It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/21/18


On the blog:

  •  A list of 5 things I would like to do more often
  • A review of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s new PD book, 180 Days
  • Suggestions for what to read next if you or your students loved One for the Murphys

In reading:


I couldn’t have chosen a better book than Jackaby for the first read of my summer book gap challenge (children’s and YA mystery–mostly focusing on diverse books, which Jackaby is not). I thought I didn’t like mysteries, but I liked this book so much that I may have to reconsider my preferences. Book reviewers can’t seem to resist the catchy TV tagline for the series: “Sherlock Holmes meets Dr Who” or “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Either of which would have been right up my alley. The plot is fine but it’s the characters (including Jackaby’s nearly sentient house), dialogue, and description that keep the reader engaged. Well-written, good fun, not too grisly.

quiet girl in noisy world

Debbie Tung’s graphic novel, Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, is a series of sketches and comics that explores what it’s like to be very introverted in a world where extraverts seem to dominate. I felt sad that Tung fought against her nature for so long in this story, forcing herself to go to parties and hang out in large social groups even though she found herself absolutely drained afterwards. The open plan space of the new job she gets after grad school is one of my own personal ideas of hell. Give me office doors that CLOSE! It’s not until page 149 of this 177-page book that she takes the Myers-Briggs, discovers that she is an INFJ personality type, and embraces her strengths. Tung’s drawings are delicate and gently humorous. A story about discovering and being true to yourself.

la la la

I loved Jaime Kim’s art and I thought that Kate DiCamillo’s concept was strong, but La La La didn’t quite work for me.  It’s one I’d like to read to actual children to see how it works for them.

rescue and jessica

I really liked Rescue & Jessica, the true story of double amputee Jessica Kensky, who lost her legs after being injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, and her rescue dog, aptly named Rescue. Scott Magoon’s illustrations are superb, and the text is surprisingly well written. I especially loved the attention to parallel structure in weaving Jessica’s story with Rescue’s story. This would make a good mentor text. The text is a bit longer than I usually prefer in a picture book, but the length didn’t bother me at all here because all of the details seemed interesting and necessary. There is a simplicity and elegance to the writing, and it’s a genuinely moving and important story.

ruth bader ginsberg

I hope Ruth Bader Ginsburg lives and works forever! Jonah Winter’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G vs Inequality makes a nice pairing with Debbie Levy’s I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (which I think I prefer, though both books are very good). Stacy Innerst’s illustrations are especially strong here. There is excellent back matter. Again, the text is a bit lengthy, but here it works.

Recommendation Request: And in other reading news, my son has asked me to start reading aloud to him again a few nights a week, and I am struggling to find books, so I would be grateful for any suggestions. I LOVE book matchmaking and consider it a strength, so I’m frustrated at my inability to find that just right book for him. The problem is that he is YA age with middle-grade sensibilities. Middle-grade feels juvenile to him, but YA is often too bleak and harsh and upsetting, especially as a before-bed read. I’ve been striking out left and right this week. Are there YA novels for delicate sensibilities? We started Kwame Alexander’s Rebound last night, which I thought might be that just right book, but then the character’s father dies (sorry if that’s a spoiler, but it happens in the first fifteen pages of the book, so the story won’t be spoiled for you for long). My son said, “Wait. Did the dad just die?” “Um, yeah?” “Oh my God.” And I swear he fell instantly asleep in shock. Sigh.







31 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/21/18”

  1. lindabaie Avatar

    I will find “A Quiet Girl In A Noisy World”, sounds like one that I will feel a kinship with! I too hope that RBG lives forever, at least for 3 more years! As for middle grade/YA – Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury was a favorite of some of my students. And I think Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit might work. It has some mystery but is not too scary. Also, does it have to be fiction? It might be fun to read The Boys In The Boat, exciting and interesting. Best wishes in finding a good one!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Hear hear to 3 more years for RBG!!! This particular PB bio made me want to sit down and read some of her dissenting decisions. I might try to do that over the summer. I think she has written a book too that I should probably look into. Such a fascinating thinker! Thank you so much for the recommendations! It does not need to be nonfiction–I had actually thought about Boys in the Boat but know nothing about it. Will definitely look for that one now! We are also taking a road trip later this summer and love to listen to audiobooks on road trips, so this might be a great one for our trip too! I know I had Cloud & Wallfish from the library at some point but never got around to it… will have to get it again and try that one.

  2. elsie Avatar

    Have you read K. A. Holt’s House Arrest and Knockout? They are written in verse, so they would go fast. How about Scheinkin’s book Bomb.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Great suggestions! We did read House Arrest last year and liked it. Had totally forgotten about that author! Bomb is also a great idea–I LOVED that book when I read it a few years back, and it’s quite the page turner.

  3. 2shaye Avatar

    These all look wonderful, Elisabeth. I haven’t read any of them, but already had some on my TBR list. I’m adding Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G vs Inequality for sure!

    My mom is really into mysteries, but for some reason I’ve held back on my impulses to read many. I like my books like I like my TV series — I binge until I’m finished. And I fear that if I find a good mystery series, I’d never sleep until I finished. My brother recommended the Alex Rider series and my son has taken off with it, so perhaps I should give it a try since we now own all but the last three books in the series.

    Your son’s reaction just hit me right in the heart. Poor guy! You’re an amazing book matchmaker, so I don’t feel worthy to attempt the job if you cannot. Every time I think of something that might work in YA, I remember something very sad or gruesome that happens. Even Endling (which I mentioned as reading more like a YA book) has a super sad event in the first quarter that would probably be upsetting for delicate sensibilities. Even though Applegate doesn’t linger on the scene very long, I’m pretty sure my oldest boy would cry and need to stop and talk about it. So far I am enjoying Chronicle of the Dark Star series which is listed as MGlit but seems slightly more mature. We’ll see what I think once I finish this second book. Your kiddo is so lucky to have your guidance, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My mom also reads a lot of mystery, but I think I just don’t enjoy suspenseful books very much. And good point about the bingeworthiness of it–that might be why I don’t enjoy it. I NEED to be able to put a book down and do other things, like SLEEP. The Alex Rider series is one that I should probably know a bit better, though. Maybe I’ll try to read the first one this summer. I felt very bad for my poor soon! Though I will say that since we got the death over with quickly, he has asked to return to Rebound and keep reading, so we’re reading a few pages a night. It’s nice to be reading together again!

  4. msyingling Avatar

    Since I’m in a middle school, I have a lot of books with YA characters that are a bit more gentle. I loved Hautman’s Slider, Currinder’s Running Full Tilt, ANYTHING by Sonnenblick (although you might pass on The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade), and the new Boy Bites Bug by Petruck. Key’s Fourmile is excellent as well. THere are a good number of these, so if you need more (or these aren’t quite right), let me know!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Awesome list–and, except for Sonnenblick, 100% new to me books! Thank you! A couple of my son’s all-time favorites are books I found based on your Goodreads recommendations, so I bet these will be good fits for him.

  5. aaroncleaveley Avatar

    I really liked Jackaby although I haven’t really found as much of an audience with my fifth to seventh graders as I would like. I was really happy to see someone else reading it. You know that feeling you get when a book you really like is FINALLY being read by someone else. It is the best feeling.
    It really distracted me from the rest of your great post for a while. I really like the looks of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and should probably take that test you mentioned. That strikes me as the kind of book that might not get a lot of reads in a library but would have quite an impact for some that do read it.
    How lucky for your son that he has you as a resource! (and also you for having a YA reader that still wants to read with you- I am hoping for that but my 10 year old has me doubting that we will make 13) Some MG/YA books I have read recently that I might suggest are If I Ever Get Out of Here, The Traitor’s Game (similar to The False Prince but more YA, which I am thinking you had read together?), The Rule of Three and Lockwood and Co. are dystopian type series that I did not find as bleak as many YA types and straddle the MG crowd. A lot of Scott Westerfeld books are like that for me too. Uglies and Zeroes come to mind. It sounds tough to me when readers straddle the conventional categories of book marketing so I am really interested to hear what others find (I love the suggestions of House Arrest and Last Day on Mars too). I feel like my child is moving that way too even though she is not yet 11. MG is feeling too young, but she is not ready for YA.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I haven’t seen anyone read Jackaby either! In fact, I discovered it on the What to Read Next podcast, which is not even about YA or kids lit. It’s really delightful! I started the second book right away and am enjoying that one too. If I Ever Get Out of Here is a brilliant choice–I’d totally forgotten about that book! I think he would love it. Writing down your other recs too–I’ve got a fun library trip coming up with all these great book recs! Until I started trying to find just right books for my son, I really thought that middle-grade and YA covered the needs of all readers ages 10-18, but now I’m seeing that it really doesn’t, and I’m sure my son is not the only reader who is put off by the often relentless bleakness and/or overly ironic voice of so much YA but feels too mature for middle-grade. As I was thinking about this over the week, I realized that the sensibility, world view, and voice of YA romance is actually PERFECT for him, but he would never want to read those books either because of the plots. There seems to be a real lack of more light-hearted but not too ironic YA “boy books.” I also think something changes about the readaloudability of books with the shift from middle-grade to YA. Nearly every middle-grade we ever read worked really well as a read-aloud, but we have started many YAs which just haven’t sounded very good read aloud. I do hope that your children will surprise you and want to keep reading aloud together. Would they enjoy reading to you? I remember as a teen that I loved reading aloud to my mom, and so we kept reading together throughout my teen years even though I probably would have been appalled had she suggested reading to me!

  6. Akilah Avatar

    Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and following books, maybe?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Wonderful suggestion! I tried reading The Thief a year or so ago and he had trouble following it–but that was because he kept falling asleep! We might try that one on audio…. it’s my very favorite series EVER and I would like to be able to share it with him.

      1. Akilah Avatar

        Also, Shannon Hale’s books are great. Has he aged up on Gordon Korman books? GK’s catalog is pretty extensive, so if he’s ready to move up, he might like Son of the Mob, etc. (I don’t think anyone dies in those books, but I could be wrong.) The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom series? Walter Dean Myers’s Slam and Handbook for Boys don’t have death or drug abuse, I don’t think.

        You’re so well read that it’s hard for me to know if you’ve read something or not!

    2. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’d forgotten about Son of the Mob! Very funny…. Will try that one. You really get him as a reader, because he LOVED Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom–probably his favorite books of all time. Christopher Healy needs to write like 10 more books TODAY.

      1. Akilah Avatar

        Jaclyn Moriarty? I would skip Feeling Sorry for Celia (there’s either a pet death or pet accident), but the rest of her books, esp. her Colors of Madeleine trilogy are pretty ace.

  7. Lisa Maucione (@DrLMaucione) Avatar

    Quiet Girl in a Noisy World sounds interesting. It made think of Susan Caine’s TED Talk on the power of introverts. Rescue and Jessica is just beautiful!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was so impressed by Rescue & Jessica! Quiet Girl also made me think of Susan Caine’s work. I think all introverts everywhere will find something to connect to with Quiet Girl.

  8. Michele Avatar

    How about The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Dranaan or a Watt Key book?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Loved The Running Dream and think that would be a great fit for him. I wasn’t familiar with Watt Key, so I just looked up his books–they look like they’d be terrific matches for my college students who are huge Hatchet fans too! Thanks for these ideas!

  9. Kellee Moye Avatar

    I love RBG! I need to read this picture book bio 🙂

    Happy reading this week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      You’ll love it! RBG is THE GREATEST!

  10. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    We got to meet the authors of Rescue and Jessica – What an incredible book. Definitely a mentor text for writing workshop.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      What a treat! I was very impressed by the book. So well written and of course an incredibly powerful story.

  11. Amanda Potts Avatar

    I’ve put Jackaby on my to-read list. I love mysteries! I recently read La La La to my 7-year-old and he really liked it (even though my reaction was much like yours). Go figure. Both of my boys (7 &9) also liked RBG vs Inequality. They were outraged by some of it, but in a good way. As for your son… one of my sisters and my niece went through times when they did not want to read about “horrible things” so I’ve put out a request for suggestions. That said, here are some of my thoughts. Gordon Korman’s early stuff is really funny & mostly set in high school. I laughed out loud at I Want to Go Home and the MacDonald Hall series is quick and hilarious (even if some of the pranks are dated by lack of technology). Then I got to thinking about funny, and I wondered… if you’re reading aloud… why not some Mark Twain? Tom Sawyer is loads of fun, but so is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper. You could try a short story like the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County to see if it hits his funny bone.Maybe John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines? Or the middle-grade When You Reach Me which is intriguing even if the protagonists are in middle school (I think). And now I need to go to sleep! I’ll keep thinking..

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think you’ll like Jackaby–and so far, the second book is also very good. La La La was kind of a head scratcher for me, but I love hearing that it kid tested well with your son! Gordon Korman is a genius suggestion. I read Son of Interflux to him last year (one of my own favorite books when I was a teen reader), and he thought it was hysterical. I should try some of the others. I haven’t even read I Want to Go Home or the MacDonald Hall series myself. Korman is so prolific. I hadn’t thought about trying something more classic with him, but it’s definitely an idea to pursue! Thank you!

      1. Amanda Potts Avatar

        One more idea: Jan Karon’s Mitford series – granted, the main character is an adult, but it’s gentle and funny. The main character is a rector, so there’s definitely a Christian viewpoint, but I didn’t find it too overwhelming – then again, I did grow up in South Carolina…(

  12. Trina Haase Avatar
    Trina Haase

    Oh, these books look fantastic! I need to head over to my library soon! I have a few friends who read Jackaby and liked it. But I am the most interested in the graphic novel about the introvert.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Quiet Girl is a very quick read and while some of the comics are repetitive (it’s clearly a collection of shorts), I didn’t really mind.

      1. Trina Haase Avatar
        Trina Haase

        I already have it on hold at the library! I am excited to read this one!

  13. Myra GB Avatar

    I had to laugh at the immediately dozing off after death scene. I had the same issue with my 16 year old girl as we do read aloud together from novels. I also struck out a fair bit after we started reading Beloved by Toni Morrison and she was traumatized by the first few pages, and we had to abandon it. We also read together Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy which was so-so for her. She can’t stand the mushy scenes. A good fit, for her at least, was when we read Tuesdays with Morrie – she said she wants more inspirational stories like that – but still may be morbid for your tweener. We tried reading By the river piedra i sat down and wept by Paulo Coelho but she found it laughable and weird – thing is I remembered loving it in my 20s but re-reading it with her made me wonder why I found it so riveting back then. Now I’m off to find Jackaby.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My son can’t stand mushy scenes either, so that also eliminates a big chunk of YA. SIGH. He certainly challenges my matchmaking skills! I hadn’t really considered inspirational stories because I don’t read them myself, but I think my son would really enjoy that sort of thing, at least based on the TV he likes. That’s a really good avenue for me to pursue…. I wonder if he could comprehend Tuesdays with Morrie. An additional challenge for him is reading and comprehension level, so some of the YA books he might enjoy plot- and character-wise are just a little too complex, even for comprehending as a read aloud. Your poor daughter, traumatized by Beloved! It is so interesting to try to find these just right books for our strongly opinionated readers!

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