It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/25/15


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

On the blog:

In reading:

everything you ever wanted

I’ve long been a reader of Jillian Lauren’s blog and have followed her adoption story, which shares some similarities with mine. Well, the Ethiopia part and the traumatized child part. That’s enough of a connection for me to feel like she’s my long-lost best mom pal. I could so, so, so relate to the story of how she figured out how to be the kind of mom her son, Tariku, needs. (Her blog post, Why I Sing Loudly At Whole Foods, is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of what it means to be that kind of mom.) This was the part of the story that drew me to her new memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, in the first place. But the book surprised me. It’s about much more than parenting a child who has experienced serious trauma. Lauren starts the story much earlier, long before she and her husband adopt. She’s had an unusual life, and the book is really about her journey to healing and self-understanding. Becoming the mother Tariku needs is the key to that healing and self-understanding. Tariku pushes her every day to be a better person, to be more than she is—to be more than she thinks she can be. I know this is what mothering is like for everyone, but there is a special urgency and intensity to mothering a child who has experienced trauma. Lauren writes beautifully and unflinchingly about herself, her life, motherhood. One of my favorite books of 2015.

son of neptune

I’m not sure any readaloud has ever taken more time to finish than Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune, the second in his Heroes of Olympus series. Thankfully, it’s a better book than the first book in the series, The Lost Hero. There’s more action and adventure, and the characters are more interesting. It’s another doorstop of a book, at least 100 pages longer than it needs to be, but fans of the Percy Jackson series will certainly enjoy it.


I have long mourned my lost copy of Alexander, a favorite picture book from childhood. But it turns out that I didn’t need to mourn: I only needed to clean out a storage cupboard because that’s where my much-read copy was hiding. As I read it to my son this week, I remembered the hours I spent pouring over Tom Vroman’s illustrations of the naughty Alexander, a red-and-green striped horse who has a very bad day. Except, the reader discovers, Alexander isn’t the naughty one at all. It’s Chris, the little boy, who has done all the naughty things and blamed Alexander, who happens to be his imaginary horse. Harold Littledale subtly cues the reader to Alexander’s imaginary status on the first spread, but I totally missed it as a child. How I longed for the parental forbearance and acceptance Chris’s dad shows! Not all beloved picture books from my childhood hold up, but Alexander is just as brilliant as I remembered.


We read two nonfiction picture books written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne this week, Emu and Big Red Kangaroo. Both are superb—lyrically written, informative, and brilliantly illustrated. Of the two, I think we both liked Emu best, perhaps because we learned so much that we didn’t know before about emus. But both are must-purchases for the elementary nonfiction collection.

ling and ting twice as silly

Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly is another fun early reader from Grace Lin that collects six short stories about Ling and Ting. Each story ends with a silly or unexpected twist. I really appreciate an early reader that works for both child and adult readers, and Grace Lin’s series certainly does. Her illustrations always please me as well.

is that you winter

We are just a little bit obsessed with Stephen Gammell’s work at my house. Is That You, Winter? tells the story of grouchy Old Man Winter who wakes up early to head out in his beat-up old truck and spread winter wherever he goes. The text is limited but effective, and the art is gorgeous. There is a cute twist at the end as we discover who Old Man Winter really is.

mixed beasts

Mixed Beasts is a delight–short nonsense poems about bizarre animal combinations such as the Rhinocerostrich and the Kangarooster beautifully illustrated by Wallace Edwards. The poetry is fine, if you like that sort of thing, but the illustrations are the real draw. So much to look at and wonder over. The creatures themselves are marvelous, and the backgrounds are lush with flora and fauna.





16 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/25/15”

  1. msoreadsbookstx Avatar

    I’ve taken longer on the RR books. Love ’em. Purchase all of them like the week they come out. And then because I own them … they sit on the shelf. “I can read that whenever it’s sitting right there.” Hopefully this summer. Grace Lin came to our school several years ago. She is one of the nicest people ever. I haven’t seen that one yet so I need to get it!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      This sounds so familiar–purchasing books the week they come out and then leaving them sitting on the shelf because I can read them anytime. I really enjoy the Ling & Ting books. Anything by Grace Lin actually. Very cool that she did an author visit at your school!

  2. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I’ve had Emu on hold at my library for a while now. I’m anxiously awaiting it to come in!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s terrific! We learned so much about emus. And Byrne’s art is amazing at capturing what Australia looks like. (Not that I’ve been to Australia, but his illustrations are definitely the Australia of my imagination!)

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    It took me a while to get through your wonderful list of books, Elisabeth, because I kept having to write the titles down! I did not raise children of trauma, but have had a number of them in my classes, and connected so much to your first book from Jillian Lauren, and that post about singing in Whole Foods. They are always differently handled I guess, but in a crisis, I think silly humor does help support a child who is beginning to fall apart. I was also reminded of a teacher my own children had. My children told me that when things got a little contentious (high school class), the teacher would jump onto his desk and begin to sing the facts of whatever they were studying. They adored him, the only teacher they went back to see after graduation! As for the others, Alexander sounds wonderful, and I will certainly find Emu and Is That You, winter! Both look and sound terrific. Thank you!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We do a lot of silly humor around here, Linda. Helps me keep my cool too! Lauren writes a lot about the issues her son has once they enroll him in preschool and how schools struggle to work with him effectively. I could relate to that part too, though my son holds it together really well at school. Love the story of the high school teacher jumping on the desk and singing. I always found that unpredictability and zaniness were two of the best strategies I could use in my high school classroom!

  4. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Good to hear that Son of Neptune was better. I really didn’t like The Lost Hero, and I actually stopped reading the series because of it. Maybe I’ll have to pick the series back up at some point.
    I haven’t read any of the picture books you mentioned–I need to catch up this summer after some obligatory reading is done. There are so many PBs I want to read!
    I am now going to go read the Whole Foods post!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m not sure if we’ll keep reading the series or not, Kellee, but I do have Book 3. Sadly, the characters from The Lost Hero are going to show up, I think, and I found all of them rather tedious and thinly written. Hope you have lots of great reading time this summer!

  5. Jill Fisch Avatar

    Alexander! I loved that book, too, but I had completely forgotten about it until I saw the picture of the cover of the book on this post. Thanks for bringing back that memory for me. As a parent of an adopted daughter, I often relate to your posts but have failed to let you know in a comment. Now I am also looking forward to reading Jillian Lauren’s blog and book. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So glad the cover of Alexander brought back memories for you! There are a number of these PBs published by Parents Magazine Press that were huge favorites for me when I was a child. I’d also like to find other books written by Littledale or illustrated by Vroman. Thanks for your comments about my parenting posts. It’s a really interesting journey, that’s for sure!

  6. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar
    Ricki Ginsberg

    Your post about the Riordan book makes me smile. His books are always too long! Is that just for show? I don’t get it. I simply love the accessibility of the mythology (as does everyone, I know). I am glad to hear it is better than The Lost Hero. I liked that one, which makes the second sound all the more promising! Have a terrific reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The Riordan books are huge! I think it’s hilarious that all these so-called reluctant readers are hooked by these series and busting through 600 page books. I don’t think the length puts off the true fans at all, but I would love more editing in these books. I felt the same way about the last 2 or 3 Harry Potter books too. I could have cut 30 pages in adverbs alone!

  7. carriegelson Avatar

    I am glad you liked Kangaroo and Emu – I was really fascinated by the details in the Emu book as well. Who knew Emu fathers played such an important role? I read the post about singing in Whole Foods by following a link you shared earlier and then spent more time on Jillian’s blog. I can imagine the book would be a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing it here.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Lauren has another memoir that I’d now like to read too–about being part of a harem, of all things! As I said above, she’s had an unusual life. That’s not the kind of story I’m usually interested in, but she’s such a good writer, I trust that it will be worth reading. I was so glad you shared the books by Claire Saxby–such wonderful nonfiction!

  8. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    Everything You Ever Wanted seems like one powerful book. I’m not sure I’m ready for it, but I’m glad it resonated with you. I love Ling and Ting! We’ve got this in our library but I haven’t read it yet. I’ve got Big Red Kangaroo on hold at our library, but they don’t have a copy of Emu in yet. (Don’t tell anyone – I’m not a Rick Riordan fan) Karen’s how to talk to a sexual abuse post was powerful. I’m thankful not to have been there, but people I’m close to have been and still are. The one thing that appalls and amazes me is that people are not aware that it is never just this one time!

  9. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

    Ling & Ting are so fun! I really enjoyed this latest in the series. I’m not a Rick Riordan fan either! I would NEVER read these books myself, but my son requested them. Lots of kids in his class have read them and he sometimes like to read whatever is current with his friends so he can keep up. Helps me too because then I can booktalk in my classes! Hopefully your library will get Emu–really interesting stuff! Glad you found Karen’s post at TLT useful. I really appreciate the work TLT is doing on this subject–great resources there to share with my pre-service teachers!

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