It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/9/15


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

On the blog:

  • A curation of recent online reading in Links I Loved Last Week
  • A reflection on my year of reading nonfiction for Nonfiction November
  • A Top Ten list of Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

In reading:

step aside pops

Kate Beaton’s new collection of comics delivers a very similar reading experience to Hark! A Vagrant!, so if you loved that book, you will certainly love Step Aside, Pops. The familiar targets of Beaton’s satire are here–I was happy to see some new comics about Heathcliff and Napoleon and, of course, peasants–and there are strong new series about Ida B. Wells, straw feminists, Wonder Woman, and life inside a ballad. As always in a Beaton collection, there are plenty of strips that I simply don’t get because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. But it’s easy to skip or skim and move on to what does connect and engage.

brick by brick

In Brick by Brick, Charles R. Smith Jr narrates the story of how slave labor was used to construct the White House. Smith is careful to bring these forgotten laborers to life and make them real people for his readers. Cooper’s detailed portraits help that effort. Smith notes that being forced to work on the White House (labor for which they got paid–but their wages were given to their masters) was ultimately a good thing for slaves, because they were able to learn valuable skills from other workers–skills that later enabled them to improve their own lives. This is not an easy story to read, but it’s an important one, and extremely well done by Smith and Cooper.

boy who loved words

I’m on a quest to read all of the picture books Giselle Potter has illustrated, and that’s what brought me to The Boy Who Loved Words, written by Roni Schotter. It’s about a boy who loves words and collects them, but he doesn’t know what to do with all of them. He accidentally helps a poet who has writer’s block, which leads him to his calling: sharing his wonderful words with others who need them. As probably befits a picture book about the wonders of words, this one is quite wordy, which I both liked and didn’t like. A more streamlined and focused story might convey the message a little more clearly–and also not distract from all the high-level vocab that’s sprinkled throughout in italics. There is a glossary at the end for curious readers, though some words can be figured out from context.
bird and squirrel on the run

I am so glad I listened to all those rave reviews of James Burks’s Bird & Squirrel graphic novel series. Bird & Squirrel On the Run, the first volume in the series, introduces the reader to adventuresome Bird and fearful Squirrel as they’re getting to know each other and becoming unlikely friends. Both are the targets of the singleminded hunter, Cat. There is a hilarious excursion underground with Mole’s family, and especially with Grandma Mole, who terrifies Squirrel with her predictions of a very violent future. Burks manages a neat trick in this series–a book that has very wide age range appeal. I think it’s very difficult to write a graphic novel series that has such wide appeal. Generally, what works for a second-grader is not going to work for a seventh-grader or a high-school student, but I know my seventh-grade son would love this book, and my college students are going to be crazy about it. Burks’s humor manages to be goofy and sophisticated, and there is an elegant simplicity to story and illustrations.





21 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/9/15”

  1. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    Bird and Squirrel looks fabulous! My third graders would likely love these too.

    Totally agree with your critique about The Boy Who Loved Words.

    Only a week plus ’til NCTE … ! (Have you ever been to any of their “roundtable” style sessions? I am presenting at one but have never seen one in action. Tips appreciated!)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, your third graders will LOVE Bird & Squirrel. I’m so excited to get Books 2 and 3 this week. I have been to many roundtable sessions. They often have handouts, which I love, and are more conversational, which I also enjoy. I need to send you a tweet and connect!

  2. Erica Avatar

    I will have to see if I can find “Stone by Stone!” It sounds like a must read and I have to admit I never even considered the role that slave labor played in the construction of the White House!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I didn’t realize that it was such an important part of the White House’s construction. It’s a powerful read!

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    Thanks for all, Elisabeth. I’ve read The Boy Who Loved Words, but a long while ago, don’t remember loving it exactly. I’ll look for Brick by Brick, have hear of it, & it sounds like a must, as do the Bird & Squirrel books.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      One thing I like about trying to be a completist with an illustrator is getting exposed to such a variety of books. I think you’ll enjoy Bird & Squirrel–very fun, very well-done.

  4. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    Glad to know that the first Bird and Squirrel book is so good. I’ve only read the most recently published one and my students are loving it. I think you’re right it is a book with wide appeal. It’s simple, but funny and the characters are charming.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So charming! I can’t wait to book talk and get my college students reading.

  5. Myra GB Avatar

    The Boy Who Loved Words is one of my absolute favourite Giselle Potter titles – I think we featured that one for our books about books reading theme. Haven’t heard of Bird and Squirrel – so thanks for sharing that one. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think I love her new book, Tell Me What to Dream About, best of all. Delicious pictures!

  6. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar

    I don’t think I’ve ever followed an illustrator passionately, but that is such a great idea! I loved the illustrations in The Boy Who Loved Words, and I will seek out others by her!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a fun reading project–very different from following an author.

  7. carriegelson Avatar

    Bird and Squirrel is really fantastic. I was very impressed when I discovered it. I need to pick up the next two titles.Giselle Potter is really wonderful, I agree. I have a few of her illustrated books in my home collection.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was so impressed too. The rave reviews hadn’t fully prepared me for just how brilliant it is!

  8. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    Bird and Squirrel are always a hit at my library – the kids love the quirky sense of humour. Have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Jane! I love discovering a new graphic novel series.

  9. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    I love Bird & Squirrel! I’m glad you do as well.
    I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know Giselle Potter. I will have to fix this!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh yes! You will love her books, I think. Looking forward to seeing you next week at NCTE!

  10. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    The Bird and Squirrel titles are VERY popular in our library. I think we have 3 copies of each of them. We don’t have Bird & Squirrel on the Edge! yet, but I think they will sell it at the Scholastic Book Fair coming soon. I thought that I had read The Boy Who Loved Words, but since we don’t have it in our library, it is highly unlikely. It sounds like I better remedy this.
    BTW, I sent my son who is both a football fan, and a voracious reader, the link about Andrew Luck. He sent me this one back.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love the story about Andrew Luck trash talking! I almost linked to that too but decided one Andrew Luck story on Sunday was enough. My son is obsessed with Luck’s unusual trash talking–we talk about it A LOT. Love that you and your son are sending articles back and forth! It’s fun to connect over our kids’ special interests.

  11. Crystal Avatar

    Yay! I loved Hark a Vagrant. so glad to see there’s a new collection.

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