It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/23/14


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

On my blog this week:

In reading:

Another wonderful middle grade week. I am crazy in love with middle grade right now.

umbrella summer

If I were teaching right now, Umbrella Summer is totally one of those books that I would take into my classroom and wave around in the air. Then I would try to book talk it responsibly, but mostly I would end up grunting because when I really, REALLY like a book, I can’t put my liking into coherent words. But this is a wonderful book. Annie Richards is not having her best-ever summer. She is mourning the death of her beloved older brother, largely parenting herself because her parents are too deep in their grief to focus on her, and experiencing some best-friend drama. I could totally relate to Annie’s coping mechanism: extreme hypochondria and caution. But with the help of her new neighbor, she learns how to set down the umbrella now that it’s no longer raining and to come back to life.

clementine's letter

I am reading the Clementine series aloud to my younger son. It’s a reread for me–and totally delightful.

lonely lake monster

My older son and I are reading Suzanne Selfors’s Imaginary Veterinary series, and she really can’t write fast enough for us. We finished Book 2 last week, started Book 3 yesterday, and we’re already feeling bummed that we have to wait until next month for Book 4. I am not quite sure why I like these stories so much, but I do. They zip along, they’re fun, and they have some heart. We also love the in-text illustrations by Dan Santat. I hope we can find another series after this that we both like as much.

This week, I decided to give myself a treat and read or reread some picture books by myself that my son didn’t want to read. And I’m so glad I did.

we need a rhose

I understand why my kids didn’t care for We Need a Horse when I first read it aloud to them last year. It’s one of those metaphysical picture books, and their response to those kinds of books is generally “Huh?” But it’s just gorgeous–Sheila Heti’s writing, Clare Rojas’s amazing art, and the quality production of the book itself.


In Orani: My Father’s Village, Claire Nivola remembers summer visits to her father’s village in Sardinia. This is an incredibly evocative and rich story. I especially loved the concluding lines as she reflects on the busy, chaotic life she returns to in New York at the end of each summer: “Everywhere, there were so many people! It seemed strange that not one of them knew Orani. But then, what different world, I wondered, what Orani of their own might they have known before they traveled here?”

forever friends

I was unfamiliar with Carin Berger’s work until I read a post by Betsy Bird on Caldecott Almosts–illustrators she thinks she have won a Caldecott by now. Bird’s description of “the splendor of [Berger’s] cut paper work” intrigued me, and I was pleased to discover that my library has a couple of Berger’s books. Forever Friends is a charming story of a friendship between a bird and bunny, but it’s really the delicate art that’s the star here.

big wolf and little wolf

I reread Nadine Brun-Cosme’s Big Wolf & Little Wolf, exquisitely illustrated by Olivier Tallec. These stories make me so happy. There is still one Big Wolf & Little Wolf story that I haven’t read. I sense a book order in my future.

I read about 20 picture books to my son this week, and I’ll highlight a couple of my favorites:


I just loved Ninja! by Arree Chung. We’re pretty into ninjas around here, so this was a perfect book for us.

flight school

Lita Judge’s Flight School is just as delightful as everyone in my nerdy PLN said it was. I love sharing stories with my son about characters with unlikely goals who won’t be deterred and who find unusual ways to succeed.

hansel and gretelI have to confess that non-Disneyfied versions of fairy tales are generally too extreme for me now. Maybe if I were reading them to kids whose traumas and fears were largely imaginary, that would be one thing. But there are a few elements in the Hansel and Gretel story that I think might be a little too close to the realities of my son’s childhood. I feel like I’m retraumatizing him when I read a story like this to him. He is okay reading nonfiction books that deal with the hard truths of some children’s lives. He knows all too much about cruelty, starvation, and abandonment. But he is both mystified and disturbed by such themes being presented fictionally: he has no idea why someone would want to read a story like this when it didn’t even happen in the first place. He doesn’t yet understand the uses of fiction, and I am not sure that fairy tales are the way for him to begin to understand that. But if you are going to read a Grimm version of Hansel and Gretel, make it this one. Rachel Isadora’s illustrations are MAGNIFICENT. The cover doesn’t begin to hint at the lush world she creates inside.

Reading Goal Update:

Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 3/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 55/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 333/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 40/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 25/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 20/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 94/200

14 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/23/14”

  1. First of all, you have a fantastic name for your blog. Wish I had been that creative. Big Wolf and Little Wolf is such a great book. I wish more people knew about it. I loved Flight School and Orani as well. I teach second grade so I need to find Ninja and I agree that Rachel Isadora is terrific so I must find that book as well.

    • Thanks! Have you read the sequels to Big Wolf & Little Wolf? I like the one about the leaf even better! Ninja is a must-read for 2nd grade–your students will love it! We also read Rachel Isadora’s version of The Princess and the Pea this week, and it’s also good, though I thought Hansel & Gretel was the stronger title.

  2. Love Carin Berger’s One Perfect Day, so I know I’ll also love Forever Friends, Elisabeth. Thanks also for Umbrella Summer. I don’t know that title, & it sounds nice. Thanks also for the vet books-new also, & look like such fun! Happy reading!

  3. Oh where to begin. First I love love love Bib Wolf and Little Wolf I absolutely fall in love every time I read these titles. I can’t wait to find Flight School. I found your comments about fairytales and your son so – just so – don’t even know the word. I guess it is important. It is important to hear his reactions. It makes me think about so much and about the children present and future that I teach. Umbrella Summer is now on my TBR list. How could it not be after that review?!

    • Carrie, it’s so eye-opening to read with him. I am learning so much that I think is important about how we work with children who come from hard backgrounds. He is by far the best teacher I have ever had–about so, so many things. I think you will love Umbrella Summer!

  4. I think we’ve done a Rachel Isadora special when we had a fractured fairy tale theme several years back – I totally understand what you mean when you describe it to be rich and lush in texture and imagery – simply stunning, I agree. There are so many great titles you have here. Orani in particular caught my eye as I am enjoying Claire Nivola’s storytelling and artwork so much. I would be sure to pin these titles in my Pinterest board. 🙂

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