It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/16/15


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

On the blog:

In reading:

diary of wimpy kid

I read aloud to my son religiously twice a day–at breakfast and at bedtime. Old School, the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, was breakfast time reading this week, and I found it more satisfying than perhaps any other Wimpy Kid book. Greg wasn’t such an unethical jerk in this one. Not that he’s a model citizen. But he actually seemed to be aware that other human beings exist and have feelings that might be taken into consideration. Illustrated middle-grade novels have been so amazing for young readers, but I do long for them to feature boy characters who aren’t stupid, cruel, or clueless. I long for humor with heart to be able to share with my son. And Old School comes closer to that than any other Wimpy Kid title. It’s also tightly constructed in plot and theme. I really do appreciate what Kinney can do in these books. There were many laugh-out-loud moments for my son–and at least a couple for me as well.

sorcerer to crown

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown just might be my favorite book of 2015. It’s exactly what I’ve been needing as a reader for a long time–just the book to break the reading slump I feel like I’ve been in for basically all of 2015. Think Jane Austen meets Susanna Clarke meets Philip Pullman. But it’s also uniquely Cho’s own. It’s a page-turner that has so much more on its mind than strong plotting and delicious characters (though I appreciate both Cho’s plotting and her skills at character development). Race and gender issues take the forefront in this historical fantasy that adds magic to 1800s England.

drowned city

Don Brown’s Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans should feature prominently in Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert discussions this year. It’s one of the most distinguished nonfiction books I’ve read in 2015. Brown manages to take a very complex story and streamline it into a graphic novel that’s under 100 pages. The focus is very much on the people of New Orleans, whose suffering was multiplied manifold by incredibly inept local and federal government responses to the natural disaster. One of the most telling images is of George Bush–on his way back to the White House from vacation–flying low in his plane over the city. People below are starving, dying of dehydration, drowning, and Bush is insulated and ignorant and later claims not to have realized just how bad things were. (To which an incredulous reporter asked, “Don’t you guys have TV?”)  Brown is an amazing writer–he writes beautiful sentences that convey so much information, context, and atmosphere. And the art is even better–emotional, sensitive, evocative, conveying the tragedy, the suffering, and the dignity of the people of New Orleans. Image after image stopped me short.

loren long

I tried to appreciate the theme of Little Tree (a growing tree refuses to let go of its leaves in the fall and inadvertently stunts in its own growth as it clings to the past) but ultimately found the story, though clever, a bit heavy-handed and moralistic. I did like Long’s art, of course, and I do see why this title is getting a lot of book love.

dear yeti

Dear Yeti is so much more my speed. Two kids head out exploring, intent on finding a yeti. They do it in a style I can appreciate: they write pen pal letters to the yeti! Unbeknownst to them, the shy yeti receives their letters and begins helping them behind the scenes on their adventures. And they need his help because our two intrepid heroes prepare for their hike much as I do–heading out into the woods with no supplies and little forethought. A charmer of a story.

night animals

My favorite picture book of the week, hands down, Night Animals is a hilarious look at fear of the dark and nameless night terrors. The humor comes from the fact that it’s nocturnal animals who are so frightened of the dark–and each other. It’s up to Bat to assure the other animals that they themselves are in fact the “night animals” of whom they are totally terrified. Perfectly paced, full of humor and warmth, with a lovely surprise ending.
orion and the dark

Emma Yarlett’s Orion and the Dark is another strong title about fear of the dark. Orion is scared of the dark–that is, until the Dark itself becomes a character, climbs in Orion’s window, and takes him on adventures. Together, they discover that all the scariest places in the house are actually places to have the best adventures. The art is really lovely and unique, and there are adorable page cut-outs of the Dark hugging Orion.  little elliot big family

In Little Elliot Big Family by author-illustrator Mike Curato, Elliot finds himself alone after his one friend, Mouse, leaves for a family reunion. He wanders the city streets observing many different (and diverse! Thanks, Mike Curato!) families and begins to feel more and more lonely. Luckily, Mouse eventually shows up to invite him to the Mouse family reunion. The story is predictable, but I find that I really like Curato’s art, especially his choice to set the Elliot stories in 1940s New York. The period details make the stories resonate a bit for me than I think they otherwise would. They have a surprising seriousness and weight, despite the fact that Elliot is a pastel polka-dotted elephant and everything works out in the end exactly as you would expect it to.






12 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/16/15”

  1. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    Dear Yeti sounds like it tells about a fun, winter adventure. I’m going to add it to my list. Students are loving the newest Diary of a Wimpy. Kinney’s books are very appealing to my elementary readers.

  2. Linda Baie Avatar

    I’m unfamiliar with Sorcerer To The Crown, Elisabeth, will place it on my list. I did love Drowned City too, but it was sad to me to remember back to that time. I can’t imagine what it might be like if one read it and had been there. But, it was well told. Also, I agree about Night Animals, just thought it was great. I’ll look for Dear Yeti and Orion and The Dark. Thanks & have fun reading with your son!

  3. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar

    I really liked Little Tree. I think the artwork is what sucked me in. I can completely see your perspective, though. I really want to grab a copy of Night Animals. Everyone raves about it! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    I’m so glad to hear that Greg isn’t as big of a jerk in the newest book! I have the last 3 Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in my pile to read on the plane because I got behind during pregnancy/baby and my students want to talk about the newest.
    Night Animals is such a great picture book–I am so glad you loved it 🙂 I can also see where you are coming from with Little Tree, but I loved it.
    I look forward to reading Drowned City and Elliot books 🙂

    Happy reading this week!

  5. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    You’ve read a lot of fabulous picture books this week Elizabeth. I must get hold of Night Animals. I love your assessment of The Diary Of the Wimpy Kid books and feel pretty much the same way. I grabbed a couple of copies of Old School at Costco on the weekend and forgot to take them out of my bag. Your review tempts me to take one out and read it, but fortunately I have other books ready and waiting that I must read.
    Ever since I read Paolo Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker Series, I think of it when I hear the words Drowned Cities. That aside, this does sound like a fabulous nonfiction title so I’ve just put a hold on it.

  6. Myra GB Avatar

    I so love how you described Sorcerer to the Crown – a book-friend gave me a free copy of this one when she noted that I wanted to read it from my Goodreads account (talk about books falling from the skies). I will have to read that soonest then. Sometimes, I really just feel that I need 48 hours a day to read all the books I want to read.

  7. Myra GB Avatar

    Oh yeah, great to hear about the new Wimpy Kid as well, my daughter wants that one for Christmas. She’s turning 14 but she has a soft spot for all the Wimpy titles. 🙂

  8. carriegelson Avatar

    I too love Night Animals. Just so very sweet. Your comments about Wimpy Kid are interesting to me. I skimmed a few titles but couldn’t sit and read through any of them. Just not my humour. Now on the lookout for Dear Yeti.

  9. ipushbooks Avatar

    I can’t wait to get my hands on Drowned City, especially after recently reading two fiction works about Hurricane Katrina. In fact, I bet it is sitting in my office in my boxes from Follett. But, alas, I have jury duty today 😦

  10. Michele Avatar

    Lovely picture books here! I love that Curato sets his artwork in that time period, something different. Orion was a favorite. I have Little Tree and loved Long’s Nerdy post about it.
    True confession… I haven’t read any Wimpy Kid books 🙂

  11. Elizabeth Avatar

    I read Night Animals standing up in the bookstore and thought it was hilarious!

  12. kelseyempfield Avatar

    This week when a student approached me with Old School, I sort of cringed. That first Diary was so awful I wrote off the entire series, so it’s great to know that there IS a good book! I can now sigh in relief. Drowned City looks incredible – adding it to my TBR list asap.

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