It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/9/14 #imwayr


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

On my blog last week:

In reading, I only managed to finish books I read aloud to my son, but we did read aloud two chapter books and about 35 picture books. I’ll highlight the ones we liked best below.

george brownI had hoped that my son might try to read George Brown, Class Clown: Trouble Magnet independently, but no. So I read it aloud to him. And this is definitely one of those titles that is best for kids to read independently. It does not particularly reward the grown-up reader. Even if you like burps. Since this book is about a boy who is afflicted with magical super burps that cause him to lose control of himself and get into trouble, I couldn’t help thinking about the Captain Underpants series as I was reading. And also thinking about how much I actually enjoy reading the Captain Underpants books aloud. There is plenty to reward the adult reader there, especially the many humorous meta moments. George Brown is much more plodding, much less sparkly. It does have exactly the right text-to-illustration ratio to engage my older son, but I won’t be reading anymore of these books out loud. I’ll be handing it to my third grader next, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to love it (as well as read it independently!).

three on three

Three on Three, written by Eric Walters, was another purchase intended to lure my older son into picking up a book on his own. Again, no dice. So we read it aloud this week. This is the first in a trilogy of very similarly-plotted stories about two third-grade basketball players (a boy and a girl who are best friends). The quality of writing is better than what you find in, say, a Bailey School Kids book (although I realize that’s fairly faint praise), and I will say this about Eric Walters: he knows how to craft a cliffhanging chapter ending. Twice as I got to the end of a chapter and moved to close the book, my son gave me the most outraged face and yelled–yes, yelled–“READ!” to me. So I read. I appreciate that Orca publishes this and other high-interest, low-level series for readers like my son, but I will also be glad when he really can read independently and I can save reading aloud for beautifully written stories I want to share with him! I do think this book would be quite popular among boys of a certain age and should be part of elementary classroom libraries.

first day in grapesFirst Day in Grapes, written by L. King Perez and illustrated by Robert Casilla, is the story of Chico, who is growing up in a family of migrant workers and changing schools frequently as his parents follow the crops and the work. Perez’s writing is really strong, but I did not care particularly for the illustrations, which are attractive but very literal. The illustrator doesn’t go beyond the words on the page to create a richer visual story. Still, a book I found interesting and enjoyable.

runaway rice cake

For some reason, my son is drawn to stories about Asian culture, so I try to grab those when I see them at the library. This week, we ended up reading The Runaway Rice Cake, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Tungwai Chau. It’s Chinese New Year’s, and the Chang family is so poor and hungry that they barely have enough flour to bake the traditional rice cake. Imagine their surprise when it’s removed from the oven, opens its eyes, and runs out the door. A chase ensues, and though the rice cake is eventually caught, it’s lost forever when Da, the youngest son, generously offers it to an elderly woman who is hungry. There’s a bit of the loaves and fishes story here as the family returns home and finds strangers bringing them food, which strangely multiplies when they offer to share it.

firekeeper's son

Linda Sue Park’s The Firekeeper’s Son, illustrated by Julie Downing, is set in nineteenth-century Korea and focuses on the bonfire signal system that was used to alert the capital of unrest or invasion at the coast. I know very little about Korean history and traditions, so this book was quite informative, though that wasn’t really its intention.


My son and I are huge So You Think You Can Dance fans and in honor of the new season starting a couple of weeks ago, I checked out the very slim selection of books on dance at my library. Bill T. Jones’s Dance, featuring photographs of Jones by Susan Kuklik, was the only book I thought my son would be interested in. But no. This one didn’t pass the nonfiction reading test–meaning he didn’t ask me to get my iPad out and find photos or videos to show him. Still, now he does know who Jones is, so perhaps he’d be open to watching a documentary about him.

how to train with a t rex

Very stupid (and misleading–since the T. Rex shows up on one page) title for a book that’s actually pretty good. Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, shares his training regimen in How to Train with a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals. There is lots of math in this book and much metaphorical thinking as Phelps tries to convey what it’s like to train for years to win gold. I thought this book effectively showed the dedication, effort, and intensity of elite athletes.

humble pie

Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are incredible in Humble Pie. Can the man do everything? Yes, I think he can.


Carolinda Clatter is an original story written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, who won the Caldecott for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. As I was reading this book and Humble Pie, I realized I should make more of an effort to find books illustrated by great illustrators. So often my book searching at the library sends me to authors–rarely to illustrators. But Gerstein’s work is really worth experiencing. Carolinda Clatter is a cute story of a loud girl born in a place where she’s supposed to be quiet to keep from waking the sleeping giant. But Carolinda can’t really be quiet, and she does wake the giant. But she’s clever in addition to noisy and she finds a way to encourage the giant to go back to sleep and to save her village from the curse of quiet at the same time.

while you are sleeping

The art is absolutely amazing in Alexis Deacon’s While You Are Sleeping. The story is fine, though not particularly original. (What happens while you’re sleeping is that your toys come to life.) But the art…. how is it that I’ve never heard of Deacon before??

t is for terrible

A Peter McMarty book I hadn’t read! T Is for Terrible is the amusing story of a T. Rex who really doesn’t want to be mean and scary: he just can’t help himself. Beautiful, distinctive illustrations, as always, and some funny moments in the story.

spiffitest giant in town

We are slowly reading our way through all of Julia Donaldson’s books. I really enjoyed The Spiffiest Giant in Town, which I should have hated because it has two of my least favorite things in it: a cumulative story AND rhyme. But Julia Donaldson can do no wrong, and of course Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are perfect for the story.

bright idea

I have to confess that my son absolutely hated Philippe Coudray’s Bright Ideas! but I absolutely loved it. He kept complaining that the book was boring, which I suppose it was for him, because he was having a very hard time understanding the humor and processing what was happening visually. But I was pleasantly surprised at the combination of goofiness and sophistication in this book. Definitely one I’ll be book talking in Children’s Lit.

Reading Goal Update:

Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 51/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 293/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 33/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 25/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 19/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 86/200


14 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/9/14 #imwayr”

  1. Have you tried I Can Read books? when my daughter was in third grade, she would read PILES of them, even though they were below her level. They just seemed to be the right length and level to get through on her own. Or the Step Into Reading series, or maybe the Scholastic Branches books. Sometimes the shorter books tricks them into reading on their own!

    • I’ve gotten a lot of I Can Read books from the library but I don’t know the Scholastic Branches series. I’ll look for those. He’s in the difficult situation of going into 6th grade at a 1st grade reading level, and he is really sensitive about any kind of “babyish” books. I try to read aloud to him for an hour a day, continuing to hope that it’s all going to somehow “click”. (He just started learning English 3 years ago; Amharic is his native language, and I’m not sure how well he could read that either.) I really haven’t explored some of the nonfiction series for lower level readers–the ones with all the photos. Those might be more like something he would want to pick up on his own. Thanks!

  2. Ooh! I’m a huge SYTyCD fan too! I’ll definitely have to check out DANCE!

    That Michael Phelps book does look really silly. It’s a shame the title misses the mark.

    I’m going to have to seek out HUMBLE PIE. I absolutely adore Jennifer Donnelly. Her book REVOLUTION is one of my all-time favorite YA novels.

    • I haven’t read Revolution but I did really like A Northern Light. Will definitely try Revolution now that I know it’s an all-time fave for you! I liked the story in Humble Pie too, but it was Gammell’s work that blew me away.

  3. I love how you are keeping separate reading goals for each challenge. I hadn’t thought of doing that! I also love how diverse your books are. It is a great resource for teachers and moms! 🙂 Have a terrific week!

    • I borrowed the idea of keeping separate reading goals for each challenge from Carrie Gelson! I’ve never been that organized before in my reading, but I’m really liking it. I am pretty intentional about what I pick from the library, but my mom gets a big stack of books for us each week too and she grabs without even looking at the titles, so we always have an eclectic and sometimes strange collection of books to read!

  4. Becky Citra wrote a fabulous series for younger readers that has never failed to get kids hooked on reading. Jeremy and the Enchanted Theater is the first. Like pringles potato chips, I’ve never had a kid stop at just one. The other book that those kids like, but is a slightly harder read is The Dragonling series by Jackie French. Lately I’ve discovered the power of ‘grit lit’ for those older reluctant readers.

    • LOL, I love books that are like Pringles potato chips! (For kids anyway!) I don’t know Becky Citra or Jackie French, but you can bet I’ll be getting their books now. Thanks! I stocked a lot of “grit lit” and also “urban lit” in my high school classroom library–kids just couldn’t get enough of it. Kids who absolutely refused to read would get hooked on the Bluford High series and beg me for the next book.

  5. We are also HUGE SYTYCD fans! It’s our only family TV watching that we do together. Some great and diverse titles here. Looks like your library has quite an interesting collection. Love the look of Humble Pie. Does your son like audio books? Wonder if that would be a way for him to have that independent experience? Having ability to monitor, pause, etc. I think it is lovely that he likes to share so much reading with you though . . . 🙂

    • We watch a lot of sports as a family, and then my son and I have our three competition shows we’re obsessed with: Project Runway, American Idol, and SYTYCD. My son LOVES Project Runway and has A LOT of opinions about it. Cracks me up. I’m just glad he can be interested in something that isn’t sports, because otherwise, all we hear all day long is football and basketball. SYTYCD is our absolute favorite show, so we’re thrilled it’s back on. I really need to capitalize on his interest in this and get some dance documentaries to show him. He went through a phase of loving audiobooks and listening to a bunch of them, but then he turned teenagerish and now during his “alone” time he only wants to listen to pop music on the radio while staring at the ceiling! You won’t believe what we’re reading aloud right now–Better Nate Than Ever! He saw it in a stack of books I’d checked out for myself and he got really excited because he had seen the book at school–one of his friends was reading it. I really didn’t want to read it to him because it’s so over his head in so many ways. I mean, he has never seen a musical, never been to a play, never been to an American city, doesn’t understand about auditions or acting or anything. But he was adamant, so we started it, and he seems to be following along reasonably well, though his questions show that he is really grasping at the more subtle parts of the story. I’m trying to figure out how I can build some background knowledge for him.

  6. I have to start getting to know more of Stephen Gammell’s works more – I don’t think I know a great many of them. And yes Mordicai Gerstein too! Will check them out from our library, I’m sure we do have a few titles of their earlier works. I know about Runaway Rice Cake – we have just e-launched a bibliography of rice-themed books for the AFCC, annotated by the NLB (National Library Board). Next year, we are pretty excited about our bibliography-project as we explore trees-themed-books! 🙂

    • Rice-themed books! That’s awesome! I have been a little lukewarm about Gammell (really didn’t care for the art in The Relatives Came), but something about Humble Pie’s art just hit me hard. I also really liked his work in My Friend the Starfinder and Old Henry. He does comic extremely well, but several of his books are really serious (a Holocaust title for Eve Bunting, for instance). I’m looking forward to reading more!

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