It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/19/14 #imwayr


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

On my blog:

  • There was no Sunday Salon this week, and not because I didn’t have a wealth of wonderful links to share. But some confusing signage turned a 3-mile hike into an 8-mile hike, and I nearly lost my will to live. I certainly lost my will to blog.
  • I celebrated my son’s soccer season, an especially fetching photo of Frances, and a sighting of the elusive elk herd
  • I started a new feature, Blogs I Can’t Do Without
  • I shared a few picture book biographies about musicians and singers
  • I listed 10 books I can’t seem to stop abandoning

In reading:

big wolf and little wolf

I’m going to start with my favorite picture book of the week: Nadine Brun-Cosme’s Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall, illustrated by Oliver Tallec. There’s a quiet elegance and philosophy to Brun-Cosme’s books about Big Wolf and Little Wolf, and Tallec’s illustrations are always delightful and often brilliant. In this story, Little Wolf becomes a bit obsessed with a particular leaf in a tree and admires it throughout the seasons. He is determined to get his hands on this leaf, and he does, but not in the way you might expect. A lovely story about friendship, determination, and beauty.

most magnificent thing

My other favorite book this week is Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing. I’ll be adding this one to my stack to read near the beginning of my Freshman Composition class, as it’s a wonderful story about having a brilliant creative idea that you can’t quite get to work out the way you want.

armadillos orange

This week, we discovered Jim Arnosky. We read several of his books, but Armadillo’s Orange was my favorite.

wanda and the wild hair

I’m crazy about Georgia Graham’s illustrations in Wanda and the Wild Hair, but as the parent of a child with wild hair, I really hated the message: Wanda loves her hair, as she should, but every adult in her life thinks that Wanda needs to cut it. And the adults are RUDE in what they say to her about her hair. After all kinds of things get stuck in her hair, Wanda decides to follow her mother’s advice and cut her hair off. I suppose the final page, where Wanda looks at herself in the mirror and decides to grow her hair back, is meant to be a positive message about wild hair, but I was bothered by this book.

great ball game

Joseph Bruchac’s The Great Ball Game is a Native American tale about a ball game between the Birds and the Animals. Bat, who has teeth AND wings, doesn’t know which team to play for: the Birds don’t want him, so he ends up playing for the Animals. The tale ends with a clever explanation for why birds migrate south for half the year and why bats come out at dusk. The gorgeous collage art is by Susan L. Roth, who should seriously have a whole wall of Caldecotts by now.

mr rabbit and lovely present

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present has an appealing small size and lovely illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and the story is rather sweet: a little girl wants to find the perfect present for her mother and ends up finding a way to give her the colors that her mother loves best. But I found the repetitive structure and writing to be incredibly tedious. I didn’t think this book was ever going to end. If you’ve read the book, you will be able to appreciate my son’s comment: “It’s obviously going to be a banana. Can we skip to the end?” This was a 1963 Caldecott Honor Book.


Another Caldecott Honor book that we read this week was The Judge, written by Harve Zemach and illustrated by Margot Zemach. Not my favorite–more repetition, though certainly more lively, but there is a nice pay-off in the final wordless images.

all the world

I’ve read All the World before, but my mom checked it out for us from the library and I couldn’t resist reading it again. What a perfect marriage of writing and illustration. Some of Frazee’s images are just so beautiful in this book. A well-deserved Caldecott Honor book.

ms mccaw learns to draw

I didn’t realize that Harve and Margot Zemach’s daughter grew up to be a children’s book author and illustrator! We read two of Kaethe Zemach’s books this week, and Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw was our favorite. Dudley struggles in school, but he has a wonderful teacher, Ms. McCaw, who is incredibly patient and seems to know how to do everything. But one day, she reveals that she doesn’t know how to draw. Dudley jumps up to teach her and his classmates how. Every child has expertise to share, if only we know how to invite it into the classroom.

lonely phone booth

My strategy at the library this week was to pick books in the A’s and the Z’s, and that’s how I found The Lonely Phone Booth, a charming story about one of the last phone booths in New York City. The phone booth is plenty busy until one day when its regular visitors walk right on by with small silver objects held to their faces. In the age of the cell phone, who needs a phone booth anymore? The poor phone booth languishes, but one day it’s able to demonstrate its importance. The neighborhood rallies around it and refuses to let the city remove their phone booth. I might have enjoyed this one a little more than my kids, who have never actually seen a phone booth. 

Somehow I managed to miss Emily, Michael Bedard’s fictionalized portrait of Emily Dickinson, but I rectified that this week. What a beautiful story, gorgeously illustrated by Barbara Cooney. This is one that I could read over and over again to discover new facets.
watch me throw the ball

An Elephant & Piggie book that we somehow missed! Watch Me Throw the Ball is as brilliant as the rest of the series.


There is much to love in Allan Ahlberg’s quirky and clever story, The Pencil, perfectly illustrated by Bruce Ingman. A lonely pencil begins to draw and populate its world. First, a boy who demands a name. (The pencil christens him Banjo.) Then an assortment of people, pets, and objects, who all makes lots of demands (for names first of all, often to hilarious effect) and start complaining about their world. This is the first Ahlberg book I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to his others.







20 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/19/14 #imwayr”

  1. bluestockingthinking Avatar

    I loved the first Big Wolf & Little Wolf book I read (per Carrie’s recommendation) and can’t wait to read this new one! I’m also going to check out The Most Magnificent Thing. I LOVE that you are using picture books with older students!! 🙂 Have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you’ll like The Most Magnificent Thing. Ashley Spires is becoming one of my favorite children’s authors. (Love the Binky series too). I just got serious about incorporating picture books into all my college classes this past year. Students mostly love them! Even the ones who are a little skeptical at first are quickly won over. I’m teaching a Brit Lit survey in the fall and can’t wait to find ways to get PBs in there too!

  2. Tara Smith Avatar

    Emily is one of my favorite picture books – a great mentor text for a biography genre of study.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The writing is really superb, Tara. I was so impressed! I need to see if Bedard has written other books, because his name isn’t familiar to me.

  3. carriegelson Avatar

    I had a hard time getting to your list of books because I almost spit out my coffee at your hiking story. I’m sure it was mostly terrible but your description here made me laugh! So sorry! Anyway – on to the books! I LOVE the Big Wolf and Little Wolf titles. Sharing them as read alouds is always amazing. All the World is a title that should be revisited and often. This is one of my absolute favourites. Every time I read it, it brings me renewed optimism about the world. I was very drawn to this cover of wild red hair but it seems disappointing so maybe I will give it a miss. Have you read The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School- another amazing hair title! I also love Melissa Parkington’s Beautiful Beautiful Hair ( a very different feel but wow!)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The hike was so beautiful–we ran into the bison herd right in the path in front of us. So close we could smell them! Had to stop for awhile and let them get ahead. Saw the elk, a herd of whitetail deer, many prairie dogs. Many wildflowers. But we were so tired at the end. It was also our kids’ first hike!! They’re HARDLY going to want to do it again after that misadventure! Though my younger son gamely informed me that he thought he’d be ready to try hiking again in two weeks, as long as it could be a little bit shorter. You and me both, kid! Thanks for the hair title recommendations! Will definitely look for those! My son loves his big crazy hair, and I felt terrible that I read a book to him that gave a strong message that straight, smooth hair is preferable–at least to adults. But the pictures are wonderful. I want to reread the first Big Wolf & Little Wolf title now. I’m probably going to read the one about the little leaf a couple of times before I return it to the library.

  4. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I love how just about every teacher who has read The Most Magnificent Thing sees what a natural mentor text it is. One of my favorite picture books this year for sure.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think it will be on my top 10 for the year as well, Beth. I can’t wait to share it with students in the fall!

  5. Andrea Payan (@payanar) Avatar

    The Most Magnificent Thing sounds like a great book to add to my TBR list. I really love your idea of highlighting blogs that you love. Have a great reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was planning to do one post about a whole bunch of blogs, but I started writing and discovered I had so many things to say about Carrie’s blog that it only made sense to start a feature! I think you will enjoy The Most Magnificent Thing and see ways to incorporate it into your classroom. I intended to find more time to read this week, but so far it’s all gardening all the time! Thank goodness for picture books!

  6. momandpop7 Avatar

    I am a total “newbie” when it comes to blogging and reading blogs. However, a week into it, I am really starting to see how beneficial they can be to me as a teacher. Of the blogs that I have been reading, I have added a wealth of books to my Goodreads account after hearing about them from other professionals. Elephant and Piggie books are some of my first graders favorites. However, I hadn’t seen the one listed on this post. It is amazing to see how much I can network with like minded professionals through reading online.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I learn so much from reading blogs! And I have to say, I pretty much never pick out books I don’t enjoy anymore–and I’m never at a loss for what to read next! The Elephant & Piggie series seems to work for every age group. My college students were fighting over them this semester!

  7. momandpop7 Avatar

    Funny… “The Most Magnificent Thing” is also listed today on the “A Year of Reading” blog that I am following.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Year of Reading is a great blog!

  8. Linda Baie Avatar

    Sorry about the hike, but your son sounds like he wasn’t much scarred, Elisabeth. I’m sorry about that ‘hair’ book. I read a book a few weeks ago, & wish I could remember the title, but it was about how ‘weird’ people can find other ‘weird’ people-so denigrating to those who may be thought of as different. It had the flavor you seem to be referring to, like one must change… Thanks for all the great ‘other’ books. You may like Miss Emily, a recent verse novel also about Emily Dickinson & her adventures with the neighbor kids, niece & nephew. Thanks for The Lonely Phone Booth-amazing that your kids haven’t seen one-I guess that’s true about my grandchildren, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks for the recommendation of Miss Emily–I will look for that one. I enjoyed the dynamic between Emily and the little girl in Michael Bedard’s picture book. In retrospect, the hike was really wonderful! (And now that the soreness has faded, LOL.) I am definitely hoping my kids aren’t scarred for life and will be willing to hike again. I think we will try a VERY short one this weekend, just to show them that we CAN do short walks. I don’t think they believe us!!

  9. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar

    I own a few Mo Willems books, but I am embarrassed to say that I have yet to open one! You have inspired me to crack one of their covers tonight. Thanks for sharing all of these books with us. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Many of my college-level Children’s Lit students included 3 or 4 different Mo Willems’s titles in their individual Top 10 lists this semester. The Elephant & Piggie series is sublime. It really is. I’m not even sure what my favorite is, because they’re all so darned good! I’m also very fond of Amanda & Her Alligator. For a different kind of flavor altogether, be sure to read City Dog Country Frog, with GORGEOUS illustrations by Jon Muth. That one always makes me cry.

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    Now that’s personal fitness for you – 8 mile hike! That deserves a huge congratulation indeed and a blogging break for that matter. 🙂 I do own a copy of the Charlotte Zolotow book and I had to laugh at your descriptions. I think the repetition is more deliberate rather than purposefully-tedious – kind of like the pattern in Dora the Explorer, but I do get what you mean. I think we have a different group of kids now who demand novelty and action, as they get more tech-savvy digital natives that they are! 🙂 I have a feeling I’d love the Wolf book and the Pencil one too. Thanks so much for all these Elisabeth! I always love visiting your Monday posts – definitely one of the blogs I can not do without. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL, Myra, I think I too might be one of those kids who demand novelty and action! Sometimes as I’m reading the older Caldecotts to my son, I just think wow, picture books have come a long way. The pacing of books really has changed, I think. Even the more reflective books give the reader a different kind of space for reflecting. Still, the Caldecott reading challenge is one of my favorites. (Unlike the Newbery Challenge which I simply cannot seem to force myself to get back to! I have been stuck in the middle of The 21 Balloons for 6 or 8 months now. Every so often, I pull it off the shelf and read/skim a few pages, then reshelve it in disgust. I HATE that book!) Hope you can find the Big Wolf & Little Wolf books. They’re delightful!

Leave a Reply to momandpop7 Cancel reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: