It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/8/17


My semester is finished, which means it’s time for the #bookaday challenge. (The link will take you to the announcement for last year’s challenge. College summer break starts early–which means more books for me!). I missed my Monday reading post last week, so this post attempts to catch up briefly on two weeks of reading.

when i was the greatest

I was already a massive Jason Reynolds fan, but now I love him even more because he has bought me more reading time with my son. After our last readaloud, my son said he was done. Bored. Bedtime reading just wasn’t for him anymore. “I’m too old for this,” he announced. I’ve been battling his “I’m too old for readalouds” for a couple of months now and wondered if I should gracefully exit. But then I decided to make one last stand. “Maybe we’re reading the wrong books,” I said. (Never mind that he was choosing all the books!) “Do you mind if we try just one more?” And I showed him the cover of When I Was the Greatest. (Which happens to be one of my favorite covers of all time.) And I read the first page. And he was hooked. When I Was the Greatest is the first book in maybe a year that he’s stayed fully awake for, that he’s wanted to talk about, that he’s been really invested in. He’s not ready for All-American Boys yet, but we’ll read Ghost just as soon as we finish our current read-aloud, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Thank goodness for book covers and book titles that sell themselves!

books for living

I was maybe the only person on the planet who was a bit meh on Will Schwalbe’s popular The End of Your Life Book Club. It was probably more the timing than the book itself. And maybe it’s just timing that makes me adore his new book, Books for Living. This is very much a love letter to reading with short essays on meaningful books in his life. He has eclectic reading tastes, and the essays themselves are also eclectic–sometimes focused closely on the book itself and its lessons, other times ranging away from the book to his memories and experiences. There is wisdom and life and so much #booklove here. Highly recommended.

everything is teeth

Evie Wyld’s Everything Is Teeth is an odd little graphic novel memoir. It’s hard to say exactly what it’s about because there isn’t really a plot. It’s a memoir that’s more about mood and atmosphere–a tricky thing to pull off, but it absolutely works, thanks in large part to Joe Summer’s evocative illustrations. As a child, Evie was obsessed with sharks and shark attacks, and they become a metaphor for other unspoken things. Throughout the book, there is a strong sense of foreboding. I kept expecting some big secret or childhood horror to be revealed, but that never happens. This book won’t be for everyone, but it’s just the kind of graphic novel memoir I like–moody, haunting, and kind of weird.

lowriders to center of earth

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth features some of the craziest graphic novel art I’ve ever seen by Raul the Third. It’s done in ballpoint pen! I read an interview with Raul where he talks about how he was inspired by the limited supplies he had to create art when he was a kid. The story is all fast-paced adventure and incorporates a lot of Spanish words and phrases as well as different aspects of Mexican popular culture and Aztec mythology. I’m glad this won a Pure Belpre Award this year: it wasn’t a series I’d heard of, but I know many readers who will really connect with the story and art.

falling into dragon's mouth

Holly Thompson’s Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth is a wonderful middle-grade verse novel about an American boy living in Japan with his teacher parents. It’s not always an easy story to read: Jason is the victim of bullies who target him for being different. But he finds solace and support in the practice of aikido, his relationship with his little sister, and growing friendships with an elderly man with Parkinson’s and a Japanese teenager who homeschools.

mighty jack

Mighty Jack is the first in a terrific new graphic novel series by Ben Hatke. There is something for everyone here–plenty of magic and adventure, but also strong, interesting characters and relationships and a serious treatment of economic hardship.

a perfect day

A Perfect Day features what may be my favorite Lane Smith art. The story is fun too. All the animals in the back yard are having their perfect day until Bear arrives; Bear’s perfect day pretty much ruins everyone else’s fun.

legend of rock paper scissors

Drew Daywalt’s new picture book is another winner. Such a funny origin story for the classic rock paper scissors game. This one had me laughing out loud.

magic word

Paxton is tired of adults asking for “the magic word” every time he makes a request, so he decides to make up his own magic word, Alakazoomba, which turns out to be the REAL magic word. Soon, Paxton has conjured magical walruses to get rid of anyone who annoys him and has turned his house into a child’s fantasy dream house, complete with waterslides and roller coasters and a magical elephant who plays cards. Clever, slightly subversive fun from Mac Barnett.

coyote moon

Maria Gianferrari’s Coyote Moon is a gorgeously written and even more gorgeously illustrated story of a coyote mother hunting in a suburban environment. Ibatoulline outdoes himself here, and that’s really saying something.

bunny days

Those poor bunnies! This was a reread for me, and I found it just as weird and wonderful this time. There is something so innocent and sweet about Nyeu’s art; matched with the somewhat sadistic treatment of the bunnies (the tail-clipping scene followed by the sewing machine is hardcore!), it makes for one hilarious picture book. Not a story for everyone (my son, for instance, is both mystified and disturbed by my delight in this book), but really good fun for the right reader.

wonder bear

I thought Wonder Bear was a straightforward, kind of simple wordless picture book until I sat down to describe it and began to struggle. None of the sentences I wrote about it made any sense–unless maybe you, too, had read the book. Nyeu creates this stream-of-consciousness dreamlike story that’s not really about anything other than the images themselves. It’s a pretty daring undertaking, especially for a first book.


Incredibly beautiful and creative retelling of Pinocchio’s origin story. Like nothing you’ve read before.

big cat little cat

Oh, man. Elisha Cooper’s Big Cat, Little Cat is adorable but also packs an emotional punch. This one made me tear up. And then after I pulled it together, I saw Cooper’s dedication in the back of the book, and that made me cry again. Then I made my husband read it, and he got teary too. And when I saw my husband was at That Scene, I had another attack of all the feels and got teary AGAIN. So. Yeah. Read this but be prepared! (Brilliant artistic choices here too.)





19 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/8/17”

  1. Michele Avatar

    You were a busy reader this week! I really need to read When I Was the Greatest. I have it but it keeps getting pushed back…

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I really love it–still my favorite of Reynolds’s books, though Ghost is a close second.

  2. cweichel Avatar

    How I love Jason Reynolds. I’m so happy for you that your son is still invested in your reading time together. Lowriders was a popular graphic title in the library, although I confess, I never read it. I’ve got to get to my netgalley copy of the sequel to Mighty Jack. Can it be as good? Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth sounds like a hard one to read. There has been some buzz about Big Cat, Little Cat today, but now I know I must read it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am so happy that he’s still reading with me too. Last night I even heard words I haven’t heard in a LONG time when I turned off the light: “Hey, can you read just one more chapter?” YES I CAN! I’d never even heard of Lowriders until Volume 2 won the Pura Belpre. Not sure I’ll go back and read the first book, even though I enjoyed the second. Glad to know it was very popular!

  3. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    So many books to add to my list! I booktalked Mighty Jack at a school visit once, and it nearly caused a stampede, everyone wanted to borrow it!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m pretty sure my college kids are going to love it too!

  4. Akilah Avatar

    Based on your review and the comments, it seems as though I need to check out Mighty Jack.

    I love, love, love that you and your son are still reading together and you found a book that sucked him back in. Mwahahahahaha. Never doubt the power of books, kid!

    1. Akilah Avatar

      Also, I definitely need to do #bookaday. I think I’ll make an effort to read for 20 solid minutes each day.

    2. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      His new thing is “Well, when I’m 16 we won’t do this anymore.” If I can get another year and a half of bedtime read-aloud with him, I will be THRILLED. So I just smile and nod and cross my fingers. Whatever it takes! I love #bookaday. I’m also trying to read for 20 minutes in the morning–though I’m also trying to write for 12 (I have no idea how I lighted on 12) and do yoga, and I’m just not sure I have enough time for all of that before my son wakes up and then I’m on. But we’ll see. And hey, picture books count, so I always feel pretty good about meeting the challenge.

      1. Akilah Avatar

        Tell him sixteen is GREAT and then he can keep extending it if he needs to! 😁

  5. lindabaie Avatar

    I love Big Cat, Little Cat, too, Elisabeth. Elisha Cooper used such a subtle way to show time passing, just as it does and just as we wish it did not. I enjoyed your words about When I Was The Grestest, too. I have it & it’s the only Jason Reynolds I haven’t read, just skipped right by it. Now you, and your son, make me put it up at the top of my list! Thanks for the others, too. I collect some picture books about bears, and A Perfect Day is a recent love. Happy Reading!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s my favorite Jason Reynolds novel, Linda (though I still haven’t read As Brave as You.) He is able to pull off something really impressive: a novel that is gritty AND sweet. Lane Smith books often don’t work for me, for various reasons, but I did love A Perfect Day.

      1. lindabaie Avatar

        You’ve made me want to read it “now”! I agree about the Lane Smith books, but this one is quite different from his others.

  6. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Oh, I’m so glad you and your son loved When I Was the Greatest. I was so moved by that book and it will always be my favorite Jason Reynolds book.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love the characters in When I Was the Greatest and how Reynolds is not afraid of quiet moments between characters and using introspection to move a plot. It’s just a really good novel.

  7. Crystal Avatar

    I really enjoyed When I was the Greatest. I’m glad you all were able to enjoy it together. I like Lane Smith’s artwork most of the time, but I agree that this one is lovely. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am hoping he’ll choose another Jason Reynolds novel to read soon!

  8. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    We are a better world because Jason Reynolds writes.
    And YAY Mighty Jack! I am a huge Hatke fan 🙂

    Happy reading this week!

  9. Myra GB Avatar

    I am hoping to pick up Books for Living from the library today – was especially taken by your brief blurb about it. I am also slowly gathering together the professional development texts I hope to bring with me while in my research fellowship in Munich over the summer, so will definitely add that to my growing pile of books to bring.

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