It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/3/17


adas ideas

For those who struggle to comprehend much math or computer talk (like me!), biographies of Ada Lovelace can be tricky. Much as I want to love her, I just can’t quite understand what her big ideas were. But Robinson translates Lovelace’s ideas into language that even I could follow. And the art is exquisite. A book I’d like to own just so I can look at the pictures regularly.

malaika's costume

Malaika’s Costume is a book I very much wanted to love, but I struggled with certain aspects of it. First, the unspecified location where Malaika and her grandmother live.Is it an island in the Caribbean? Is it an island off the coast of South America? Is it West Africa? At different points in the story, I could imagine any of these three. The unspecified location leads to an unnamed culture celebrating Carnival. Carnival has important cultural significance in some locations, but because it’s a Carnival that happens anywhere and nowhere, it’s been stripped of its cultural meaning for the sake of the story. And finally, the language. Malaika and her grandmother speak what is probably meant to indicate a dialect, but it veers to stereotype. Is the language meant to represent a translation of their native language? If so, why use incorrect grammar? Are the two meant to be speaking to each other in English? If so, why? I did love the art, but I needed more specificity about place, culture, and language to understand the author’s choices and to feel comfortable sharing this book with younger readers.


artist and me

The Artist and Me packs a punch! It’s a story of Vincent Van Gogh in the last years of his life, told from the perspective of a child who teased and bullied Van Gogh. The book makes it very clear that we fear what we don’t understand–people who are different, art that doesn’t follow accepted rules. Once we connect, we can no longer fear and we can have compassion and empathy. There is a painful moment when the child is offered this moment to connect–and doesn’t take it. There is much to think about and discuss. It would make a good pairing with Each Kindness and some of the Trudy Ludwig’s books. Sophie Casson’s art is really gorgeous and captures the spirit of Van Gogh’s paintings and the feel of his world.

excellent ed

My favorite picture book of the week! Excellent Ed is about a goofy dog named Ed who lives in a big family (a brown family!) full of talented kids who are all excellent at something. Ed isn’t sure what he’s excellent at, and he’s pretty sure that if he were just more excellent, he’d get to do the things the family does–sleep on the couch, ride in the van, use the indoor bathroom. He tries to prove his excellence to himself but is always upstaged by one of the kids. Eventually, the kids help him figure out what he’s excellent at–all kinds of doggie things. A really sweet story about embracing our strengths and being happy with ourselves as we are. Lots of visual and verbal humor as well.

mr gumpys outing

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing was first published in 1970, and I think it would still be a delightful read for young children. Mr. Gumpy grudgingly says yes to all of the many creatures (including two children) who wish to join his boat outing–as long as they follow his rules. The children, for instance, aren’t to squabble; the cat is not supposed to chase the rabbit; etc. In the end, they all do the thing they are not supposed to do–and chaos ensues. I loved, and I mean LOVED, the art, and I don’t even understand why. I really need to develop a better vocabulary for thinking and talking about art!

last fifth grade of emerson

Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary is a verse novel (with notes on the different poetic formats used along with some writing prompts at the back) featuring the voices of a very diverse fifth grade class as they compose poems to go in a time capsule. Over the course of the novel, we get to know the various students and their out-of-school lives and problems, but the main plot here focuses on the students’ feelings, fears, and protests after they learn their elementary school is going to be torn down and replaced by a grocery store. This is a really impressive debut novel: the poems are strong; the individual characters unique and engaging; and the themes topical and important.

my heart can't even believe it

My Heart Can’t Even Believe It is journalist Amy Silverman’s memoir of raising her daughter, Sophie, who has Down Syndrome.  I found the book frequently interesting, but also felt it couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be: a parenting memoir? A medical memoir? A scientific-for-the-lay-person explanation of Down Syndrome? It reads more like a series of articles and blog posts. There are long sections where we get far away from Sophie and Amy as Amy interviews doctors and research scientists. Worth a read for those who like parenting memoirs and medical memoirs (there is quite a bit of information here about the medical problems faced by children and adults with Down Syndrome).





8 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/3/17”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    I am a huge Burningham fan. I love everyone of his books. They are always amusing, whimsical but often have a lot more to say and multiple reads bring this to the surface. I also loved Ada’s Ideas for the incredible art. Like you, her work is not actually comprehensible to me.

  2. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    Excellent Ed is one of my favourites – I know so many children who will be able to relate to Ed, and find comfort in his story! And I remember loving Mr. Gumpy as a child, there’s something just so gentle about the illustrations that I found so comforting and welcoming.

  3. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Van Gogh is my favorite artist so I don’t even need to think about wanting to read a picture book about him, but The Artist and Me has such an intriguing premise that I had to move that one right up to the top of my TBR pile.

  4. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    The Artist and Me sounds fascinating! I like it when books touch tough issues without easy answers.

  5. lindabaie Avatar

    I loved Laura’s verse novel, and that she included the ‘how-to’ of all the poem forms she used. And The Artist and Me is a book that can be used so well in conversations about kindness. Good pairing with Each Kindness! I remember liking Malaika’s Costume, but can’t remember all the details. I did look for my review, and in it,I wrote that the glossary included West African translations. I don’t know for sure, but suppose I assumed that the story emanated from that area. Will look for Excellent Ed, sounds fun!

  6. Jana Eschner (@JanaTheTeacher) Avatar

    Excellent Ed was a fun book! But I still haven’t gotten around to the other picture books on your page, even though they’ve been on my To Read list for some time. I’ll definitely need to look for them!

  7. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Wow! I didn’t know “The Artist & Me!” I love Van Gogh and teaching kids about kindness–this seems perfect!

    Happy reading this week 🙂

  8. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    I love Excellent Ed. My students have enjoyed her Dino Files series, too. I haven’t read The Artist and Me yet, but it sounds intriguing.

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