It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/5/17


I am in a rush to post this morning because I need to get upstairs to my office where I can hear my latest project thrashing around and getting into things: three feral kittens and their mama! I have solemnly sworn that I am not going to adopt any of these cats but rather tame them, socialize them, and find them nice homes, but I do have my eye on Panda, the little tuxedo who is full of vim and vigor, and it seems a shame to keep Panda without one of his siblings to keep him occupied, and if you keep Panda and Bjarke/Minka/Waffles/Blanket (my son can’t commit to a name for the medium-energy kitten but he’s tried out all four of those; I was rooting for Minka until he decided on Bjarke, a Danish name we heard last night on American Ninja Warrior), then why not Toast too? And this is why I shouldn’t foster ferals!

darisu and twig

The latest read-aloud with my son, Darius & Twig is just the third Walter Dean Myers novel I’ve ever read. It’s a slim book that thoughtfully explores the ways two best friends plan to get out of their urban neighborhood: one through track, the other through writing. I liked the blend of action and interior monologue as well as the ambitious use of metaphor. My son liked it well enough that he chose another Myers novel, Slam, for our current read-aloud. Fingers crossed that he will continue to like Myers’s books, because there’s 85 or so of them that we could read together!

make lemonada

Make Lemonade was a failed read-aloud: we got through about half of it before he said he didn’t really understand it and wanted to read something different. But I finished it on my own. It’s my third time through, first time reading aloud, and I do think it’s a very strong read-aloud, my son’s confusion notwithstanding. A great book for middle- and high-school classrooms since it’s very short and students who listen to Book 1 may choose to go on to Books 2 and 3.


You’ve read this story about a bright-eyed new pet who isn’t accepted by the cranky old pet before. But that doesn’t make Frankie any less fun. A very limited vocabulary combines with extremely lively, expressive art for a story that has huge kid (and grown-up!) appeal.


Really lovely picture book about loneliness, friendship, and making beautiful things. One I’d like to own.


Still not a fan of rhyming picture books, but Tidy did work for me: it’s a very funny story of a badger who is compulsively, obsessively tidy. As he goes to greater and more extreme lengths to keep the forest tidy, he does discover that there is such a thing as too tidy. I’m thinking this would make a great read-aloud.

school essay.jpg

I am trying to catch up on a lot of professional development reading this summer. Thomas Newkirk’s School Essay Manifesto is really a long essay itself. This thought-provoking manifesto argues against the thesis-controlled essay and for writing to think and discover. The final chapter proposes several exploratory, reflective writing assignments in place of the predictable, banal writing that typically passes for school essays.

making nonfiction from scratch

Ralph Fletcher’s Making Nonfiction from Scratch is a quick read that will offer both new and veteran teachers some helpful ideas for teaching nonfiction. He’s especially good at identifying some of the common problems with the way nonfiction is currently taught in many writing workshops (I’m certainly guilty of highlighting text features at the expense of reading pleasure and of limiting student choice through units of writing and genre studies.)

renew shawna coppola

Shawna Coppola’s Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher would be a great summer read for veteran workshop teachers looking to refresh and revise their approach. It’s a good blend of big picture thinking (why we do the things we do) and little picture thinking (what we might do differently tomorrow). I think I most enjoyed Coppola’s strong, engaging voice and her commitment to reflecting on her practice and making adjustments to what is obviously already good teaching.





24 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/5/17”

  1. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    When I was in elementary school, a feral cat had kittens in an old sofa in the neighbour’s carport (I lived in the classiest part of town). The neighbour asked if I wanted a kitten, and without thinking to ask my parents, of course, I brought a feral kitten home with me. Thankfully my dad is a hopeless cat person, so it all went well enough, but that cat was always more of a cougar than a house cat! So, I’m definitely with you on wanting to keep all the kittens! 😉

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL! I probably did similar things as a child. I was constantly trying to get my hands on cats and more cats. Thankfully I am now married to a man who also believes in cats and more cats, so he doesn’t blink an eye at our current number (7–and that’s without my feral family!). I have high hopes for these kittens!

  2. Karen Yingling Avatar

    Make Lemonade is a blast from the past. It did pretty well in my library for awhile, but then fell apart. It’s as old as my daughter! As for cats, you should read The Lion in the Living Room. A friend did, and said that it reinforced his opinions that while dogs love us, cats secretly want to kill us all!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Definitely a blast from the past! I haven’t had much luck getting my college students to read it, though I can think of several who would like it. I’m glad it was reissued with a new cover: helps me hand sell it better! I will definitely look for Lion in the Living Room. That’s one thing I love about cats: they are their own creatures, for sure.

  3. Akilah Avatar

    Wait, wait, wait. Which other two WDM books have you read? Also, I have a good feeling about Slam for your son.

    Make Lemonade! Good times. I think the first book is the strongest in the series.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I know, I know. Only two of his 85+ books! (Slam and Monster, for the record.) Will definitely be remedying this. I really love True Believer too (I think that’s the right title of Book 2 of the Wolff trilogy?), though I think the final book is so bizarrely plotted. I liked the reread of Make Lemonade enough to reread True Believer too, I think. My son is loving Slam. He is so involved in the current drug dealing drama: I can barely get the light off. He is very worried about Slam’s friend!

      1. Akilah Avatar

        Yeah, True Believer is good but the last one is…not so much. I remember being frustrated by not just the plot but also some of the details.

        I’d be interested to hear what your son thinks about Handbook for Boys by WDM. Or Shooter. Also possibly Fallen Angels.

  4. Mrs. Bookdragon Avatar

    I really want to read The School Essay Manifesto. I have not heard about it, but sounds really good. I know that the issue with essays has been brought up in our meetings, so this would be helpful. Happy reading and blogging!

  5. Michele Avatar

    Between you and Alyson, I can’t keep track of the kitten you’re both saving! Hope all goes well!
    Glad your son is finding WDM’s words interesting!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL! It’s very absorbing to have a little feral family to tame–I’m pretty sure it’s going to be seriously interfering with my reading time. I had this plan to sit and read TO the kittens, but mostly I just sit and watch them and coo over them, so I’m not getting much reading done with them.

  6. The Logonauts (@thelogonauts) Avatar

    I need to read more Walter Dean Myers. I’ve read some of his picture/poetry books (after Love that Dog) but not his longer novels.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m not sure why I haven’t read more, because I have really admired what I have read. I’m guessing we’ll read several in a row, though, so here’s my chance!

    2. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      And I’d forgotten about the Love That Dog connection! Will totally see if I can get my son to read that one himself. Probably the right level and the WDM connection will be interesting to him.

  7. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    I haven’t read any of those professional texts, but they all sound good. Ralph Fletcher and Thomas Newkirk are both always great. I have to look more into Coppola’s book.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Definitely look for Coppola’s book. I’m hoping to write an in-depth review soon. I’m looking forward to catching up on another couple of Newkirk and Fletcher titles this summer. I really love Newkirk’s writing: so elegant and thoughtful.

  8. Tara Smith Avatar

    Newkirk’s book is on my summer PD reading list. So glad to hear that your son is growing into a Myers fan – that man could write!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love discovering new interests as I try to support my son’s reading life. I’m becoming a big WDM fan too! Newkirk’s book won’t take long but will leave you with some nuggets to ponder for sure.

  9. TeachersforTeachers (@ClareandTammy) Avatar

    We loved Ralph Fletcher’s book about writing nonfiction. The way he crafted the text brings to life his point about letting students write nonfiction with voice.

  10. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Ooh! I definitely need to check out Coppola’s book. Refreshing my workshop practice is absolutely something I need to do — though since I will be strictly librarian next year and not teaching English, I think I’ll delay reading it until a year when I will likely need it again.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Coppola definitely got me thinking about what I want to do to refresh my workshop teaching. I really like what she says about rethinking big picture stuff rather than just tinkering with the details. I fall down the rabbit hole of details and often forget to look more carefully at the big picture.

  11. Kellee from Unleashing Readers (@kelleemoye) Avatar

    Pandora was in Trent’s newest BOOX from Powell’s Books. We haven’t read it yet, but I know we’ll love it 🙂
    I hope you and your son enjoy Slam–I love Myers’s work so much!

    Happy reading this week 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Kellee. Pandora is beautiful–I think you’re going to love it for sure. We are moving through Slam much more quickly than I expected since I keep hearing “just one more chapter” at night! I need to get to the library and get another WDM book!

  12. cweichel Avatar

    I am so happy that you and your son are enjoying Walter Dean Myer’s work. I loved Darius and Twig. You’ve piqued my interest in Make Lemonade, so I put it on hold as an audiobook. If you like it, I’m pretty sure I will.
    I could probably stand to learn to be a bit tidier from that badger, but fear I would end up just getting messier. Sigh…..

  13. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

    I remember really liking the audio of Make Lemonade. Darius & Twig was a sneaky book for me: I wasn’t sure I was liking it for the first half or so and then suddenly I realized I loved the voice, the characters, the pacing, the writing. Such a great read-aloud too. I could also stand to learn about tidiness from the badger–or maybe the badger could just come to my house and office and tidy up for me? I would prefer that!

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