It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 3/13/17


On the blog: Many slices!

In reading:

being mortal

I rarely read books that I think every person needs to read, but Being Mortal is one of those books. Gawande, a surgeon, tackles a subject many of us don’t want to talk about–end-of-life care for ourselves and our loved ones–and fully acknowledges that the difficulty of having the conversation is a huge part of the problem in the way we treat the terminally ill and the elderly. A few heroes emerge–hospice workers, a couple of innovative nursing home directors–but for the most part, this is a book about the failures of a culture and a medical system to do what’s right and what’s best. Gawande argues that many patients lose what quality of life they might have at the end of their lives due to invasive medical treatments by doctors who have been trained to preserve life at any cost. He has many suggestions for how we can begin to change the conversation and understand the goals that people truly have for the end of their lives. Beautifully written, thought-provoking, always wise, sometimes sad, ultimately hopeful. A must read.

billions of bricks

For a rhyming book, I liked Billions of Bricks, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. Little kids who are into building are going to love this book. Does it really work as a counting book? Well, there’s precious little counting that happens, and we don’t come close to billions of anything. So expectations may need to be adjusted. Illustrations are detailed and engaging.

feathered dinosaurs

Feathered Dinosaurs, written by Brenda Guiberson and illustrated by William Low, profiles a number of dinosaur species that scientists now know for sure had feathers. Guiberson shares the facts about each species and Low contributes large paintings that place the dinosaurs in their natural habitat. It will be hard to look at birds the same after reading this book! (They’re mini-dinosaurs roaming the planet!)


I think I have a new favorite picture book: Ooko by Esme Shapiro. This one was on hold at the library for someone else, and I felt like I was doing something just a little bit illicit in taking it off someone else’s hold shelf and reading it. Perhaps that added to the charm. Regardless, this is a very funny picture book for those who like their picture books just a little weird. I laughed out loud numerous times–though I did try to stifle the laughter because (1) I was in the library and (2) I was reading someone else’s book. This is one I’ll be purchasing for my own collection.

teddy bear

A strong story by David McPhail that takes the lost teddy bear trope in a different direction, a direction sure to spark plenty of discussion and empathy in readers.

the storm

The Storm has a simple story–a child misses out on a much-anticipated trip to the beach because of a storm–with magnificent illustrations.

their great gift

Their Great Gift is a good addition to my growing shelf of picture books about refugees and immigrants. The text is broad, general, and celebrates the sacrifices and achievements of immigrants. The photos by Wing Young Huie were not taken specifically for this book; rather, they span three decades of his career. He searched his archives for images that would fit the book, and the resulting collage of images is powerful and engaging.

biggest bear

All I could think as I was reading The Biggest Bear is that picture books sure have changed since 1952, and thank goodness. Lynd Ward’s illustrations in this Caldecott Honor might be worth a look, but the story isn’t appropriate anymore. I live in hunting country, but even my students would be traumatized by the image of the son setting off into the forest with a gun and his giant pesky pet bear, with the instructions from Dad to make sure the bear doesn’t come back home again.  And the “happy ending” of being trapped by zookeepers is problematic at best. This book has a bizarre number of four and five-star reviews on GoodReads.

wee gillis

Wee Gillis, on the other hand, is an old Caldecott Honor book (from 1939, the second year of the award!) that holds up remarkably well. Munro Leaf’s text is engaging and spritely, and Robert Lawson’s illustrations still look great.








21 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 3/13/17”

  1. Katie Avatar

    I’m intrigued by Ooko. I’ve never heard of this book. I love quirky weird picture books, so it sounds perfect.
    It really is fascinating to go back and read past award winning books, and discover how some still hold up well and others just don’t or are cringe worthy.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I really have to buy a copy of Ooko. It’s one I would struggle to read aloud to a class since it makes me laugh too much, but eventually I can read it enough times and manage to get through it!

  2. carriegelson Avatar

    The Teddy Bear is one of the most powerful read aloud stories out there. The scenes in the park. Just wow.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Such a powerful book! I think I first learned about McPhail on your blog. Hoping to read more now!

  3. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    I recently read Billions of Bricks, and I loved it – great rhyme, and such great illustrations!

    I often wonder how we and others will react to today’s selection of picture books – I wonder which ones will have us nodding in appreciation, and which will have us shaking our heads! 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I generally hate rhyme, but Billions of Bricks actually worked for me! I wonder that same question with picture books–what’s going to still feel fresh in 50 years, what morality lessons won’t feel dated.

  4. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    (Did you steal Ooko off your twin’s request shelf?) For me, Their Greatest Gift didn’t work. I wished the text were different and the pictures given more context.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      (Ooko was actually on hold for someone else, but I bet I see it on my reading twin’s shelf soon!)

  5. cweichel Avatar

    Being Mortal has been on my to read list since my mother died of cancer last year. Thank’s for reminding me about it. I’ve just put a hold on the audiobook. The other book I love is Last Gifts. I read it out loud to my mom during her last days. We both learned a lot about dying with dignity from it.
    I actually couldn’t bring myself to weed The Biggest Bear from the library. I liked the illustrations too much. If I were still in the library, I would have another look at it though after reading your comments here.
    I just put a hold on Ooko and am looking forward to it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It might be a very emotional read for you, Cheriee. I will look for Last Gifts for sure. My mother has a whole shelf of what I call “death and dying” books so it might be one she already has and I can borrow. If not, sounds like one she’d want to get! I really did enjoy the illustrations in The Biggest Bear. I would definitely look at more books by Ward, though keeping in mind that the morality towards animals might be highly questionable!

  6. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    I’ve heard good things about Being Mortal, but it’s always seemed like such a heavy book to me so I never got around to reading it. Maybe it will be one I can put on my summer reading list. The Teddy Bear is a wonderful story. We used it as a One Book, One School read one year.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There were a couple of days I set it aside for something a little lighter, but overall I was surprised by how non-depressing it was. Gawande just writes so well–that may be part of why I didn’t find it too heavy. I can forgive great writing just about anything! I am going to read The Teddy Bear out loud to my pre-service teachers tomorrow. I think they’re going to love it.

  7. LInda Baie (@LBaie) Avatar

    Somehow my comment disappeared! I loved Ooko too, among the many fox books out recently.Thanks for sharing the others that I still have to read. I’m not sure I’m ready for Being Mortal, having gone through quite a bit of medical navigation when my husband was ill. We did find a good set of doctors finally, and then a wonderful place for him when he needed it, but it took quite a bit of standing up for what’s right to do that. The hospice people were wonderfully supportive in every way that was needed. Maybe someday I’ll read it, Elisabeth. It does sound helpful. Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There have been a lot of fox books lately, haven’t there? One of my favorites of the bunch (along with Fox’s Garden!). I am glad I read Being Mortal now, without a personal context to be thinking about. I think it would be a tough read otherwise.

  8. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Ooko is fantastic. Thanks for reminding me what an fantastic book that is! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I want to read it again very soon!

  9. bluestockingthinking Avatar

    Ok, now I need to read the Teddy Bear book and Ooko! Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You won’t regret either choice!

  10. crbrunelle Avatar

    I was just talking about Being Mortal today at lunch with friends. I agree that all should read it. I found it helpful for thinking through things regarding my aging family members, but also about what my own wishes are for myself.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I had the same thoughts, Crystal. I enjoyed the writing so much that I’d like to reread Gawande’s other books now too. I’ve liked everything by him.

  11. Myra GB Avatar

    I really enjoyed The Storm – clearly the art takes centre stage there. Being Mortal sounds like a powerful but depressing read.

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