It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/1/14 #imwayr


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

On my blog this week:

  • A collection of online readings about Ferguson in Sunday Salon
  • A celebration of pie, conversations, coming home, and a most excellent Thanksgiving
  • A review of Lita Judge’s lovely nonfiction picture book, Born in the Wild

In reading:


John Corey Whaley’s Noggin has a preposterously goofy concept that will no doubt be a hook for many young adult readers: terminal cancer patient Travis gets a second chance at life when his head is successfully attached to a new, cancer-free donor body. The rub? He’s been dead (well, cryogenically frozen) for five years. His parents’ lives were changed by his death in ways he only slowly understands over the course of the novel, and his old friends have moved on. And of course he’s now a “freak.” Whaley has fun with the high concept, but it’s really a vehicle for a much more nuanced and thoughtful exploration of what it means to grow up and grow apart from friends and family. This is a surprisingly wistful and bittersweet novel. I am glad that I read and discussed it in YA Book Club because I don’t think I would have appreciated or understood the book nearly as much without Hannah‘s and Kelsey‘s insights.

one of those hideous books where the mother dies

Time for a title from my YA Shelf of Shame! I have checked Sonya Sones’s One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies out from the library and started reading it probably a dozen times and never made it very far. This time, I was determined to push through. I think this book would have strong teen appeal, and the voice of the main character, Ruby, is strong and believable. There’s an interesting hook: Ruby’s mother has died and she has moved to California to live with her famous movie star dad, who has also been an absentee father for all of Ruby’s life. But I did have problems. There are three big plot twists or reveals towards the end that most readers will see coming for many pages. Ruby’s emotional arc doesn’t feel fully developed, especially her grieving process for her mother. And I have no idea what the purpose of the verse in this verse novel was–beyond creating a lot of white space and making the book a super fast read. It is really written in prose chopped up into something that looks like verse. It probably didn’t help that I was reading Caminar, a very well-crafted verse novel, at the same time. I do like verse novels, but writers need to be very conscious and careful of craft, and I simply didn’t find this to be a very well-written book.


I picked up an ARC of Skila Brown’s Caminar at NCTE 2013 but just now got around to reading it. What a powerful and interesting story! (Written very intentionally and powerfully in verse.) This middle-grade title set in 1981 in Guatemala tells the story of Carlos, who inadvertently finds himself in the middle of the Army’s war with the rebels. Brown beautifully depicts the struggle between Carlos and his mother as he tries to grow up and gain more independence and she tries to keep him sheltered and innocent for as long as possible. That tension underscores Carlos’s journey (a literal and metaphorical journey), even after his mother is lost to him. It’s a richly evocative and incredibly moving story.

brown girl

I actually finished Brown Girl Dreaming a couple of weeks ago but forgot to write about it. There were so many things I loved about this book. I want to reread it again soon. I’m so glad it won the National Book Award, though if Travis Jonker’s stats on Newbery/National Book Award overlaps hold, we shouldn’t be holding our breaths for a Newbery.

heros guide to storming the castle

I am so enjoying Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide series. We finished the second book, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, and are now halfway through Book 3. Todd Harris’s illustrations add considerably to the charm. rosie revere engineer

Loved the message about creative attempts and failure in Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer, and adored David Roberts’s illustrations, but the rhyme is killing me. flora and pengiun

I almost didn’t pick up Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguin, because I was very so-so about Flora and the Flamingo. I admired it but didn’t fully connect to it. I’m so glad I picked up Flora and the Penguin, though, because I thought it worked extremely well. Here the simplicity of all that white space worked so much better, the illustrations under the flaps seemed more purposeful, and there was a stronger emotional arc, at least for me. Reading it did make me want to revisit the first book and try to appreciate it more–something I’m sure I will do next semester in Children’s Lit during our Mock Caldecott unit.

vanilla ice cream


Bob Graham’s Vanilla Ice Cream is a surprisingly deep meditation on the connectedness of seemingly random experiences and events. The text is very spare and simple with several wordless spreads. The book begins in India and follows the journey of a sparrow halfway around the world where its path will cross toddler Edie’s. Not much happens: the sparrow snacks a lot; Edie gets her first taste of vanilla ice cream. But the reader is left with plenty to ponder, and this is certainly a book I’ll be thinking about for awhile.





12 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/1/14 #imwayr”

  1. dmmckee Avatar

    I just ran across Bob Graham’s “How to Heal a Broken Wing” on Amazon this morning and had to order it, and now here’s Bob Graham again! Funny how the world works.

  2. ipushbooks Avatar

    I have been intrigued by Noggin–it’s on my list. I am glad to hear that it gives readers a lot to think/talk about.

  3. Melanie Meehan (@MelanieMeehan1) Avatar

    Wow– you read a lot. I will need to remember to look for Caminar when it comes out. That sounds like a good one. And I love Brown Girl Dreaming. I need my own copy to write all over…

  4. Tara Smith Avatar

    I saw one last copy of Caminar at NCTE and then – poof!- someone got to it before I did. Definitely a book I want to read. Noggin sounds cool – I’d have to preview it carefully for my sixth grade kiddos, but my ex students will love it, no doubt.

  5. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    I have read so many reviews of Noggin, and you are the first to write the premise. That sounds so funny! I really need to read it. Thanks for telling more about it! 🙂

  6. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    So much in this post!
    Thank you for the post about Ferguson. I think that the more education about what is going on, the better!
    Eliot Schrefer just finished Noggin and truly liked it. That is a big compliment.
    I love the Sonya Sones books that I’ve read. She has a way with words and really speaks to teens.
    Like you said brown girl dreaming is a near-perfect book. Beautiful.
    Yay Heroes! I loved the first 2. I need to get the 3rd.
    I read Flora and the Flamingo for the first time at NCTE (forgot to mention this in my post!), and I was so blown away by the artwork. I look forward to reading the new Flora.
    I need to read the others–both sounds great!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

  7. Linda Baie Avatar

    Noggin sounds like a book I know that’s old, but interesting in the similarities, titled Eva by Peter Dickinson, about a girl whose memories (brain) is saved, but transplanted into a chimp’s body. The story is interesting. I loved Caminar and Brown Girl Dreaming, too. You’re so right, the poetry has to be poetry, & the verse novel is beautiful. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the Hero’s Guide books, but maybe! Thanks for all these good reviews!

  8. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I’m interested in Noggin. I loved Where Things Come Back, even though I reread the ending trying to figure it out. I’m also looking forward to Caminar. I read Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelson a few years ago. It wasn’t an easy read, but then, it isn’t a pleasant history. I’m saving Brown Girl Dreaming for a Christmas treat.

  9. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Great books this week. I really loved Noggin. And I’m glad I attended an event where Whaley talked about the book because I don’t think I would have picked it up had I not heard him speak about it and read from it.

    I really need to read Caminar. I am intrigued by it and have heard nothing but good things.

  10. Crystal Avatar

    I agree about Caminar – it is a very well crafted novel in verse. I loved Brown Girl Dreaming. I read the Sones book quite a while ago and I remember it being quick, but also funny in spite of the dead parent. I also enjoyed Rosie and Flora, but haven’t gotten past the first Hero’s Guide. Vanilla Ice Cream and Noggin both sound intriguing – not good since my TBR is overflowing. 😉

  11. carriegelson Avatar

    I think I liked Flora and this little Penguin better too! I have Noggin and plan to read it – maybe over the holiday. LOVED When things come Back. Caminar was powerful for me too. Read it in one intense sitting. Great list this week!

  12. Myra GB Avatar

    I bought Brown Girl Dreaming during Black Friday! I am very very excited to read it once I get back to Singapore. Now I am even more intrigued to read Caminar – the book cover doesn’t look particularly appealing though. Glad to hear your thoughts about the other novel-in-verse. 🙂

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