It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/20/14


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the weekly kidlit version of this meme. (If you read more books for grown-ups, you might want to visit Book Journey.)

On my blog this week, I shared my Sunday round-up of things I’ve been reading online. I celebrated the start of a new semester and the messy learning we’ll do. I wrote a post for the students in my Adolescent Literature course about Finding Time to Read, and I wrote about our discussion on reading like a wolf eats. I also posted about a couple of excellent nonfiction picture books for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

This week, I read:


As soon as I finished Boxers, I picked up Saints and plan to finish that one today. What a brilliant way to write about a war or a conflict–a pair of books written from the perspective of each side. I knew next to nothing about the Boxer Rebellion. My one image of the Rebellion is Spike, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, killing a slayer during the Rebellion. Not exactly historical. Yang’s historical graphic novel manages to provide a useful introduction to the time period and the issues while also incorporating fantastical elements that make for visually arresting spreads. Thematically, this book was incredibly rich, and Yang also managed to create complex characters with a minimum of text. I’ll be thinking about this book for some time. (And book-talking this week in Adolescent Lit.)

jumping off swings

I finally, FINALLY read Jo Knowles’s Jumping Off Swings. It’s one of my #MustReadin2014 books. There were several things I did like about the book. First, it’s a sensitive look at teen pregnancy. There are no easy or comfortable answers here. Hard choices have to be made. Each chapter is written from the perspective of different characters involved in the story, so the overall effect is a chorus of voices telling the story. I love books written from the perspective of different characters. And I also liked that it’s a short, quick read. The length and ease of reading, coupled with female and male perspectives, make this a book that would be an easy sell for reluctant readers. What didn’t work as well for me were the actual voices of the characters. All of them sounded alike to me. They didn’t feel as well-rounded or memorable as I like my characters to be in YA fiction.

forgive me leonard peacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock is another book on my #MustReadin2014 list, and it’s probably going to end up on my Best of 2014 list. I was hooked from just about the first sentence. Quick announces the plot on the second page: Leonard Peacock is heading off to school with a gun, planning to shoot one of his classmates and then kill himself. The novel follows Leonard on what he plans to be his last day on earth as he tries to bring some closure to the relationships that really matter to him and eventually reveals why he wants to kill Asher Beal and himself. Leonard’s voice is so strong, and the situation and themes so compelling. This is an important book.

becoming ben franklin

I knew a bit about Ben Franklin but learned much more from reading Russell Freedman’s heavily illustrated biography, Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty. Freedman is such a skilled writer. The pacing and clarity of this book really impressed me. Franklin was an incredibly active person who seems to have packed several people’s lives into his 84 years. Not only is there a lot to cover just in terms of the biography, but there is also the historical and political context that many readers need. This book is a model of excellent research writing.

I also read several picture books aloud to my kids:

lifetimeparrots over puerto rico

Lifetime and Parrots Over Puerto Rico are two titles I plan to share in my Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge post on Wednesday.

boy who harnessed

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of William Kamkwamba, a boy in Malawi who taught himself how to build a windmill out of spare junk parts after he read that windmills could be used to generate electricity and pump water. His village was experiencing a terrible famine, and in addition to being hungry, he had been forced to drop out of school when his family could no longer afford the fees. I haven’t read the book of the same name for grown-ups or seen Kamkwamba’s TED talk, but I may have to check them out because the children’s picture book was really fascinating. (And beautifully illustrated!)

when gorilla goes walking

Nikki Grimes’s When Gorilla Goes Walking is a charming collection of poetry about a little girl named Cecilia and her cat, Gorilla. I especially liked “Learning the Rules”. I am pretty sure that most of my cats also think they know who’s boss–and it isn’t me. I am not always wild about children’s poetry, but I did enjoy this book.

miss malarkey

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind is a good title to share in my Children’s Lit class. Miss Malarkey is determined to find just the right book for all of her students, and though it takes her awhile, she does it. I like the message here about not giving up on even the most resistant reader, because in my experience, there is no such thing as a kid who doesn’t like to read. There are just kids who haven’t found the right books.

11 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/20/14”

  1. What a lot of wonderful reading you have accomplished! I love that Jo Knowles explores these sensitive but timely issues. She has a way of being honest without being preachy, and kids appreciate that.

  2. I have yet to read a book by Jo Knowles OR Nikki Grimes and I am ashamed of myself for it. I did enjoy Lifetime and Parrots Over Puerto Rico. I kissed all blog posts by everyone last week due to nErDcampNNE so i am heading to your Sunday Round-Up to catch up. Enjoy your week.

  3. I put Nikki Grimes’s book, Bronx Masquerade, on the syllabus for Adolescent Lit this semester. It’s one of my favorites and hopefully will give my pre-service teachers some ideas about using poetry in their classrooms. I liked See You at Harry’s more than Jumping Off Swings, though See You at Harry’s is definitely a multiple-kleenex read! I have so many authors on my Children’s & YA Shelf of Shame. I’ll have to do a blog post about that sometime! Fully out myself! I want to catch up on tweets from nErDcampNNE–I took more of a break from the computer this weekend than I intended to.

  4. I am glad you mentioned Miss Malarkey. I’m going to look for it. Boxers and Saints got my attention too. It’s an excellent presentation visually, but also in the opportunity to see two perspectives. Parrots Over Puerto Rico is one of my favorite books that I have read lately. Beautiful!

  5. I loved Living with Jackie Chan. If you decide to pick it up, I think you might be pleased. I am just starting Forgive Me . . . So excited to read another Quick title after reading Boy 21 (both Must Read in 2014 books!) I am so excited to see that you will be sharing Lifetime. This title was a favourite of 2013 for me. I love sharing it one page at a time with my class and talking about all of the math.

    • I’ve got two Quick titles on my #MustReadin2014 list too! I devoured Forgive Me and looking forward to Boy 21. I am so glad to hear that you loved Living with Jackie Chan. Josh wasn’t the most interesting character to me, so I was disappointed when I realized that Living with Jackie Chan is about him. I wish Lifetime had been 100 pages instead of 32! I was so fascinated by all of the information!

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