It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/24/16


It’s been a great couple of weeks of picture book reading: so many five-star reads! And one five-star parenting book!


First, the five-star parenting book. Hold On to Your Kids is an ambitious book that argues that most of the behavior problems we see in children and teens are the result of unmet attachment needs and peer orientation: kids look to their peers for a sense of identity and belonging, shared values, and connection when they should be looking to parents and other significant adult caregivers to meet their attachment needs. Neufeld and Mate argue that throughout childhood and adolescence, attachment is the primary need. When parents are not available to meet their attachment needs, kids will seek to have their needs met by immature peers, often to disastrous results. It’s a deeply disturbing, even alarming, look at our parenting culture and our adult priorities. It’s also utterly convincing. Without doubt, the most important book I’ve ever read on parenting and one I wish every parent I know would read. (It would also be an eye-opening read for middle school and high school teachers, as many perplexing and disturbing tween and teen behaviors from sexting to bullying are addressed and understood through the lens of unmet attachment needs.)


A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals is a really excellent title: how can you not want to read it with that title? You might think you’ve got the plot figured out based on the title–but trust me, you don’t. And just when you do think you’ve got it figured out, Cummins adds another twist. And another. Perhaps not for the very faintest of heart, but for the child (and adult!) who likes his humor just a bit shaded (not quite dark), this book is such a delight. There is so much visual humor in addition to the humor of the language. A very clever story.


There is also the threat of nice creatures getting eaten in Adam Lehrhaupt’s I Will Not Eat You, but thankfully Theodore isn’t hungry and decides not to munch on the bird or the wolf or the tiger who wander by his cave. But then a boy appears and suddenly Theodore feels a bit peckish. Although this book does have its moments of shaded (not dark) humor, this is ultimately a sweet and surprising story of friendship. Scott Magoon’s illustrations are so good.


Fox’s Garden is a simple, elegant, and exquisitely illustrated wordless story. Princesse Camcam creates cut paper art and cut-outs; arranges the paper in scenes that tell the story; and lights and photographs the cut-outs to convey tone, warmth, atmosphere. This is one I need to own.


Brendan Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat may end up being my favorite picture book of the year. It’s one of those deceptively simple stories that’s actually deeply profound. The illustrations are the star here, but the text is equally well crafted. I read it five or six times before returning it to the library, and just writing it about it here makes me long to pick it up and look at my favorite spreads again (the cat from the fish’s perspective and the bee’s perspective).


I had many expectations for Jon Klassen’s We Found a Hat, but I wasn’t expecting sweet. Heartfelt. Even adorable. Especially when the book seems to be heading in the direction we know so well from the first two books in the hat trilogy. But it stands to reason that tortoises would be wiser than other animals. So much to love here, especially the open spaces for readers to wonder and work through possibility.


Philip Stead’s Ideas Are All Around was another favorite this week. Stead’s task is to write a story, but he doesn’t have an idea, so he and his dog, Wednesday, set off on a meandering walk that shows how ideas really are all around us. A wonderful text to use in a writing or creativity class.


I had no idea that Mac Barnett and Adam Rex had a new book out, so finding this on the shelf was a delightful surprise, and the book itself is a treat. I’m a sucker for metafiction and for Barnett’s particular brand of quirk. The story line dragged a bit for me in a couple of places, but that simply meant more pictures by Rex, so I didn’t mind overly much. (Has any picture book writer ever been luckier with his illustrators than Mac Barnett??)


Ada’s Violin tells the fascinating true story of a group of children in Paraguay who want to take music lessons but have no instruments. Their creative music teacher sifts through garbage heaps to find objects that he, with the help of a carpenter, can transform into musical instruments. The story would be inspiring enough if it ended with the children taking lessons and expressing themselves musically, but they study and practice to become great musicians and travel the world performing. There is solid back matter (including links to view musical performances online), and the book is beautifully written and illustrated.


Maybe Something Beautiful is another book about the transformative power of art. In this case, a young girl is inspired to brighten up her bleak urban neighborhood with colorful murals that bring the entire community together. The story was inspired by the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, and it’s illustrated by Rafael Lopez, one of the original artists who conceived of the Urban Art Trail.







15 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/24/16”

  1. Stacy Avatar

    Great list of books. I love Ada’s Violin. The rest are on my TBR list.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ada’s Violin is such a satisfying read but still left me wanting to learn more (always the sign of a good nonfiction book, in my view). I want to watch some videos of the orchestra online today.

  2. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    You have some great books on this list. I hear so much about They All Saw a Cat, but haven’t read it yet. We Found a Hat is another one that needs to go on my list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am still marveling over They All Saw a Cat1

  3. Carrie Gelson Avatar

    I have loved many of these picture books too.Still need to get my hands on Ada’s Violin. I particularly loved the story in Maybe Something Beautiful.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You will love Ada’s Violin. Gorgeous writing and illustrations and such a powerful story. (Great back matter too!)

  4. cweichel Avatar

    I agree with you about the Mate and Neufeld book. I’ve seen Gordon Neufeld talk a couple of times and have always been inspired by him. I’m proud that they are both fellow Vancouverites.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’ve listened to some talks with Mate and found them really interesting. This is my first exposure to Neufeld. Both are brilliant. This is some radical outside-the-box thinking. It’s no small matter to find a way to solve literally every single dysfunctional tween and teen behavior that exists with one parenting change!

  5. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    I LOVE A Hungry Lion. I love the twists and turns in the story, so clever.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Isn’t it amazing? I thought I had it figured out several times!

  6. Michele Avatar

    I love almost every picture book you have featured here! And I think I need to find the parenting book. My daughter and I are very close, but we’re getting close to THOSE years and I don’t want to lose the conversations.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s an eye-opening book, Michele. I have been very cautious about encouraging independence, and I so appreciated that Neufeld and Mate confirmed my instincts, explained what my instincts were all about *and* provided me with strong support in going WAY against the grain in terms of parental presence. It’s a slow read, very dense, but well worth it.

  7. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I agree with you that I wasn’t expecting WE FOUND A HAT to be sweet by the end, in fact it took me a little while to warm up to it and process the ending because I so wasn’t expecting that. 🙂

    And yes, I also adore Mac Barnett’s brand of quirk. His Ted Talk is probably my favorite TED Talk of all time, and when I met him a few years ago, I have to say, he has the most adorable laugh. It is nothing short of infectious.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I actually had this same response to We Found a Hat: wait, what?! But upon further reflection, it totally worked for me, and I love that he surprised us.I think Klassen is brilliant. I agree with you about Barnett’s TED Talk. I manage to find an excuse to show it in nearly every class I teach. My college students generally want to send off for whales afterward! (And get very excited when their whale arrives in the mail!)

  8. Myra GB Avatar

    I’ve been waiting on my copy of Ideas are all around – it’s been two months now!!! I hate it when Book Depository fails me in this way. I have to re-read They all saw a cat, my first reading of it was just meh. I must have missed something significant.

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