It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/30/16 #imwayr

IMWAYR-2015-logoOn the blog:

In reading:


My son and I continue to work our way through Gordon Korman’s heisty middle-grade series. In Framed, our hero gets blamed for a heist he didn’t actually commit, sent to an alternative school that’s nicknamed Jail For Kids, and forced to try to clear his name while under house arrest. Luckily, he’s got plenty of friends who want to help him find the real culprit. Hard as it may be to believe, the plots are getting progressively more ludicrous with each book. We’re in the middle of Book 4, and I’m counting down to the end. But my son seems to be loving the series, so I’m not really complaining. (Well, I’m complaining, but only a little bit. At least Korman writes decent sentences. I can forgive most anything if the sentences don’t make me cringe to read aloud.)

a world of artist journal pages

I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of art journaling, and I found a great deal of inspiration and awe in A World of Artist Journal Pages, which features over one thousand journal pages plus interviews with select artists. So many gorgeous pages and a lot of thoughtful words about art, creativity, writing, journaling, and inspiration.

i really like slop

I’ve been saving the last two Elephant & Piggie books for a rainy day comfort read. Saving a book often means my expectations are too high or just plain wrong going into it, and I end up not quite satisfied–even by a very good book–because reality and fantasy don’t quite align. And I think that’s what happened with I Really Like Slop! It just wasn’t the right day for me with this story. Reflecting on it afterwards, I recognize all the elements I love in an Elephant & Piggie story, but it didn’t come together for me on a first reading. Perhaps in the fall when I share it with my Children’s Lit students.

sonyas chickens

Ok, so I have to get my complaint out of the way first. The text clearly identifies Sonya’s chickens as hens, but in the end, a baby chick hatches from one of their eggs. Where is the rooster that would be needed for a fertilized egg? Did I miss something? I poured over the illustrations: was that comb bigger than the other combs? Was that chicken really a rooster? I will totally confess that I started fixating on this detail and had to look up some reviews online to see if any other readers had this particular problem. Not that I could find. So then I started to worry about my sanity. Why couldn’t I let it go? Why couldn’t I assume there was a perfectly good reason for a fertilized egg? Why did I notice this in the first place? Why am I still thinking about it days later?

Obsessive compulsive reading behavior aside, Sonya’s Chickens is wonderful! A very thoughtful and thought-provoking look at death. I love Sonya’s father’s explanation for why a fox would kill her chicken, and I love how Sonya is able to make peace with the chicken’s death once she understands this. The illustrations are gorgeous (and there’s a multi-racial family, just because! Thank you, Phoebe Wahl! That was the first thing my son noticed–“hey, that mom is white and her baby is brown. That’s like us!”), and though there is more text than I typically prefer in a picture book, it never felt overlong to me. Well-written, direct but sensitive, engaging and even useful. Good stuff!

one day the end

I was very amused by Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter Than Ever Stories. I don’t know exactly how I want to use this in my writing classroom, but I do. I’m teaching Creative Writing for the first time this fall and somewhat dreading the fiction unit, so maybe we will write and illustrate short, very short, and shorter than ever stories. I love a book where the illustrations give a whole new meaning to the words, and this is a strong example.

dorotheas eyes

Dorothea’s Eyes is a phenomenal nonfiction picture book biography of photographer Dorothea Lange written by Barb Rosenstock, who is quite possibly the very best writer of nonfiction picture book biographies. The writing craft amazes me in her books. This is a book about noticing what’s around you, really seeing the world, about being unafraid to look at ugly things and finding a way to love those ugly things and make something worthwhile, meaningful, even beautiful out of them. Lange’s eye is unflinching. If you haven’t read it yet, try to get to it soon–it’s so good. (I also loved Gerard DuBois’s art.)






21 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/30/16 #imwayr”

  1. Linda Baie Avatar

    I can’t help with the rooster, don’t remember seeing one, and guess it would have been nice to have a peek! I have too, too many journal books, but this one you’ve shared does look very nice! I loved One Day, makes we wish to be back in the classroom again. And, Dorothea’s Eyes is indeed terrific. Have a great day, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I have too many journal books too, Linda. But somehow I never stop wanting more! I think my writing students are going to love One Day. My college students get such a kick out of picture books.

  2. Jane Whittingham Avatar

    Funny, I never thought about the missing rooster in Sonya’s Chickens! More proof that I’m a city girl – don’t eggs just come in cardboard cartons anyway? 🙂 Dorothea’s eyes is fantastic, always thrilled to find beautiful, thoughtful picture book biographies of talented people who beat the odds against them. Inspiring stuff.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I agree, Jane–such an inspiring story. Now I’d really like to read a longer book about Lange, but I often find I get bored or bogged down in biographies for grown-ups. The picture book bio is really much more my speed!

      1. Jane Whittingham Avatar

        Me too!! Too many details, too much backstory, not enough

      2. Jane Whittingham Avatar

        As I was saying before I hit “post”, not enough pictures! I love photos or illustrations that help me really get to know the person.

  3. Shari Daniels Avatar

    Ok, Elisabeth, this post caused me to head straight to Amazon and I purchased 3 books, just after I told my book buying angel that I needed some restraint. 🙂 I’m so glad you have been lost in art journaling. It is one of my most favorite creative escapes.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m so sorry, Shari! I always feel bad when I book enable, LOL. Restraint + me + books = unlikely. So hard not to spend too much on books. I am really excited about art journaling! I think I’d like to take an art class, though. I love watercolors, it turns out, and would really like to learn some actual techniques!

  4. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    My third graders also loved One Day, The End. Would definitely make for a fun ‘try it yourself’ type of project.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love hearing about the responses of real kids to picture books. My son hasn’t been reading them with me lately (and he’s 13 anyway, so not exactly the target audience) so I’m on my own these days with my response!

  5. Karen Yingling Avatar

    I’ve seen the Lange book mentioned several times. Fascinating story; curious to see a picture book treatment.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a gorgeous book, Karen. Really well-written and interesting.

  6. Akilah Avatar

    This made me laugh (out loud, even!). Best bits were “Hard as it may be to believe, the plots are getting progressively more ludicrous with each book” and everything with the missing rooster. Also, you just gave me an idea of something I can try in my creative writing class. I can ask them what kind of writing they WANT to do and build from there. YAY.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh my gosh, you’re absolutely right! Why am I trying to figure all this out myself for my Creative Writing class instead of doing what I actually do best–turning it over to students and facilitating their learning community? Now you’ve got me thinking about going in a totally different direction. The missing rooster is still killing me. I thought I’d get some relief by posting about it on my blog, but nope. Still thinking about it.

      1. Akilah Avatar

        That reminds me: I think I’m going to try what you said for my research class. I pick the first novel, they pick the second novel from a handful of selections, third novel will be reading groups, and the fourth is complete student choice. I still have to work out how I’ll do the topics, but I feel good about that part at least.

  7. carriegelson Avatar

    Lots of books I love here – I love them so much I own the final four on your list! I think Wahl’s illustrations are just plain stunning! I shared this book with a group of kids who loved it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I only own one of the final four and need the others!

  8. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I am trying to add more visual elements to my writer’s notebooks lately despite the fact that I have zero talent for visual art. I think I’m just trying to challenge myself outside my comfort zone because my comfort zone is words. So I definitely need to check out World of Artist Journal Pages!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I consider myself someone with zero talent too but once I started working, I create things all the time that I think are super cool. Probably helps that my standards are very low to non-existent when it comes to me and art. It’s a very different experience from writing, where I know what I’m doing and what I’m capable of and how I want things to sound. With art, I’m just following a line to see where it takes me. I need to get back to that kind of “beginner’s mind” in writing too. Hmm, this is starting to sound like it wants to be a blog post!

  9. Crystal @ Reading Through Life Avatar

    A World of Artist Journal Pages is one I will have to check out. I have started an art journal and will likely put a lot of time into it this summer. Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So cool, Crystal. I am really surprised by how much I like doing it. I’m also doing the Index Card a Day Challenge at Daisy Yellow. There’s a Facebook group where people post their creations, and I love seeing what others do and getting ideas.

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