It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/25/14


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

On my blog:

  • Sunday Salon was back with links about doing school differently, the first week of school, and teaching Ferguson
  • I celebrated dogs, cats, books, and more
  • I posted Part 2 in a series about Getting Started with Writing Workshop, Routines & Structures
  • reviewed two excellent picture book biographies of artists

In reading:

david and goliath

If I think very hard about them, Malcolm Gladwell’s books usually unravel: he has a tendency to support a very large claim with a very tiny anecdote and to leap to conclusions that can’t always be sustained through more careful analysis. And yet I find his writing incredibly compelling and thought-provoking. Listening to them on audio is really the perfect choice for me: I am not an auditory learner, so I can never understand enough by listening to start picking holes in the argument! I thoroughly enjoyed his most recent book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. The argument is simple: the underdog often isn’t at as much of a disadvantage as we think he is. Or rather, what looks like a disadvantage may well give him the advantage. Gladwell covers an incredibly wide territory, as always: the Biblical story of the title, the Civil Rights Movement, dyslexia, the grieving parents of murdered children, the conflict in Northern Ireland…. It’s all a bit dizzying, as Gladwell’s books tend to be, and very hard to put down.
the moon and me

Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More focuses, as her most recent couple of novels have, on that final summer before becoming an adult: the summer after high school graduation and before college. This is interesting territory to mine, and Dessen does it as well as anyone, but I didn’t find The Moon and More particularly compelling. It’s a long novel (nearly 450 pages) with not very much happening. I appreciate that Dessen crafts novels out of the regular drama of everyday life and interactions between people who are more or less getting along, but the characters never came to life for me in this book. I had a hard time even remembering the main character’s name.
timmy failure now look

At my son’s request, I read the second Timmy Failure novel aloud. I feel like I deserve some sort of special parent read-aloud superhero cape now. I don’t think this is a bad series (and occasionally it’s quite funny), and it makes a great read-alike for fans of Big Nate or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Much of the humor is over my son’s head, however, and I have to say that I tire of the nasty dispositions of characters like Timmy, Nate, and Greg Heffley. Reading this book made me long for a story with any kind of heart. Why can’t I find some heavily illustrated middle-grade stories that are sweet??

sugar would not eat it

How I love Emily Jenkins! In Sugar Would Not Eat It, she makes fun of all the ways that we try to force children to eat food they don’t like or want to eat, but she does it with a twist that gets us off the hook: the main character, Leo, is trying to get his new kitten to eat a piece of delicious chocolate cake, but no matter how much he begs, pleads, or threatens, “Sugar would not eat it.” Of course kittens shouldn’t eat chocolate cake in the first place, so this reader was rooting for Sugar all along. My son found the whole situation perplexing. “Why doesn’t he buy her some cat food? Why is he so stupid?” And in the end, when Sugar finally finds something more palatable to her tastes, “Duh.” So I would say I enjoyed this one a lot more than he did.

henry works

I finally got my hands on one of D.B. Johnson’s lovely picture books based on Henry David Thoreau and now I can’t wait to read the rest of them. Henry Works follows Henry through a morning around town and country as he helps out person after person but gets little credit for it. It didn’t mean anything to my son when Henry delivered a letter to Emerson or planted some wild strawberries in Mrs. Hawthorne’s garden, but I got a little bookworm thrill. When Henry eventually sits down to his real work of writing, he has plenty of material to write about. A quiet, lovely story and a clever way to make Thoreau accessible to children.


Bittle is Julia the dog’s and Nigel the cat’s name for the new baby who disrupts their quiet predictable lives. Julia especially hates the new baby at first but grows to love her over the course of the story, much to Nigel’s surprise. There is nothing particularly new about Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLAchlan’s take on the story of a new baby’s arrival, but this book is quite charming. Pairs nicely with Emily Jenkins’s That New Animal.

imagine harry

Kate and M. Sarah Klise’s Imagine Harry is about Little Rabbit and his imaginary friend, Harry. It’s a sweet and also slightly bittersweet story of Little Rabbit finding real friends and losing his need for Harry. The illustrations are especially charming, and Klise has fun with the empty space that represents the invisible Harry.
happy pig day

I’m on a Mo Willems reread kick right now and made my son listen to Happy Pig Day! for the third or fourth time this week. But really, the Elephant & Piggie books are always good.
my penguin osbert

Apparently My Penguin Osbert is a very popular book: you can even buy an Osbert stuffed penguin. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel’s cautionary Christmas tale is quite funny. Joe has been disappointed by Santa in years past so he is very specific in his letter requesting a penguin. Finally he gets exactly what he asks for–only to discover that having a penguin for a pet isn’t quite what he imagined it would be. Santa agrees to a do-over, and Osbert ends up in a much more suitable place. 






13 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/25/14”

  1. LInda Baie (@LBaie) Avatar

    Love the look of the Henry Works book, Elisabeth. Do you know Henry hikes to Fitchburg? Another fun story about Thoreau’s life. Happy to hear about the Gladwell- always compelling. Thanks for the other picture books too- will look for them!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My mom just found Henry Hikes to Fitchburg at the library today. I think my son and I will read it tonight. I really enjoyed the Gladwell book–and found many things that relate to Ferguson too. Thought-provoking stuff.

  2. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Ooh! I definitely need to check out Sugar Would Not Eat It. Sounds more like a lesson for parents rather than kids. 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I agree, Beth. Parents might need to skim this one before reading it to their kids to see if they’ve said some of these same words to try to force their children into eating something!

  3. kateposeyphd Avatar

    I’m going to have to check out Sugar Would Not Eat It–it sounds like my kind of picturebook! The summer has been so busy and I feel like I haven’t visited your blog in ages! That will be different now that the fall is going to be a little less crazy for me. I should definitely start participating in this meme again and share what I’m reading. I just started Saving Lucas Biggs today. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s been busy here too, but blogging helps me stay sane! I like the routine of it. Plus, I really enjoy the different online communities that participate in my regular memes. Saving Lucas Biggs looks excellent–I’ve added it to my list. Thanks for mentioning it!

  4. Michele Avatar

    I love when you write your son’s comments… his thinking, while making me laugh, is usually spot on! Sometimes we look deeper when really, you just need to say “why did he do that?”
    I hope you like Musk Ox… not everyone gets the snarky side of things 🙂

  5. carriegelson Avatar

    I can just imagine this conversation between you and your son reading that book. Very funny. I read Bittle ages ago and remember finding it quite cute. Love finding great older titles at the library. Such variety on your list this week. Wishing you a wonderful reading week.

  6. Gigi McAllister Avatar

    Lovely books as always Elisabeth. Sugar Would Not Eat It makes me think of my son who eats maybe 5-6 foods. I LOVE Mo Willems and the Elephant and Piggie books. I so wish they had been around when I was teaching struggling readers in spec. ed. His books are a gift. Some boys in my class have big love for Timmy Failure and his “sleuthing” style.

  7. Myra GB Avatar

    Hi Elisabeth, I agree with you about the Elephant and Piggie books – Mo Willems is absolutely brilliant! One day, I hope to own all the titles in this series. Great read-aloud too. Like your son, my 12 year old girl is also a huge fan of the diary-series: Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diary, and Amelia’s notebook. The latter is the only one that I particularly enjoy, although to be fair, I haven’t really read any of the others. 🙂 I am a huge fan of the Klise sisters books – this one is new-to-me. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  8. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    You can buy a stuffed Osbert?! I had no idea! I want one!
    I agree about E&P books. Mo Willems does no wrong.
    Timmy Failure hasn’t become popular at my school yet. Maybe I need to read him and book takl it.

    Happy reading this week!

  9. Emily Lim-Leh Avatar

    A friend gave me My Penguin Oswald a few years back and it’s still one of my favorites 🙂

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