It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/8/14


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

On my blog:

  • A curation of some of the best online resources from last week
  • A celebration of old dogs, old cats, and fantasy football
  • A review of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney’s excellent nonfiction title, Sit-In
  • A slice of life modeled after Amy Krouse Rosenthal

In reading:


This is my second time reading Gareth Hinds’s superb graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf, which I assign to my British Literature class. There is so much to discuss, and the art is exquisite. Hinds uses different artistic techniques and media for the three different sections of the poem. He perhaps overemphasizes the superheroics of the poem (the battle scenes go on and on!), but he also conveys the poem’s tension between pagan and Christian values and its elegiac treatment of heroism, warrior culture, and the epic itself. Bonus: there’s no nudity! Thank you, Gareth Hinds, for creating an adaptation that high school teachers can use.

el deafo

Cece Bell’s middle-grade graphic novel memoir, El Deafo, is every bit as good as everyone has been saying it is. Bell loses her hearing after contracting spinal meningitis. For a time, she goes to a special school for deaf children, but when her family moves, she is enrolled in public school. Bell brilliantly captures what it’s like to be different, to long for that one true friend, to long to fit in.

elijah of buxton

I finally read a Newbery book this year! And ok, it’s an honor and not a gold medal winner, but I’m counting it. It fits my particular version of the Nerdbery Challenge, which is to read the gold medal winners from 1922-today as well as the Honor Books from 1990-today. My 2014 reading goal for this challenge was 12 books, and I am woefully behind, though if I give myself permission to catch up on recent Newbery winners and honor books I’ve missed, I think I could finish the challenge fairly quickly and painlessly. I’m still not sure how anyone completes the gold medal Newbery challenge in a calendar year without losing their will to read because there are so many bad books! But back to Elijah of Buxton which is NOT a bad book. In fact, it’s a very good book. In fact, it’s such a good book that as I was listening to it (brilliantly narrated on audio by Mirron Willis) I found myself arguing with the Newbery committee that awarded it a mere honor status. What other book published in that year could possibly have been better than Elijah of Buxton? Then I went to check the awards list and saw that Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! won that year, and I really can’t argue with that. Say with you will about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, it has to be the most distinguished book published that year (and one of my personal favorite Newberys–though I have yet to recommend it to anyone else). So, 2008 Newbery Committee members? You totally got it right.

Elijah of Buxton introduced me to a place I didn’t know about: Buxton, Canada, a settlement for freed and escaped slaves. Elijah is the first child in the settlement who was born free, and he doesn’t let you forget it. As always, Christopher Paul Curtis is a genius at creating strong voices for his characters and a genius at mixing funny with tragic. I laughed, I cried, and I did not ever want it to end.

i'm a good dog

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I have a pit bull, Roxy. Roxy’s happy disposition, loving acceptance of all people and cats (she’s a bit more selective about dogs, though mellowing in her old age), cartoon features (big concrete block head, tiny wide-spaced eyes, absurd musculature), perpetual wriggle, and Velcro-like attachment to her people are very fine qualities in a dog, and as Ken Foster’s I’m a Good Dog makes clear, typical features of the breed. The only thing dangerous about Roxy is her tail, which whips around constantly in excitement and happiness. Foster’s book is a wonderful introduction to this special breed, full of great photos and heartfelt stories of family dogs, therapy dogs, working dogs, and rescue dogs.

beatles were fab

I bought Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer’s The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) to donate to my son’s reading classroom library, but of course I had to read it first. Krull and Brewer tell the chronological story of The Beatles’ rise to fame. The focus is how they used humor to keep them going both in their early years of rejection and in the later years of rather frightening Beatlemania. Stacy Innerst’s illustrations are quirky and amusing.

henry goes to fitchburg

I loved D.B. Johnson’s Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, based on an incident from Henry Thoreau’s life. Henry and a friend decide to go to Fitchburg, a town thirty miles away. Henry decides to walk; his friend decides to work to earn enough money for a train ticket. The friend does make it there first (though not by long), but Henry has the much more meaningful day as he explores the natural world and finds himself enriched by his experiences. I never thought I would say this, but D.B. Johnson’s picture books make me want to read Walden (which occupies a central spot on my Shelf of Shame).

tuesday tucks me in

Tuesday Tucks Me In tells the true story of Tuesday, a service dog, and Luis Montalvan, a war veteran suffering from PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The author and photographer take us through a day in Tuesday’s life as he helps Luis with his daily tasks, navigates the city and subway with him, gets some playtime, and settles down to sleep. Tuesday himself gets to narrate his day, and he presents Luis’s struggles in a child-friendly way. This is an excellent introduction to a very tough subject (PTSD and the effects of war on soldiers) and definitely a story that tugs on the heartstrings. Montalvan has also written a memoir for adults, which I’m now interested in reading. Given that the government can’t even provide adequate medical care for returning soldiers (read David Finkel’s devastating Thank You For Your Service for more on that), I suppose it’s too much to hope that more veterans suffering from PTSD could get service dogs. But this story shows what an incredible difference a service dog can make. 



Nerdbery Challenge: 1/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 8/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 6/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 84/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 514/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 56/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 30/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 21/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 121/200





18 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/8/14”

  1. LInda Baie (@LBaie) Avatar

    It’s been since that year, I think, but I remember loving Elijah of Buxton, & it’s the first I’d ever heard of that story too! I will keep El Deafo on the list, another good one in the line of those that are different often are left out of regular stories. I keep hearing how good it is. I’ve read and enjoyed the others, especially liked Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, have used it with older students as well as younger. Everyone at school keeps field journals, so it’s great to show the wonder of going slow! Thanks Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Glad to see some more love for Elijah of Buxton. Hard to think I could love another Christopher Paul Curtis novel more than Bud Not Buddy, but I thought Elijah was just wonderful–though very hard to read towards the end. I just started The Mighty Miss Malone and am enjoying that too. What a wonderful assignment for everyone to keep field journals! I love that idea. You work at an amazing school, Linda!

  2. thelogonauts Avatar

    Wow, that’s a lot of challenges to keep track of! Yikes! Just picked up another 1920s Newbery this week, but not sure if I can bring myself to read it yet. We shall see. I have Elijah of Buxton in my library, because I love Christopher Paul Curtis, but I haven’t read it myself.

    As for Walden, I finally got around to reading that one this summer, and I have to admit that I found it terrible. You do a little digging and find out that Thoreau was much more of poseur than the book lets on. I didn’t get much out of it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I might have bitten off more than I can chew with all these challenges! Either that or December is going to be the most frantic reading month where I try to choose the shortest books I can to finish out the challenges! I’ve tried to read Walden a couple of times and really gotten bogged down. I’m wondering if reading in bits and pieces would be best for me. I have enjoyed excerpts that I’ve read, but reading from cover to cover is daunting. Which 1920s Newbery are you hoping to get to? I had planned to read Newberys in order but just can’t do it.

  3. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Such great books this week Elisabeth! Christopher Paul Curtis books are so good. He has such a wonderful way of bringing us into history. El Deafo is such a great GN! It is going to be loved like Smile. Gareth Hinds’s GNs are brilliant. Have you read his Romeo and Juliet? I am such a fan of that adaptation. And I loved The Beatles were Fab! I’m a huge Beatles fan, and it was such a fun book! Love the pitbull book. I have known 5-7 pitbulls, and they have always been such sweet dogs.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was thinking about Smile as I was reading El Deafo too. So glad to have another graphic novel winner that’s appropriate for younger students! I have bought Hinds’s adaptations of King Lear and The Odyssey (I think it is) but haven’t read them. Haven’t even seen the adaptation of R&J yet but will have to get it. Have been thinking that I ought to add one of the Shakespeare adaptations to the Brit Lit class too. Discussion is just so rich about the Beowulf adaptation, and I know Hinds’s style in his other GNs is quite different.

  4. Michele Avatar

    I can’t wait to get to El Deafo. My baby niece was diagnosed as being deaf, so I think this book is going to have special significance for me!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a wonderful story, Michele. I think so many readers are going to be able to connect and relate in different ways.

  5. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Luis Montalvan visited my public library last year to talk about his memoir and I was so moved by his story. When I posted my review of Tuesday Tucks Me In earlier this summer, Montalvan sent me a sincere and heartfelt thank you. I never tweeted the review to him, he just happened to stumble upon it and he felt compelled to thank me and tell me how much it meant to him. Despite his struggles, he is a beautiful soul with a giving heart.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I ordered his memoir for grown-ups yesterday, Beth. I’m really looking forward to it. I am continuing to think about Tuesday Tucks Me In this week. I haven’t shared it yet with my son, so I’ll be rereading it at some point this week. My son is also diagnosed with PTSD and I’m wondering if he’s going to be able to make some connections. I’m always touched and surprised when authors reach out after reading my blog.

  6. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    Everyone has been commenting about El Deafo. You know when you hear about a book so many times that you finally say, “That’s it! I am ordering it now!” Thank you for being that tipping point for me, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The book tipping point! I love it. This definitely happens to me on Mondays. The first couple of times I can resist, then I resort to putting it on the TBR list, and then there’s definitely the “That’s it! I’m ordering it now!” Ha!

  7. Myra GB Avatar

    I know what you mean about the Newbery books, particularly the older titles. This one you just shared escaped my radar though (Elijah of Buxton), although we did read (and review) Curtis’ Bud not Buddy and Watsons Go to Birmingham. El Deafo sounds like a book I must find right away at the library. LOVE Kathleen Krull. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The older Newberys are SUCH a struggle. I’ve allowed myself to resort to skimming and STILL can’t get through some of them! This might be a reading challenge I have to rethink for next year (and maybe abandon! After all, life is short and these older Newberys are not enriching my life in any kind of way). El Deafo is a wonderful read–and an important story. Hope you can find it!

  8. carriegelson Avatar

    Gig news, big news indeed. 1 book done on your Newbery challenge! Congratulations! I know how these goals can stare us in the face 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Come December, I’m going to have quite a few reading goals staring me in the face! It’s shaping up to be an unusual reading month as I try to finish my challenges. Glad to get back to the Newbery with such a good book!

  9. jaydenelizabeth13 Avatar

    I started reading Go Ask Alice this week. Definitely a hard and sad story to read, but such an eye opener about what drugs can do to your life!

  10. Vinotea Avatar

    I read Henry Hikes to Fitchburg previously and enjoyed it.

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