Monday, June 15, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/15/15

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

  • Student-Led Book Recommendations. During the school year, my kids wrote their own book recommendations for each other. This post shares my template and mentor recommendation. During the summer I'll be posting highlights from the kids' own recommendations. 

Picture Books


Over and Under the Snow (2011) and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (2015) by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Ever hear about a concept for a book and immediately wish that you had thought of it? I absolutely love the idea and structure behind these two books, but I must admit that I ended up wanting more.

Over and Under the Snow reminded me too much of Owl Moon and made me miss the amazing and detailed illustrations of John Schoenherr. Something about the two-dimensionality of Christopher Silas Neal's illustrations just didn't work with what my brain wanted for this book. Overall, I think that these are lovely books and will answer/raise a lot of questions for readers about the secret lives of animals, but I felt like they were not quite up to their potential.

Little Roja Riding Hood (2014) by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Susan Guevara. (Winner of the 2015 Pura Belpré Honor Award for Illustration.) This update of Little Red Riding Hood features a bilingual Roja and liberally sprinkles Spanish into the rhyming text. This is a fun, empowering update with Roja in the lead, rescuing her Abuela.

Interstellar Cinderella (2015) by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt. I will be adding this one to my collection of fractured Cinderella stories. In this futuristic take, Cinderella dreams of repairing spaceships, along with the assistance of her robotic mouse companion. While I liked the ideas behind this story (including an ethnic-looking Prince and eschewing the marriage offer), I could not get past the rhyme. With Little Roja, I felt like the rhyme worked, but here I found it distracted from the story.

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore (2007) by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Another quirky story from Jenny Offill. In this one, the narrator walks us through many different things she is not allowed to do anymore, from walking backwards to school, to adding beavers to a report on George Washington, and more.

My students got a kick out of this story (especially the boys, who had been writing an epic haiku about flying beavers). I found the ending deeply unsatisfying and a little disturbing (my students were universally convinced that she is not repentant and is lying to her parents). (H/T to Elisabeth at The Dirigible Plum, who also pointed out that this would be a fun mentor texts for students to invent their own wild ideas.)

Never Say a Mean Word Again: a tale from Medieval Spain (2014) by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Durga yael Bernhard. This story is inspired by a medieval tale about a Jewish poet who was the vizier in Grenada, a Muslim city of the time, in Spain. Here, the story is reimagined between two boys, the Jewish son of the grand vizier and the Muslim tax collector's son, who must learn how get along. This story reminds me a lot of Enemy Pie, which is a favorite read aloud of mine for the beginning of the year and dealing with friendship issues.

Middle Grade

Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail (2015) by Kate Messner. I am really looking forward to this summer's edition of Teachers Write, hosted by Kate Messner. Kate mentioned in her launching post that she will sharing insights, details, and previous drafts from her two Ranger in Time books, so I went ahead and jumped in to the first one.

Rescue on the Oregon Trail has a wonderful conceit for a historical fantasy book: main character and golden retriever, Ranger, is transported back in time after unearthing a first aid kit in the backyard. I love the perspective of Ranger's point-of-view, especially as he tries to puzzle out what has happened to him and why he doesn't find himself back at home after he has done a "Good job!" This series will be very appealing to kids, especially those looking for a bit more challenge than The Magic Tree House books or a more animal-centered telling than the I Survived series.

Young Adult


A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula K. Le Guin. (H/T to Mr. Schu for linking to Kate DiCamillo's Suggestions for Summer Reading over at TFK.) I have always loved fantasy, including both high fantasy and science fiction, but I never had good reading mentors or recommenders as a kid, so I only read what I stumbled upon. This has left me with many gaping holes, so I was glad to fill in one after seeing Katie DiCamillo's recommendation of where to start with Ursula K. Le Guin.

This was a gripping and tightly-constructed story of the origins of the boy Ged, known as Sparrowhawk, introduced from the beginning as a someday-to-be great hero and wizard. So much is packed into these scant 220 pages that it feels like a lifetime spent with these characters and this world. (A lack of overt violence / sexual overtones also makes this a book accessible for strong younger readers.)

A Wizard of Earthsea reminded me greatly of its contemporary, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and of its 1980s predecessor, The Belgariad by David Eddings, All three of these series exemplify an economy of words accompanied by strong visual imagery that often seems missing in more recent fantasy series. While I enjoyed the recently-published Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen or The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, they seem to focus more time on endless dialogue and teenage antics than these "classic" series. I am curious as to whether you agree or disagree?

Challenges and Summer Plans

This summer I am again joining in the amazing community and discussion of #cyberPD. This summer's book is Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. Click here to read more about #cyberPD or click here to join the Google+ discussion group!

#Bookaday Challenge update: days read a book 11/14, books read 12/90

Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 12 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 127 books, 27 dedicated posts (this week: )

Happy Reading!


  1. I am a long-time science fiction/fantasy fan but somehow missed these by LeGuin, I'll have to add them to my list. You can come see my week here. Happy reading!

    1. Definitely move them to your shot list, Kathy, they are worth it!

  2. Lots of Kate Messner on your list! We skyped with Kate this spring and it was interesting to hear her research and how she wrote the 2 picture books you read. I love her Ranger series, looking forward to the next one. I signed up for Teachers Write too, makes me a bit nervous!
    Interstellar Cinderella was really fun, right? Loved the color palette!

    1. Interstellar Cinderella did have some great art work.

      I am really excited (and nervous) about Teachers Write too! Looking forward to hearing from Kate about her process.

  3. Interesting that you didn't like the rhyming in Interstellar Cinderella. I'm usually not a fan of rhyming either, but I thought it worked pretty well in that story. But I totally agree with you that the rhyme worked in Little Roja Riding Hood. I felt like I was listening to a hip-hop song. It had great bounce and swag. :)

  4. These books look like so much fun! I love how authors get creative with fairy tales. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. I love all of these books! I have read none of them, but I was happy to add these titles to my TBR list! I adore Kate Messner.

    I love the title of your blog. I went to your About Me page. That is very clever! You seem like a delightful person. I am looking forward to reading more!

    1. Thanks, Ricki! I just love words and language, and once we had coined the word "Logonaut" it seemed a shame not to use it every chance we got! :)

  6. I love Leguin. I've been thinking of rereading some of her work that messes with our ideas of gender, but these would do as well. Because I love Enemy Pie, I will have to find a copy of Never Say a Mean Word Again: a tale from Medieval Spain and check it out.

    1. Do you have any specific title rec'd in mind that get more at the gender issues? I'd be curious to explore her other works as well, thanks Cheriee!

  7. Hi there Katie. Love your candid reviews as always. I have the entire set of the Earthsea series, and practicallymost of LeGuin's novels, but I haven't even started on them yet, because I just know that I would fall in love with them so much. Do you ever have tha kind of dilemma? I didn't enjoy Nielsen's novels as much as I thought I would. Have you read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising yet? I've read many great reviews about this series as well. :)

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Myra. I actually put off immediately requesting book two, because I didn't want to hurriedly rush through them all! (I think I lasted a week before I put in the library request, ha.)

      I agree with you about Nielsen's series. I thought the first book was pretty decent but the next two mainly annoyed me. I read The Dark is Rising series several years back, and they did not strike me at the time as much as I had hoped.


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