It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/7/18


On the blog:

you go first

Another winning middle-grade novel from Erin Entrada Kelly, You Go First weaves together the stories of two middle-schoolers who only know each other online through a Scrabble game they play. They do strike up more of a friendship over the course of the novel, but the book is really about what’s going on with their families, friends, and school. And there is a lot going on. But Kelly can somehow pull off all that storyline and plot and still make this feel like a quiet, gentle novel.

sea otter heroes

Sea otters save the world! I had no idea that sea otters were the key to saving ocean ecosystems, and that’s not exactly what this book claims–but almost. It turns out that apex predators are very, very important to their ecosystems, and that ecosystems tend to collapse without them. And that’s what Sea Otter Heroes is really about: ecosystems. The scientist at the center isn’t studying sea otters at all: he’s studying seagrass. Which is much less delightful than sea otters. But Patricia Newman manages to make even seagrass seem engaging. There is a compelling mystery at the heart of Sea Otter Heroes, and it’s hard to imagine the child who wouldn’t read this book and think that science is pretty exciting stuff.

eugenia lincoln

Eugenia Lincoln smiles. More than once! Eugenia Lincoln is happy. Not at first, of course. At first, she is very, very cranky. But keep reading, because Eugenia Lincoln discovers the music of her heart. Who would have guessed it was possible? My new favorite in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series.

babymonkey privateeye

Brian Selznick and David Serlin take repeated structure just about as far as it can go in this charming early reader, as Baby Monkey solves crime after crime following the exact same steps. It might be tedious–except that Selznick’s illustrations change just enough to keep the reader entirely engaged through reading the same story in chapter after chapter. The final chapter shakes things up in a surprisingly heartfelt way. I appreciated the Key to Monkey’s Office at the end which shows how the wall art, books, and objects in the office change at the beginning of each chapter to reflect that particular “crime.”

a lion in paris

A Lion in Paris is a gorgeous object, delightful for the reader though frustrating for the book shelver, because it is gigantic and its oversized dimensions make it an impossible fit on any of my shelves. The storyline worked for me: a bored lion decides to leave the savanna and travel to Paris to explore a different place. He goes through the usual emotions of a newcomer–fears, confusion, followed by appreciation and comfort as he gets to know the place. The illustrations did not always entirely work for me, though I appreciate their inventiveness. There were a couple that I really loved (the cover spread as well as a spread where the lion turns gray in the rain), but I found the mix of collage and drawing a little off-putting here, even though it’s generally a style I really like. I think it’s because the drawing was so beautiful and dreamy to me and the often weird and even ugly cut-outs distracted me from the drawing. But I think that was probably the point–to juxtapose the dreamy landscape with the very human cut-outs. In any case, Alemagna continues to be a really exciting writer/illustrator to me.





23 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/7/18”

  1. 2shaye Avatar

    I keep reading about Baby Monkey, Private Eye and it sounds super cute and inventive. And I haven’t yet read any of the Deckawoo Drive Series, but I adore Kate DiCamillo and really should bump book #1 up on my TBR list. Have a great reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Have you read the Mercy Watson books? Once you’ve done all those, you should definitely start with Deckawoo Drive. My son would still be thrilled to see a new Mercy Watson book! In fact, I got to read half of Eugenia Lincoln aloud to him (but then finished it up on my own–unfortunately because he would have loved the message in the second half).

  2. lindabaie Avatar

    Well, you may remember how much my kindergarten granddaughter loves Baby Monkey, Private Eye & I did, too. I am really looking forward to You Go First. I do like Kelly’s writing. And the Eugenia Lincoln story is sweet and funny. Thanks, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Baby Monkey really crept up on me–I wasn’t sure I was going to like it that much, but then the scenes of Baby Monkey struggling to get his pants on in every chapter were so hilarious to me. I still have one Erin Estrada Kelly novel to read (Land of Forgotten Girls) so will probably get to that one this summer–so clearly she needs to write a bunch more!

  3. Jane the Raincity Librarian Avatar

    Baby Monkey, Private Eye is such a strange book – I really didn’t know what to make of it! I think it’s fantastic, but I don’t know how often it’s been checked out, I’d really like to see what kids think of it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was also wondering what kids would think of it. I wish I had read it in time to book talk in my Children’s Lit class, as I know several students would have enjoyed it. But of course those aren’t actual children!

  4. Akilah Avatar

    An online friendship built through Scrabble??? It’s like that book is written just for me.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s a good novel. Erin Estrada Kelly is writing the best middle-grade right now–but then I love a quieter, more reflective middle-grade story.

  5. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    We just read You Come First and will be blogging about it very soon. It seems like a perfect read aloud for third graders. It is such an engaging story that we think many students can relate to the characters.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      There is so much there to talk and think about and so many friend situations, especially, that I think would really resonate with kids.

  6. cweichel Avatar

    I loved reading your student’s top ten. I’ve flagged the two that you haven’t read to read as well. I still haven’t gotten to Long Way Down either. I keep thinking that if I dither long enough it will be available from my library as an audiobook.
    Do you think that the most recent Deckawoo Drive book will inevitably be our favourite in the series? That’s how it’s been for me so far.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Ha, yes! That’s what has happened to me with every new Deckawoo Drive book too! I think Jason Reynolds reads the audio of Long Way Down. One of my students listened to it in that format and LOVED it. So that would be a good choice. And probably still a very quick read.

  7. Kellee Moye Avatar

    Oh man, Baby Monkey Private Eye was a constant in my life for a few weeks. Trent LOVES him and his story.
    And wasn’t Sea Otter interesting?!?!
    And thank you for sharing the top 10 list. I haven’t read some on the list :-O

    Happy reading this week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love hearing about real life book experiments on real life children! Thanks for sharing Trent’s obsession. There is so much there to appeal to a child’s eye, I think. And I’m still thinking about the Sea Otters book. So fascinating!

  8. aaroncleaveley Avatar

    Thanks for the great post. I kind of agree with what your students wrote about The Book of Mistakes. I agree with you about Eugenia Lincoln. I think Cheriee is right about the series. As we learn more about the characters, we can’t help but love them more, so the latest book is always going to be the best!
    I am adding You Go First to my list, thanks for the reminder on that one.
    This is the first time I have read your blog since reading the rest of the Harry Potter series, which I feel enhances my ability to see its brilliance.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL! It’s funny: I liked Book of Mistakes when I read it, but I didn’t fall hard for it until my students just lost their minds over it and couldn’t stop talking about it and pointing out all its greatness. I ended up also disappointed it didn’t get a Caldecott because I think it does something really special and innovative.

  9. readingteachsu Avatar

    I had to read Baby Monkey a few times, fascinated by all this not so simple book offers.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I had to go back and look at the office pictures after discovering Selznick’s key at the end. So clever!

  10. Jana Eschner Avatar
    Jana Eschner

    I loved Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package. This is an awesome series by Kate DiCamillo. Have a great week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Isn’t it so great? I think about Mercy every time I eat toast.

  11. Myra GB Avatar

    Beatrice Alemagna is one of my absolute fave artists – I love her strangeness. You Go First is on my radar, glad to read that you enjoyed it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      She is so innovative, and yes, there is a strangeness to her art that’s both really appealing to me and slightly off-putting, LOL.

  12. Michele Avatar

    I ended up getting You Go First from the library – I’m hoping to get to it this week. I didn’t particularly love Hello Universe so I wasn’t sure what my feelings would be for her newest!
    And always happy to hear I’m adding books to your TBR 🙂 mine grows every week!

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