It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 1/19/15


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

On my blog:

  • A round-up of links to some of my favorite recent online reading
  • A celebration reflecting on why it’s important to celebrate even when you don’t feel like it
  • Some advice for new bloggers who are struggling to find topics and time to write

In reading:

This week I’m hoping to get back into the reading groove. You know you haven’t been prioritizing what’s important when you’re staying up late Sunday night to read picture books just to have something to post on your blog on Monday! But now I am back on track with my #nerdlution (to read a picture book a day). And I started this week off right: I shut off the devices and read for an hour first thing this morning.

Thanks to a generous donation, my campus library has been able to purchase a bunch of new books that I wanted for the Juvenile collection–Geisel and Sibert Award and Honor books! When I saw the piles of new books on display, I entirely forgot about using my library voice and squealed quite loudly. The students who were using computers looked at me funny. And then I proceeded to sort through the books, mumbling aloud to myself about the different titles. Which only made them look at me more funny and pop their headphones in.

chicken said cluck

Books for emergent readers are so hard to write well. I was appalled by the poor quality of so many of these texts when my kids were at that reading stage three years ago. But I can happily recommend Chicken Said, “Cluck!” for the quality of its writing and its storyline. Chicken is determined to help in the garden, and the children are equally determined to shoo her away. There is much clucking and shooing, which is tedious for the adult reader but no doubt delightful for a child. When a grasshopper infestation threatens to destroy the pumpkins, Chicken is able to show just how useful a chicken in the garden can be. Sue Truesdell’s illustrations are quite charming.

little mouse gets ready

I love the work that TOON Books is doing in the early reader category. Jeff Smith’s Little Mouse Gets Ready is a solid introduction for the youngest readers to comics/graphic novels. The storyline is very simple and charming: Little Mouse takes quite a long time to get dressed only to be told by mama mouse that mice don’t wear clothes. That’s it: mouse puts on clothes over the course of the story and then, in one spread, loses them. But it works.Stinky

Eleanor Davis’s Stinky, a graphic novel chapter book, was my favorite of the three Geisels I read this week. Stinky is a swamp monster who’s horrified when a kid invades his swamp. He’s determined to scare the kid off, but the kid has other ideas, including adopting Stinky’s pet toad, Wartbelly, and renaming her Daisy. A sweet and colorful story of plans gone awry and unlikely friendships.

how many baby pandas

I couldn’t quite get a handle on the intended audience for Sandra Markle’s How Many Baby Pandas? It’s a counting book, but you only count up to 8, so it would seem to be for the very youngest of readers. The text, however, while written clearly and simply, is not for the very youngest readers: there are many spreads with 2, even 3, paragraphs of text on the page. I’m just not sure that the reader who is engaged by the information presented in the text is going to want to be asked on the opposite page to count 3 very obviously visible pandas. But if you can overlook the unnecessary counting part, this is an excellent nonfiction text focusing on giant panda babies. I learned a lot about the breed and also got lost in the terrific photographs, which Markle took at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center in China. There are two especially eye-catching photos of a group of scientists sitting with baby panda cubs on their laps which gave me some serious scientist envy. I want to hold a baby panda cub!

p&p board book


So here’s the deal. Jack and Holman Wang take 9 classic novels (including Moby Dick and War and Peace) and translate them into board books consisting of 12 words (yep, just 12 words) and 12 illustrations featuring felt figures. Look at that amazing cover of Lizzie Bennett tramping through the mud and wind to get to Jane. Look at the illustration below where Mr Darcy insults Lizzie’s beauty. GAH!

spread from p&P board book


I am not going to be satisfied until all 9 books are sitting on my shelf. And also: of the 9, TWO ARE JANE AUSTEN NOVELS! Thank you, Jack and Holman Wang, for being awesome.

blacker the berry

The Blacker the Berry is a sequence of 13 poems by Joyce Carol Thomas about African-American children. Color is the theme that ties the poems together–all the different shades of African-American skin color, which Thomas generally likens to various berries. Each poem is written in the persona of a different child who expresses what it’s like to live in their skin. Thomas focuses on the positive to convey the message that all people are beautiful. The berry metaphors felt a bit forced and heavy-handed to me by the end, but I did love the first poem, “What Shade Is Human?” Floyd Cooper’s gorgeous illustrations make this a special picture book.

freedom like sunlight


J. Patrick Lewis’s Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans is a very strong poetry collection stunningly illustrated by John Thompson. Lewis writes praise poems for 13 African Americans who are famous for their work as activists, athletes, and musicians. I wish there had been a bit more variety in the subjects chosen for praise, as Black Americans have made contributions in many fields besides sports, music, and Civil Rights. The collection is balanced in terms of gender: there are 7 men and 6 women featured. The poems are consistently strong but still somewhat overshadowed by Thompson’s incredible work. Many of the illustrations are portraits, most paintings but a few pencil drawings, but there is also a haunting empty bus to accompany the poem about Rosa Parks and a typewriter to illustrate the poem for Langston Hughes. Thompson’s website features a few of the images, so click through if you’d like a better sense of what the book looks like.

talking about bessie

Nikki Grimes’s Talkin’ About Bessie tells the story of Elizabeth Coleman, the first African-American female pilot, through a sequence of poems written in the personae of Coleman’s family members, friends, and acquaintances. The final poem in the sequence, in praise of flying, is written in Bessie’s voice. If you’re looking for a nonfiction picturebook biography of Coleman, Louise Borden’s Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman is very good and makes a nice pairing with Talkin’ About Bessie. Through her poetry, Grimes is able to capture something essential and important about Coleman’s personality, will, ambition, and drive that I think a straightforward nonfiction treatment finds it harder to express. E.B. Lewis’s illustrations are brilliant. When is this man going to win a Caldecott?

writing kind of day

I guess it was just the week of poetry picture books, since I also read Ralph Fletcher’s A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets. I found this collection a little uneven. There are a couple of very strong poems that are going to stick with me, several useful poems about writing poetry that I would want to share with students, and a handful of poems that I didn’t think fit the topic or the collection very well. Still, I did enjoy the book and think it’s a must for writing workshop classrooms.





26 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 1/19/15”

  1. Michele Avatar

    I so know what you mean about your Sunday night reading comment! Somehow the week goes by and the “edge” reading I did only adds up to part of a longer book. Sigh…. At least others feel my lament 🙂 Hope more reading goes by for you!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m always so happy when the “edge time” reading adds up to a finished book! In the meantime, there are always PBs I want to read. This week is feeling more like regular routine and my pockets of reading time are back, thankfully.

  2. lildubs89 Avatar

    Reading Willa Cather; ‘A Lost Lady’ was a wonderful book about people living in Nebraska. It also talked about how to different class of people were able to survive and how some were able to go beyond what others thought they would. The book made me think about what it would be like in the older days on how people were raised, how classes were, and how people made a living on what they grew.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I can’t remember if I’ve read Lost Lady, but O Pioneers and Death Comes for the Archbishop are two of my favorite books of all time. Some of the descriptions of the prairie in O Pioneers just stop me in my tracks.

  3. thelogonauts Avatar

    For some reason, I think my students would find the idea of counting baby pandas sarcastically hilarious in a nonfiction book clearly geared towards readers who can count. But then again, they spend the entire past week reading aloud “The Book with No Pictures” to each other, so that’s about their level right now.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL! So glad they’re loving The Book with No Pictures. It’s still sitting in my pile, unread. Must remedy that this week!

  4. Melissa Avatar

    The Geisel lists are lists I ought to pay more attention to. Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So many wonderful books on the Geisel lists! It’s consistently such a strong award list. I’m having lots of fun reading my way through the older ones I missed.

  5. peanutbuttertheater Avatar

    I have to admit I was a little confused when my Goodreads account told me you’d rated Chicken Said “Cluck!” – I thought, is this something she wants me to read? When I saw the book, I had to laugh out loud. I might read it after all, just for fun! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I read a lot of children’s literature, so you’ll see quite a few of those titles showing up in my Goodreads. I think that secondary teachers should incorporate picture books into their classrooms: there are so many wonderful books that could lead to rich discussion at any level. Though your high school students might think you’ve lost it if you read Chicken Said Cluck aloud to them!

  6. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Thank you for the post about celebrating even when you don’t feel like it. We all need that reminder.
    I actually haven’t read ANY of these books, so thank you for sharing!

    Happy reading this week 🙂 Hope you feel like it is better for you 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So far so good, Kellee! I’ve found more time to read and that makes everything better!

  7. Linda Baie Avatar

    Quite a variety of books here, Elisabeth, & I ordered 2 of the easy readers for my granddaughter-she’ll love them. That is not my area of expertise, so when I hear someone say they’re good, I count on that. Love the poetry you included. I have the Fletcher book, & so many others, but will find the J. Patrick Lewis one as well. Sounds, & looks, gorgeous. Thanks! Glad you’re ‘back in the reading groove’!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am grateful for the Geisel award for highlighting quality early readers. I generally find most of the series so dreadful! I was very impressed by the J. Patrick Lewis book. It’s the first of his I’ve read and the poetry was quite strong. Poetry books are one area I really need to develop more expertise and familiarity with a wider range of books.

  8. Kendra Avatar

    I’m looking for The Chicken Says Cluck and Little Mouse Gets Ready. I hear you about the reading groove as well. For me it always comes back to being unplugged. I’m working on it. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Unplugging is the one guaranteed way to find more reading time, isn’t it? And writing time, exercise time, etc.!

  9. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    The Cozy Classics covers always freaked me out, so I never opened them up. It really is a fun concept. I am going to get over my fear and find them. I love how pumped you were in your review. I was smiling as I read it. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      They’re definitely my new obsession! They ARE a little bit creepy looking, now that you mention it. But I’m going to go with creepy-awesome!

  10. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    The cover of Freedom Like Sunlight is really powerful. I definitely need to check that book out!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There are so many equally powerful images inside Freedom Like Sunlight. It’s a book I feel like I really need to own.

  11. carriegelson Avatar

    I read a lot of TOON titles and bring them into my classroom. We are big fans. My favourites are the one about the dust bunnies and A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse. So many of them are wonderfully quirky. Happy reading this week.

  12. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I agree. There is a dearth of decent books for emergent readers. I love the Ollie and Stomper books though. I need Chicken Said, “Cluck” Although we have a number of graphic books for beginners, we don’t have Little Mouse Gets Ready (Kidsbooks is having a sale though so…. I know have 2 more books to add to my list.)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ollie and Stomper… will look for those too. Very hard to find books for emergent readers that I can enjoy too! Love book sales!

  13. Myra GB Avatar

    I have leftover research funds amounting to over 800 dollars that I used to purchase picturebooks! Yes, loads and loads of picturebooks! So I could understand your glee when you saw the new titles on your shelf – I can’t wait for the same moment to happen to me in a few weeks’ time. Love the titles you shared here. Hmmm. Cozy Classics – really??? I didn’t know about any of those. Haven’t seen them as well in our public libraries. I am pinning them right now so that I don’t forget and I can hunt these titles down.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      How wonderful, Myra! $800 purchases a lot of PBs! I have so many wonderful nonfiction PBs to read now since filling in the Sibert gaps was one of the main focuses of the purchase. I don’t even know what to read first: there are just so many terrific titles! Hard for me to figure out the audience for Cozy Classics. I’m thinking it’s grown-up book nerds like me actually.

      1. Myra GB Avatar

        Hi Elisabeth, it would most likely be over 700 USD if I make the conversion. I’m really excited to get my book haul in two weeks’ time! 🙂

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