It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/11/19

On the blog:

In reading:

I’ve been busy reading Newberys this week, as I hadn’t read the winner or two (only two?!) honor books. First up was the gold medal winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, which has been sitting on my shelf unread since it was first published. I’m grateful to have the Newbery push to get to it, because it’s really wonderful. There’s plenty to interest in the plot and a memorable setting in Florida, but this book is really all about character. Merci herself is a delight–funny, observant, curious, ambitious. And the secondary characters really shine–from Edna, the mean girl at school, to Lolo, her grandpa who is struggling with Alzheimer’s. When I started the book, I wondered why it had to be so long (trying to get through three Newberys quickly here), but by the end, I would have gladly read another hundred pages.

For those of you who are looking for a book idea, what about writing middle-grade or YA historical fiction set during World War I? I generally try to get my son out of his history textbook and into documentaries, picture books, or, occasionally, full-length history or historical fiction when I can, and a long road trip that coincided with the chapter on World War I seemed like the perfect time for a historical fiction audiobook. But I struggled to find anything written for kids or young adults (unless it was about the Christmas Day Truce. There are several good books about that.). I finally settled on Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, and while I found it overly plotted and sentimental, my son absolutely loved it. Like “maybe the best book I’ve ever read!” loved it. (It helped that the narrator was very good.) I always enjoy discovering new things about his reading interests and tastes. Interestingly, he’s had two “best books I’ve ever read” moments in the past few months, and both were emotional books about war.

Here is a book that shouldn’t have been remotely interesting to me but I could hardly put it down. Walkable City is one that Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy adores and plugs whenever she can. It took me awhile to decide to try it, because I didn’t think I had any interest in urban planning. (I live in western South Dakota, after all.) But Walkable City is deeply engaging, incredibly informative, and often very, very funny. Yes, it’s a book about how to make cities and cutesy downtown areas more walkable, but it’s also a book about how we can live better and more safely and how we can utilize public space more effectively and enjoyably.

The first thing that will strike you about The Lost Words is its size: it is massive, more like an atlas than a picture book. I have no idea how bookstores or libraries are going to shelve this thing. But they really must, because both words and art are extraordinary. This is a collection of acrostic poems written by Robert Macfarlane based on the forty or so nature words (many of them birds and animals) that were dropped from a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Jackie Morris contributes stunning realistic paintings.

What a bold and surprising book! Not at all what I was expecting from a picture book called The Funeral, but exactly what you would expect a child’s experience of a funeral to be like, especially when they barely know the person who has died.

With See Pip Flap, I’m rounding out my reading of the Geisel Award winners for 2019. I do not recommend reading this one out loud to the adults in your family who may cover their ears and begin making loud noises when you get to the page where you have to say the word flap a dozen or more times. Still, David Milgrim is able to do quite a lot in terms of telling a story with a severely limited vocabulary and set of sounds.

14 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 2/11/19

  1. Love hearing about War Horse, somehow I don’t remember it at all, but I’ve liked Morpurgo’s books in the past. I’m glad you enjoyed Merci Suarez. I had an advanced copy so had read it, am happy it won, well deserved. I just finished the 2 honor books, both good and all three are varied in story & format! I have The Lost Words, amazing book! And thanks for Walkable City, interesting to read about.

    • Denver gets high praise in Walkable City, of course, for the LoDo area and how that revitalized the city and made the whole of Denver feel more livable and walkable. I have several more of Morpurgo’s books checked out right now for us to try, given that emotional + animal seems to be a particular interest too. Merci was so wonderful! I also feel it deserved the win, and I’m glad it won over some of the other titles that I saw winning Mock Newberys.

  2. I was thinking about your son’s best books moments, too. It’s interesting how war really hits us in the heart, showing us our humanity and the important connections in life. I’ve been intrigued by The Funeral when it has come up in recent weeks — the title, of course, was a surprise. LOL I’m curious how you happened upon Walkable City. This is a new title to me (even though it’s been out for a while), but it sounds like our city planning committee might benefit from reading it as they are currently working on a new section in downtown specifically for walking. Or better yet, let’s just get you on that committee, Elisabeth!

    • I’m totally obsessed with the Modern Mrs Darcy blog and her podcast, What to Read Next, and she’s mentioned Walkable City several times (it just featured in a book list she created about urban planning titles too). I had to hear about it a few times before I decided I would actually try it, as it just didn’t seem to be my thing. But I loved all the research that was presented in such engaging writing–who knew traffic studies could be so fascinating?? I am looking forward to reading Speck’s new book. I realize that trying to keep things lighter and less triggering for my son–for understandable reasons–has meant that he hasn’t gotten to experience some books that might really be “just right” books for him. We are reading The Outsiders right now, and he is RIVETED. And it’s INTENSE! I will definitely be looking for more emotional titles for him.

  3. Okay, I admit it. I started typing a response to this post, and your review of SEE PIP FLAP sent me down a rabbit hole of early readers I’ve missed. The good news is that my library has it on reserve for me now, but the bad news is that I was a terrible friend and forgot to thank you for this post! ❤

  4. Your review immediately got me interested to read Merci Suarez – I was intrigued by the word Lolo for Abuelo or for Grandfather – because that is exactly how Filipinos refer to their grandfathers. Hmmm. Must find it and read it soonest! 🙂 I love reading about your son’s fascination with war stories – my 17 year old daughter and I are currently reading “Dread Nation” and we are LOVING it. 🙂

    • If it’s not too scary, this might be a good one for my son too. I think you will like Merci Suarez. I am hoping there will be another book about her. She’s a character I’d like to spend more time with. So glad this book won the Newbery since that made me move it way up on my TBR stack!

  5. I loved Merci so much. I’m not sure why Newbery never even crossed my mind while reading it. Maybe because it wasn’t on anyone’s lists? West Palm Beach is our second home so I just loved reading about the setting. Lots of familiar places were mentioned!

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