Monday, November 16, 2015

Currently Reading 11/16/15

Check out Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for the roundups!


The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerllizi: There's hardly a dearth of easy-reader-animal-friendship-tales, but this is a particularly charming one with some of my favorite DiTerlizzi illustrations (the setting even more so than the adorable protagonists).  Don't miss the author's note at the end! ***1/2

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon: The hardest I've laughed at a book in a long time.  Progressive without being didactic, with a fresh take on a fairy tale I thought didn't have a fresh take left in it.  Exciting, creative, but most of all SO MUCH FUN.  *****

*REREAD* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: My 4th read of this and I find more things to admire every time.  Maybe not the most beautiful sentence-level writing ever, but gosh, what it does with characters, setting, and theme is almost unparalleled.  *****

Requiem by Lauren Oliver: Of all the trilogies I've started, I'm not sure why this is the one I decided to come back to and finish after several years - it was one of the more unfortunate reading decisions I've made. The Hana portions were the best, I thought, and adding her perspective made the story much more interesting, but I felt like no one in the Lena portions had any character development at all.  Mostly, though, the premise here (love being considered an illegal disease), has SO MUCH potential for provocative questions, but that potential is blatantly squandered.  Relationships are uncomfortably shallow; barely examined and then dropped only to come back inexplicably changed 50 pages later.  There are so many important moral conundrums here that aren't acknowledged at all in favor of a mediocre action story.  The plot is all manipulation and coincidence, and there's an appalling lack of romance for a book about love.  So disappointing.  *1/2

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen:  A very approachable way of dealing with some heavy, touchy subjects (A LOT of heavy, touch subjects - although it never really felt overcrowded).  The ending is probably too optimistic, and I was a little uncomfortable with some of the blatant cause and effect plot device punishment concerning Ashley, (who is grating and selfish, yes, but I felt was mostly just being a typical teenager dealing with really tough circumstances), but the characters are fantastically real: equal parts sympathetic and obnoxious.  The themes are never belittled but still accessible for younger teen readers.  I don't think any new ground was tread here, and I didn't LOVE any quality of the book, but it's a good story well told.  Quite impressed ***1/2

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord: I rarely miss reading a new Lord book, and this one is a wonderful new addition in her line of lovely, heartfelt stories.  I wasn't a huge fan of the beauty pageant part of the plot (and am not a fan of beauty pageants in general - even though this one had a knowledge and talent component there was still a heavy emphasis on the looks of these 12-year-old girls), but that's my only real complaint.  A refreshingly nuanced story of friendship, family, and hardships overcome. ****

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad: EVERYTHING about this is gorgeous.  Just wish they had mentioned the dessert pavlova :-P *****

The Dog That Nino Didn't Have by Edward van de Vendel: Quite odd and poignant, but ultimately uplifting with beautiful illustrations. ***1/2

Leo: A Ghost Story Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson: It's a fine, sweet story.  Nothing stood out to me as unusually impressive but I enjoyed it. ***1/2

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead: It's simple, but very sweet and not-quite-almost-creepy (not-quite-almost-creepy is my favorite type of picture book).  ****1/2

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago, Rafael Yockteng, and Elisa Amado: It's definitely important and timely, and I'm glad it exists, although it's not exactly riveting.  ***1/2

Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies: Wasn't a fan til Vulture showed up near the end which I thought was a fun twist.  It's very obvious, both in message and in references, but it's cute too (although more appealing to older kids, I think).  The illustrations are fun.  ***

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko: I'm not sure this *quite* works as a story, but it's nice to have a picture book that goes into details about adopting pets. ***1/2

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall It's a little schmaltzy and simple for me, and I really wanted an end-note in addition to the pictures, but there's no denying it's an adorable book about an appealing story.  ***1/2

Zen Socks by Jon J. Muth:  This series is probably my favorite picture book series ever.  This one just didn't have the depth or appeal that the previous ones had for me, though.  The lessons seemed obvious and almost silly. ***

The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch: I LOVED this.  A clear example that simple does not always equal easy or disposable.  I do think the stories would go right over the heads of most of the picture book audience though.  ****1/2


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

*REREAD* Coraline by Neil Gaiman
 Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller


The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo


  1. Great assortment of books! Hamster Princess went on my next book order. I enjoyed Dumplin', An Ember in the Ashes and Red Queen. I hope you do too. Check out my week here. Happy reading!

  2. You have some really fabulous books on your list. I enjoyed We Are All Made of Molecules, but had a few problems with it as well. One of the teachers at our school is reading to her multiage class of grades 5/6/7's. They are totally into it. I love that she comes down to tell me about their reactions to what is going on in the book. Happy reading this week.

  3. Wow, so much here, know of some, noted others. I just got Diva and Flea at the library, looking forward to it. Need to get to Dumplin' & 'Poultry Farmer', among others! Thanks for so many good reviews. I have the Red Queen too, soon! Have a great week!

  4. Great to read your candid thoughts about Requiem - I will get to The Red Queen very soon - in the coming week or so, I believe. :) Loved All the Bright Places as well - I have to find Swan, it does look absolutely gorgeous.

  5. It is very funny how your TBR list is so similar to mine! Four of the books on my nightstand match your list! I adored Circus Mirandus.

    Thank you for your candor in your reviews. I enjoy hearing your thoughts about each book. I hadn't gotten to Requiem yet, but I think I've decided to stick with just one of the trilogy books under my belt. I am not really a series kind of girl.


Please use your first name or a username when commenting. The conversation will have an easier flow if we don't have a bunch of anonymous comments. Thank you!