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

IMWAYR-2015-logoOn the blog:

In reading:

al capone does my homework

My son and I finished our read-aloud of Gennifer Choldenko’s trilogy set on Alcatraz Island. All three books are very strong read-alouds with so many avenues for further exploration and discovery. There’s also a great connection in Book 3 with Greg Pizzoli’s excellent picture book nonfiction title, Tricky Vic. I was sad to see the end of this series and wish we had three more to read. Natalie and Piper have become members of our book family: we’ve been talking about them A LOT. Always interesting to me which characters and situations in a story spark some kind of connection or greater interest in my son.


Rules was our next read-aloud. I’ve read it several times before, though it’s been years since my last reading. As a read-aloud with my son, I didn’t love it. Stylistically, it didn’t feel seamless to me. Catherine’s voice didn’t quite cohere across the whole novel. There are many passages where she sounds like a twelve-year-old girl. And then there are some passages where she sounds like she wandered into a Newbery novel and knows she needs to add some nature descriptions to elevate things a bit. Lord writes beautifully in her other novels about the Maine landscape, but it felt like an afterthought in Rules and not necessary for the story. I did really enjoy the characters’ interactions and the way Lord develops sympathy for flawed characters.

have you seen mary

Author Jeff Kurrus is visiting my Children’s Literature class next week, and we read Have You Seen Mary?, his fictionalized account of the annual sandhill crane migration, in class to prepare. Michael Forsberg’s photography is exquisite, and some of the information on sandhill cranes was so interesting. I found myself really wishing for a straight nonfiction text, however. I can’t wait to ask him why he writes fiction instead of nonfiction.

nerdy birdy

Nerdy Birdy was my favorite book this week. Hilarious and touching with a strong message about acceptance and friendship. I’ll be purchasing this one soon for my own collection.

how to train a train

John Rocco’s illustrations for How to Train a Train are dazzling. The text took a bit to get going for me, but once it did, I thought it was a strong match for the pictures. The premise here is simple: trains (and occasionally planes or automobiles) make excellent pets, but they do need some training. There is a great deal of humor in the illustrations, and for train fans, I imagine this would be a huge hit.

metal man

Unusual picture book written by Aaron Reynolds about a boy who shadows an artist who makes sculptures from junk metal. The story and writing is quite different from Reynolds’s other books. There is very little humor here, and it’s written in non-standard English to capture the voice of the main character. There is a nice message here about finding art in the everyday world around you, and I always love finding picture books that feature African-American characters, but the dialect made me uncomfortable.

niagara river

I had the most wonderful experience a few weeks ago. I went into my colleague Steve Coughlin’s office and asked for some poetry book recommendations. (Steve’s own recent book of poetry, Another City, is superb–highly recommended.) I told him who I like, and he curated a little stack of books just for me. I do this for my students all the time but rarely have it done for me, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about the power of the personalized book stack. Anyway, Kay Ryan’s The Niagara River is the first of the books I read, and it was a very good match for me. The poems are short and intense, growing out of the everyday and the ordinary, and they linger. Just what I like.

power of vulnerability

My audiobook this week was a lecture series by Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability. It’s vintage Brene–a mix of anecdote, story, data, and big concepts. I see a lot of myself in Brene–probably any honest academic would. Perfectionism? Check. Avoidance of vulnerability? You betcha. I enjoy her folksy stories and her Texas twang, and she’s discovered some real gems in her research. Plus, it’s heartening to hear someone else’s experience of trying to become a full human being (what she calls living wholeheartedly).





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

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    Now all I can think about is having a personalized book stack made for me . . . I really want to find and read Nerdy Birdy. I love both author and illustrator.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That would be challenging, I think. One of the reasons no one makes book stacks for me is because I’ve read so much more than they have! It’s really hard to find books for me. So I don’t ever ask. Maybe the key is getting a stack of books outside our wheelhouse, as contemporary poetry is really outside mine. You will love Nerdy Birdy–a new favorite for me for sure.

  2. Michele Avatar

    I appreciated your thoughts on Rules. It was a book that really resonated with me, but I always think other’s opinions make you think more!
    I read the slice on your son and football…beautifully written. My heart breaks for him. When you want something so badly…

  3. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    I can’t stop laughing. “And then there are some passages where she sounds like she wandered into a Newbery novel and knows she needs to add some nature descriptions to elevate things a bit.” is possibly my favorite book review sentence ever. (At least they didn’t also kill a pet to really hit all the Newbery angles!)

  4. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    I really loved Nerdy Birdy – I loved the emphasis on doing the right thing, even when it’s hard to do. Also – your thoughts on Rules cracked me up. So true.

  5. Linda Baie Avatar

    I liked Nerdy Birdy, and had fun with it with the granddaughters too. I have forgotten about Have You Seen Mary? I studied sandhill cranes one year with my students, and that is when I saw my first whooping cranes too. I hope I can find the book. Great to hear about your personalized book stack, and it makes me wonder what books what be on mine. Kay Ryan’s poems are wonderful, so lucky you!

  6. Kay McGriff (@kaymcgriff) Avatar

    Nerdy Birdy sounds like such fun! I’ve known that the sandhill cranes migrate through our area (southern IN) but this is the first year that I drove past large flocks of them resting in the corn fields. Wow! What a sight.

  7. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    Nerdy Birdy was one of my favorites, too. I recently read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. Very insightful.

  8. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Interesting point of view about Rules. I haven’t read it in years either, so I wonder what I would think of it after reading your review.
    You’ve made me want to go back and read the first Al Capone book and then read the sequels. Mostly to see the connection to Tricky Vic!
    Bird, Train, and Metal all look wonderful, too–putting them on my TBR.

    Happy reading this week 🙂

  9. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I found your thoughts about Rules when read it with your son so interesting. It made me think about how my feelings changed about Wonder after I read it to three sixth grade classes two years in a row. When I read it on my own the first time, I loved it and thought it was Newbery-worthy. After reading it aloud several times, my thoughts gradually changed.

    I have yet to read anything from Brene Brown but I know that I need to — especially after hearing her on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast this past summer.

  10. Crystal Avatar

    Nerdy Birdy is a great story. Interesting about how reading a book aloud is a different experience and can cause us to see it in a new way.

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