renovated space now allows for a closer option right on school grounds.

Great schools, great communities

City representatives Councilmembers Lori Christopher, Phil Sadd and Mayor Pro Tem Weare Gratwick, along with City Manager Brian Johnson, were presented with an award of recognition and appreciation by Dr. Connery.

The officials received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and an abundance of thank you cards from the kindergarten class of the school before officially declaring the track open for walking, running and just enjoying the outdoors.

The kindergarteners gathered for the ceremony and applauded the efforts of the city as Dr. Connery presented Peachtree Corners with a plaque and flowers as tokens of appreciation.

“We always say that great schools build great communities, and in turn, great communities build great schools,” said Dr. Connery. “This Community Service Award is with our deepest appreciation for the City of Peachtree Corners.”

The students presented the thank you cards they’d made to city officials before everyone took a victory lap to break in the new track. The weather was a little warm for early November, but everyone agreed that it was perfect for a mid-morning stroll.

Simpson Elementary PTA Co-Presidents Mary Catherine Jennings and Dana Zamuel were also present to celebrate the school’s new addition. They both agreed that exercising the body is just as important as exercising the mind — especially with energetic elementary students.

The teachers are just as excited about the improvements as the children. Prior to the renovations, that area had such poor drainage that it often couldn’t be used for recess, nature walks or other school functions.

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Arts & Literature

GCPL’s 2023 Student Film Fest is Opened for Submissions

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Gwinnett County Public Library Announces Its First Annual Student Film Fest for the 2022-2023 School Year

When it comes to bonding and quality time among students, nothing proves more effective than a premium film fest. In light of this, Gwinnett County Public Library has taken this initiative down in its playbook by presenting the first annual Student Film Fest for the 2022-2023 school year.

According to the GCPL media alert, the festival will be held on March 11th, 2023, and it promises to showcase a lot of film screenings, an award ceremony, and an after-party with possible networking benefits, especially for young filmmakers.

Everyone in and outside the county was pretty excited about the news, more so when the video and film production company and media group, East2West, was announced to be the major sponsor for the program. This news, coupled with the fact that cash prizes and awards would be in abundance at the festival, has kept students and spectators on their toes as they wait for the day of the film fest in unbridled anticipation.

Subsequently, invitations were spread worldwide to students around the age of 11 and above from every grade in middle school, high school, and higher education. For a landmark project, the Gwinnett County Public Library might just make this Student Film Fest the best of its kind yet.

GCPL’s Rules for the 2023 Student Film Fest

Following the announcement of this film fest, calls were made to students from reputable institutions around the world to submit films of any genre. These films will be arranged into their respective categories, and winners in each category will receive awards and cash prizes. Submissions will open on November 1st, 2022, and close on January 22nd, 2023.

For a much wider reach, the GCPL decided to include other members of the public by demanding a representative from each student group who would attend the awards ceremony. This would form an eligibility clause for students seeking to win prizes.

But the directives did not stop there as the GCPL proceeded to outline several rules of conduct for the Film Fest. Here are excerpts of these rules:

  1. Students below the age of 18 must submit a completed entry form and video release form duly signed by a parent.
  2. The name of the school and year of study must be submitted.
  3. Films must include credits and an opening title.
  4. Films should run between a minimum of 2 minutes and a maximum of 10 minutes.

For some semblance of order to take place throughout the Student Film Fest, it was paramount that these regulations be implemented thoroughly.

As for the prizes, GCPL stated that only the winners of the Best Picture award in each category would win $250. Trophies and certificates will be awarded to other winners, and the GCPL’s Learning Labs team will provide access to library resources for young filmmakers.

Additional information can be found at the library’s website.

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Education

Seven Norcross High School Students Named as National Merit Semifinalists

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Norcross High School

Nina Ballerstedt, Dylan Christensen, Jordan Katz, Logan Lewis, Holden Thomas, Jonah Wu and Sean Zhong — all students at Norcross High School — have been named as Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The Semifinalists were determined by the students’ scores on the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). They are among 16,000 students from across the nation competing for National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2023 will be announced beginning in April and concluding in July.

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