It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/18/17


memroy of things

It can’t be easy to write fiction about 9/11. Plot must always be in danger of taking over, and it’s tricky to write about such an emotionally charged event without being overwrought. It must be even trickier to write about the event as it’s unfolding without allowing hindsight to influence the writing: what event is more meaningful in recent American consciousness than 9/11, and yet what event has meaning as it’s unfolding? Gae Polisner is up to the task and writes a beautifully moving and delicate novel about 9/11 from the perspective of two characters, a boy and a girl, who meet for the first time in the chaotic aftermath of the planes crashing into the Towers in New York City.  It’s a novel about the events of that day and that week, but even more, it’s about character, about family and friendship and connection and growing up.

ballad of broken nose

My son and I got started on a Batchelder Award reading challenge with a read-aloud of The Ballad of a Broken Nose, originally published in Norwegian. It’s the story of thirteen-year-old Bart, who takes boxing classes and loves opera and is trying hard not to be lowest on the totem pole and the target of bullying at school. His home life is not easy: his mother is an alcoholic who can’t keep a job, and they live in an apartment building where they must pass strung-out heroin addicts and discarded dirty needles on the stairs.  Though he has real potential as a singer, Bart also suffers from debilitating stage fright and can’t even sing in front of his own grandmother in the living room. Ballad is a slim novel tackling what seems like an unwieldy number of topics (in addition to the above, there is also Bart’s search for his unknown father and a burgeoning friendship or perhaps more with one of the popular girls at school), but the author pulls it off, largely on the unifying strength of Bart’s voice as a character. He’s believable, wry, thoughtful, and affecting. The ending offers hope even though not everything is wrapped up tidily.

xo ox love story

XO, OX A Love Story is some brilliance written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Scott Campbell. It’s one of those books that I want to push into everyone’s hands. I also elected to read it aloud to my Special Methods class last week, and can I say FINALLY! A class that laughs in all the right places. So often I read hysterically funny picture books to my college students and they sit there, blank. Do they not know it’s funny? Do they not know it’s ok to laugh? XO, OX is very, very funny. And also so perfect in its pacing and elegant language.

charlotte and the rock

Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun, and yet another picture book about a child whose parents won’t get her a pet and who must make do with a sad, non-pet which she nonetheless manages to have petlike experiences with…. well, I’m pretty sure I’ve read this exact story at least a dozen times in the last year alone. The twist at the end felt predictable too. Still, it’s a popular plot for a reason, and Charlotte and the Rock manages to be quite charming, thanks to Stephen Martin’s tight writing and Samantha Cottrell’s stylish illustrations.

nerdy birdy tweets

Another winner from Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies, this time a cautionary tale about paying more attention to the online friends you may or may not even know than to your IRL pals.






21 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/18/17”

  1. carriegelson Avatar

    I have loved everything that Gae Polisner writes and this one . . . wow. This story has stayed with me. Nerdy Birdy Tweets – can’t believe I have yet to read this book! Matt Davies is so great. Want to get this one and read it with my teens.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Polisner’s other novels are sitting on my shelf… so far unread, but not for long! I believe this story will stick with me too. I am thinking that Nerdy Bird Tweets will connect much better with my teen and young adult readers than with little kids, but a good discussion prompt for all.

  2. lindabaie Avatar

    I did love the way Gae Polisner approached 9/11; different POVs create complex stories! I’ll look for The Ballad of A Broken Nose, sounds nice, and I loved XOOX, and thanks for sharing the latest Nerdy Birdy adventure.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Linda. I really loved how Hannah’s voice is shared through free verse. Perfect for her character and struggles in Memory of Things. Ballad of Broken Nose is definitely work a read. Very quick and nice to have a window into Norwegian YA!

  3. Akilah Avatar

    The Ballad of a Broken Nose sounds right up my alley. I love your indignation at your students’ failure to understand humor. DON’T THEY KNOW WHAT FUNNY IS? Hahahaha.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Seriously, it is SO weird. I try to read a variety of funny books in, say, my Children’s Lit class so that everyone should have an opportunity to have their sense of humor touched by something. BUT NO ONE EVER LAUGHS. And I’m up there hamming it up with my best character voices and….. nothing. SO painful.

      1. Akilah Avatar

        You’re like an actual comedian playing to a crowd that is not feeling it.

  4. cweichel Avatar

    I adored The Memory of Things. Such a beautiful book.
    As soon as I read your remarks about XO OX, I just had to head over to my library app and put it on hold. Thankfully, I’m next in line! Nerdy Birdy is on order but at least I am first in line for that!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It felt extra special to be reading Memory on 9/11 too–not intentional, just how it worked out in my reading queue. I hope you enjoy XO, OX.

  5. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    We just got Nerdy Bird Tweets – Can’t wait to read it. There will be a post about Aaron Reynold’s books in our near future.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Can’t wait for that Aaron Reynolds post! Hope you enjoy Nerdy Bird Tweets.

  6. Michele Avatar

    I was so impressed with The Memory of Things. The way Gae crafted that story was quite amazing.
    I think you and your son read such a diverse amount of books. Please tell him that I am very impressed with how well read he is. He should be very proud of the reading you do together.
    And XO, OX was hilarious 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you, Michele. He will LOVE that compliment! He really, really liked Ballad of a Broken Nose. I agree with you about the craft of Memory of Things–exceptionally well crafted.

  7. Tara Smith Avatar

    The Ballad of a Broken Nose sounds very European, in that it deals with serious realities and imagines that young adults can, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes! I also really liked how Bart manages to be kind of naive and innocent and sweet at the same time that he has these serious realities to figure out.

  8. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Hmmm… I didn’t see the plot twist in Charlotte and the Rock coming. In fact, I thought it wasn’t very well-developed and seemed to just come out of nowhere. I was loving the story up until that point though.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think the plot twist felt predictable to me because it reminded me of a different book, but I’m not even sure what it’s reminding me of! I really liked the illustrations.

  9. crbrunelle Avatar

    I enjoyed Charlotte and the Rock and thought the twist was fun. I found XO, OX a little off-putting with him kind of being stalkerish. I wanted him to leave her be. I know it’s just supposed to be funny, but it sat oddly with me. I still haven’t read The Memory of Things, but agree that has to be a difficult writing task.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I appreciate your perspective about XO,OX, because there’s definitely a stalkerish element there that I hadn’t really noticed as I read. I’m going to have to go back and reread now!

  10. ejmam Avatar

    Thanks for the ideas for picture books to look out for!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You’re welcome! I haven’t been reading as many and need to get back to my regularly scheduled routine.

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