It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/24/14 #imwayr


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

This week on my blog:

This week in reading:


I finished Anne Fadiman’s delightful Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. This is just the sort of book I love–a whole collection of bookish essays about books and reading. I’ve read it two or three times now, and I think I will add it to my short list of bookish books I enjoy rereading periodically (Noel Perrin’s A Reader’s Delight; Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree and sequels).

sorry please thank you

This week’s short story collection for my Contemporary Literature class was Charles Yu’s Sorry Please Thank You. I absolutely loved two of the stories in this collection, “Standard Loneliness Package” and “Hero Absorbs Major Damage.” In fact, I loved “Hero” so much I asked my husband to read it, and I rarely do that. (He didn’t love it quite so much. And that’s the reason I rarely do that.) There were 2-3 more stories that I liked, and then a whole bunch I was “meh” about. I’ll be interested to see what my students have to say about it tomorrow. Their brilliant insights into the books we’re reading considerably deepen my understanding and thinking.

a crooked kind of perfect

Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect is an exquisite novel, just the kind of middle-grade I like best: funny, character-driven, reflective. Not much happens externally, but a lot happens internally. The characters are a delight, and the sentences are perfection. Which is kind of ironic praise given the theme of A Crooked Kind of Perfect. I plan to read a couple of chapters out loud in Children’s Lit this week, and I bet there are going to be a lot of takers. (And if not, I know exactly which three students are going to love this book, so I can press it directly into their hands.) And now I am sad, because I have read all of Linda’s books and have to wait for the next one. On Twitter today, Linda noted that she is a slow writer. I’m sorry, Linda, but you need to write faster because I need more books to read!

julian dream doctor

I almost quit reading Ann Cameron’s Julian series after the disaster that was Julian, Secret Agent. But I’d bought the books and was looking for a short chapter book to try to squeeze in with my older son before I went on vacation. And I’m glad I picked up Julian, Dream Doctor, because it was decent. It’s not a great story, but it is much, much better than Julian, Secret Agent, and my son enjoyed it.

We also read a lot of picture books this week. Here are my favorites:

going home

Going Home is another strong collaboration between Eve Bunting and David Diaz. The story focuses on the trip Carlos and his family make from their home in America, where his parents (and on school holidays, the kids too) now work in the fields, to the parents’ village in Mexico. Diaz’s illustrations are really beautiful, and as always in Bunting’s work, there is a rich theme to explore here–what it means to be home and to go home.

lost cat

How could any cat lover resist that face? I really enjoyed the art in C. Roger Mader’s Lost Cat. Once the cat is lost, Mader shows the world from the cat’s perspective, and apparently shoes are big for cats. There is a comforting if perhaps unlikely happy ending.

brimsbys hat


In Andrew Prahin’s Brimsby’s Hats, Brimsby the hatmaker is happy until his best friend decides to run off to sea and become a ship’s captain. Brimsby continues making hats but finds himself lonely. How he makes new friends but also keeps the old is the heart of this story. I liked Prahin’s illustrations–especially the colors and quirky interiors–and his writing is also quite strong.

baby bear


Kadir Nelson is one of my favorite illustrators, but I did not love Baby Bear. What’s up with Baby Bear’s eyes? Why are they so weirdly blank? Given the potential of the landscape where Nelson has set his story, some of the spreads were rather uninspired. And the ending confused me and my son, though my husband thought he understood it. (Baby Bear realizes that everywhere in the forest is home?)

john paul george


Lane Smith’s books are usually hit or miss for me (especially on a first read), but I did like John, Paul, George & Ben. As history, this is very questionable stuff, but as humor, it’s awesome. I loved the picture of the young John Hancock practicing his gigantic signature across the chalkboard. Smith’s books are always visually impressive: there is a great deal of humor even in the typography choices.

audrey and barbara


Who can resist a cat named Barbara? In Janet Lawson’s Audrey and Barbara, Audrey (the girl) wants to go on wonderful adventures and ride elephants in India, but Barbara (the cat) prefers to stay home and nap on her pillow. This is a sweet story about friendship and imagination with lovely whimsical illustrations.

We read several nonfiction picture books too, but I’ll share those on Wednesday.

Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 0/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 25/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 117/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 10/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 14/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 9/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 47/200

12 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/24/14 #imwayr”

  1. YES! OMG! Baby Bear’s eyes scare the heck out of me! What is up with that? Kadir Nelson could do no wrong in my eyes — until Baby Bear.

    I need to read A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Especially after hearing Linda talk at MRA last weekend. She is so wonderful. And character driven novels are my cup of tea so yeah, I have no idea why I haven’t read that one yet.

    • LOL, Beth. I really have no idea what is going on with those Baby Bear eyes! My kids were so excited about a new Kadir Nelson, but they didn’t like this one either. I’m sure there must be some readers out there who love it, and I need to find them and figure out what they like about it. Isn’t Linda Urban a wonderful speaker? I attended her presentation at #ncte13, and it was full of wonderful observations about writing and such great encouragement. I need to find my notes from her session and reread them.

  2. Well you sold me on Crooked Kind of Perfect. I bought it for my daughter so need to go borrow it back. Loved Hound Dog True so I think I am in the mood for another Urban title. Audrey and Barbara looks adorable and I am a fan of Brimsby’s Hats. I have heard many Kadir Nelson fans say they don’t love Baby Bear. don’t know if that makes me curious or just not want to read it at all . .

    • Oh Carrie, I think you will really like Crooked Kind of Perfect. I had several takers in Children’ Lit today but only 1 copy–but it’s a quick read so hopefully it can get passed around a few times before the end of the semester. Baby Bear is worth a quick look if you see it at the library. I just couldn’t get past his eyes!

  3. I really have to check out the Ex Libris book by Fadiman! I have the Hornby book, and really enjoyed the chapters–I still have some I haven’t read, so pick it up now and again. I’m interested in hunting down a copy of The Lost Cat. 🙂

  4. A Crooked Kind of Perfect is perfection, isn’t it? Audrey & Barbara looks adorable, and although I haven’t seen it, I think I agree with you about Baby Bear’s eyes. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I still haven’t read A Crooked Kind of Perfect, but recommended it a lot last week at the book fair-just can’t get to them all, & Linda Urban is, as you say, wonderful. Also, I re-read ExLibris often too-Anne Fadiman is just great, isn’t she? I know all the picture books but Audrey and Barbara-oh it looks so cute. Thanks Elisabeth!

    • I was so taken by Linda Urban’s talk at #NCTE13. I loved what she had to say about writing and failure and notebooks. She’s a very dynamic and engaging speaker. I googled Anne Fadiman and saw that she’s working on a new book–hooray!

  6. I’ve seen Baby Bear in the public library but haven’t had a chance to read it yet, glad to hear your thoughts about it. I have Kadir Nelson’s Mama Miti with me which I used for my higher degree class last night – that one is a real beauty. I tried adding Going Home in my text-set but I think it’s out of print now and our librarian was unable to purchase it for my course. I borrowed an Anne Fadiman book based on your recommendation last week and can’t wait to get into it soon as well. I think I have this title (ex-libris) on reserve and would be picking it up soon. I’m currently reading Alan Jacobs’ The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and he had a few things to say about Fadiman (not all of them good by the way). Interesting.

  7. Haha, I just had to laugh out loud at Baby Bear’s eyes after reading the first comment above! Kadir is amazing though, simply amazing.

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