It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/23/15


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

On the blog:

I also guest-blogged about one of my favorite books, The Day I Became an Autodidact, at Bookish Illuminations.

In reading:

when i was the greatest

How I love Jason Reynolds’s debut novel, When I Was the Greatest, which recently won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. This is a young adult novel that does everything right–believable characters, sharp dialogue, compelling plot, richly developed setting. And voice. Especially voice. It’s a story about kids in a tough neighborhood, but there is also always a sweetness and hopefulness here. There is so much humor and warmth in this book, even as it addresses difficult situations. I especially loved the strong parents in this story–such a rarity in YA fiction. Neither of Ali’s parents is perfect, but they are working hard–in very different ways–to provide Ali and his little sister with a good home and strong values. Ali’s mom, Doris, is such a great character: she doesn’t have much actual “screen time” in the story, but her voice has gotten into Ali’s head to such a degree that he imagines what she’s going to say in every situation. Her influence is there on every page. She’s also the one who gets to save the day, and I really love it that Reynolds gives her that role and creates such a strong mother figure in this story. This is a book that kids need to read, and thanks to that crazy gorgeous cover, it will practically sell itself.

in real life

I’m glad I read In Real Life, but it fell flat for me. Anda, the main character, is a gamer who is recruited by a guest speaker at her school to join an online massive multiplayer game in an effort to get more girls playing. The gender and privilege issue is interesting but quickly dropped in favor of Doctorow’s real target: world economics. Anda discovers that real workers in China are paid to play the game and collect game gold, which is then sold for real money to wealthy western gamers who want to cheat and skip ahead in the game without going through the whole process to earn their levels. Anda begins chatting with one of these real-life Chinese workers and is appalled to learn of his working and living conditions. She urges him to collectivize and protest–which has disastrous results for him. I get what Doctorow is trying to do here, but in an effort to call attention to the plight of non-white workers, he falls into another stereotype trap: the white savior who tries to rescue and speak for the non-white oppressed person. This is a really tiresome narrative that further silences the oppressed. I appreciate a graphic novel with thematic ambition, but the characters are not well-developed, and the storyline often feels forced. Jen Wang’s artwork, however, is really strong–gorgeous coloring and memorable images, especially in the gaming sequences. In Real Life is a very quick read and will no doubt appeal to teens, but I found it problematic.

ms marvel


Ms. Marvel, the first comic in a new superhero series, is a delight. Kamala Khan, the daughter of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, is shocked to find herself with new superpowers. How did she get them? What does it mean? What’s she supposed to do with her superheroic self? And how is she supposed to balance saving the world with her parents’ strict curfew? There is some surprisingly rich thematic material here focused on gender, ethnicity, and culture, but it’s also a fun, funny, fast-paced adventure story.

girl and bicycle

Why did it take me so long to read Mark Pett’s exquisite wordless picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle? I’m going to have to agree with Carrie’s student who stuck a star on this book after their Mock Caldecott: “Not a winner but the best book ever.” Really, really good.


I have a feeling that Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight would reward a very slow, careful look to find all of the differences between spreads, but the story moved at an excruciatingly slow pace for me and I didn’t find the images interesting enough to want to linger.

mr putter and tabby dance the dance

So bittersweet! My son and I have finally finished reading all of the Mr Putter & Tabby titles. The plot of Mr Putter & Tabby Dance the Dance will be familiar to those who have read other titles in the series: Mrs Teaberry finds something exciting and new to do, Mr Putter tags along somewhat reluctantly, and Zeke is ultimately the star of the show. Now I really want to go back to the first book, Mr Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea, and read the whole series over again.


19 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/23/15”

  1. Hannahlily Angus (@FullMetalWhimsy) Avatar

    Ms. Marvel is the best! So glad Kamala Khan is part of the superhero world now.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Me too! Really looking forward to Volume 2, which I think comes out the end of March.

  2. Melanie Meehan (@MelanieMeehan1) Avatar

    Well this was an expensive little drop by for me. I just put three titles in my Amazon cart. Hopefully, the library will hook me up, but in the meantime, I have a way to remember books I want to read!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL! Mondays are always expensive for me. I try to remember to add titles to my Goodreads TBR list but half the time they just end up in an Amazon cart and soon are making their way to South Dakota!

  3. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    Ah! When I Was the Greatest is on my #mustreadin2015 list! I just can’t wait to get to it. I have heard it is wonderful!!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you will really enjoy it, Ricki. So much heart and such well-rounded characters.

  4. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    So glad you loved When I Was the Greatest. I have a serious author crush on Jason Reynolds.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Me too! I totally caved and started reading Boy in Black Suit this week.

  5. Tara Smith Avatar

    None of these titles are known to me, except for Mr. Putter, dear old Mr. Putter and Tabby – a staple of my children’s life way back when.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      How I love Mr Putter and Tabby!

  6. Kendra Limback Avatar

    Mr. Putter. I love. My kids loved The Girl and the Bicycle too. I cried the first time I read it. I also added Jason Reynolds to my TBR pile. Thanks for the titles!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The Jason Reynolds is a must-read. I was surprised by how touched I was at Girl and Bicycle. Wonderful book.

  7. Linda Baie Avatar

    I have both the Jason Reynolds, but started the 2nd one because my students are passing around When I Was The greatest. I may never have it! I know everyone is talking big about them. I did love The Girl and The Bicycle-was sad when it didn’t win an honor. I remember liking Flashlight, but guess it wasn’t much of a favorite, don’t remember much about it. Thanks for the Ms Marvel review-don’t know it, so it looks like a good one to have. Thanks, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Girl and Bicycle very deserving of honors! I think Ms Marvel would be a great one to have for your classroom. Very appropriate content for your kids. My 9 yr old read it and loved it–he’s hounding me about Volume 2.

  8. carriegelson Avatar

    So glad that you loved The Girl and the Bicycle. Remind me to tell you a special story related to this book when I see you. (Yes, I just typed WHEN I SEE YOU!!!!) I just got this Jason Reynolds title at the library – really think this author is going to become a favourite!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Must get Boy and Airplane now. Mark Pett new to me and I was very impressed with Girl and Bicycle. Can’t believe I’ll see you in THREE DAYS!

  9. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    If I didn’t already have When I Was the Greatest on my to read list, I would after reading your review of it here. I too love books that have real caring parents. I have a copy of In Real Life on my shelf. I had tried reading For The Win, but didn’t have enough background knowledge for it. I bought this graphic in hopes that it would help me understand For The Win better. So far, I’ve been too easily distracted by other literature. I glad you enjoyed The Girl And the Bicycle! I’m delighted to learn about Ms Marvel!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s so hard to find good parents in YA fiction. I understand why the parents have to either suck or be absent, but it’s so refreshing when there are present parents who are also interesting characters in their own right. Ms Marvel is one that belongs in all the libraries–while it is about teens, younger readers will be interested and engaged too. So many books! So difficult to get to all of them!

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    All my comic-geek friends speak highly of Ms. Marvel – I am so looking forward to finding it and reading it. The premise sounds awesome. When I was the greatest sounds intriguing too. I love raw novels with an authentic voice. Looking forward to finding it!

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