It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/9/15


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

On my blog:

  • A curation of last week’s online reading with several interesting links to ALA Youth Media Awards reactions
  • A celebration of leapy cats, ALA Youth Media Awards, and picture book love
  • Mini-reviews of several Orbis Pictus Awards winners
  • A Top Ten list of Newberys I haven’t read yet

In reading:


I had started The Crossover a couple of days before it won the Newbery (can I just say again how I admire the wonderfully bold choices of the 2015 committee?) and I finished it up right after the announcements were made. And I’m just so excited about this book. I love that verse novels are quick reads (so great for meeting book goal quotas at the end of the year!), but I often struggle with them as poetry. All too often, it feels like the author has simply decided to click the return key a whole bunch. The line breaks don’t seem intentional or meaningful. But The Crossover is a highly crafted, intentional, meaningful verse novel. And there’s a page-turning story about two brothers who are struggling to understand each other as they grow up, a wonderful family that always feels real, and a passion for a really great sport, basketball. I didn’t think Alexander was going to go where he did at the end (that was a lot of event to burden the reader with at the very end of a story), but though I was shocked by it, I wasn’t unsatisfied. This is a book that kids need, and now that it’s got the shiny gold stamp of approval on the cover, it’s a book that’s going to be placed in their hands.


I reread Gaston this week in the hopes that I would like it more. But I didn’t. I still think Christian Robinson’s art is fun, though nowhere near as distinguished as his work in Josephine or Last Stop on Market Street. The book has a really great cover. But DiPucchio’s writing often fell very flat for me. I’m still mystified by the popularity of this title.i am pusheen the cat

Much as I love cute cat books, I don’t think I would have read I Am Pusheen the Cat if it weren’t for The Hub Reading Challenge. This book was named a Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers title. And quick it is: I think I read the whole book cover to cover in about 6 minutes. Apparently Pusheen is one of the Internet’s most famous cats. Not only does she have a website: she has merchandising. There are Pusheen calendars, stuffed animals, pencils, cards, even hoodies. Since I love the Internet and I love cats and I especially love cats on the Internet, I’m not quite sure how it is that I don’t know about Pusheen. But there you go. This book is cute, and there are some very funny moments. It’s a collection of Belton’s web comics and gifs featuring Pusheen (with appearances later in the book by Stormy, another cat). You can view some of the comics on the most popular posts page on Belton’s website. Just remove the jiggly bits and you’ve basically got the book. Pusheen is pretty cute: she’s fat and fluffy and lazy and Belton gets quite a bit of expression out of very simple shapes and designs.

last stop on market street

Last Stop on Market Street is picture book perfection! Matt de la Pena’s lovely words find just the right artist to express them in Christian Robinson. I loved this book. It’s a fairly quiet story: a boy and his grandma take the bus on a Sunday afternoon. But there is so much more going on in the language and the illustrations. It’s really a story about finding beauty, connection, and meaning in unlikely places, about paying attention, about being fully present.

brush of the gods

Lenore Look’s Brush of the Gods is the story of Wu Daozi, a great Chinese painter who lived in the eighth century. Young Daozi can’t seem to follow the rigid rules of calligraphy; when he follows his own path, he creates paintings so vivid and real that they come to life. Or do they? A lovely title about art and inspiration, about artistic vision and perseverance, energetically illustrated by Meilo So.

mr putter and tabby turn the pageThe newest Mr Putter and Tabby title won a surprise Geisel Honors last week, and after reading it, I’m even more surprised. Mr Putter and Tabby is my all-time favorite early reader series, and Mr Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea is one of my all-time favorite books. The writing in that book is exquisite. The writing in Mr Putter and Tabby Turn the Page is not exquisite. I feel ridiculous to nitpick about Rylant’s use of coordinating conjunctions to transition through the plot and the page turns, because that seems so minor. But I was brought up short three times turning the page and finding an out-of-place “but” or “so” to start a sentence when there should have been no conjunction or the conjunction should have been “and.” There is a certain magic to the best Mr Putter and Tabby titles, and I didn’t feel it here. This felt like the 23rd entry in the series. Is it a nice story? Sure. Should you read it if you’re a Mr Putter and Tabby fan? Absolutely.






24 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/9/15”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea is my favourite too! Haven’t read this one yet. I am in the fan club and love that these books still have such little fans in my room. I will have to check it out but feel sad that it isn’t amazing because so many of them are just amazing in my opinion. (And yours obviously!) Everyone in my house has now read The Crossover. Such a book! I am thrilled it won the medal. Just thrilled. I haven’t read Gaston. I will – so we can talk 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’ve read other reviews online that were more positive than mine, so hopefully you can find something in it that I didn’t. I am going to reread once more before shelving in my office library. I also ordered the only two Mr Putter and Tabby titles that I haven’t read yet today (so much for that resolution not to buy any books until March!). Someday I’ll have to get my own copy of Pour the Tea. I love it that everyone in your house has read The Crossover!

  2. Gigi McAllister Avatar

    I have a Mr. Putter and Tabby deficit. I have never read one of them and I feel compelled to do so now. I requested The Crossover from my library (along with the rest of the world) after the announcement.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Start with the first one, Mr Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea. I’m also very partial to Pick the Pears, Paint the Porch, and Feed the Fish. My children’s lit students never care for the series, but my children are crazy about them. The Crossover is so good!

    2. vgpratt Avatar

      Gigi, you make me laugh– I was thinking the same thing about Mr. Putter and Tabby! How have I had my head buried in the sand regarding this series?! 😉

  3. Melanie Meehan (@MelanieMeehan1) Avatar

    I keep hearing about Crossover!! I’m putting it into my cart now. Thank you Elisabeth.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s one you need to read! Such an emotional story.

  4. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    “All too often, it feels like the author has simply decided to click the return key a whole bunch. The line breaks don’t seem intentional or meaningful.”

    (Not gonna lie, this is kinda how I feel about Brown Girl Dreaming. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed BGD, but Kwame Alexander has set the verse novel/memoir bar extremely high. The Crossover is exactly how you write a novel in verse. So happy the Newbery committee gave it the top prize.)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Beth, I was actually thinking about Brown Girl Dreaming when I wrote that. I had a big problem with the verse in BGD. I think Woodson is an amazing writer, but I really wish BGD had been written as brief prose poems because I didn’t think it worked as verse. Of course, you and I are clearly in a very small minority here, LOL. Glad to know I’m not alone!

  5. Tara Smith Avatar

    Have to read Crossover – interesting to read Beth’s comment, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s an important read, Tara–really good writing and a powerful story.

  6. Andrea Payan (@payanar) Avatar

    I am even more excited to read The Crossover after reading your description. I agree with you that sometimes novels in verse can feel forced. I am glad to know that this book is worth my time to read. Last Stop on Market Street sounds like a great picture book.

  7. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    I cannot wait to read The Crossover!!! Students love it, my friends love it, AND it won the Newbery?!?! That never happens!
    Last Stop on Market Street is perfection. I have read it multiple times already. Love it.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

  8. Crystal Avatar

    I too really enjoyed The Crossover. I can’t wait to get the Matt de la Peña book. I have it on order. Brush of the Gods was one that I really liked too. Looks like it was a good week of reading.

  9. vgpratt Avatar

    The thing that I love about The Crossover is that it is well-written, it has great themes and messages, it has a twist (that you alluded to), AND it is a book about African-American BOYS playing Basketball! Brilliant! Don’t get just ANY book in your reluctant readers’ hands– put an award-winning book in their hands that they will still engage with and love. I’ve watched a couple of interviews with Kwame Alexander since the awards were named, and he says it well–he wanted to get books into the hands of boys in particular, and hopefully change their opinions about reading, if only a tiny bit, for the better!

    Okay- now that I’ve gushed– I also think Last Stop on Market Street sounds great. I appreciate your mention of “noticing and mindfulness”. These are two of our school’s areas of focus for our students, so this will probably be a great book to add to our collection.

    Thanks, Elisabeth! Have a great week. 🙂

  10. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    I am so embarrassed to say that I haven’t read The Crossover yet. I never got a copy, so that is the only thing that has held me back. I need to haul my butt over to the library. Last Stop on Market Street was one of my absolute favorites. I am so glad you found it to be as wonderful as I did. Thanks for all of these great reviews. You are a rockstar.

  11. Linda Baie Avatar

    I really loved Crossover, real family, honest events that do happen, great to listen to kids who read it, too. And, I like the Putter & Tabby books, but don’t know them well. Sorry you thought this one didn’t seem as good as others. I still need to find & read Last Stop On Market St.-.I’ve enjoyed de la Pena’s other books!

  12. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I am almost ashamed to admit that I do not know a thing about Mr. Putter and Tabby. I promise to remedy that soon. I’ve ordered Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea from the local library, and have added a few of the series to my wish list for when I have money again to buy books for our school library. I’m waiting for The Crossover to arrive.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Mr Putter and Tabby are such a delight! I was also very surprised at how much my children LOVE these stories. I didn’t think an old man and his old cat would be very interesting to them, but they are totally engaged by these characters. And Rylant’s writing is just so good. There’s a line in Pour the Tea that actually brings tears to my eyes, and I’ve never had THAT reaction to an early reader series before!

  13. ipushbooks Avatar

    The Crossover is high on my list to read, and even higher now, of course. It was on the shelf when a small group of 6th graders and I watched the Newbery announcement, and so, of course, I did the right thing and let one of them check it out. I may or may not have placed a reserve for myself right after 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It won’t even take you an hour to read. I love a fast read! Loved hearing that one of the 6th graders wanted to check it out right away!

  14. Michele Avatar

    I was so amazed that I had not read the Newbery winning title, I thought I had covered all my bases! But that just means I have another great book to read 🙂 I’m waiting to see if I can pick up a copy with all the new shiny stickers on it! I certainly have enough books to read in the meantime!
    I liked Gaston, but didn’t love it. Cute story.
    I’ll have to go back and reread the new Mr. Putter. I liked it, but I feel like I’m not the best when it comes to grammatical errors. I’m intrigued to see what I find!
    Loved Market Street too. Matt de la Pena is one talented author!

  15. Myra GB Avatar

    Aww, too bad you didn’t enjoy Gaston – glad to see though how much you’re still giving it a chance, despite your initial dislike with the text. I’m looking forward to finding Last Stop on Market Street as it fits our upcoming reading theme quite well. It’s the first time I’m hearing of Mr Putter and Tabby – will be on the lookout for it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Last Stop on Market Street is certain to be on my top 10 for 2015. It’s wonderful! My son and I decided we should read the remaining Mr Putter & Tabby titles that we hadn’t yet seen, so I ordered the final 3 and we’ve been parceling them out over this week. So delightful.

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