It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/8/16

IMWAYR-2015-logoI blame my lack of blogging on Ruby, our new puppy. Were we completely bonkers to increase our already chaotic zoo of seven pets to eight–especially when Pet #8 is a six-month old totally untrained dog? Absolutely! But look at that face! This photo was taken by her foster mom, and it’s still one of my favorites:


Those eyes! Those ears! Those spots! That NOSE!

But–FOCUS!–this is a post about books, not adorably speckled and spotted pit mixes.

runaway king

In The Runaway King, Jaron runs away to join the pirates. Of course, there’s an ulterior motive to protect his kingdom, but in the meantime, there’s plenty of disguise and misdirection and a host of new characters. I found the plot a bit creaky in this one–at the end, I didn’t feel like enough had changed nor had the characters grown enough to entirely justify a whole book. But it was still an enjoyable romp.

where are you going baby lincoln

My son manages to do a good impression much of the time of a kid who doesn’t care about books or reading, but then we have moments like this one when Kate DiCamillo’s latest entry in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series arrived at our house. He came inside, fresh from doing some sort of teenish thing, spotted the book on the counter, and squealed in delight. “It’s a new pig book! We have to read it tonight!” And so we took a break from Jennifer Nielsen’s series to read all about Baby Lincoln’s “necessary journey.” I’m not sure how engaging this book would be if you weren’t already a fan of the series, but since I imagine all of its readers will have read the Mercy Watson books as well as the other Tales from Deckawoo Drive, it’s safe to say it’s a delight. I very much enjoy doing voices for both Baby Lincoln and her crabby sister Eugenia. And thank goodness for hot buttered toast!


With two pit bulls (well, technically one pit bull and one pit mix because Ruby is definitely not all pit), I now feel like a crazy dog lady, but we all know that really, I’m a crazy cat lady. I’ve recently developed a small obsession with Jackson Galaxy’s show My Cat From Hell (great show, terrible show title). In several episodes, he has solved issues in multiple-cat homes with catification, a process of adding enrichment and movement options in your cat’s home environment. Think cat trees, only nicer and creating “superhighways” along the walls, ceilings, incorporating furniture, shelves, climbing poles, etc. Catification is a smart and attractive home design book that provides many examples of beautiful and seamless design solutions for adding higher ground for cats to explore and use for escape. We’ve now got plans to catify our living and dining rooms, and I’m confident that it will look cool with nary a carpeted cat tree in sight.

between you and me

Mary Norris’s Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen is a book that doesn’t quite know what it’s about. Part memoir of the 30+years she spent working in the copy department at The New Yorker, part style manual, part research article into the stickiest grammar questions, and part opinion piece, it’s the kind of book that somehow adds up to less than the sum of its parts. It should have been delightful, but mostly it seemed self-indulgent and unfocused. It’s gotten very positive reviews, however, so clearly I’m in the minority.

year without mom

I wish there were more books like Dasha Tolstikova’s A Year Without Mom. I’m going to call it an illustrated memoir, but it’s basically a longform picture book for a middle-grade audience. Dasha recounts the year she spent living with her grandparents in Russia while her mother attended graduate school in the U.S. Not a lot happens in terms of plot or even character development, but because it’s about that year between childhood and young adulthood when so much is psychologically fraught, it’s still very compelling.

duck death tulip

Ah, those wacky Europeans! Who else could write and publish a picture book like Duck, Death and the Tulip? It’s about the unlikely almost friendship that develops between Death, depicted with a skull for a face, and an elderly Duck, who has begun to have “a feeling” that the end may be coming. It is inevitable that the duck will die, and this is a book that faces that inevitability without flinching. It’s spare, elegant, tender, not exactly comforting and yet not exactly un-comforting either.

freedom in congo square

Another winner from Carole Boston Weatherford, Freedom in Congo Square describes a week in the lives of slaves living near New Orleans, a week that would end with a public gathering in Congo Square. Very few cities allowed slaves to gather in large groups, but New Orleans did, and for a half day on Sundays, Congo Square became a market, dance hall, concert space. R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations bring so much movement and energy to the text, and Weatherford’s poetic lines are strong. There is also ample back matter that provides a historical context and more information.


29 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/8/16”

  1. I liked Between You & Me when I read it last year and now that I reflect on it, I agree that there’s a lot going on in it but I still think it’s good and a little funny too.

  2. Cute dogs make everything better. I often put pictures of dogs in between genres on my 100 Great Books PowerPoint presentation. I figure people leave feeling an odd sense of calm and contentment because they have gazed upon puppies!

  3. I think you should have included a picture of Death from the duck book. It’s only fair that your readers be able to shudder after reading your review. That book is seriously disturbing!

  4. Eight pets?!?! This highly-allergic condo dweller is having some serious pet envy.

    I love love love foreign books in translation – they are so often willing to push boundaries that we North Americans are just too scared of, and so many foreign publishers actually seem interested in publishing groundbreaking, beautiful books, instead of just thinking about profits. We’re lucky here in Canada that we have a lot of independent publishers who are willing to take chances on strange titles, as well as plenty of Quebecois books (like Europe but closer!), to add some fresh perspectives to our collections.

    • Oh dear, pet allergies! I don’t know what I would do. (Well, not have pets obviously!) I love foreign books in translation too for just that reason–they push the boundaries. There is often something unresolved and open-ended about foreign PBs–and even ethically and morally ambiguous, whereas of course American PBs must have their neat tidy little moral lessons.

    • Thank you! She’s so different in personality from other dogs I’ve had. Very serious and independent. It’s interesting to get to know her. I’ve had a velcro dog for 12 years, but Ruby likes to go in another room to take naps. We’re all very mystified by this! Roxy, our 12 yr old pit, basically can’t sleep unless a body part is touching a person.

  5. It is crazy to add a puppy, but he does look adorable! I think I need to catch up on other Tales from Deckawoo Drive because several are mentioning Where Are You Going Mr. Lincoln. I loved Congo Square, something new that I didn’t know existed!

    • Yep, we are certifiable! We really liked the Leroy Ninker story from Deckawoo Drive a lot. Not sure the others have quite measured up to my (admittedly high) expectations, though we’ve enjoyed them.

    • That’s always how I feel about dogs too–don’t want one, but love looking at other people’s. Not sure how I’ve ended up with two AND a commitment to my son to get a pittie puppy when our old girl passes on to the Great Beyond. I was pretty excited by his reaction to the Baby Lincoln book. I will admit that I strategically placed it on the counter just to attract him.

  6. As I read your post here about getting a new pet, I was green with envy. I grew up with a dog and a couple of cats, but somehow as I grew up, I became allergic to everything with fur. Even eventually Frodo, the guinea pig my husband taught to do tricks caused breathing problems. At least I can still read. I’ve got the new Deckawoo drive title on hold, but now I really want to read A Year Without Mom and Duck, Death and the Tulip.

    • Can you do hairless pets? Do they cause allergies? Or maybe some of those dogs that aren’t supposed to cause allergies (but also have actual fur!)? We have a very vocal and passionate battle about sphynx cats going at my house: I am hugely in favor; husband and son hugely against. My son promises that he would barf every time he looked at the cat. But I think they’re absolutely adorable. (Though they’d probably freeze to death in my drafty old house!) I’m always trying to angle for more cats, though I’m pretty sure my husband is going to leave if I bring any more pets in. (Also, we’ll probably get a citation from the city for hoarding pets or something like that. We are well over the limit for what you’re technically allowed to have!) In any case, all three books you mention are well worth the read! I got a big pile of new books from the library yesterday and I’m so excited to dive in!

  7. I have been reading a WHOLE STACK of picturebooks from Europe these past two months – I hope to feature them in GatheringBooks soonest! Very excited about them, really.

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