It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/13/14


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

This week on my blog:

In reading:


I bought Firebird, written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers, for the art, but I ended up loving it for the writing. Copeland is a ballet dancer, and I thought Firebird was going to be a memoir of some part of her story. It’s not, exactly. Firebird is about Misty Copeland in the same way that Yuyi Morales’s Viva Frida is about Frida Kahlo: both books are really about becoming artists, becoming yourself. In Firebird, an unnamed little girl dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, but it feels like such an unlikely dream. The older, wiser narrator encourages the little girl to stay focused, to work hard, and to believe in herself. Although the book is about art and dance, it’s applicable to any child with a dream–that is, to any child. The writing is poetical, lyrical, and inspirational, which doesn’t usually appeal to me, but I found Copeland’s images and use of language vivid and memorable. Myers’s art is getting a lot of praise, and that’s why I bought the book: to see the art. I have mixed feelings about it. The cover is a fair preview of what you will find inside: striking paintings of dancers against plain, somber backgrounds. There was something a bit lacking to me in the art: the bland backgrounds function as a kind of stage and rehearsal space and ought to highlight and heighten the movement and energy of the dancers, but it didn’t work that way for me. Still photographs of Copeland performing Firebird (you can Google images) are much more striking. This is one I may need to read again to truly appreciate.

mac barnett

Mac Barnett takes the old game of Telephone and puts a twist on it. The story begins with a mother bird sending a message across the telephone wire to tell her son it’s time for supper. Each bird who receives the message passes it on in a different way to the next bird, and when it finally reaches the wise old owl, it’s totally incomprehensible. But he’s not the wise old owl for nothing. Clever and charming and thoroughly elevated by Jen Corace’s brilliant art. (A little aside: my younger son could not read the title of this book because it’s written in cursive, and he is not learning to read or write cursive at school.)

long long journey

Sandra Markle’s The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration, illustrated by Mia Posada, follows the unlikely early life of the godwit, a bird born in Alaska who migrates to New Zealand. Godwits fly nonstop on the 7,000-mile journey, which takes them a full week. Incredible! The journey is really the remarkable thing, but Markle informs us about the bird’s birth and first few months of life and makes that interesting and dramatic as well. A strong nonfiction title, written to be comprehensible as a read-aloud for very young readers.

boy 21


I’m still trying to figure out what I thought about Matthew Quick’s Boy 21. The strength here is the main character’s voice and situation. I had many problems with this book, but I couldn’t put it down, and that was largely a function of Finley’s strong, compelling voice. I found the other characters underdeveloped and often unbelievable–and I don’t even mean Russ, the kid who pretends/believes he’s an alien from outer space. I didn’t fully understand the setting, and that’s a really important part of this story. The racial tensions of the town were interesting but, again, underdeveloped, and as a result, the final plot business–where the big mystery about Finley’s mother is revealed and tied to the disappearance of Finley’s girlfriend–didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I can’t quite stop thinking about the book, though, so there’s something there, even though it didn’t work for me.

reading the art of caldecott books

I plan to review Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books: A Guide to the Illustrations by Heidi K. Hammond and Gail D. Nordstrom later in the week.

Nerdbery Challenge: 1/12 books

#MustReadin2014: 9/15 books

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 7/12 books

Professional Development Reading Goal: 9/12 books

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 95/100 books

Picture Book Reading Goal: 555/350 books

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 69/100 books

YA Lit Reading Goal: 36/60 books

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 25/12 books

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 140/200





19 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/13/14”

  1. Being Woven Avatar
    Being Woven

    I love the “Telephone” book. It would be a great way to teach about how we pass on ‘secrets’ or ‘gossip’ and how distorted it becomes.
    ~ linda @ The Reader and the Book

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Telephone is so clever, and I agree–great way to begin a discussion about secrets and gossip. I could imagine using this book with middle schoolers!

  2. Michele knott Avatar

    It’s so true how sometimes you do need to give a book a few reads to truly appreciate it. Although there are also books that just don’t do it for me no matter how many times you read them!
    I’m interested in your thoughts on the Caldecott book! Can’t wait to hear!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I need to make time to get that review of the Caldecott book written! I really struggle to follow through on my intention to review PD books separately from Monday posts. I hate writing reviews! So hard! And I agree with you–there are some well-reviewed, award-winning books that just don’t do it for me no matter how many times I try!

  3. carriegelson Avatar

    Boy 21 was a wild book for me too. I couldn’t necessarily say why I really liked it but I really did. I think it is the strong, unique characters. And the way grief is allowed to be so hard we hide from it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love what you say about grief and hiding from it. Working with my son on some of his grief issues now and really thinking about that a lot.

  4. Gigi McAllister Avatar

    Hi Elisabeth, my library request is overloaded from today’s posts. I just added Firebird to my list. My class LOVED Telephone when I read it to them, then we had to play a round of the game, of course. They were really terrible at it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Loved reading about your class playing a round of Telephone after reading that book. Firebird is definitely one to read. And my library request was overloaded on Monday too!

  5. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    I missed your Art of Slow Grading post, so it was nice for me to link back and read it. I loved it. You are so thoughtful. I enjoyed Boy 21 very much, but I do understand how something felt like it was missing for you. Matthew Quick is one of my favorite authors. I love everything he has written, but this wasn’t my absolute favorite of his. I hope you have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Ricki! I am wanting to read more of Quick, as I loved Forgive Me Leonard Peacock and did find Boy 21 interesting. Maybe for my #MustReadin2015 list!

  6. Linda Baie Avatar

    After reading your review and all the comments, I am intrigued by Boy 21-still haven’t read it, so will look for it. Also, I know about Firebird-that cover is gorgeous. Will find it too, Elisabeth. The cursive dilemma-wonder what kids will do later when they need to read something important, or sign their name? My 8th grade grandson struggles too. I’ll look for your Caldecott book art review, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am wondering the same thing about cursive, Linda. I understand the argument against teaching it and even find that argument persuasive. But at the same time, cursive writing IS part of our world right now. A couple of my 6th-grade son’s teachers write notes on the board in cursive–even though elementary students in the same district are not being taught cursive. I find that rather perplexing!

  7. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Firebird intrigues me. Misty Copeland was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance, and I really enjoyed her on there; so, I really would love to read her story. Additionally, I love Firebird the music!
    Mac Barnett is a favorite, so I need to read Telephone; however, I’m cutting myself off from requesting from the library, so it is going to have to wait.
    I loved Boy21. I understand your thoughts though; however, I adore Quick’s writing, quirkiness, and ability to have an amazing voice.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We know Misty Copeland in our house because of So You Think You Can Dance too! (Our favorite tv show! My son and I are TOTALLY obsessed!) I definitely think you will be interested in her book. I would kind of like to read her memoir for grown-ups now too. She has a very interesting story.

  8. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Your assessment of the art in Firebird is interesting. I will have to go back and look at it again because I really loved it. I thought it paired really well with the text and added more emotion to the story than if I had just read the text on its own. I guess this is one of those instances where our opinions don’t line up like they usually do. 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      This is definitely a book I want to reread and think more about because I have read several really strong and positive reviews of the art, so I feel like I’m not getting something important about it. I’ve put the book aside this week but plan to look at it again in a couple of weeks to see if I can understand and appreciate it more.

  9. […] wrote about Boy 21 by Matthew Quick in this post. I found it intriguing and somehow compelling, but it didn’t quite work for me as a […]

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    Reading the Art sounds like a professional development book I MUST read. I’ve been trying to navigate my way around Nikolajeva’s How Picturebooks Work – but the technical aspects of the narrative keep putting me off. Glad to note your reservations about this particular Matthew Quick novel. Firebird does look beautiful, glad to read your thoughts about the art. Can’t wait to see it and check whether I have the same thoughts about it. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I reread Firebird last night and felt a little differently about it. Might have to include it again in next week’s post! Need to get my hands on Nikolajeva’s How Picturebooks Work. I have some problems with Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books–I can see uses for it, to be sure, but I don’t think it’s the book that you and I are looking for. Hoping to get that review up Thurs or Fri–if I can finish it! So many blog posts to write, so little time…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: