It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/16/15


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

On the blog:

  • A curation of some of last week’s best online reading related to teaching
  • A celebration of book talks, brainstorms, bright colors, and cranky cat ears
  • A big reveal: the secret to being a great writing teacher
  • A review of a picture book biography of Hank Aaron
  • A slice about doing homework with my son and the evils of popcorn reading

In reading:

dreaming in indian

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, is a gorgeous full-color introduction to dozens of young Native artists, poets, activists, and more. The book is so beautifully designed and so visually appealing. The text was actually secondary to the visuals for me, but there is also plenty to read–short (mostly 1-3 page) poems, interviews, short stories, and essays by and about contemporary Native life. There is plenty of hardship here but also much hope.

my friend dahmer

Derf Backderf’s nonfiction graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, is a book that I’ve known about since it was published in 2012 but never had any intention of reading. I know some people are really fascinated by serial killers and extreme psychopathology, but I am not. I like to live in a shiny happy world of shiny happy well-adjusted people. And there is nothing shiny or happy about My Friend Dahmer. Backderf paints an extremely vivid portrait of high school in the 1970s in a suburb of Akron, Ohio. Backderf and his group of friends were the closest thing Dahmer had for friends in high school, though he was more their mascot than their friend. There were plenty of signs of serious mental disturbance which were apparently not noticed by any of his teachers, counselors, or administrators, though his classmates considered him exceptionally weird. This is a deeply personal and specific story at the same time that it’s a damning look at a system that turns a blind eye to family breakdown and mental illness. There are extensive author’s notes and footnotes at the back, which also makes this a good mentor text for research.

raven boysOh, Maggie Stiefvater, how do you do it? The Raven Boys is utterly ludicrous and overwritten, and yet somehow I fell in love with it. I have started and abandoned it more than once in print, but audio was just the thing for me, even though I also hate the voice of Will Patton, the actor who narrates the story. And yet somehow I loved how he narrated this story. I’m going to take a short audio break from the Aglionby boys, but I do plan to continue with the series.

if you're not from the prairie

David Bouchard’s If You’re Not From the Prairie was too long and repetitive for my taste (also the rhyme, how I hate the rhyme!), but the poem does have its moments of beauty. The premise here is that if you’re not from the prairie, you can’t understand the strange beauty of the land or the often intense harshness of the environment. The paintings by Henry Ripplinger are quite beautiful.

pearl and wagner one funny day

I am continuing to work my way through the Geisel Award winners. Kate McMullen’s One Funny Day was a 2010 Honor. This is a more advanced easy reader consisting of three chapters that combine to tell a three-part story. It’s April Fool’s Day. In Chapter 1, Wagner is the victim of several April Fool’s jokes. In Chapter 2, several situations that seem like they should be April Fool’s jokes aren’t jokes at all, much to his chagrin. And in Chapter 3, he pulls his own big April Fool’s prank. Well-written and delightfully illustrated by R.W. Alley.

mr putter and tabby drop the ball

My son and I decided to finish out the Mr Putter & Tabby series with the final three books we hadn’t yet read. Mr Putter & Tabby Drop the Ball is as fine as any in the series, though Tabby doesn’t get quite as much of a role as I think she deserves. Mr Putter and Mrs Teaberry decide to join a baseball league for the elderly. In fact, many of the ball players are so old that Mr Putter feels decidedly young by comparison. Zeke interferes and nearly loses the game for Mr Putter’s team, but in the end he saves the day.

mr putter and tabby spin the yarn

In Mr Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn, Mr Putter and Tabby decide to pay a visit to Mrs Teaberry’s knitting club. All that yarn is simply too much for Tabby, who loses her mind. Zeke has his own obsession with the fake fruits and vegetables on top of one of the old lady’s hats. Quite a bit of chaos ensues, which gives illustrator Arthur Howard full scope for his considerable skill.
fantastic jungles of henri rousseauThe Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau is a marvelous picture book biography of self-taught artist Henri Rousseau, who didn’t even begin painting until he was forty years old. Author Michelle Markel focuses on Rousseau’s later years of living in poverty, making art, and receiving much ridicule from art critics for his work. Rousseau saved the bad reviews but apparently wasn’t daunted by the criticism because he just kept painting and exhibiting his work. Amanda Hill’s illustrations are simply gorgeous and borrow their style and spirit from Rousseau’s own work. This is a must-have title about following your dreams, believing in yourself and your work, and making beautiful art.




22 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/16/15”

  1. Michele Avatar

    I like the Pearl and Wagner series and Mr. Putter and Tabby. For some kids, it’s just what they need, but other, and more often than not, it’s my reading students who read at that level, but they’re looking for something more… these series aren’t picked up. Sigh.
    I have The Raven Boys in my pile for this year… I’m hoping to get to them.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Now that I’ve discovered the Pearl & Wagner series, I’m looking forward to reading more. Interesting observation about your reading students who need books at that level but are looking for something else. Wonder what would tempt them more? Wonder if it’s the look of the books that puts them off? Too juvenile maybe?

  2. Tara Smith Avatar

    Thanks for sharing Dreaming in Indian, Elisabeth, this is a voice that is not much heard from – and my sixth graders need to do exactly that.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s so challenging to find books featuring contemporary Native American teens! I feel like many students on the rez have been Sherman Alexied to death! He’s a brilliant writer, but one writer can’t be the voice for an entire peoples!

  3. readingtothecore Avatar

    As more of an early elementary person, I adore Mr. Putter and Tabby, and Pearl and Wagner sound like a pair I should get to know. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rouseau. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you will like the Henri Rousseau biography, Catherine. It’s lovely to look at and has a wonderful message.

  4. Linda Baie Avatar

    I’m not sure I can read the Dahmer book, but I do see how important it must be to learn and be aware. The theater shootings in our community as well as that in Sandy Hook made us even more aware of the need for support of families in need. Thanks for Dreaming In Indian. It sounds wonderful, one I will definitely get. I am a Stiefvater fan, & have the final Raven Boys book, still need to read. I didn’t like the wolf series, but loved The Scorpio Races, a stand alone. Thanks for all, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Scorpio Races is one of my favorites, Linda. Loved that book so much! The Dahmer book is tough reading for sure–not really a story I want stuck in my head at all. But a great one to share with high schoolers.

  5. carriegelson Avatar

    I so love Mr. Putter and Tabby! LOVE always! The Raven Boys totally hooked me. Wild and wooly. I read it when I was sick with the flu and was convinced it was halfway haunting me . . .

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL, Carrie. I was certainly sucked into the audio and ended up feeling so very fond of the characters. I started a new audiobook today but really wish I were reading book 2 of Stiefvater’s series. Will return to it next, I think.

  6. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    “I like to live in a shiny happy world of shiny happy well-adjusted people.” You crack me up. I agree that My Friend Dahmer is a great mentor text for research. I’d forgotten about this title. Thank you for reminding me about it! I also reviewed Dreaming in Indian this week! Twins!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I would now like to forget about My Friend Dahmer, LOL. I felt like I needed a mental tidy after reading it. Still. A good book. I’ll be booktalking it tomorrow and then passing it along!

  7. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I’ve had My Friend Dahmer on my shelf since ALAN in 2012 but haven’t read it yet. Wonder if I’ll ever get around to that one.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a quick read, of course, and well-drawn and designed. Some of your 8th graders might be interested in it, though it would also be way too much for some of them!

  8. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    My Friend Dahmer is one of those books I am glad and horrified I read.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That’s a perfect way to put it, Kellee!

  9. dmmckee Avatar

    There used to be two white poodles (one huge and one tiny) in our neighborhood named Mr. Putter and Zeke. The family’s kids named them because they loved those books so much. When Zeke died, we bought a few of the books to honor him and my girls have really enjoyed them.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love this story! I’ll have to share it with my son. Glad your daughters have enjoyed the series. My son is totally obsessed–oddly, I think. Otherwise, he’s all tween pop music and NBA players and brand name clothing. And then there’s his love for Mr Putter & Tabby!

  10. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I am so looking forward to reading Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. I’m proud of that small bit of first nations blood in me, but at the same time, I’m privileged to have lived my life as a white girl and woman. Not all of my friends have been so lucky, and I’m aware of how hard their lives have been. I’ve found Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, grabs those older reluctant readers by the throat and won’t let them go. They come asking for more of it. I haven’t purchased Flight because it is too violent for even my grade sevens, but I do think it is a book all teachers of native/first nations children should read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a gorgeous book, Cheriee, and a must have for all high school classrooms. I teach Absolutely True Diary every semester in my Adolescent Lit class (it’s one of only two “sacred” books on the syllabus; the other is Speak; everything else gets changed out but I’ve never had a reason to sub different titles for those), and it really is one of my all-time favorite books. Such a compulsively readable book. So funny and so painful. I haven’t read Flight–should get to it someday. When I heard Alexie speak a couple of years age at NCTE, he said he was writing a sequel to Absolutely True Diary from Rowdy’s point of view.

  11. Myra GB Avatar

    I can totally sympathize with you about The Raven Boys – I also abandoned it TWICE before finally falling in love with it. There is just something about the way it was written in the first few chapters that did not appeal to me, but I promise you that it gets better as you read the other books in the series. It was Book 2 that did it for me in a HUGE and surprising way. 😉 You have to read it to know it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      How interesting that we both had abandonment issues with this book. I think Crystal did too (I think it was from her blog that I got the idea of trying the audio). I felt a bit hesitant about Book 2 when I read that it focused more on Ronan, who is my least favorite character. But you’ve absolutely sold me, especially since I’m a bit bored with my current audio. Off to download right now!

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