It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/13/15


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

On the blog:

  • A curated links post of some of my favorite online reading from last week
  • A gritty celebration
  • A reading goals check-in focused on my Best of 2014 reading challenge

In reading:

gone fishing

Tamara Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing is a clinic in how to write a verse novel. Not only does Wissinger try out dozens of different forms and formats in this story of a boy who is excited to go fishing with his dad, she includes ample back matter defining poetic techniques and the many different forms she uses. Fishing is one topic I really cannot be interested in, but there is an engaging subplot involving Sam’s little sister Lucy, who invites herself along on the fishing trip, much to Sam’s chagrin. The brilliant Matthew Cordell provides illustrations.

no matter the wreckage

No Matter the Wreckage is a collection of spoken word poet Sarah Kay’s poetry. A few of the poems I’ve seen her perform (on youtube), but most were new to me, and there were so many that I loved. She is so good at teasing out the small moments of meaning in relationships. I was most surprised and most moved by her poems about her brother. This would be a good collection for a high school classroom library, but otherwise it’s a book for grown-ups.

under the mesquite

I finally read Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Pura Belpre winner, Under the Mesquite, about a Mexican-American girl, Lupita, whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer. McCall is a terrific poet: this is a novel that had to be written in verse. So many beautiful lines and images as well as a powerful story of a girl coming into her own as she deals with tragedy.

ballerina dreams

What a special leveled reader! Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer is the true story of African-American ballerina Michaela DePrince, who was adopted from Sierra Leone as a child and overcame significant barriers to become a successful ballerina. This story would make a terrific pairing with Firebird.


Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend is a beautifully designed and illustrated story about how horses came to the Lakota tribe on the Western Plains. Donald F. Montileaux is a local artist whose work we frequently see in Rapid City, so it was a special treatment to read a picture book written and illustrated by him. His style is influenced by Native American ledger art, which he briefly explains in a “Note about the Illustrations” at the back. This is a dual-language book in English and Lakota.

a hole is to digI have been wanting to reread A Hole Is to Dig for years. It’s one that I know I read and loved as a child. There are so many clever definitions. This book had the effect of making me want to pick up my pen and start writing my own definitions. Maurice Sendak’s neat little illustrations add to the charm.

nana upstairsNana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs was one of the more traumatic reading experiences my son and I have ever had. I literally had just gotten him regulated after a long session of “Mom is going to die someday so why bother to attach to her now?” We were moving on. We settled down to read stories and have a calming storytime experience before bed. And do you know what happens in Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs? TWO NANAS DIE!!! Granted, one of them was 94, and I’m only 42, but still. It was such a shock. There was no coming back from the crazy after I read this book aloud, though I did race into the dining room to see what else I might have that could offer some comfort. That’s how we came to read

orange oliver

Orange Oliver: The Kitten Who Wore Glasses. My mom picked up a big stack of old children’s books at the library sale for me to use in my Children’s Lit class for a Battle Bunny-style project. But there’s no way I can allow Orange Oliver: The Kitten Who Wore Glasses to be scribbled over. It’s too vintage awesome. It’s actually a pretty decent little story with some fine writing at times, though there are some weird moments, as I’ve come to expect in picture books published in the 1970s (or earlier). I just love the vintage look and feel, and the final spread of Oliver soaring through the air in his thick Clark Kent glasses is perfection.


Still, even Orange Oliver was no match for the trauma of dead nanas.

farmer and clown

The Farmer and the Clown was a bit of a disappointment to me when I first read it last year, though I’m still not quite sure why. This week, I revisited it with my son. We haven’t had much success with wordless picture books, which has been surprising to me. He’s a struggling reader, and he learns a lot through visuals, so I would think wordless PBs would appeal to him. But they do not. I opened the book, thinking we’d just look at the pictures silently together, but when I realized how disappointed he was, I decided to make up a story to go along with the images. “Once upon a time,” I started, and then narrated the story pretending to read. He loved it! It wasn’t always the smoothest narration, but somehow he managed to be delighted by the whole experience. We’ll definitely be trying this again with other wordless PBs.





20 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/13/15”

  1. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    Under the Mesquite is one of my favorites of all time. I am glad you were able to read it. It is simply lovely. I hope you have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Such a powerful read! So glad I finally got to it.

  2. kelseyempfield Avatar

    What a great impromptu with the silent picture book. This would be a great classroom exercise, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I agree–I’d definitely use wordless PBs in the secondary classroom!

  3. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I read your celebration post before I read this one, so I gasped when I saw the Tomie dePaola title.
    I’m going to find Gone Fishing and read it soon. Aside from the fact that I do like fishing, it sounds like a perfect gift for my brother who is both a fisher, a writer, and a teacher!
    I loved the hundred books link and have even read some of them. I need a 100 books of middle grade fiction so that I can really get my list pared down to a manageable number!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We gasped too, Cheriee! There are so many books on that 100 books list that I *want* to read but haven’t gotten to. I rarely read more than 1-2 books for grown-ups per month, so it’s unlikely I’ll manage to read very many of them, but I’m always aspirational with my reading!

  4. Michele Avatar

    Elisabeth – that is quite the range of PB this week! And through the decades 🙂 Thanks for pulling some of them back out, it’s always a good refresher for me too. Love the strategy you used with your son. Sometimes those on the spot ones work the best.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m surprised that my son wants to read some of the older titles, but I’m having fun with them. Last night we read a really goofy one called Plop Plop Ploppie about a sea lion who gets lost. Why not?!

  5. Linda Baie Avatar

    I was just looking for some verse novels to share with a student wanting more & found Gone Fishing. It’s too young for her, but it is still a great example of a story in verse, agreed. She can read those for older students too, is wanting to write a story in poems. I loved that sweet book about siblings. Tasunka reminds me of another earlier book about ledger art – The Ledger Book of Thomas Blue Eagle. I don’t have it anymore, loaned it out & it is gone, but it is beautiful. I’m glad to know about Tasunka. Glad you worked out a story for Farmer & The Clown.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ledger art is so interesting! The Starbucks I go to in Rapid City has a couple of Montileaux’s paintings hanging on the wall and they are GORGEOUS. Very bright and vivid. Tasunka is well worth a look.

  6. Crystal Avatar

    You started off with three poetry books that I love! I like that you shared some older titles. A Hole is To Dig is one I think I’ve missed. How fun that you’re going to do a Battle Bunny project! I think you’re right. Orange Oliver must be saved. Argh! I’m sorry you all had to stare into the grief of Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs. I hope Oliver saved the day.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      A Hole Is To Dig is a must-read. I can’t wait to use it as a mentor text in my Comp classes too. I got the idea for the Battle Bunny project from Beth Shaum. I’ve needed a couple of semesters to collect enough old books to use. I love the serendipity of oddball but good little titles like Orange Oliver.

  7. carriegelson Avatar

    Loved reading about your experience with The Farmer and the Clown – we call our experiences with wordless picture books “tell alouds” – the kids collectively help me tell a story. It’s quite amazing really. Nana Upstairs is emotional isn’t it? Beautiful. But full of sadness too. Do you know The Old Woman who Names Things by Rylant? I love how that book speaks to attachment and fear of connecting for fear of grief.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love The Old Woman Who Names Things–gorgeous story. I think I’ll revisit it with my son. We’re clearly needing to process some things right now, and why not try to do that through reading PBs?

  8. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I did not realize Sarah Kay had a book of poems. I must find a copy ASAP! I’m sorry to hear the Nana book was so traumatizing for you and your son. It definitely has me intrigued though. As does the Maurice Sendak title which is new to me.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You definitely need the Sarah Kay book! So many wonderful poems.

  9. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    Oh, I definitely want to check out the Tasunka book – wonderful art, and I love that they made it bilingual! I totally know what you mean about sharing wordless books. Our librarian and I were trying to share the Farmer and the Clown to 23 kids at once, and none of them could really see the details in the illustrations, so you have to explain as you go.

  10. Scott Day Avatar

    Initially, I was going to make a commitment, like you, to read more adult books. So I picked up two philosophical books by Rebecca Goldstein. I didn’t keep my commitment for long. Goldstein’s writing is beautiful. . .but dense. So I returned to the books that captured my heart and imagination: H is for Hawk, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, and By Mouse and Frog. I’m certain that Goldstein’s writing captures the imagination of certain readers, but my heart belongs to Helen Macdonald, Matthew Quick, and definitely Deborah Freedman

  11. Myra GB Avatar

    I just reserved Under the Mesquite from our public library – it seems perfect for our current reading theme. I am so glad you found No Matter the Wreckage – so much truth in Sarah Kay’s poetry – I admire her courage, really. 🙂

  12. Scott Day Avatar

    Thanks for introducing me to Sarah Kay. I watched a presentation of hers on YouTube. Then I went out and bought No Matter the Wreckage. Remarkable!

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