It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/18/14


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

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In reading:

Another week where I finished very little–and actually read very little. I wouldn’t really call this a reading slump because I am reading three or four books I find highly engaging. I’m just struggling to find the time and calm home space to sit down and read. My kids go back to school next week–and I may spend the entire week reading!

adventures of nanny piggins

R. A. Spratt’s The Adventures of Nanny Piggins makes a superb read-aloud. It’s witty and occasionally absurd and more than a little Roald Dahllesque. The writing is very strong, and there are plenty of jokes to amuse both children and adults. The premise is a bit thin: some motherless children with a stupid father get a pig for a nanny. But what a pig! The plot is highly episodic with each chapter narrating a different adventure with Nanny Piggins. There is very little in the way of character or plot development and no theme to speak of, but that’s not really the point. I read a couple of hilarious reviews online arguing that this is not a healthy book to share with children because Nanny Piggins encourages children to eat chocolate for breakfast and lie to adults. So if you’re that kind of grown-up, definitely avoid this book.

beginner's guide to running away

The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home, written by Jennifer Larue Huget and illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels), is visually stunning. Red Nose Studio’s clay figures are incredibly expressive and the sets are stuffed with interesting details and visual humor. There is so much to pour over. The writing is quite strong in this book as well, and I can easily imagine using it as a mentor text for students’ own “Beginner’s Guide to….”

firefly july


I’m so glad I broke down and purchased Firefly July for my lending library. Gorgeous art by Melissa Sweet and many fine poems by a variety of poets organized by season (though many of the poems relate only very tangentially to a season). It’s a thoughtful curation and a book I’ll return to again and again.

going places

Peter and Paul Reynolds’s Going Places celebrates thinking outside the box and throwing away the instruction manual. I might read this one in my Composition class this week to start a discussion of the “rules” of writing that students have learned over the years and why many of those rules hinder effective writing.

hi koo

Another lovely title from Jon Muth, Hi, Koo! follows Koo and two children through the seasons as they play and observe nature. The haiku are simple and full of imagery, and of course the illustrations are beautiful. Indispensable if you’re studying haiku, but well worth having in any classroom library regardless.
hungry coat

The Hungry Coat, written and illustrated by Demi, is a Turkish folk tale starring Nasrettin Hoca, a 13th-century Turkish philosopher. Nasrettin is late to a fancy party because he helps a friend catch a runaway goat. He’s dirty and smelly when he arrives, and his host is embarrassed by him and the other guests ignore him. Nasrettin heads home, cleans up, and puts on his most sumptuous clothes. He returns to the party, where he is welcomed and lavishly fed and entertained. He plays a clever trick on the other guests to teach them an important lesson about appearances.
one grain of rice

One Grain of Rice, also by Demi, is a “mathematical folktale” from India. In this story, a greedy raja hordes rice while his people starve. A clever girl uses her math knowledge to trick him into releasing all of the stores of rice to her so that she can feed the hungry. There is a fascinating math chart on the back page that shows how quickly numbers add up when one grain of rice is doubled each day for 30 days.

strong to the hoop

Strong to the Hoop, written by John Coy and illustrated by Leslie Jean-Bart, is the story of ten-year-old James, who unexpectedly gets asked to join his older brother’s game of four-on-four when an older boy is hurt. Jean-Bart’s pictures are really interesting–a mix of photographs and scratchboard drawings–and Coy’s writing vividly brings a rough game of basketball to life. Good mentor text potential here for students who write about sports.

the ok book


The OK Book is another winner by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenfeld. Our main character, a stick figure designed from the O and K, is merely OK at lots of different things but knows eventually he/she/it will discover something to excel at. Lichtenfeld’s illustrations cleverly incorporate the O and K in each spread, and the message here that it’s good to try lots of things and enjoy activities even when you aren’t the best is a welcome one. This would be a great choice to work on growth mindsets!





22 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/18/14”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Hi, Koo! beautifully surprised me. It is just such a gorgeous feast for the eyes and the senses. I think Going Places can be used in a huge variety of ways and certainly with older students. We adults, most of all need tune ups with our free and creative thinking! I am looking forward to another year of hearing about which books you are sharing with your college students.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Hi Koo is one I fear I will have to purchase because I can imagine wanting to share it again and again!

  2. thelogonauts Avatar

    Lots of great ones! I love the Demi folktales and share those with my students every year. I love watching how quickly some of them realize the impact of doubling … Excited to get Going Places off my to read list, as it is waiting for my at the library!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love all of Peter Reynolds’s books–such inspiring messages about creativity, art, and invention. I am hoping to get my hands on some of Demi’s other books–I know she has a biography of Gandhi that I’d like to read.

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    I have Firefly July-really a special recent book, Elisabeth. Love all your choices and ideas about the books. I will look for The Beginner’s Guide.. and Strong To The Hoop. Both look worth finding and using! Thank you!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      How I love Melissa Sweet’s work! I resisted purchasing Firefly July thinking I didn’t need another collection of poetry. But I was wrong!

  4. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I can’t believe I’d never heard of The OK Book until earlier this past week. I definitely need to check that one out.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I keep discovering books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal! A fine thing to discover. Have you read her “memoir,” Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life? I want to use some excerpts from that in my Comp class this fall.

  5. Michele Avatar

    You have some new to me titles on your list, I’ll check some out! This was a slow week? Looks to me you did pretty well! And thanks for the “Farm” recommendation, I just put that on hold for me!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Farm is my favorite Elisha Cooper book, and that’s saying something because I think they’re all quite good. But Farm is a superb mentor text. I’m just glad there are always picture books to read, because some weeks I don’t manage to read very much on my own books (middle-grade and YA).

  6. Kay McGriff (@kaymcgriff) Avatar

    Now I have lots of titles to add to my list of books I want to read. I enjoyed reading your response to each–especially the warning for Nanny Piggins. I think I’m just the kind of grownup who would love that book!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was pleasantly surprised by Nanny Piggins–not a title I’d so much as heard of. (I found it because I was looking at Dan Santat’s website, and he illustrated it.) I am looking forward to the sequel.

  7. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    I concur with other comments–if this is a slow week, I am impressed!
    I’m so glad that you decided to get Firefly July. It is wonderful.
    I’ve wanted to read Places and Koo, but now I want to read many on your list. Nancy Piggins looks awesome! Thank you for sharing it and the other titles.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Nanny Piggins is hilarious and occasionally twisted, which is just the kind of story I like. Firefly July really is wonderful. i know you will like Places and Hi Koo.

  8. Melissa Avatar

    Elisabeth, thank you for bringing The OK Book, The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away, and Nancy Piggins to my awareness! I am looking forward to adding these to my list to look out for.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I can see many uses for The Ok Book in the classroom. Beginner’s Guide could also make an interesting mentor text, I think.

  9. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    I’ve heard such wonderful things about Firefly July. I need to add it to my TBR pile! The OK book also looks delightful. Thank you for sharing these this week! You are always introducing me to new and exciting titles. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Ricki! Always so many books to add to our TBR piles on Mondays!

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    Hi there Elisabeth, I love seeing two titles by Demi here. One Grain of Rice in particular is included in our Bibliography of Rice-Themed stories that we have done along with the National Library Board here in Singapore and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. The Hungry Coat also looks amazing and my kind of read. Demi is so prolific. I know about The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away and was about to feature that for our previous reading theme on coming of age, until we realized that running away can be a theme on its own, so I’m saving it for when we have that reading theme. 🙂 It looks absolutely gorgeous though. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We have only read a handful of Demi titles, and I’ve liked them all, so I’m pleased that she is so prolific. I love her art and the design of her books as well. As objects, they’re aesthetically pleasing! My son is very interested in folk tales and different cultures right now, so her books are right up his alley.

  11. Earl @ The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer Avatar

    Lots of good books here! I may have to give The Beginner’s Guide another chance!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I wasn’t too keen on the art in Beginner’s Guide at first–all those red noses and ruddy faces kind of creeped me out. But it grew on me as I kept reading.

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