It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/10/15


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

On the blog:

In reading:

penderwicks in spring

I think Jeanne Birdsall’s series about the Penderwicks might just get better with every book she writes. This entry focuses on two of the younger Penderwicks, Batty and Ben, but especially on Batty, who is in mourning after her old dog, Hound, dies. Much happens to Batty this spring: she discovers she can sing; she starts a dog-walking business; she tries to keep up with the rotating cast of characters her older sisters bring home; and, most importantly of all, she discovers the truth about her birth and her mother’s death. I did struggle with how oddly isolated and alone Batty seems to be in this story. The Penderwicks are supposed to be so close and loving, yet no one notices that Batty is hurting. I realize that a little less close observation was necessary on the part of grown-ups and older siblings for the plot to actually work here, but the parents seem so careless. I think this series works best read in order, but I do think The Penderwicks in Spring could stand alone.

mama built a little nest

This nonfiction/poetry title highlights the different types of nests that birds make. Each spread features a brief nonfiction description of the bird and its nest, a gorgeous illustration by Steve Jenkins, and a four-line rhyming poem by Jennifer Ward. I didn’t love the rhyming text—I almost never do—but it did work better for me when I read the nonfiction part first, then read the poem.


A Bernard Waber title I’ve been wanting to reread in anticipation of sharing with my classes this fall. I love the repetitive “Courage is” structure and the surprise of so many of the courageous moments. There were a few that I felt fell flat, but I think this is a book my students are going to like.

stratford zoo

The animals at the Stratford Zoo have a secret: at night, when all the visitors and zookeepers have gone home, they gather for performances of Shakespeare plays. This is really a delightful adaptation of Macbeth—not a play I would have imagined adapting for a young audience. What I loved so much and found so unique was the emphasis on the play as a performance. There are constant interruptions and commentary by the animals in the audience and a couple of hilarious scenes where mayhem in the audience subverts what is happening onstage. Lendler handles the whole “not born of a woman” plot very cleverly (and in a way that shouldn’t have surprised me but did), and the subplot with Lady Macbeth trying to get the bloodstain out is really funny, especially when she suddenly notices that she herself is covered in spots and starts scrubbing them out. I tried to imagine how this story would be experienced if the reader had no knowledge of Macbeth—if it would be as enjoyable. And I really don’t know. I found that I couldn’t forget what I do know of the play and come to the story with fresh eyes. What I do know is that it’s a total delight for readers who are familiar with the play.

someday a tree

Sometimes I feel like I will be trying to catch up on Eve Bunting titles until I die—she’s written that many books. Someday a Tree is a sad one: there’s a gorgeous old oak tree that dies when someone mysteriously poisons it. On purpose? By accident? What actually poisons a tree? The story doesn’t say. There is hope, however, because the main character collected acorns when she and her family picnicked under the oak tree and now she plants them in healthy soil near the dying tree. A story that could lead to some rich conversation about environmental issues.






12 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/10/15”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Someday a Tree is really lovely isn’t it? I, too, am a HUGE Penderwicks fan. These books make me more than happy. This title did have a busy, busy family feel didn’t it?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Eve Bunting is just so good. I’m so glad you encouraged me to start reading her books! I wonder if there will be more Penderwick books? Ben and Lydia still need their books too!

  2. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I agree with you about Courage. I think I remember feeling like the book was a few pages too long. Like if had been cut short it would’ve worked better for me.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think that’s it, Beth. It needs to be just a tiny bit shorter. Still, a title I will enjoy sharing in my classes this fall.

  3. msyingling Avatar

    Penderwicks is an absolute no-go at my library, no matter how hard I try to sell it. Maybe the covers look too young? This one had older concerns, so maybe it would go out more.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The Penderwicks is one of those series that I, too, have a hard time imagining an actual child reading. I tended to like old-fashioned books as a child, so I might have enjoyed it. But I think it’d be a tough sell for all but the bookish.

  4. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I love the Penderwicks, but am with msyingling. I can’t get my readers excited about them. I will get the odd student who adores them, but for the most part, I try to sell it to parents as a fabulous read aloud. Eve Bunting seems to never run out of important things to teach us. Seeing Waber’s title on your list, makes me think of reading it first thing to the new grade four students who will be spending time with me until we have confirmed our new class organizations for the year.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was wondering this–how the series works as a read-aloud. I was thinking quite well because she writes marvelous sentences. Courage is a wonderful story for the beginning of the year. What a perfect way to describe Bunting’s work–yes, so full of important things to teach us.

  5. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Stratford Zoo looks like one that my students and I would both really like.
    I have never read a Penderwicks title. I need to fix that at some point. They all sound so lovely!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’d like to get the next Stratford Zoo book–I’m imagining the animals’ performance of R&J will be hilarious. I definitely want to share this series with my pre-service teachers too.

  6. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    I am totally with you on Eve Bunting. So incredible, and Someday A Tree is a powerful one.

    As for Crenshaw and invisible cats, I could also be totally down with that, but he’s barely a character and doesn’t do anything that you would wish an invisible friend cat would do! Lost comic potential.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That’s unfortunate about Crenshaw. So much potential there for an invisible cat friend!

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