It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/13/14


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to see the books other readers of kidlit are reading this week.

On my blog, I shared lots of education links in my Sunday Salon post. This week’s Celebration focused on dogs in pink sweaters, cat photos, time away from work, time at work, and slow-cooker pumpkin oatmeal. I wrote about the challenges of putting together the latest iteration of the college-level Children’s Literature course I teach. I reviewed Linda Rief’s Inside the Writer’s-Reader’s Notebook. And I shared a glimpse into my own old notebooks.

Works starts today, so #bookaday is probably over, at least until I get my courses and new routines figured out. But I thoroughly enjoyed my last week of totally free reading.

reality boy

A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers is on my #MustReadin2014 list, so naturally the A.S. King book I decided to read this week was Reality Boy. But my teensy tiny little library got a copy of it and I couldn’t help snapping it up when I saw it. I didn’t love this book (it dragged for me in the last third or so of the story), but I did find it interesting, intense, memorable, and important, as all King’s books seem to be. This is a book about a boy who is very, very angry–and with good reason. He’s famous–really more infamous–for his bad behavior as a child when his family was featured on a “Nanny” reality t.v. show. He’s trying to make sense of the legacy of that show and also his place in his dysfunctional family. Looking forward to book talking this one in Adolescent Lit this week.

tapir scientist eruption

I read two superb Scientist in the Field books this week, which I’ll write more about for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday. I’ll be book talking both of these as well–and also trolling the Internet for photos of baby tapirs! Google baby tapirs–you won’t be sorry!

book love

I reread Book Love for the 3rd or 4th time. Like the very best professional development books, this is one I can read again and again, also getting something new out of it and finding more ways to tweak my own practice. I’ve assigned this book to my Adolescent Lit course this semester, and I want to use many of Kittle’s strategies and techniques from the beginning of the semester so that students can experience as learners what happens in a reading workshop. This is going to be a new approach for most of them. We won’t begin reading the book together until perhaps the third week of the semester, and by then, they will already be steeped in the approach.

may b

I finally read Caroline Starr Rose’s verse novel, May B., and I loved it. I was entirely surprised by the subject matter–girl struggling to survive on the prairie–because I had only glanced at the cover and somehow my eyes saw a girl staring at an ocean liner cruising the ocean. (Not sure what I thought that fence and those trees were.) So I thought it was a historical novel about the Titanic or something. If I had known Rose was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child and wrote the book from that inspiration, I would have read it when it was first published, because I was also obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I spent many happy hours as a child, imagining myself in the cover illustration of On the Banks of Plum Creek. I marvel every single day that I now live on the prairie in South Dakota! Anyway, Caroline Starr Rose manages to pull off a dramatic and suspenseful survival story as well as a beautiful ode to the prairie AND a poignant reflection on reading and learning. May B longs to be a teacher, but she’s dyslexic and struggles to read. A very good book that, yep, I’ll be book talking in Children’s Lit this week.

T. and I read a couple of Caldecotts this week:

village of round and square houses

The Village of Round and Square Houses was okay, not my favorite by any means, but there’s a volcano in it, and I hadn’t returned Eruption to the library yet. So after we finished the picture book, I was able to show my son photos of real volcanoes erupting and talk about the scientists profiled in the nonfiction book. I don’t think Eruption as a read-aloud would keep his attention right now or be comprehensible, but he was quite engaged looking through the pictures and hearing about volcanoes around the world.


Ted Lewin’s art is superb. We loved the pictures in Peppe the Lamplighter.

captain cat

Captain Cat, written and illustrated by Inga Moore, was quite enjoyable. We have six indoor cats, and I don’t think my kids realize that most people would consider us crazy cat people. To them, it’s just normal to have cats draped all over every available surface. So I don’t think they saw anything particularly unusual about Captain Cat and his hordes of cats.


We read Moonshot, written and illustrated by Brian Floca, as part of KidLit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. My mom would NOT like this one, because it treats the moon landing as if it really happened. I am very embarrassed to admit that I find my mom’s moon landing conspiracy theories quite compelling, and so it was a struggle for me to answer “yes” when T. asked if this was a true story. But, thinking of my long-suffering husband and the many questions and conversations he would have to have with our children about the moon landing if I suggested that some people think it’s a hoax, I said “yes” as firmly as I could.  Anyway, it’s a good book. I liked the art better in Locomotive, but I thought the writing was much better in Moonshot.

i am the book

I Am the Book is a collection of poetry for children about reading and books, nicely illustrated by Yayo. I marked a couple to share in Children’s Lit this semester.

mr wuffles

I’ve read Mr. Wuffles four or five times now, and this week “read” it to my older son. I think it gets a little bit better every time I read it! Also, I learned that I really suck at sharing wordless picture books with kids. I think I drove my son bonkers as I “narrated” the story. I didn’t really know what to do as we were looking at the book, so I kept up a running commentary on what I noticed happening in the pictures. When I finally thought to ask HIM a question, he snapped his answer–which showed me how annoyed he was at my “reading.” So I kept my mouth tightly shut for the rest of the book. But then I couldn’t figure out when to turn the pages! How in the world do my elementary teacher friends share wordless picture books in a way that preserves their delight and puts the discover and wonder in the hands of their students? Discovery #1 for me: SHUT UP!

I’m reading several really good books right now, including two from my #MustReadin2014 list that I hope to finish for next week. Hope everyone has a great week of reading!


14 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/13/14”

  1. bluestockingthinking Avatar

    I plan on getting my hands on a copy of Eruption! soon-glad to hear your positive thoughts on it! I too love May B. I have a student reading it right now. Today she closed the book, looked at me, and accusingly said: This book is sad! Things should turn around for her and for May B though 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you will enjoy Eruption–interesting, informative, and pretty amazing. Hope your reader has finished May B and gotten to the joy at the end. Those final lines are just lovely.

  2. Tara Smith Avatar

    I loved May B. as well – such an unusual main character! We have many of the Scienctists in the Field books for our non fiction unit, too – such great books!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I checked out two more from the library today and can’t wait to learn from them. Also, a visual feast, which I appreciate. Excellent series.

  3. Myra GB Avatar

    I just borrowed Wuffles from the library too and I am preparing myself to be totally blown away. I am a huge David Wiesner fan. Thanks for alerting me to possible read-alouds from I am the Book by Lee Bennett Hopkins. I should find this one AND Bookspeak too! Will pair the two books for my last session for my course. Brilliant! And I got that flash of insight just by visiting your site. Peppe the Lamplighter also looks beautiful, will have to find that one. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Hope you enjoy Wuffles. The first time through, I just found it cute (with amazing art, of course), but it’s getting richer each time I look at it. Love books like that! Glad you have a new idea for your course! I have so many blog posts I want to do right now related to teaching and no time–because I’m spending all of it preparing for class!

  4. ejmam Avatar

    Some of our favorite read-alouds were wordless; I’m trying to remember how they went. I think I tried to get the kid to narrate, or I’d ask questions. Sometimes we’d develop our own dialogue that you had to replicate each time you read the book, which was hard for grandparents or friends who found themselves reading it “wrong” 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think I made a big mistake in not asking questions! Will definitely do it differently next time. Too funny about other readers getting it “wrong”!

  5. carriegelson Avatar

    I loved May B. So much to the story. I loved that it actually talked about what it might have been like to struggle learning to read during another time. Funny that you mention how many times you “read” Mr. Wuffles – I just returned this title to the school library after we had it in our classroom for months! Kids love it. Sharing wordless books is a bit of an art form for sure. My “narration” is often repeating back of questions/comments the kids make and pointing out the odd thing here and there. I aim for a sort of collective telling – repeated by me if necessary.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      A collective telling… love that, Carrie! I am going to practice some more, but maybe I’ll practice on my younger son, who is a lot more forgiving. As long as you’re reading to him, he’s happy as a clam. It’s so clear that David Wiesner did some close observation of cats, because he really nails certain cat behaviors. I love the title page illustration of Mr Wuffles sauntering past all the expensive cat toys with price tags still on!

  6. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I love that you assign BOOK LOVE to the students in your adolescent lit course. The more future teachers we get to preach the gospel of book love the better! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes! I love to indoctrinate! Book Love and Write Beside Them are two PD books I continue to learn from.

  7. Lorna Avatar

    I have May B. on my #mustreadin2014 list, and I hadn’t realized the Laura Ingalls Wilder connection either. Looking forward to that! And all of those Caldecotts are in my yet-to-read pile. Need to request a slug of those soon! Have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      May B. made me want to reread some of the Little House books. I love prairie lit! I need to request a stack of Caldecotts too. I think I’ve read everything my library has.

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