It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/3/18



David Sedaris’s new collection of essays, Calypso, might be my favorite. (If you’re new to Sedaris’s work, though, try Me Talk Pretty One Day or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim first). There is a vulnerability and unresolved sadness to some of these pieces that I think he tends to polish into something harder and edgier in most of his earlier work. These pieces have the trademark Sedaris wit and bite but many of them have something more as well. Vulnerability is the closest I can come to capturing what that is–the vulnerability of feeling deeply and exposing those feelings, of sitting with losses that can’t be understood, of finding a way to capture the raw pain of grief.

what to do when i'm gone

What to Do When I’m Gone is really wonderful. It’s a collaboration between a mother, who writes the text, and a daughter, who illustrates it, and it consists of the reminders, advice, lessons, comfort and more that a mother leaves to her daughter after she dies. There is wit and wisdom as well as poignancy. It’s hard to write well about grief and keeping on, I think, but this book does it very well. (And now a message to my own mother: Mom, where is the book about adulting that I need you to write for me??

for everyone

A slim little poem-letter-essay about having dreams and holding onto dreams and keeping on even when you don’t make it in the way you thought you would. Takes just a few minutes to read, and will probably please all the Jason Reynolds fans out there.

van gogh cafe

What an odd little book! I have to confess, I have no idea what to say about The Van Gogh Cafe. As always with a Cynthia Rylant book, there were sentences that stopped me in my tracks with their craft and beauty. It’s a very short (not even 60 pages) and focuses on magical happenings at a cafe in Flowers, Kansas. There are two main characters, a father and a daughter, though they are not really developed into characters. It’s a book that’s more about ideas and images than plot and people. I expect that you could have interesting conversations about the book with a group of children, but I am not sure it would ever be my choice as a read-aloud.

all around us

I was so overpowered by the paintings in All Around Us that I could hardly pay attention to the text. But that’s quite lovely too. There is a grandfather who shows his granddaughter how to honor the earth and find beauty, joy, and meaning all around her in simple things. It’s a story that emerges from the author’s cultural background and has something wise to say to all of us.

my hair is a garden

I loved the art and the message in My Hair Is a Garden, and the text really worked for me once the metaphor took over. But I wish the metaphor had controlled the text all the way through, as certain passages towards the beginning felt overlong and wordy and not quite as artfully crafted.

julian is a mermaid

Picture book perfection. The whole experience of this book, down to the feel of the paper itself, was perfect. One I really want to share with my preservice teachers but they are going to have to get out of their seats and huddle close so they can see the details of the illustrations. The powerful message of acceptance here is handled with such subtlety, largely through the illustrations and a very few words from the grandmother.

saturday is swimming day

A story so many of us can relate to–being afraid to try something new and then slowly learning the skills we need, thanks to the support and patience of a mentor/teacher.


the day you begin

The Day You Begin is a powerful book (beautifully illustrated by Rafael Lopez too) about finding a place in a community when you initially feel like an outsider. I love that Woodson includes so many different examples of what might make a child feel different or insecure about his or her story and then shows the path to belonging–making connections, finding ways we’re similar, being curious about difference.

24 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 9/3/18”

  1. Many books to look for & to celebrate here, Elisabeth. I still need to read My Hair Is A Garden & just got The Day You Begin, enjoyed For Everyone & you’re so right, Julian Is A Mermaid is marvelous. I liked hearing about The Van Gogh Cafe from you. It is an old favorite of mine & I have used it as a read aloud. We had good conversations about it, the mystery of it. Thanks for all. I have so little time to read everything, but the Sedaris book sounds good, too!

    • I am so glad you and Margaret commented and shared that Van Gogh Cafe was a great read aloud for your classes. As I was reading it, I was trying to imagine it as a read-aloud and wondering what children would think. I just don’t know anyone who writes a sentence as well as Rylant does. If you’ve read other Sedaris and liked, I think Calypso is a must. I considered audio for it as I think he narrates but then succumbed to the library copy that became available!

  2. Van Gogh Café and All Around Us on my TBR. Read V. E. Schwab’s City of Ghosts. Atmospheric MG tale with interesting characters, a frightening villain, and an obvious passion for Edinburgh, Scotland. Reading To the River by Olivia Laing. This is my kind of book. Similar to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (one of my favorite books) and Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways (also a favorite). Often-exquisite prose about walking a path and what’s encountered during that walk. I will read more of Laing’s writings.

    • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is on my shelf of shame–those books I feel like I should have read and just never have for some reason. I just pulled it off the shelf last night and plan to start it tonight–so thanks for your comment and the reminder that I haven’t read it yet. I have one of Olivia Laing’s books. Maybe it’s To the River? I will have to find it. I am between books right now and both of these sound like excellent nighttime reading for me.

  3. Well, I’m envious. You are getting to so many of the books on my TBR list and just making me want them more. But What to Do When I’m Gone is new to me and sounds very special. I think I’m a little too vulnerable right this second with my most recent loss (and the crying I’ve done with my mom by phone and video chat). But very soon I must read this one (and probably send a special copy to my mom). Thank you for all the shares, friend. Have a wonderful reading week!!

  4. I wish I knew about Saturday is Swimming Day a few months ago. My oldest was scared to try swimming lessons and now he loves to swim. Maybe I’ll use this book when my youngest starts swimming lessons.

  5. I have used Van Gogh Cafe quite a few times as a read aloud. It works great because the kids can’t wait to see what will happen next. I even had a successful writing prompt when kids wrote another chapter. Cynthia Rylant is a favorite of mine. Have you ever read The Islander? Another small book by her that has magical realism.

  6. Julian. Ahh. I agree with you. It truly is picture book perfection. My Hair Is a Garden looks intriguing. I like your comment about the metaphor. I look forward to reading it, too.

  7. My Hair Is a Garden looks absolutely gorgeous – it is not available in our libraries yet, but am hoping it will be soonest. David Sedaris is coming to the Singapore Writers Festival in November – so am glad to see your recommendations on where I should begin reading first. Looking forward to hearing him speak.

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