It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/23/18


tea dragon society

Katie O’Neill’s graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society, was the best book I read this week. Blacksmith apprentice Greta is a bit cranky about having to learn the dying art of blacksmithing when no one even uses swords anymore. But then she rescues a lost tea dragon, returns him to his owner, and discovers that history and culture can be worth preserving, even if most people in the world see very little use for what’s being preserved. The cultivation of tea dragons is also a dying art, but Greta finds herself wanting to learn more about how to raise the very delicate little dragons who grow tea leaves from horns on their heads. The world O’Neill creates is gorgeous, the characters diverse and interesting, and the story quiet but engaging. A really lovely story.

losers club

As always, Andrew Clements comes up with a good hook for his middle-grade novels. The Losers Club is about a boy named Alec who is constantly getting in trouble for reading at times when adults think he should be doing something else. His great idea to buy himself more time to read: start a reading club after school. Only he doesn’t really want other kids to join the club. So he decides to call it The Losers Club to scare off potential club members. I got a bit bored by the supporting stories of Alec’s conflicts with the bully and Alec’s crush on the girl, but it’s a quick read that will have wide appeal.

all the places to love

How did I miss this Patricia MacLachlan? All the Places to Love is a beautifully written picture book about home and family. I think it would be a phenomenal mentor text for my students and lead to some amazing writing, as quiet writing about rural places is something many of them like to do.


I loved the illustrations in Flo and the messages–enjoy the little things in life, march to the beat of your own drummer, take your time and notice what’s around you–resonated with me, but the writing often felt underdeveloped and choppy.


I hope Junot Diaz’s first picture book won’t be his last, as Islandborn is pretty stunning. Lola has been tasked with an assignment to draw a picture of where her family is from, but she moved to New York as a baby and doesn’t remember anything about her island. She begins asking her relatives and neighbors for their memories and creates rich, vibrant drawings from their words and her imagination. There’s a powerful message here about home and identity, but conveyed with a light hand. I also appreciate that Diaz doesn’t shy away from what may have been hard about home. After all, people often immigrate because home isn’t safe.  I will say that I think the book has too many words. Good picture book writing is closer to poetry than prose, and Diaz writes like a dream, so a bit of tightening would go a long way here.






19 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 4/23/18”

  1. lindabaie Avatar

    The Tea Dragon Society sounds clever in its new ideas about what happens in this world, will look for it! I’m glad you found All The Places to Love. Patricia Maclachlan’s books so often hit the right tone of good things in our world. And as you know I shared Island Born today, too, awesome book. Wouldn’t it be fun to read and have kids write their own stories? Thanks, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I know I’ve missed other Maclachlan titles. Might have to go back through and read her books that I’ve missed. “What You Know First” is still my absolute favorite. I hope you are able to find Tea Dragon Society and enjoy it. Might be one the grandgirls would enjoy too.

      1. lindabaie Avatar

        Yes, “What You Know First” is one I keep and re-read, have used so much with students & inspiring prose and poetry.

  2. 2shaye Avatar

    I’m so glad you discussed The Tea Dragon Society, this week. I’ve heard about it a time or two before, but finally added it to my TBR list this week. It sounds wonderful! I’ve also been looking forward to Islandborn for a while. I’m glad to hear it didn’t shy away from potential reasons for immigration. It’s important to know that we can all honor our cultural identity while still appreciating that we’re in a new physical location for one reason or another. Have a great reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      And I noticed that almost none of the reviews I read talked about the darker, scarier side of why people become immigrants. “Beautiful, sweet story,” etc. But there is much more to it than that. Tea Dragon Society is a real treat, especially for those of us who enjoy a quieter story. Huge opportunity there for plushies as well!

  3. Akilah Avatar

    The Tea Dragon Society sounds lovely. Will add to the TBR. Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Very well worth a read! I am excited that another book by the same author-illustrator is waiting for me at the library today!

  4. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    All the Places to Love is lovely and a great mentor text. The Tea Dragon book is new to me. It sounds interesting!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Definitely see if you can find Tea Dragon Society–really delightful, and quite interesting in terms of diversity (even though the characters aren’t exactly always human) and in terms of the message about heritage and culture.

  5. Michele Avatar

    I absolutely loved Islandborn, but I will say it is wordy. I noticed it while reading it, but I also used it as a read aloud and felt the same way.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I ended up reading it aloud to my son because he wanted me to read a chapter in a book (but I didn’t have anything handy) and Islandborn was as long as a book chapter! So it worked for him, but yes, I found myself wanting to cut words as I was reading aloud, just to tighten and focus. There are a lot of dialogue moments that could be cut–lots of thank yous and questions that are clear from the rest of the story. Still, really wonderful.

  6. Kellee Moye Avatar

    I agree about Islandborn. It is wonderful! What an amazing tribute to heritage.
    I haven’t read a ton of Andrew Clements, but every time I hear about his books, I realize that I should read more to book talk them.

    Happy reading this week 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am not sure I will read more Clements, but I do love Frindle and No Talking (and Dogku!). I’ve read another few as well and I think I’ve decided that’s enough for book talking from now on! LOL.

  7. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    Islandborn sounds amazing – definitely adding it to our TBR pile.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s wonderful! And a fine read-aloud too.

  8. cweichel Avatar

    I am still waiting for my library to bring in Islandborn, but am excited that there are multiple copies of The Tea Dragon Society. Now if only I could get my existing piles of books under control.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Tea Dragon Society is a quick read–it’s as much a long picture book as it is a graphic novel. It will only take you a few minutes, though I did spend quite awhile enjoying the illustrations, which are a bit anime-inspired, I think, and so lovely. I know just what you mean about getting existing piles under control. My dining room is out of control right now! And with this poetry challenge, I’m just not reading as much as usual.

  9. Myra GB Avatar

    All The Places To Love is a favourite – and I hope that our libraries will have Islandborn soonest. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s really lovely, Myra. Probably one I’m going to have to buy. I need to buy All the Places to Love too. I pull out her What You Know First as a writing prompt all the time.

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