It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 3/2/15


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

On the blog:

  • A curation of online reading in Links I Loved Last Week
  • A few cat photos and a celebration of Caturday
  • A review of The Case for Loving, a new nonfiction picture book about the fight for interracial marriage
  • A slice about a 75% parenting day

In reading:

the lost hero

My son and I have embarked on another Rick Riordan series. The Lost Hero introduces three new heroes who will (in later books in the series) join Percy Jackson to save the world once again. Sadly, none of the three is very compelling, which is partly the fault of the plot (one of them has amnesia, which means we learn nothing about him until the very end of the book) and partly the fault of poor character development and middling writing. I had a lot of issues with gender stereotypes in this book. Riordan is obsessed with the female characters’ pretty quotient: every female character’s beauty is described at length–and repeatedly. Piper is beautiful. I GET IT ALREADY. I wish she had something more to do than be pretty, use her charmspeak (a gift from her goddess mother, Aphrodite), and pine after Jason. The pacing of the story is fairly slow throughout, then there’s a giant plot dump right at the end to set things up for Book 2, which my son immediately wanted to start reading. (So he would give this book a rave review, no doubt.) Thankfully, Book 2, so far, is actually much better. Perhaps that’s because the story starts with Percy Jackson, who has also lost his memory but–unlike Jason in Book 1–not his personality. 
little humans

I really like photographer Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York blog and his photography book of the same name. In Little Humans, he collects some of the wonderful photos he’s taken of children in New York and creates a picture book celebrating children. The “little humans” featured in the book are New York children Stanton has spotted and photographed on the street. There’s nothing fancy about Stanton’s approach: these are kids taking a minute out of their day to stand and pose for the camera before continuing on their way. There’s a snapshot quality to Stanton’s work that’s very appealing. He has a wonderful eye for the telling detail. The book features full-page, full-color images of some of Stanton’s best portraits of kids. One thing I loved about this book is how diverse it is: we see kids of many colors from many different races and ethnicities. There’s nothing wrong with the text, which is a competent if not very memorable paean to childhood, but I missed the quirky details Stanton typically shares in brief interviews with his subjects and, ultimately, I felt like the photos were strong enough to stand on their own. The text became a distraction. The book is slightly longer than the typical picture book (it’s 40 pages), and I wish it had been 100 pages because I could have looked at many more photos–as could my son. It’s a rare picture book that sustains his attention these days, but he looked at this book 3 or 4 times, pausing at his favorite images and pointing out details I had missed.

little roja riding hood

Little Roja Riding Hood takes the familiar fairy tale and gives it a Spanish-language twist. Spanish words are incorporated into the text, which retells the fairy tale through rhyming couplets. (For a rhyming text, it’s not too bad. But I still hate rhyme.) Susan Guevara’s illustrations are the real star here, as she adds considerably to the interest, meaning, and humor of the story through her images. star stuffStephanie Roth Sisson’s Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is a story about the power of wonder and curiosity. Sisson follows Sagan from boyhood, when he was curious about the solar system and loved imagining what it would be like to travel to outer space, to his adulthood as a famous scientist who worked on various NASA projects. It’s written in simple text that even the youngest readers will be able to understand and engagingly illustrated.

Zero has some self-esteem issues. When she looks at herself, she sees the empty space in the middle and thinks she’s not worth anything. She compares herself unfavorably to the other numbers. I loved the moment when Zero realizes that she’s not empty inside–she’s just open. As in One, Otoshi’s minimalist illustrations powerfully convey the message.





22 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 3/2/15”

  1. Tara Smith Avatar

    I’m a big fan of Humans in New York – so Little Humans is a book I will definitely have to buy. Thanks,, Elisabeth.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You’ll love Little Humans. I just wish it had been ten times longer! I want a giant coffee table book of Little Humans.

  2. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    It is good to hear that book 2 is better because The Lost Hero did not impress me. I loved Percy Jackson, and was disappointed with the new series.
    I loved Star Stuff! But I need to read the others. I am fascinated by Little Humans–what a great art collection and celebration!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m still not sure this series is up to the same quality as Lightning Thief, but Book 2 is much better. Star Stuff was a delightful surprise.

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    The ‘little humans’ book looks great, and Zero. I enjoyed One, so think it will be good as you said. Elisabeth, I want to tell you that the Elizabeth Wein book, Black Dove, White Raven, although slow going for me but probably cause I’m so busy doing other things, is intriguing and complex just like the earlier ones, BUT you should know it’s set in Ethiopia, pre WWII, very interesting!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So glad to hear the new Elizabeth Wein novel is good. I didn’t realize there was an Ethiopia connection! Makes me want to read it even more!

  4. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I normally hate rhyming text too, but I really loved Little Roja Riding Hood. It felt like I was reading the words to a hip hop song rather than a kids’ picture book. It definitely had swagger and I loved that about it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Swagger is a perfect word for it! As I was reading it, I was thinking how much better the reading experience would be if I were actually reading aloud.

  5. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I think that you might be a saint to continue reading this series. Honestly, I read 1 1/2 of Riordan’s books and the best I can think of to say is that he needs to hire a better editor. I love love love the cover of Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. From the snippet I got from Amazon’s Look Inside, I like the insides too. So many of my readers love to read about space and I know they will love this book. My worst problem is that I have limited funds left, and at the rate I keep adding books to my shopping cart, it will take me a few years worth of budget to purchase them all. Sigh, I’m going to have to whittle the list down soon. Thank Goodness I’ve already got Zero.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Your comment made me laugh, Cheriee! I DID feel fairly saintlike to read the entirety of Lost Hero aloud AND THEN pick up Son of Neptune to start immediately after. Lost Hero could have been cut by 200 pages and lost no content whatsoever. I agree: more editing! I know all about adding books to the shopping cart! I miss having an institutional budget to support my purchasing. Of course, I could blow through an entire year’s budget in a busy afternoon!

  6. carriegelson Avatar

    I hate to admit that I haven’t read any Riordan books even though our house is full of them. Both my kids read all of them. Hearing lots of great stuff about Little Roja.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You are really not missing anything, Carrie. I cannot recommend spending valuable reading time on any of his books. If you need to know more, I bet your kids can tell you all you need to know!

  7. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    Thanks for these! I love Kathryn Otoshi’s books and the conversations they inspire among my kids. Will definitely check out Little Humans – I didn’t realize there was a kid version!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Planning to share One in my Children’s Lit class today. Otoshi’s books are deceptively simple. Looking forward to the conversations we’ll have!

  8. Andrea Payan (@payanar) Avatar

    I like Rick Riordan’s series, although I can definitely see where you are coming from with The Lost Hero. I think I remember not liking that one as much. I always have been entertained by his books. Lately, while playing trivia, I have also realized how much I learned in those books about mythology. I hope your son continues enjoying the books.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      He seems to really be enjoying Son of Neptune, so I imagine we’ll continue with the series. He has been studying mythology at school and loves making connections between what he learns at school and what he hears in these stories.

  9. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    This is such an eclectic, fun mix of books! I loved The Lost Hero and am so glad to hear you are reading it with your son. I imagine I will be reading that one with my son in the future. It is such a great text! The photographer’s book also looks like good fun. Sorry I am late reading this post! I wasn’t feeling well last night. I am glad I stopped in–late or not! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Glad you stopped by too and hope you’re feeling better, Ricki! Lost Hero was definitely not my favorite read-aloud, but I’m willing to read just about anything that interests my son, and I’m glad to report that I’m liking Son of Neptune, Book 2 in the series, much better.

  10. ipushbooks Avatar

    Have you read the graphic novel version of The Lost Hero? I have not, but I do have it in my libraries. I wonder if the story works better that way because it mostly likely has to cut to the chase…and you get to SEE the beautiful girls instead of having to hear so much about them 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Great point about the graphic novel! I do have the graphic novel, but I haven’t read it. I have flipped through and it’s beautifully designed and drawn. LOL to your beautiful girls comment. There is perhaps enough story in Lost Hero to fill a short graphic novel. It is probably a better format to introduce the new series.

  11. shannonhorn1 Avatar

    I would love to read either Humans of New York or Little Humans! A high school English teacher I had showed our class a thick book of pictures of graffiti by Banksy and I couldn’t put it down — books with art are the best of both worlds 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I loved Humans of New York! I agree that photography and art books need to be in the classroom. So many great ways to use them. Have you seen Exit from the Gift Shop? It’s a documentary by Banksy about graffiti and street art.

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