It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 1/4/16


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

On the blog:

In reading:


I bought Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary earlier in the year as I was flailing around trying to find something I’d love as much as Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Ongoingness was not that book. Which is why it took me the rest of the year to finish it, even though it’s only 100 pages and some of those pages contain one sentence.  I found myself alternately intrigued, frustrated, engaged, exasperated. It’s a book that ought to be right in my wheelhouse: it’s a collection of meditations about writing, keeping a diary, and becoming a mother, three topics I think about a lot. There is wisdom in this book, but it often feels like it’s trying too hard. Maybe I was just frustrated because I wanted to love this book and didn’t. Maybe I was frustrated because I was trying to read it as prose and probably should have been reading it as poetry. Unlike Ruhl’s book, Manguso’s kept me at a distance.

sidewalk flowers

How did it take me so long to open Sidewalk Flowers, which has been sitting on my shelf since April? Visually, one of the strongest picture books I read in 2015. And a really lovely message about wonder, being alive to the world around you, being fully present in the moment, and the power of small gestures of kindness.

year of yes

If you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, you must not watch TV on Thursday nights, because Shonda, as Shonda never stops reminding us in Year of Yes, owns Thursday night. Year of Yes is Shonda’s memoir of the year she spent saying yes to all of the things she was afraid of (giving speeches, granting interviews, attending star-studded events, playing more with her kids, losing weight, etc.), and it’s mostly a chatty, lively delight, though I will say that a little Shonda goes a long way. She is intense. But there’s a lot of good stuff here about being real with ourselves, facing our fears, and finding happiness, sometimes in unexpected places and ways, conveyed in a breezy style with lots of humor.
in real life

I reread Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s In Real Life, a young adult graphic novel about a gamer girl and global economics, for a project I’m working on, and now I’m thinking a lot about the power of the reread. In Real Life fell flat for me the first time I read it. It was a solid meh. I only gave it three stars because I loved Jen Wang’s artwork and I appreciated what Doctorow was trying to do, but I really didn’t think the book worked. On a second read, though, I thought it worked beautifully. found so much to appreciate and enjoy about the story and the characters. What changed? If I had read the book years ago, I could perhaps understand having such a different response, but I read it for the first time last spring. Less than eight months later, a reread shows me an entirely different book. How can I be so different as a reader? And does this mean I should reread every book I find meh? I hope not!

everything leads to you

Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour was supposed to be my first read in 2015. I dutifully started the novel on January 1 last year, then got off track and abandoned it for the year. Instead, it was my first read of 2016, and what a wonderful read it is! As Lacour notes in the Acknowledgements, it’s “a novel about two girls in love”–but it’s also much more than that. It’s about all kinds of relationships–romantic relationships, yes, but also deep friendships and new friendships and parent-child relationships and siblings and our relationship to work. The work part of this book was my favorite part. Emi is a production design intern in Hollywood, and she’s so passionate about set design. This is a great book for romantics and for movie buffs and for anyone looking for a sweet, hopeful story.





25 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 1/4/16”

  1. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I have to say, despite your lackluster assessment of Ongoingness, I’m still quite intrigued by it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Will try to get that out in the mail to you this week. I’m horrible about getting to the p.o. but so happy to share the book! There is a lot there, and if I had read it more as prose poetry rather than a memoir or essay, I probably would have liked it more.

  2. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    It can be so difficult to find young adult books featuring LGBTQ leads that aren’t angsty or sad coming-out stories. This one is a romantic love story that just happens to feature two girls instead of a girl and a boy, which is a sweet and refreshing change. LGBTQ characters can have romantic fairy stories, too!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      As I was reading Everything Leads to You, I realized how seldom I have read YA titles featuring LGBTQ leads and plots that aren’t sad and troubled. It really IS important to have stories that are light and hopeful too. I don’t want to diminish the importance of stories that tackle tough themes and plots, but all readers also deserve happy stories where they see themselves reflected. I think this is a problem in general with diverse children’s and YA lit. So many titles that feature diverse characters are also about struggle. Again, important stories, we need those books, but struggle absolutely cannot be the only story we share with children.

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    There are some books here new to me, and that graphic novel, In Real Life must be one I paid less attention to because of your review, I don’t know for sure. But it sounds interesting! Sidewalk Flowers and Wait! are both two of my favorites of the past year because of that message to stop and pay attention to what’s around you. There was an alarming news story last night about people being seriously injured while walking & using their cell phones, “distracted walking”. I do lots with my phone, but I wish people would put them away sometimes and just look up at the sky, etc. Anyway, thanks for all the intriguing books. Happy New Year, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I still haven’t gotten my hands on Wait! Ugh. I know I’m going to love it. I am amazed sometimes watching my students and how they can walk, talk, multitask, and text at the same time! We do so much distracted these days. I try to be intentional about my devices anyway, but want to be even more so this year. In Real Life has really beautiful illustrations by Jen Wang–worth a look for those alone, I think. But the story really worked so much better for me this time through. Still left wondering what other books a too-hasty, distracted, or cranky mood reading experience made me discount or undervalue!

  4. Crystal Avatar

    I really love Sidewalk Flowers. It’s much like Wait and reminds us “in a hurry” adults to slow down to see the beauty around us.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      This is always a message that bears repeating, I find. I really appreciate books that remind me so slow down and notice.

  5. Michele Avatar

    I enjoyed Sidewalk Flowers, but didn’t love it as much as everyone else. It might be a book I need to pick up again.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I had actually picked it up when I first bought it, looked at a couple of pages and felt “meh.” Knowing how much others love it, I decided to set it aside and return to it when I was in a very different mood, and that seems to have worked! I wasn’t at all “meh” this time around!

  6. Tara Smith Avatar

    I’ve heard so much about Sidewalk Flowers” – time to find a copy!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a book that I think you’ll really appreciate, Tara.

  7. cheriee weichel Avatar

    I’ve had In Real Life on my list of books to read for quite some time. I started reading Doctoro’s For the Win, and honestly had no idea what was going on. I hoped that by reading In Real Life, I would get some background knowledge that would enable me to go back and understand it. I’m still hoping someday to manage this. I’m sure it’s important. Sigh … I adore Sidewalk Fowers. I’m sure if it wasn’t a Canadian author, it would be a Caldecott contender.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’ve decided that Caldecott rules need to be revised because several of my favorite illustrators are Canadian. Go Canada! (I have a very soft spot in my heart for Vancouver! And Vancouver teachers and librarians!) I think one of my issues with my first read of In Real Life was the “huh?” factor. I know NOTHING about gaming, and I found it difficult to fully understand what was happening in the game world, even though I think Wang does a wonderful job using her illustrations to orient the reader.

  8. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    Sidewalk Flowers is such a powerful wordless book – Have you read Float or Pool? We love those wordless books too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love Pool and still haven’t gotten to Float, though I bought it a couple of months ago. Maybe this week! I know there’s some Caldecott buzz for it, and I do like to have read the Caldecott buzzworthy books before awards are announced!

  9. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    In Real Life is one of my favorite YA graphic novels! Spread the love 🙂
    I adored Sidewalk Flowers as well. I agree with Tammy & Clare to also check out Float–it is one of my favorite wordless picture books I’ve ever read.

    Happy reading this week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh my goodness! One of your favorite wordless PBs EVER?! That’s it, I’m finding it in my piles today and reading it!

  10. carriegelson Avatar

    I am also a huge Sidewalk Flowers fan. Also love that it is beautifully Canadian. It was a book I bought without even reading it. Now I stand in book stores and pressure people into taking it home. Which sounds more obnoxious than I hope it actually is!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love to imagine you standing in bookstores and pressuring people in your gentle way to take books home. Your blog is basically the Internet version of exactly that–and IT WORKS! I am so glad I waited to read Sidewalk Flowers until I was in just the right mood to fully appreciate and love it. Sometimes if I’m trying to plow through a pile of PBs in a hurry, titles like this one don’t get the attention they deserve.

  11. Myra GB Avatar

    My husband and I watch Scandal – so very familiar with Shonda Rhimes – we haven’t seen the latest season yet, which caused a lot of hoopla – I didn’t realize that she wrote a memoir – interesting.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I have only watched the first couple of seasons of Grey’s Anatomy but I did enjoy the references to that show. Everything she wrote about Scandal was completely lost on me of course!

  12. Andrea Payan (@payanar) Avatar

    There are so many titles in your list that are new to me. I think the Shonda Rimes memoir sounds interesting for sure. I can relate to wanting to like a book and just not finding it to be as wonderful as I think I should find it. Maybe it is just because you loved the other book so much. Have a great reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Andrea, I think you’re right. Sometimes reading in the desire of finding a “readalike” title doesn’t allow you to do justice to the book you’re actually reading. I might try Ongoingness again at some future time.

  13. Akilah Avatar

    I, too, found In Real Life pretty meh (except for the art work!). I don’t usually reread books I feel meh about unless I’m trying them in a different format (audiobook, for example) or I know I was ~in a mood~ when I encountered it the first time. And even then I might skip it.

    And, yes, intense is a good way to describe Shonda. I guess she would have to be with all that she has going on.

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