It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/31/15


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

On the blog:

  • A curation of weekly online reading that I liked
  • A new regular feature, Window into My Classroom, focusing on the first week of Special Methods
  • A starter kit of 10 nonfiction picture books for K-16 teachers new to reading nonfiction PBs
  • A Top Ten list of books I’d put on a syllabus for a class in Therapeutic Parenting

In reading:


I’ve read so many books about Jane Goodall, but for some reason, I never get tired of her wonderful and unlikely story. And Anita Silvey’s lavishly illustrated middle-grade nonfiction title is one of the best I’ve read. It’s packed full of information with dozens of full-color photos, quotations, and scientific facts about chimpanzees and other animals. What I find so interesting about Goodall is the way that her work and life interconnect. Interconnect isn’t really a strong enough word: Goodall’s life is her work. This is an informative and incredibly inspiring story: I even got teary-eyed at certain points. Highly, highly recommended.

first day jitters

I’ve seen First Day Jitters show up on so many teachers’ lists of picture books they enjoy sharing at the beginning of the school year. I finally broke down and purchased a copy and found it to be the perfect title to share in my Methods course last week. There’s a fun twist at the end, which probably won’t be a surprise to most adult readers. A fine title for acknowledging and soothing first day nerves for students and teachers.

the orphan

I’m trying to become a completist with illustrator Giselle Potter’s books. If you’re looking for versions of fairy tales from different cultures, The Orphan might be one worth looking for, but this was not my favorite Potter book. On many pages I felt there was far too much text (not her fault), and I found the use of white space perplexing. I did like the full-page spreads, but the pages with floating figures in white space really didn’t work for me.
shrinking violet

But I did adore Shrinking Violet. Potter has collaborated on several titles with author Cari Best, and I really need to get my hands on the rest of them. Shrinking Violet is the perfect story for introverts like me. Violet has personality to spare, but she really can’t stand being the focus of attention. Instead, she’s an observer: “She knew the fast swimmers from the slow ones. And exactly what everyone brought for snack. She knew the second someone sang off-key. And who always stepped on whose new shoes.” There’s actually a lot going on in this story as Violet finds a way to shine in the school play (thanks to a clever and observant teacher who knows her students) and deals with Irwin, the creepy bully, in her own unique way. There’s a powerful message here about embracing yourself just as you are, just as you’re supposed to be.

my best friend

One of my readers recently commented that My Best Friend is her favorite E.B. Lewis-illustrated picture book. When I saw that cover, I knew I had to buy this one. And it’s absolutely gorgeous. I freely confess that I bought it for the art, but there is also a strong story here about a little girl who is so busy longing to be friends with a snotty older girl that she doesn’t even notice the girl her own age who’s trying to be her friend. An excellent title to initiate conversation about friendship, teasing, and how we want to treat others. house held up by trees

I’m still mulling over Ted Kooser’s House Held Up by Trees, magnificently illustrated by Jon Klassen. I really do think this is some of Klassen’s finest work. And Kooser’s text is, naturally, poetic in that clear nouns and verbs style that I like so much. But it’s a bit of an oddball story, and I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to get from it. It left me feeling like I might be on the verge of an existential crisis. Of course, I’m often on the verge of an existential crisis so that’s nothing new. But this is definitely not the book to read if you’re angsting over the meaning of life. There is something stark and sad to me in the disappearance of people from the story, though perhaps there is also something perpetual and calming in the strength and presence of the trees.

This week’s reading plan?

My son and I are still reading the first book in James Riley’s fractured fairy tale trilogy, Half Upon a Time. I started reading Maggie Nelson’s meditation on art, gender, identity, and motherhood, The Argonauts. I need to reread Shaun Tan’s The Arrival before teaching it tomorrow. And I’d really like to start a new YA or middle-grade novel.





7 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/31/15”

  1. Linda Baie Avatar

    I didn’t care for the House Held Up By Trees, & it’s been so long ago that I don’t remember why. I just remember being disappointed considering the author & the illustrator. I will look for First Day Jitters and My Best Friend – both will be good I’m sure. I found Untamed at the library & requested it, Elisabeth. Jane Goodall started the Roots & Shoots program here a long time ago, & I’d forgotten until you mentioned her. A student I had then was part of that starting group, was so excited. I just looked it up & it seems to still be very active. Have a great start to your classes!

  2. carriegelson Avatar

    I am so pleased that you like My Best Friend – this title really resonates read aloud with children. So very powerful. I am a huge fan of House Held up by Trees – maybe my philosophy degree background helps me weather existential crises with ease. Ha! I think this is Klassen at his very best – when I met him in Vancouver he told me that it was one of his favourites to illustrate. To me, I didn’t look at the absence of people as something sad – instead, I thought about the power of nature being great and that trying to control it is a battle not to be won. Trees and all of their persistence and strength. I do really love this one. But today, I seem to be finding books on many blogs that I really liked and others didn’t. Maybe I am getting more odd in my tastes.

  3. crbrunelle Avatar

    I too am never tired of Jane storys. First Day Jitters is one I read last week too for the same reason. It’s cute. I haven’t read the Potter books. My Best Friend looks like one I will want to grab. The house book is one that was a little melancholy for me. The illustrations are fabulous, but the text was a downer for me. I appreciate what Carrie had to say about it though.

  4. Michele Avatar

    Blah, hate when I see a book I like (My Best Friend) and my library doesn’t have it! Your post and Carrie’s did that to my today!
    Thanks again for your Sunday post. Sent a couple of articles to myself that I want to go back over.

  5. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I have never heard of My Best Friend before but I just requested it at my library.

    I agree with you about The House Held Up By Trees. I didn’t entirely know how to take that book either. I wasn’t sure kids would get it, but then again I thought my 8th graders wouldn’t get Rules of Summer and that still made for a really great discussion so perhaps I need to give it more of a chance.

  6. kelseyempfield Avatar

    Today at the public library I told the librarian about my new obsession with Klassen as I checked out I Want My Hat Back. She actually recommended A House Held Up By Trees and said that Kooser is the National Poet Laureate and is from Nebraska. How cool! Definitely on my tbr list.

  7. Myra GB Avatar

    My Best Friend looks great – and I just pinned it so that I will remember to borrow this title very soon. Glad to see that we have it in our library. I am glad to see you read so many Giselle Potter picturebooks. I love her too. I agree about The House Held Up By Trees – it does have a melancholic quality to it, right?

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