It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/31/16



Of course I loved Jason Reynolds’s new middle-grade novel about a budding track star, Ghost, who isn’t close to having it all together but sure does try hard. There’s nuance and grit and tenderness to this story. Reynolds’s writing is so tight and compelling, and as always, he develops such rich and dynamic voices for his characters. There is a lot of plot, but the story never feels rushed or overstuffed. And the other kids on Ghost’s new track team seem like they will be just as interesting (and perhaps take center stage in future novels?). In fact, all of the secondary characters are strong. I don’t think anyone writing YA or middle-grade writes better adults than Jason Reynolds. They’re present and complex and real, wanting what’s best for kids but sometimes unsure how to offer support and often struggling with their own demons.


Kevin Sands’s The Blackthorn Key has been bedtime reading for the past couple of weeks. I really liked it; my son was fairly meh. I think the historical setting (England, 1665) was difficult for him to understand, and the details of the mystery can be subtle. But for more mature readers, this book really works. It’s fast-paced, occasionally violent, and full of interesting characters whose motivations are often mysterious.



My son has been reading biographies in the Amazing Athletes series out loud to me. I can see how these books have big appeal for readers. There are lots of photos, and the series profiles a wide variety of current athletes. I just wish the writing were stronger. These books are targeted for developing readers, yet there seems to be little care taken to write with them truly in mind. The writing was cluttered by an overabundance of proper names, especially schools and coaches, that were often difficult for a struggling reader to decode (Perspectives Charter School, for instance, repeated numerous times in the Anthony Davis biography). And details that don’t matter (the names of every sibling or the date of the NBA draft) were continually highlighted at the expense of compelling narrative. When you have such a limited word count to tell a story, every word needs to matter.


A tender and heartfelt story of the special bond between two grandparents and their grandson and the challenges they all face as the grandfather begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s.


A gorgeous exploration of poetry and the wonders of the natural world. I can imagine so many ways to use this book in the classroom.


Another winner about bravery and friendship by Deborah Freedman. Brilliant use of the gutter to portray the main character’s shyness. I marveled all the way through this book at how compelling the main character is–when we hardly ever see him!


Zoey has big dreams of adventure–including space travel! The other farm animals, especially her pig friend who is mostly interested in pie, scoff at her dreams, but somehow she makes them come true. A sweet and charming story of the value of dreaming big.





19 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/31/16”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    I just read Ghost as well. And wow, Jason Reynolds. What a writer. Isn’t Daniel Finds a Poem stunning. I absolutely loved it – think if will be part of my Mock Caldecott.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was thinking about Daniel Finds a Poem for my Mock Caldecott too–assuming the timing works out next semester for me to do that with my Children’s Lit students. The art is stunning!

  2. Michele Avatar

    Love all of these books! Cannot wait to read the sequel to Ghost. I had way too many unanswered questions about many of the characters!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was so fascinated by all the secondary characters. Can’t wait for the sequel too. I am glad Jason Reynolds writes fast!

  3. cweichel Avatar

    I’m waiting for Ghost to arrive from our local library. I expect to love it since I have adored everything else that Reynolds has written. I enjoyed The Blackthorn Key and have the sequel on my list of books to read someday. It is a sophisticated story and I can see that without the background knowledge it would be even more complicated.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I will probably read the sequel to The Blackthorn Key on my own, as I did enjoy it and I love that time period (that’s what my PhD is in). I think you will really like Ghost–lots going on, lots to think about, lots to love.

  4. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    I read Ghost last week and loved it as well. I do believe that the plans for the future series involve a book about each “newbie.”

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So glad you also enjoyed Ghost! I am excited for the new series. He has a lot of interesting situations to explore with the other characters.

  5. lindabaie Avatar

    So many are praising Ghost, and I do know that Jason Reynolds tells good stories. Glad to hear your review, too. I know and love all the picture books except Chicken In Space. There are so many chicken books, and most are good! Thanks, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m a sucker for a chicken picture book! (Though Minerva Louise and P. Zonka will always be my favorite picture book chickens.)

  6. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    So many great books this week! I have yet to get my hands on a copy of Ghost or Shy, and I am desperate for both of those. As a shy person, gentle books about shyness really appeal to me. Have a great week!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Shy is so lovely, as are all of Freedman’s books. I feel sure you will appreciate Ghost.

  7. margaretsmn Avatar

    I met Jason Reynolds on Saturday at the Louisiana Book Festival. He recommended Ghost for my class. Now I have a signed copy. Would you recommend it as a read aloud? I teach elementary gifted.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yay to meeting Jason Reynolds! I actually decided Ghost was a little too intense for my 8th-grade son: there is a violent and frightening scene of domestic violence early in the book that I thought would be particularly difficult for him. I would definitely pre-read at least the first chapter before you decide whether it’s a good fit for your students. If I were teaching middle-school, I’d definitely do a read-aloud. With elementary, probably not. But so much depends on the particular group of students of course.

      1. margaretsmn Avatar

        I read the first chapter and know what you mean. May be best put on the shelf for students to choose. I do have a student whose father was arrested for domestic abuse. It’s hard to know if it’d be a good thing to confront it with a safe environment or leave it alone.

  8. Crystal Avatar

    I really enjoyed Ghost. Jason Reynolds does some amazing work. Shy is one I keep hearing about and can’t wait to read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Shy is so unusual–picture book perfection, though I have a hard time imagining I will ever love a picture book as much as The Story of Fish and Snail!

  9. Myra GB Avatar

    Most of the picturebooks here are familiar to me. Loved using Daniel Finds a Poem in my workshop with teachers and parents. I have to find and read Ghost soon!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You will like Ghost, I’m sure. I am so glad Reynolds is writing middle-grade. Well-written, fast-paced contemporary stories featuring a diverse cast of characters (and especially featuring boys) are so needed for that group of readers.

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