It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/4/19

In reading:

Meet Me at the Museum was a recommendation on the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast and the choice my mother and I made for the epistolary novel category of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, which we are completing together this year. I was looking for a readalike for 84 Charing Cross Road or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Meet Me at the Museum isn’t exactly that, but there is something similar in its tone, pacing, and wistful optimism. It is a gentle and quiet book in which not that much happens, but through connection and letters, lives are transformed. The plot is simple: Tina Hopgood, a farmer’s wife in England, writes to the curator of the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark to inquire after an exhibit. He writes back, and they strike up a correspondence through which they share observations about their daily lives as well as stories of their pasts. I read it slowly, as it didn’t seem like the kind of book you need to rush through.

It must be the week of gentle books, because here is another one. Saving Winslow is the story of a boy who adopts a sickly newborn donkey that no one else thinks will survive. It’s a heartwarming and uplifting story, so I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the donkey not only survives but thrives. This is one of those Sharon Creech books where the characters seem more symbolic than fully realistic, and normally that bothers me, but somehow it works better for me when the plot focuses on an animal. It’s a charming story with enough secondary drama through some of the secondary characters to keep the pages turning.

And now for gentle book number three: Katie O’Neill’s Aquicorn Cove. I am just the slightest bit obsessed with her earlier graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society, and Aquicorn Cove shares some of the themes and character types that made Tea Dragon so memorable. Again there is a focus on tradition and old ways that preserve rather than exploit the natural world. Again there are strong family relationships and characters that confound stereotype. There is a stronger environmental theme here, as well as a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of grief.

Son of the Mob was my latest read-aloud with my son, and it’s Gordon Korman at his best–a clever hook (reluctant Mafia son Vince falls in love with FBI daughter Kendra), plenty of funny dialogue, and a page-turning plot. I’ve got exactly three accents I can pull off when I do read-alouds: robot, pirate, and wise guy. It’s always tricky when there’s more than one special accent needed in a book. One pirate, sure, but a whole ship of them? That’s hard. I felt like I was channeling my inner Jim Dale to manage not one but five different Long Island-accented character voices for this book! I don’t think my son even noticed, but at least I was impressed by my own performance.

I read this a couple of days before the Caldecott announcements, and while I loved it, I never ever would have picked it as a Caldecott contender. I saw it on only one or two Mock Caldecott lists, so it seems that it was a surprise all around. (Big kudos to the teacher and elementary class who not only included Rough Patch in their study but also selected it as an Honor book!) I always like a surprise Caldecott, and I think this is a strong title and especially interesting in its use of white space that almost pauses the story.

Fox the Tiger won the Geisel Award, and I was very pleased to be introduced to this new-to-me series. I think these early readers must be so hard to write, and this one manages to be clever, funny, smart, and even convey a message about being yourself.

Tiger Vs Nightmare was a Geisel Honor, and it’s one thing I rarely say about a Geisel: gorgeous. Those panels depicting Tiger’s nightmares are a wow. I love the unexpected plot twists here.

A different King and Kayla title won a Geisel Honor, and while I’m waiting for that book to come in from the library, I checked out King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code. I hope all of the books in the series are as good as this one, because this one was hilarious. The story is narrated by the long-suffering King, who loves his humans even though they’re clearly a bit dim and can’t ever understand what he’s trying to communicate to them. He solves the case right away and then has to watch the humans bumble through the clues. Really clever writing by Dori Hillested Butler.





17 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/4/19”

  1. lindabaie Avatar

    I noted “Meet Me At The Museum”, maybe someday! And I noted the Creech book, already had the award winners on my list. I’m often looking for new ones for my first-grade granddaughter! The Katie O’Neil books are new to me, must have missed your earlier sharing. I’ll look for them. I loved The Rough Patch, wonder though how many will share it with their classes? I guess it depends on what they know about their students. Thanks, Elisabeth. I love hearing about your read aloud accents!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I do think you would enjoy Meet Me at the Museum, but of course there is only so much time for books for grown-ups amidst all our kids and YA reading! I recommend Tea Dragon Society first, as I do think it’s the stronger title, but Aquicorn Cove is lovely. I hadn’t really thought about The Rough Patch’s potential triggers for children, as I didn’t have it on a Mock Caldecott radar at all. I want to reread it before returning to the library and view it through that lens.

  2. Shaye Miller Avatar

    Ah, I read a Gordon Korman book this week, too. I’m not familiar with the Son of a Mob series — must look this one up to learn more. So glad you enjoyed Saving Winslow! I think I mentioned this before, but it wasn’t until I was into the story that it occurred to me that it was a donkey on the cover of the book (and not a dog as I kept thinking). I seriously start many books and barely know what they’re about. LOL

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That is so funny, Shaye. I can totally relate to starting so many books and having no clue what some of them are even about! From a distance, it definitely looks like a small dog. Son of a Mob was really fun, though i don’t know that we’ll read the sequel. Maybe?

  3. Akilah Avatar

    Son of the Mob is so fun! I put together my rec list for my children’s lit class last week, and that’s totally on there.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love Gordon Korman. I booktalked Restart today in my Children’s Lit class and it was snapped right up. His books practically book talk themselves! I need to finish The Unteachables and bring that in too. (And now I totally want to see those rec lists!)

  4. cweichel Avatar

    I just put a hold on Fox the Tiger. I agree that getting these books right so that beginning readers want to come back for more must be a huge challenge. The best of them are ones even older folks like me enjoy reading. Saving Winslow will be my next audiobook. I liked Aquicorn Cove better than Tea Dragon Society although both books are gorgeous.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh, I love that you liked Aquicorn even more than Tea Dragon! I am already looking forward to the next Katie O’Neal. I think Saving Winslow would be excellent on audio.

  5. Jana Eschner Avatar
    Jana Eschner

    The Rough Patch is a beautiful book. It deals with grief and a very sad topic in a way that kids will be able to appreciate and understand. I like that it leaves readers feeling hopeful that everything will be all right. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I thought so too. I was very impressed by how Lies handled such a difficult subject. It’s sad, but not overwhelmingly so, and there is space for the reader to grieve too.

  6. Mikaela Stephenson Avatar

    I’ve never heard of Saving Winslow, but it’s definitely on my TBR list now. The cover art is adorable which immediately pulls me in, and having a light read is always nice. I think, a lot of the time, people don’t look at light reading and important, but it’s so critical to fuel your happy emotions with cute books that remind you of wonder, simple things in the world.
    Happy reading this week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I think this is one reason I love middle-grade so much: it’s a world where there is still hope. And so often in YA, all hope seems lost forever, LOL. And I like that in middle-grade, there is a lightness to the treatment of even difficult topics.

  7. crbrunelle Avatar

    Too funny! My school DID select The Rough Patch as an honor book in our Mock Caldecott. 🙂 It was quite a heartbreaker, but they really appreciated the art too. We did have a few eyes being rubbed here and there. I’ll have to look for Aquicorn Cove.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That’s wonderful! Your school was very informed. How exciting for the students to select it as an Honor Book and then have it announced as an Honor book!

  8. readingteachsu Avatar

    Love Kayla & King for many reasons. The Rough Patch perhaps is there for its interesting perspective. Meet me at the Museum is on my virtual TBR pile. I love the recommendations of Tiger books. Can’t wait to read and share.

  9. aaroncleaveley Avatar

    I have had a few kids really enjoy the two Son of the Mob books, but I haven’t actually read them. The hook does seem like a good one.
    We need to find a picture book where robots serve on the crew of a pirate ship, but it gets boarded by some wise guys. Then, you could read it to all of us using your accents.
    Thanks for the great post, the gentle books look good as well and I am adding Tiger vs. Nightmare as I think it will be a good graphic option for younger students.

  10. Myra GB Avatar

    I like that you mentioned reading with ‘accents.’ My 17 year old daughter and I are reading Dread Nation – and I am failing miserably at the Southern sheriff accent – but having an uproarious time doing it. My daughter in stitches while she is understandably embarrassed by her mother’s dismal performance. 🙂 But yes, it’s all in the attempt, I feel. I like the sound of ‘gentle’ books. We need more of those. 🙂

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