Monday, November 30, 2015

currently reading 11/30/15

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


 **REREAD** Coraline by Neil Gaiman: One of my all-time favorites.  The other world and its inhabitants are super creepy, yes, (I still shiver when I see black buttons) but what always disturbs me the most (and the source of much of the book's power, I think) is the overwhelming sense of ALONENESS that Coraline feels.  Coraline is a great character: prickly and stubborn and clever, and the Other Mother a menacing villain.  The themes and questions posed are substantial, and the solution just difficult enough for a novel of this length. Be forewarned: if you read this 10th anniversary edition, the illustration at the beginning of each chapter often spoils the most important thing that happens in that chapter. *****

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo: I  have LOVED each and every one of DiCamillo's novels, but this one just didn't do a thing for me.  I think I am old and crotchety and just don't do silly well (and I found the illustrations strangely off-putting).  I just wanted it to be over the entire time I was reading.  I am DEFINITELY in the minority on this one, and even I can totally see how kids would get a kick out of Leroy's idiosyncrasies though!  **

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond: Almond is a hit or miss author for me, and this one was a miss.  It's a fascinating premise (A retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth with modern teens) but I felt like it glossed over every theme that makes the myth fascinating.  The story is told by the Eurydice (here named Ella) character's best friend, and while I understood her as a character (and she was an intriguing one) I felt like Orpheus and Ella were never more than (fairly annoying) cyphers.  The writing is beautiful, as is always the case with Almond, but I think this would have worked better if it were either straight up fantasy or more grounded in realism. This sort of unexplained nether world in between makes everything too vague to seem significant. (This seems like a good place to mention again how much I ADORED Almond's other 2015 novel The Tight-Rope Walkers) **

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown: I cried through this whole graphic novel.  So moving and profound with a great style of art to match the important story.  I wish that maybe there had been a few more details or perhaps some extensive end notes or back matter, but, still, this is a powerful book. ****

Ms. Marvel: Volume 2 Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt and Adrian Alphona: My favorite thing about Ms. Marvel is how Wilson never forgets that Kamala is a teenager, with teenage concerns and teenage emotions and dreams and expectations.  This is the most squarely YA fiction GN out there, and I love it for that.  These comics give such a fascinating teen-focused perspective on superhero stories.  Plus it's fun and exciting and hilarious.  ****1/2

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt: Definitely powerful and tragic and I really did like it and race through it, but 2 things brought me out of the story: There's quite a lot of coincidences (which, now that I think about it, I've found to be true in many Schmidt books), especially near the end of the novel, and there's just SO MUCH tragedy.  It's like any place Schmidt could fit in a tragic detail he did. It just became too much for me by the end.  I was numb to all the horribleness.  Those are small quibbles though, it's a very well done novel about something that I've never seen addressed before.  (I am a bit tired of the saintly librarian trope, though, which seems to become more and more prevalent each year.  Makes me feel like I'm being pandered to.  Not so much a fault of this book in and of itself as a fault of YA fiction in general) ***1/2

Little Robot by Ben Hatke: Slight, but adorable.  ***1/2
Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll: the story seemed a bit truncated, but it was fun, espcially if you like Baba Yaga stories. ***1/2

Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans: I cried.  My favorite book by Winter that I've read thus far. ****1/2
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prevot and Aurelia Fronty: Really loved this one.  I learned a lot and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. ****1/2 

Mango, Abeula, and Me by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez: Super sweet story about an important struggle.  ****
Trick Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli: One of those insane stories that just has to be true.  Through both text and illustrations, Pizzoli tells the tale wonderfully.  Great fun. ****1/2

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh: Another book that taught me tons.  Love Tonatiuh's illustrations, as usual.  Just a great idea for a Non-fiction picture book. ****
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 objects by Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka: I loved the illustrations and it's a fun idea for an anthology, but gosh some of these poems are HARD for a book for kids. ***


Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash


Kissing in America by Margo Rabb
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
The Marvels by Brian Selznick


  1. What a great assortment of books. I'm sorry some didn't work for you. This is what I read last week. Happy reading!

    1. heading right over to check your update. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I really should reread Coraline, I remember adoring it when I first read it. I like the look of that illustrated version, but 10 years? How does the time fly by so quickly?!?!

    Have a great week!

    1. I know, right? I remember when it was published! It doesn't seem possible it's been 10 years!

  3. Will look for Abuela, Mango and Me, and still need to read Orbiting Jupiter. Sorry about the David Almond novel. I do count on him to write a good story. I loved Drowned City too.

    1. David Almond writes a beautiful sentence better than just about anyone. I still say Ella Grey is worth a try, it's a quick read and does have some beautiful prose (and everybody seems to like it much better than I)

  4. You read such a great variety of books. I haven't read any of them! There are quite a few picture books about Wangari Maathai. I've read a few others, but not this one.

    1. I think I've read one or two other books about Maathai as well, but they didn't stick with me. She was a phenomenal woman!

  5. Whew, just going over your list of reads both inspire and intimidates me. The Death of the Hat didn't really work for me either, but I delighted in the silliness of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.

    1. I was on vacation this past week so I got a ton more read than I usually do! I can totally see getting a lot of enjoyment out of Leroy Ninker. I think I just have the wrong kind of sense of humor for that book :-(

  6. I understand what you are saying about Leroy, though I enjoyed it a bit more than you; however, Francine Poulet, the second Deckadoo Drive book, is so great! I hope you'll give it a chance :)

    Happy reading this week!

    1. I have Francine Poulet checked out right now and am going to try to get to it this week! I don't think anything could ever convince me NOT to read a DiCamillo book :-)


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