It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/18/13


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to find out what kidlit others are enjoying this week.

Last week, I finally posted my review of Teach Like a Pirate. I shared a lot of interesting education-focused online reading in my Sunday Salon post. I tackled Lindsey’s question about how to make the most of your time in the classroom. And I gushed about the first chapter of Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild.

thank you for your service

I read a phenomenal book this week, David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service. Finkel follows some of the American soldiers he reported on in his other phenomenal book, The Good Soldiers, after they return from Iraq. This book is brutal and devastating and full of some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. I am so grateful to all the people Finkel writes about for their bravery in inviting a reporter into their lives. There is very little heart-warming or inspirational about these people’s stories: their lives are often ugly and messy and full of suffering and pain, and I am absolutely in love with all of them. Finkel talks about how soldiers in the war are always falling in love with each other, and that’s what his book does–makes the reader fall in love with Adam Schumann, Saskia Schumann, Amanda Doster, Tausolo Aieti, and everyone else he writes about. What a feat of writing. Definitely my favorite book of 2013.

And now back to children’s lit.

lost sloth lost sloth2


I loved the art in J. Otto Seibold’s Lost Sloth–and also the fact that it’s about a sloth. Sloths are kind of hilarious. But the story didn’t quite work for me. On paper, it does seem funny: sloth wins a free shopping spree but he’s on the clock to get to the store and to finish the spree. But there was something flat about the narrative. Still, pictures are great, and it’s worth a read.

the king is naked



I also enjoyed the art in Bruno Gibert’s The King Is Naked, but once again, the story was a bit thin with key connections not being explicit enough for young readers.

I intended to do separate Caldecott Challege update posts, but I never get those done, so I’m going to start including the Caldecotts in my #IMWAYR posts. This was not our strongest week of Caldecotts. We read Marie Hall Ets’s Just Me, a 1966 Honor Book.

just me



This was not one of our favorites. The premise is simple: a little boy mimics the walk of each animal on the farm until at the end, he runs like himself. I don’t mind a simple premise, but this was simple to the point of being simple-minded. The book seemed endless, and the writing wasn’t special. I also dislike Ets’s art. We have read several of her books now, and I think they’re all quite ugly! I really need to do some research to understand the techniques she’s using and why so many different Caldecott committees thought her books were among the most distinguished of the year.

it could always be worse it could always be worse2


Margot Zemach’s clever Yiddish folk tale, It Could Always Be Worse, was a 1991 Honor Book. There is a fine and funny lesson here about having perspective on the little annoyances of life.

treasure treasure 2

A 1980 Honor Book, Uri Shulevitz’s The Treasure is a beautifully illustrated story about traveling far to find that what you’re seeking is really right under your own roof. I do wish that the treasure had been metaphorical rather than literal.

tom tit tot tom tit tot 2 tom tit tot2


Evaline Ness has such a distinctive style, and I do tend to like looking at her books, but again, the story and writing just didn’t work for me. Tom Tit Tot, a 1966 Honor Book, is a retelling of an English folk tale (basically the Rumpelstiltskin story). I think she was going for a sort of medieval style in this book, but it was annoying to me to try to read aloud to my son and annoying to him to try to understand.

So. Not our favorite week ever in picture books. But that’s okay! We’re making progress in our Caldecott Challenge, and we’re both happy about that.

I may not be reading very much this week because on Wednesday, I’m leaving for #NCTE13. SO EXCITED! I’ve got such a week of learning in store for myself! Nancie Atwell, Linda Rief, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen….and many, many more!


7 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/18/13”

  1. Sarah Dessen uses ‘fan-girl’ as both a descriptor and as a verb, so it sounds like you will be fan-girling all over the place in Boston. Be sure to take a picture of Sarah so that I can have my own fan-girl moment vicariously. Ditto for Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak by Anderson was always my students’ second favorite read-aloud. (Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was their favorite.)

  2. Enjoy your NCTE trip! So excited for you. All of your Caldecotts this week are in my yet-to-read pile. The 60s so far have left me not feeling too inspired about kids books of that era!

    • The 60s aren’t working too well for me either! We should be just about finished with that decade, however. It continues to be REALLY interesting to read these older books with my son. Sometimes he absolutely adores a book that I think is going to be a total dud for him. I love seeing him develop tastes and opinions as a reader (he’s 11 but was never read to until we adopted him 2.5 years ago, so this book thing is new for him!). I’m so excited for NCTE! Can’t wait to learn and then share all I’ve learned! Enjoy your week of reading!

  3. Some great looking books this week. I felt the same about the Sloth title. My favourite part of the whole book was actually the cover. I didn’t like all the bright and busy of the inside and the story – well, not really for me either. I just got Reading in the Wild and put it high up on the shelf with a pile of chocolate – things I shouldn’t be reaching for until my report cards are done. But oh the temptation . . . And hey, you changed your blog lay out!

    • You’re going to love Reading in the Wild! I want to gulp it down, but I’m forcing myself to read slowly and think about each chapter. I’m finding a lot of ideas I want to try out with my Children’s Lit class next semester. In most of my classes, my students are already passionate readers; in that class, many students say they hate to read. (And they’re going to be elementary teachers! YIKES!) So I think some of Donalyn’s ideas for building readers will really work with them. Good luck getting those report cards done! Never my favorite time of year…. And yes, decided the blog needed an update! I really like the new clean look, though the layout is taking a little time to get used to and figure out.

  4. Thank you for sharing about “Thank You for Your Service” as I am a military daughter and so appreciate those who serve this nation. I have not heard of this book but will look for it on our shelves. Brutal or not, it is real! Stopping by from Teach Mentor Texts. ~ linda

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