It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/6/14



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

On my blog:

I also guest-blogged last week at Get Outside Yourself, the blog of the English Department at Chadron State College (where I teach):

In reading, I finally finished some books! (Which means I can start some new ones.)

when you reach  me

I think this is my third or fourth time reading Rebecca Stead’s Newbery winner, When You Reach Me, and this time I listened with my ears. I am not a fan of A Wrinkle in Time (have any of you read that book lately? I reread it a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe how boring it was! I still need to read Hope Larson’s graphic novel adaptation), but I love Miranda’s obsession with it. I think it’s funny that she obsessively rereads this one book and never branches out to find other books she might love just as much. I did that as a child too–compulsively rereading a handful of favorites and never even realizing how many more wonderful books I could also have been reading. In any case, I can confirm that When You Reach Me holds up to multiple rereadings and is also excellent on audio.

absolutely almost

Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost was another reread for me this week, as my son chose it for our read-aloud. I was so glad that he did, because I think this is an important story. (It’s also a really good read-aloud. Some books just read aloud better than other books, and this is a good one.) We had so many interesting conversations last week inspired by this story.

tuesdays at the castle

Inspired by Franki’s post on reading aloud with her third-graders, I decided to try Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. It has a stupendously great first sentence: “When Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a new room or two.” You have to keep reading, don’t you? The Castle itself was probably my favorite character in this fairy tale-like story of a good royal family that finds itself in the middle of intrigue and ambush. But Princess Celie, our heroine, is also a delight: headstrong, clever, and brave, she saves the day more than once with the help of her beloved castle.

nothing can possibly go wrong

I decided I’d better get serious about my YA lit reading challenge, since I’ve only read half of the 60 YA novels I committed to reading in 2014, and it is already October. If I’m going to reach my goal, I have about 30 YA books to read over the next three months. SIGH. All I can say is thank goodness for graphic novels and nonfiction! I started with Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, a graphic novel adapted by Faith Erin Hicks from Prudence Shen’s original young adult novel. Hicks and Shen tackle the age-old jocks vs geeks/geeks vs cheerleaders plot but give it a unique spin. This is a story with heart and one that should be in every middle school and high school classroom library.

runaway girl

Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois is a lavishly illustrated biography of an important twentieth-century artist written for young adults. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan ground Bourgeois’s art and creativity in her childhood experiences and memories (as did Bourgeois herself). They were able to interview the artist (she was in her 90s and still going strong!), so Bourgeois’s own words and thoughts about her art are woven throughout this well-researched text. Bourgeois insists that the art needs to stand alone without biographical context, but I found many of the pieces much more meaningful after I read Greenberg and Jordan’s commentary contextualizing and analyzing the art. The book is really a feast for the eyes with so many photos of Bourgeois herself and her work. There is superb and extensive back matter.kendraKendra by Coe Booth is the story of fourteen-year-old Kendra who has been raised by her grandmother while her mother, Renee, has been in school earning her Ph.D. Renee was just fourteen when she got pregnant with Kendra, but she didn’t let that derail her dreams of being an academic. Kendra has been waiting patiently for her mother to finish school and finally become the mother that Kendra wants and needs–rather than the mostly absent “older sister” Renee has often pretended to be. Kendra is crushed when Renee makes it clear that she isn’t going to invite Kendra to live with her. In her grief and disappointment, Kendra hooks up with Nashawn, a boy her best friend has a crush on. Booth thoughtfully explores Kendra’s complicated feelings about her parents (her dad lives in the same apartment building and is a strong positive presence in her life, but he can’t get over Renee and move on with his life), her confusion over her sexual relationship with Nashawn, her strained friendship with Adonna, and her tense relationship with her grandmother, who is determined that Kendra isn’t going to be like Renee. I struggled with Nashawn’s character–I found it hard to believe that he would suddenly turn into solid boyfriend material at the end of the story–but otherwise found this to be a strong, engaging, and important YA novel.

I read about a dozen picture books this week with my son but only feel compelled to feature two on my blog.

when bob met woodyWhen Bob Met Woody is an excellent picture book biography of young Bob Dylan, focusing on his childhood and early career struggles and success. Golio is especially good on Dylan’s love of practicing, independence (he refused to take piano or guitar lessons and insisted on teaching himself), and early musical influences. The illustrations by Marc Burckhardt are warm and inviting.

thank you mr falker

I have to confess that Patricia Polacco is one of a handful of beloved children’s book author-illustrators that I simply don’t get. Objectively, I understand what other readers are raving about, but her books generally leave me with a serious case of meh. (With, perhaps, the exception of Thunder Cake.) So I have been in no hurry to read Thank You, Mr. Falker. But this is a Patricia Polacco book that I can love as much as anyone else. It’s really a love letter to great teachers everywhere. Trisha is so excited to start school because she longs to learn how to read. But unlike the other children in her class, she can’t seem to learn how. She struggles for five years until she finally has a teacher who understands her problem: she’s dyslexic. Mr. Falker not only understands; he decides to do something about it. Trisha is not going to leave his classroom until she learns to read. He employs many unconventional methods to help her learn. As the mother of a son who struggles to read, I found this story poignant, and I finished it wishing that my son could find his Mr. Falker. This is one I will certainly be sharing with the students in my Children’s Literature class.






17 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/6/14”

  1. Megan Avatar

    I reread A Wrinkle in Time after reading When You Reach Me (which I actually didn’t particularly care for) because I remembered how much I LOVED that book when I was younger. Oh man, what was I thinking? That book is terrible! So painfully boring. I actually made a new rule: no rereading beloved childhood books as an adult. I would be devastated to learn that Island of the Blue Dolphin is actually a horrible book! Thanks for sharing! ~Megan

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Too funny, Megan! I also loved Wrinkle in Time when I was 10–I had a beat-up copy kind of like Miranda’s. I could see how it was so different and unique when it was published, but it has not aged well. I am always happy when I can revisit a beloved childhood book and still love it, because that is rather rare. For instance, I was also a HUGE Little House on the Prairie fan, but now the racism makes the books basically unreadable for me. I will say that picture books have held up very well! Bedtime for Frances is still just as good as it was in 1976!

  2. Juliana Ellington Avatar

    I am happy to read your review of Kendra because I had a student who must have read the book maybe 8 (or more) times during the time she was in my reading class. She LOVED this book–I’m sure because it resonated with her own life story.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I thought Kendra was very good. I really liked how Booth explores different ethical issues, making consequences clear, but allowing the reader–and Kendra–to make her own decisions. I also appreciated that Kendra wasn’t punished for her sexuality.

  3. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    I was just saying that I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time since I was very young, and after your comments, I will proceed with caution. I very much enjoyed When You Reach Me, and I think it would be great to listen to on audio. I think I’ll plan to reread that one with my ears. 🙂
    I enjoyed Kendra too, and I remember finding Nashawn’s character to be a bit problematic. I absolutely love Tyrell and Bronxwood and have read them both more than once. Have you read these? If you liked Kendra, I think you would love them even more. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s very well done on audio, Ricki. I think you would really enjoy it. And knowing the twist and big reveal at the end doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the story one bit! If anything, it’s almost more fun on a repeat reading. I read Tyrell when it was first published but barely remember it. I’d love to read Bronxwood but saw today that it’s a sequel to Tyrell and I wondered if I would need to reread Tyrell to have that story fresher in my mind first. I’m also looking forward to reading Booth’s new middle grade: just ordered it today!

  4. Linda Baie Avatar

    Thanks first for telling about Kendra, & then Ricki suggesting others by Coe Booth. I’ll share them for sure. I love hearing about the Louise Bourgeois, know a few students who will enjoy reading about her and the art. Glad always to hear your reviews.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Kendra is a really strong YA title, Linda–lots to think about there in terms of teen sexuality, relationships with parents, and friendships. There are so many excellent books about artists. I love reading about art! Both Kendra and Runaway Girl were titles recommended in Booklist’s 1000 Best Young Adult Books, 2000-2010. I highlighted about 30 books that I want to read–about the same number I need to complete for my 2014 YA reading challenge.

  5. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    You and I always have such similar reactions to books. I totally agree with you about A Wrinkle in Time. I LOVED it when I read it in 8th grade, but when I picked it up again as an adult, I agree it was totally boring. When You Reach Me though? So not boring. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was relieved to see your words about We Were Liars on your blog. I was feeling kind of alone in my lack of love/feelings of connection for/with that title! I love Rebecca Stead so much–rereading When You Reach Me makes me want to reread Liar & Spy, which I think I liked even better than When You Reach Me.

  6. Michele Avatar

    One day, one day I’ll read When You Reach Me. Why is there always a pile of books to read? Wait, piles of books. Towers of books. That’s ok 🙂
    Absolutely Almost was a summer fave. That’s a good one to reread!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, so many towers of books!! You definitely have a good one to look forward to in When You Reach Me. Absolutely Almost was very good to reread–better than I was expecting. Love Lisa Graff!

  7. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    You have so many great books featured on here. I want to read Hicks’s GN. I am a big fan of her Friends with Boys.
    I am not a huge fan of A Wrinkle in Time, but loved When You Reach Me. So well done!
    I also really want to read Absolutely Almost. Everyone loves it, and I am sure I will as well.
    So glad you featured When Bob Met Woody! I grew up on Bob Dylan and love when he gets some love!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you will like Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. I also love Friends with Boys. I have never really listened to much Bob Dylan, so I was glad you don’t need much familiarity with the music to enjoy the picture book. And I will say that the picture book passed our test: Did we want to learn more about the subject? Yes, we did! I even felt like listening to a little Bob Dylan afterwards!

  8. carriegelson Avatar

    When You Reach Me – oh what a book! Loved it in so many ways. I read Tuesdays at the Castle on my daughter’s insistence and really enjoyed it. She loves this author a lot. I love it when she can recommend books to me!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I just checked out Dragon Slippers from the library but I don’t think I have time to read it right now. Still, glad to see Jessica Day George has several other engaging-sounding series. I will get to some of her others eventually. I can understand why your daughter loves her!

  9. Myra GB Avatar

    When Bob Met Woody sounds like a book that I would definitely love and would most likely add to my list of PBBs. Patricia Polacco is a hit-or-miss for me too, but mostly a hit, so I shall definitely find Mr. Falker. I think I have Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece borrowed from the library recently. I’ve been reading so many great things too about Absolutely Almost. Sounds like a great read.

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