It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/17/14 #imwayr


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in this weekly kidlit meme.

There is little to link to on my own blog this week because I didn’t really blog. I had ideas for posts and intentions to blog, but this was one of those weeks when life got in the way. I worked a 15-hour day on Wednesday, and there were many rough parenting days. But I did do my usual Sunday Salon of excellent online reading and a quick post on the Top 10 Books That Make Me Swoon.

I read three good books this week:


Matt Phelan’s spare, elegant graphic novel, Bluffton, was perhaps my favorite. This book captures a mood and a time period so beautifully.

ocean at end of lane

I listened to the audiobook version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, read by Neil Gaiman himself. He really does such a good job narrating his own books. It took me almost two discs (and there were only five) to decide I did like the story, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked. The story managed to surprise more than once. This is one that will stick with me for awhile. (And also makes me want to read more Gaiman!)

far far away

I liked the narrator quite a bit in Far, Far Away: the story is narrated by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, and he’s a fascinating character. But I struggled with a number of other things in this story. The setting and time period were somehow both not specific enough and yet too specific. The story often has a timeless quality to it, which works very well for what it’s trying to do, but then there are jarring moments of slang or contemporary references. The main teenage characters are supposed to be 15 or 16 (I think), but they usually act, think, sound more like 11 or 12 year olds. The TV game show subplot went on for far too long. And far too much of the suspense is driven by Jacob’s hand-wringing: “If only I had paid more attention on this day and noticed the horrible portents of what was about to come.” Still, it’s a book I think many readers would like, and I will be recommending it to a couple of students in my Adolescent Lit class who really like fairy tales.

We also read a bunch of picture books this week. These are the ones I liked best:

ling and ting birthday

Grace Lin’s Ling & Ting Share a Birthday is another strong entry in her early reader series.

jane vs tooth fairy


In Jane vs. the Tooth Fairy, written by Betsy Jay and illustrated by Lori Osiecki, Jane is determined to keep her loose tooth and not let the Tooth Fairy take it.

lucky ducklings


Lucky Ducklings, written by Eva Moore and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, would make an excellent pairing with Make Way for Ducklings. This is the true story of some ducklings who fell into a storm grate and needed the ingenuity of a whole town to rescue them.

vulture view


Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, focuses on a most unlikely picture book hero: the turkey vulture. The poetic writing is very simple and elegant, and there’s a fine ick factor for the readers who like that sort of thing. (My boys did!) Steve Jenkins work is superb as always.



I’m still not quite sure what to make of The Voyage, written by Veronica Salinas and charmingly illustrated by Camilla Engman. I loved how the story worked as a metaphor for being in any kind of new or unfamiliar situation. It was a book I wanted to discuss after I read it, but my 5th-grader, who is VERY literal and struggles to make even the most basic inferences, was frustrated by it. I need to try it out on my 2nd-grader!

Reading Goals Update:

Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 3/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 0/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 14/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 59/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 4/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 8/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 3/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 27/200

16 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/17/14 #imwayr”

  1. Everyone is reading Far, Far Away! I totally agree with the whole time period issue, but I still found it to be quite enchanting. I worry that it is a tough sell for teens. I need to find a good reader that I can recommend it too. I think that maybe my book club kids would enjoy it. Thanks for sharing, have a great week! ~Megan

    • I worry that it’s a tough sell for teens as well. In many ways it felt more like middle-grade fiction to me, but in some key ways, it wasn’t middle-grade at all. So I’m not sure what to do with it. I know I have a couple of students in my Adolescent Lit course who would love it, though.

    • Bluffton is currently being passed around in a couple of my classes–everyone who looks inside wants to read it! And now I want to go watch some Buster Keaton films! Far Far Away is well worth reading.

    • I just borrow other people’s organization tools! Carrie Gelson inspired my reading challenge chart. I am usually very disorganized in my reading, so this is new for me. So far, loving it! Hoping to get some of my students to read Far Far Away so we can talk about the audience issue, but it’s a big book to ask college kids to tackle in addition to everything else they’re reading!

  2. Such great books this week! I absolutely LOVED Bluffton.Probably my favorite graphic novel of all time.

    Vulture View looks really interesting. I hadn’t heard of that one before. Definitely need to check that one out!

    • Definitely check out Vulture View! Better than expected for me, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given the author-illustrator team! Bluffton is really sublime. I love all of Matt Phelan’s work, though. (So cool to get to see him present at NCTE and learn more about his process!)

  3. I do agree that the game show subplot in Far Far Away went on too long – it was the least interesting thing in the story for me. I was just enchanted by the narration and the relationship between ghost and his boy (young man). The twist threw me for a loop. The Voyage is a very odd little title. I have yet to share with a group of children. Blufton is on my TBR Must get to it this year.

  4. Hi there Elizabeth, so glad to read your detailed review of Far Far Away, I watched the book trailer and became really intrigued. I’ve also been reading mostly positive reviews, so I am glad to read through some of your observations and issues with the book. I’d probably save this title for much much later. Vulture looks like my kind of read, and wow Bluffton – that one I definitely have to find. So many great titles again this week, thanks so much for sharing all these. 🙂 Hope this week is much better for you.

  5. I love seeing about all the picture books, Elisabeth, none of which I am familiar with. Thanks for those. And I need to read that latest Gaiman, someday… I loved Far far away, and thought the characters really were appropriate because of their isolation in that little town. I felt liberties were taken because of the fairy tale qualities. Thanks for all the reviews!

    • Your point about the isolation of the town makes sense, Linda. And I do think that McNeal was going for a sort of archetypal feel to the story. It was a good picture book week! We’ve been doing a lot of random pulling from the shelves of the library, and you never know if you’re going to end up with memorable or meh titles!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: