It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/22/16


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

On the blog:

In reading:

dear committee members

How I love Julie Schumacher’s lively, funny, and also sad Dear Committee Members. It’s an epistolary novel with a twist: the entire story is told through letters of recommendation written by a curmudgeonly Creating Writing professor. It’s quite a feat to be able to pull off this structure and have it add up to a heartfelt narrative with well-developed characters. Many of the letters are one-off hilarious performances (I laughed out loud many times), but a more sustained narrative thread develops through the professor’s attempts to secure funding for his one remaining graduate student and through the details we learn about his past. I adore academic satires, and this is one of the best I’ve read.


Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers is quirky and whimsical and exquisitely written. I could barely get through it because I had to keep stopping to reread and admire sentences. On nearly every page, there was a passage I wanted to write down. The plot is a bit thin (the France part didn’t entirely work for me), but characterization, setting, and theme are so richly rendered. And those sentences! I can’t wait to read the rest of her books. I have Wolf Wilder from the library ready to begin this week.

caribou song

I’ve set myself a challenge to read at least 15 new-to-me picture books by Native American authors and/or illustrators this semester for my Children’s Literature class. Caribou Song, written by Tomson Highway and illustrated by John Rombough, is the first book I’ve read for that challenge. It’s the story of two Cree brothers who use song and dance to call a huge herd of caribou. There is not a lot to the story, but it is well-written and reads especially well aloud, and the illustrations are powerful and unique. I also appreciated that this is a bilingual story written in both English and Cree. The book won the American Indian Youth Literature Award in 2014.

ivan remarkable true story

We just finished discussing The One and Only Ivan in my Children’s Lit class, so of course I had to read Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla to my students. Every time I read this picture book, I love it a little bit more. Every line is perfect. I even felt myself getting a bit choked up reading it!

ballet cat totally secret secret

I also read aloud The Totally Secret Secret–with a promise to read Dance! Dance! Underpants! this week. (I just noticed that Dance! Dance! Underpants! has one of those hilarious one-star Amazon reviews that Travis Jonker often features in his One Star Review Guest Who column.) I have no idea if any of my students is as crazy about Ballet Cat and Sparkles Pony as I am, but that’s okay. I think I mostly held it together reading it aloud but seriously: I AM SO OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK.

little polar bears

Little Polar Bears showed up on my dining room table one day, a library check-out gift from my mom. The photography by Thorsten Milse is incredible. For this project, he traveled to Wapusk National Park in the Canadian Arctic. The park was partly created to protect polar bears, as there are 1,200 dens located within the park where female bears give birth. Because it’s a protected area, only a small number of visitor permits are issued each year and there are strict rules about wildlife observation. Milse captures some amazing moments. There isn’t a lot of text, but what there is is fascinating and informative. This is an out of print book published in 2006 but well worth a look if your library happens to have it.






25 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/22/16”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Rooftoppers is just so beautifully written! I hope you enjoy The Wolf Wilder as well. Ballet Cat is pretty hilarious – I hope your students are charmed. And ah yes, Ivan . . .

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So looking forward to Wolf Wilder this week! Might start it tonight as I think I’ve finished all the books I was in the middle of–at least the ones I was definitely planning to read. I just can’t believe how well Rundell writes. Every sentence is just zowie!

  2. Linda Baie Avatar

    You know I love the Rundell books too, glad you enjoy Rooftoppers, Elisabeth. I will keep Dear Committee Members on my list, along with Caribou Song and Little Polar Bears. This is the third polar bear book I’ve noted today. Must have something to do with their plight! Thanks for all your reviews; I always am interested!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I saw a lot of polar bear books today too! I know that Dear Committee Members won’t appeal to all, and I’m sure I enjoyed it a little extra more since I’m also an English professor who has to write a lot of recommendation letters (and often wish I could say some of the wildly inappropriate things the character in this novel says!). But I thought it was superbly done.

  3. Akilah Avatar

    Every time I see Ballet Cat, I read “Smelly Cat” first. Oh, Friends.

    You are the second or third person who loved Dear Committee Members. I tried it and couldn’t get into it. Maybe I was just not in the right mood for it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL. Now I’m singing “Smelly Cat”! Novels for grown-ups are very hit or miss with me. Very difficult for me to pinpoint why I like some and loathe others, especially given that many of the books that don’t work for me in a big way get rave reviews from readers I respect. Overall, though, I am enjoying reading more of them and getting outside my narrow fiction wheelhouse!

  4. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    I read a Dance Dance Underpants reviewe in which an enraged reader blamed the book for turning children into perverts with its emphasis on underpants…Sigh….You really have to wonder if some adults were ever children, or if they were born grumpy grown-ups…!

    1. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

      That kind of comment also sounds like it comes from someone who hasn’t spent much time around kids. Underwear is always funny at certain ages. Always.

    2. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That’s the one! I’m quite certain that Dance Dance Underpants will not turn any child into a pervert. So absurd.

  5. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    I picked up Wolf Wilder from the library this week too. Very interested.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Have you read her other novels? I tried Music for Cartwheels last year but ended up abandoning. Will have to try again now that I’ve enjoyed Rooftoppers so much.

  6. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Wow. I am completely intrigued by Dear Committee Members after reading your thoughts on it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Think you might enjoy it, Beth. It’s a very quick read too, which I always appreciate!

  7. Cheriee Weichel Avatar

    I’m so glad you enjoy the roof toppers! I am also looking forward to reading more of her work.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I meant to copy down a couple of my favorite longer passages before returning to library but forgot. Thankfully, you captured one of my faves on your blog!

  8. Ricki Ginsberg Avatar

    I just read Ivan for the first time last week. I loved The One and Only Ivan, so this was a real treat! I am sure your students loved it, too! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I like the picture book so much more than the novel (which I should probably admit in a whisper, right?!).

  9. sadrochelle Avatar

    I enjoy reading the interaction replies as much if not better than some blogs,(not yours Elisabeth their always written to hold my attention). I am also now interested in reading Dear Committee Members I don’t mind the type of writing using all letters or some such correspondence to tell a story. Yes “Ivan The One And Only” still haunts me sometimes I’m just happy their was an ending where Ivan actually left the shopping mall.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I almost always enjoy novels in letters as well, though I haven’t read one in quite awhile. The One and Only Ivan is such a memorable story! My son still talks about it–and his teacher read it in 5th grade, 3 years ago now!

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    Still haven’t read the novel-in-verse of Ivan (but read the picturebook) – I should really catch up soonest. Your description of Dear Committee Members caught my eye – I have to find that one. Sounds like an interesting read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m in a very small minority, I think, but the novel doesn’t entirely work for me. I find it a bit heavy-handed. But again, obviously in a very small minority! It’s still the only required book on my syllabus for Children’s Lit, however, because my students seem to genuinely fall in love with it and I love any book that can be a gateway for my readers!

  11. Michele Avatar

    This is the second time I’ve seen Committee Members on a list. Looks interesting!
    I need to read Rooftoppers. I checked it out from the library but never had a chance to get to it. I’ve heard such rave reviews, I really need to get to it!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m so glad I’m reading more novels for grown-ups this year. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far! Rooftoppers is just so lovely, though I wanted a different kind of happy ending than the one Sophie got.

  12. crbrunelle Avatar

    I love the illustrations in Caribou Song. Dear Committee Members sounds like fun. I will have to find it. Thanks also for your link round-up! I always appreciate seeing what has caught your attention.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      The illustrations are so interesting! I didn’t know Rombough’s work before but I really love the images I googled. Even when I take a blogging break, as I have been for the past few weeks, I still try to get the links post up. I think my mom is really disappointed when there’s no weekly links!

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