It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/2/15


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

On my blog:

I’ve spent my morning very happily watching the live webcast of the announcements, following the conversation on Twitter, and feeling overjoyed about the diversity of this year’s choices. Thrilled to see my book of 2014, This One Summer, with a Printz Honor AND a surprise Caldecott Honor. (How did that book even end up under discussion for the Caldecott committee?? Not that I’m complaining–GORGEOUS art.) A little disappointed that there were only two Newbery Honors, but this committee made their choices count. What a strong vision of children’s literature! It was an extra pleasurable bonus to me that right now I happen to be in the middle of reading two of the big prize winners, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover.

I was so worried that I was going to oversleep and miss the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement this morning that I had stress dreams about it all night. The part I remember: they announced that there would be six Caldecott Honors, and I was so excited. But then they announced each of the titles, and not only had I never read them, I’D NEVER HEARD OF THEM. Nightmares #nerdybookclub style. Of course, part of my dream was prophetic: there WERE six Caldecott Honor books. But thankfully, I’d read all of them!

In reading:

ava and pip

Ava and Pip is a sweet middle-grade novel about budding writer Ava and her painfully shy older sister Pip. It’s told in a breezy diary format, and though there are some conflicts–Ava thinks her parents love Pip better; Ava submits a mean short story about a new girl in Pip’s class and has to live with the consequences when her story is selected for a prize and the new girl reads it and recognizes herself–a happy ending is never in any doubt. Ava’s obsession with palindromes is a big part of the story and the writing, and while I enjoy a palindrome as much as the next person, the author’s constant retyping of every palindrome in caps with hyphens separating the letters drove me nuts. Overall, a bit too cutesy for me, but I might read the sequel, Ava and Taco Cat (it’s a palindrome. SIGH.), since there’s a cat.

big boy

Still working on my quest to read all of E.B. Lewis’s books. Tololwa Mollel’s Big Boy is a folk tale set in contemporary Tanzania about a little boy who longs to be bigger. He gets his wish, only to find out that being a giant isn’t all he hoped for. In the end, he is happy to return to his normal size and go home with his mother. Not a particularly memorable story, though Lewis’s art is always exquisite.

freedom song


Sally Walker’s Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown is a lyrically written look at Henry Brown’s successful attempt to free himself from slavery. After his wife and children were sold away from him, Brown decided to free himself and hatched an ingenious and dangerous plan to mail himself north in a box. I had always imagined the box was coffin-sized, but it was only three feet long. Sean Qualls’s illustrations are especially strong here. Even if you’ve read Ellen Levine’s Henry’s Freedom Box, you should pick up this title.

rain school


James Rumford’s Rain School, set in Chad, begins with the excitement a young boy feels on his first day of school. The very first lesson? Learning how to build the school house. Each year during the school vacation, torrential rains destroy the school, so the first task for teacher and students is to rebuild. Traditional learning happens as well in this story about the importance of education.







26 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/2/15”

  1. Michele Avatar

    I have Ava and Pip on my list for this year! I think it’s a good one for our 3rd and 4th graders. I’ll get to it at some point 🙂
    Just read your comment on my blog – TOTALLY agree. I’m not sure which one I really liked better. I gave The Witch’s Boy 4 stars, but really I think it was 3. I know some people love the long, drawn out narrative, but I rarely do. Too much telling.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My son was so bored with Witch’s Boy, we abandoned as a read-aloud. (Only to pick up The Lost Hero. We’ll see how that goes!) But I do want to finish it on my own. There’s something I really like about the voice and writing style, but I wish it were about 100 pages shorter. Ava & Pip is a quick read–something I occasionally very much appreciate in a book!

  2. Melissa Avatar

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to get to Ava and Pip. Seems marketable for many of my 4th graders.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think it would appeal to many of your 4th graders, especially those who love words and writing.

  3. readingtothecore Avatar

    All these titles are new to me, Elisabeth. I’m always amazed at the sheer quantity of worthwhile books out there. Now to find the time to read them all! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I know, Catherine! My TBR list is always growing, growing. Especially on Mondays!

  4. Tara Smith Avatar

    Love the picture books, Elisabeth, especially the one about Henry Box Brown, which I will need to look for for our unit on Abolition and the Underground Railroad.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Freedom Song would be a terrific addition to that unit, Tara.

  5. thelogonauts Avatar

    These are some great, new books for me. I loved Henry’s Freedom Box,so I particularly curious about the new version.

    The ALA was so exciting – I had to interrupt my kiddos during silent reading to announce the Caldecott winners! Beekle has been 2nd choice among my kiddos, so they were quite excited too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My poor husband had to listen to me natter on AT LENGTH about the awards yesterday. I was too excited to keep my words inside! I love Henry’s Freedom Box too. Freedom Song’s writing is a bit more lyrical, I think, and Sean Qualls’s illustrations are, of course, very different; the two books pair together well.

  6. carriegelson Avatar

    Oh what a dream – look how invested you are! Some very exciting news all around! I am thrilled. Rain School looks wonderful. Hope you enjoy finishing these award winners you are in the middle of!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Finished Crossover yesterday–VERY surprised at ending! I wasn’t expecting that to happen. And picked up I’ll Give You the Sun again too. I am thrilled too–especially with all those Siberts and Caldecotts!

  7. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Your Mock Caldecott was so close to being right! And you had Sam & Dave as well 🙂
    I, like Logonauts, loved Henry’s Freedom Box, so I am interested to read the new book about him.
    Wasn’t the GN as a Caldecott honor so exciting! It makes me want to reread it again 1) because I want to like it more than I did the first time; 2) just to look at the art.

    Happy reading this week and happy ALA Awards day! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think the art in This One Summer is some of the strongest I’ve ever seen in a GN. I absolutely loved the book, planning to reread again soon–if I can get my copy back from my students! It’s currently in heavy circulation.

  8. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    Freedom Song looks like a very important book. Thank you for sharing it with us! I will look for it at the library. I hope you have a terrific week, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m really loving Sean Qualls’s illustrations. Freedom Song is quite good and different enough from Henry’s Freedom Box.

  9. thebookishmama Avatar

    I’ve seen that Ava and Pip so many times in bookstores. Looks like I should add it to my TBR! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a quick fun read with a strong voice.

  10. Linda Baie Avatar

    Love the idea of Freedom Song and Rain School. I haven’t heard of either one. My students know of the plight of others, but sometimes I think a beautiful picture book tells more than a detailed narrative. I laughed at your dreams, Elisabeth, so funny. Glad your were both happy “and” knew the books…

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Something would be really wrong with the world if there was a Caldecott I’d never so much as heard of–much less SIX! I agree with what you say about the power of a beautiful picture book. They’re powerful in the way that poetry is powerful.

  11. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Such an amazing day of children’s book awards. I can’t believe I was there IN PERSON!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So maybe I got to hear you cheer when the SIX Caldecott Honor Books were announced. I cheered in my dining room, LOL.

  12. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I loved the link to Fifteen Diverse Authors You should resolve to read in 2015. Some of them I’ve already read, but I’ve added a few of them to my goodreads list. I’m hoping to find a copy of Rain School. I too am happy for This One Summer. I loved that book so much that I read it twice in a row. I enjoyed your 10 Books I’d Like to Read in a YA Lit Book Club. I also want to meet with others and talk about Grasshopper Jungle. I’m afraid to read anything else of Andrew Smith’s because I loved that book so much, I’m afraid to be disappointed.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Rain School was lovely–very simple but powerful. I want to reread This One Summer–but I have a feeling it’s going to circulate like mad from my little office lending library now that’s it won two awards. I’ve read about 1/2 of Winger by Andrew Smith–it’s very different from Grasshopper Jungle but very good. I got bogged down in too many other books and didn’t finish it, but I need to get back to it. Just bought 100 Sideways Miles and hoping to read it soon. Maybe my YA Lit Book Club will choose to read it next!

  13. Myra GB Avatar

    I love (and own a copy of) Henry’s Freedom Box so I am glad to see a similarly-themed title with Freedom Song – will definitely order this one in (pinning it now, so I won’t forget). Rain School looks like another not-to-be-missed title. I had to laugh at your nightmare #nerdybookclub style. I am excited to read The Crossover now with my book club for young readers. Great to see it honored with a Newbery Medal – and yes, two graphic novels with a Newbery and a Caldecott! How awesome is that!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I haven’t read Henry’s Freedom Box recently enough to know which book I prefer. I remember Nelson’s artwork extremely well, of course, but I don’t remember the text at all. It’s nice that Qualls’s style is so different. One of my Children’s Lit students (who doesn’t like to read!) borrowed The Crossover last week. Really hoping he reads it and then can booktalk it enthusiastically. It’s very powerful for the rest of the class when the so-called non-readers start reading and talking books. I’m really thrilled about the genre/format diversity of the Newbery this year. Much as I love literary middle-grade about feisty girls, enough already!

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