11.18.13 It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting the meme “It’s Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA”. Head to the It’s Monday post here to link up or see a list of the all the other readers participating in this great meme. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #IMWAYR!


This post today is a summary of my reading activities over the last couple of weeks. I am way behind in my 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge, so I’ve been on a picture book reading tear. I’ll highlight some of my favorites here, but you can also see the complete list of what I’ve read over at Goodreads.

Click the book covers to go to Goodreads for the full summaries . . .

Hanukkah Books:


Hard to believe that Hanukkah is just around the corner, with the observance beginning on November 27. Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown create a funny Hanukkah-Christmas mashup with The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming. The latke runs screaming from the pan of oil only to meet some Christmas holiday symbols. The ensuing conversations are amusing and insightful about the Jewish holiday. I laughed out loud at the end.

On Hanukkah, while not gripping narrative, if one of the best explanations I’ve read of the holiday and the symbolism of the different aspects of worship and celebration.


Picture Book Biographies


A Splash of Red — I am a big fan of illustrator Melissa Sweet and these illustrations that include water color, gouache, and collage don’t disappoint. Horace Pippin’s life story and late rise to fame as an artist is an inspiring one. Recommend for grades 2-5, or even higher if studying art. (2013/Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Sea Biscuit theWonder Horse — I loved the playful cartoon-style illustrations for this biography. Readers learn how a handful of humans saw potential in this horse that went on to be a 1930s racing legend. The main focus is on Seabiscuit’s big race with War Admiral. Recommend for grades 1-4. (2013/Paula Wiseman Books)

Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton — An entertaining read about a pioneering women. Kids will enjoy how she pushed the envelope for her time and gender. McCarthy does a great job combing “just the right amount of text” with entertaining illustrations. Recommend for grades 1-4. (2013/Paula Wiseman Books)


My three favorite fiction picture books:

I’m finally getting to this one. As previously advertised by others, it is full of lots of good laughs. It would be fun to have kids hear all the different arguments and pick who they’d support. Me: Poor beige. Great choice for kindergarten and up. (2013/Philomel)


This nearly wordless Wiesner book had me grinning within a couple of page turns. Mr. Wuffles has some fun with a new-found toy. Great details. Most pages are setup in comic book-style panels. A few times I had to back up and reorient myself when I didn’t make Wiesner’s leap in the pictorial details, but overall this was great fun. Recommend for kindergarten and up. (2013/Clarion Books)


This was a darling concept book with counting to ten, transportation vehicles and limited text. The book design includes very clever cut-outs that features the lights of each vehicle. This will be a hit with preschoolers. (2013/Orchard Books)


Finished Middle Grade Chapter Books:

Prerelease, this book was getting much love from readers able to obtain early copies of this magical fantasy. Many even have it on their short lists for the Newbery Award. I hesitated to start just not being sure it would live up to the hype and also fearing my own aversion to much of the fantasy genre. Anne Ursu put my fears to rest though. It is a lovely tale about Oscar, who while it is not said outright, appears to have Asperger’s syndrome. Many in the book describe him as “different”. Oscar is the assistant to the Barrow’s most famous magician, Caleb, and normally his responsibilities are left to backroom activities liking sorting, organizing and harvesting the plants and herbs the magician uses. He has difficulty finding the way to put thoughts and feelings into words. He has a hard time reading the emotions of others (disappointment, frustration, etc.). When the magic world begins to fall apart, Oscar and his new friend Callie must take steps to stop the decline and fix all the wrongs around them. In case you missed it, read Ursu’s lovely post about the connections between Oscar and her own son at Katherine Sokolowski’s blog. Oscar is a terrific character and the author lets us inside his head as he struggles to be brave. As a reader I felt right with Oscar as he stepped outside his comfort zone time and time again to face challenges both big and small. I’d recommend this for grades 4-7 and think it would make a great read aloud. (2013/Walden Pond Press)


I finished this 1948 Newbery Medal winner for The Newbery Challenge. It might not have enough fast-paced adventure for many readers, but I think it’d make a good read aloud to younger kids in grades K-3.


This was a puzzle and riddle-filled adventure set in the new public library financed by an eccentric benefactor. It was lots of good fun and a well received read aloud with my sixth grader. The ensemble cast and Mr. Lemoncello will remind you of Willy Wonka and his candy factory guests. This was also the book that I just delivered to my daughter’s fourth grade classroom last week as The Book Fairy. Check out the post I did for lots of fun links and book resources. I suspect the two books I donated will make quick rounds in there. Recommend for grades 4-7. (2013/Random House)


For older teens and adults:

Hosseini is a gifted writer and he did a marvelous job weaving together a number characters whose lives connected across time and continents. A moving story, but  it just didn’t touch me on the level that Kite Runner or Thousand Splendid Suns did. I felt disappointed when the focus shifted to a different character, just as I was becoming emotionally vested in his/her story. While I understand the role of the multi-character perspective, it made for a less satisfying story overall. (2013/Penguin Publishing)


Next up . . .



Do share what you are reading! Have a great week!


9 comments on “11.18.13 It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

  1. So glad you enjoyed THE REAL BOY. I’m exactly like you. I usually have an aversion to fantasy but Ursu’s writing is so spellbinding that I fell in love with it.

  2. Glad to see you back this week! Isn’t Day the Crayons Quit excellent? My older son refuses to read that book with me anymore because my constant guffawing embarrasses him! I just find it so hysterical. We also loved Splash of Red! I really enjoy picture book nonfiction. I think I’m going to get a Hosseini novel for my mother-in-law for Xmas. I’m looking forward to your opinions on Billy Miller. I started reading that one aloud to my son and he was so bored by it and… so was I! We abandoned. I plan to get back to it myself and finish reading it. Hoping it will pick up. I know that many readers whose opinions I value loved the book, so I’m hoping to click with it at some point. I’ve got to pick up The 21 Balloons and finish. I was enjoying it more or less. I also just bought Counting by 7s. If I can ever finish the books I’m in the middle of right now, I get to start that one!

  3. Lorna says:

    I was suprised, Beth, with my enjoyment of THE REAL BOY. I’m curious to hear what kids are thinking of it . . .

  4. Lorna says:

    Elisabeth–I think I enjoyed THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT more than my kids, or at least found the humor more to my taste! I too enjoy a well done non-fiction picture book, and am delighted to see more and more strong ones being published. I’m about a 1/3 through BILLY MILLER and must admit I like it’s quiet pace. Billy is quirky and I appreciate his struggles with finding the words to say, or the socially appropriate response to situations. I’ll be curious to get to the end to see where I land on the divided Billy Miller front.

  5. Sue Jackson says:

    Wow, I had to scroll back up to see that this is a summary from several weeks! Still, it’s a LOT of books – good for you! Real Boy is in my TBR stack (well, actually, my to-be-listened-to on audio) – I am a longtime fan of Anne Ursu – her Cronus Chronicles trilogy for middle-grade readers was amazing.

    I also really want to read And the Mountains Echoed – I loved his first two books.

    Oh, and I am also into parenting, cooking, and reading, so it’s nice to “meet” you! You might be interested in my Weekend Cooking post on the Book By Book blog, as well as the kidlit blog – each week, I post recipes or links for great family meals that are easy, tasty, and healthy.


    Great Books for Kids and Teens is now on Facebook!

    Great Books for Kids and Teens

    Book By Book

  6. Myra GB says:

    Hi there Lorna, I think I have a copy of The Twenty-One Balloons lying unloved in my bookshelves for the longest time but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m glad that you shared your reservations about The Real Boy and what your experience was like reading it. I shall have to find that one soonest. And a new Lemony Snicket book! What could be more wonderful! 🙂 Have a great reading week!

  7. carriegelson says:

    So pleased to see that you are now reading Billy Miller and Counting by 7s – both favourite reads of mine! I have The Real Boy at the very top of my TBR pile and look forward to starting it soon. I loved Breadcrumbs and Ursu’s style. Glad to see I am not the only one who just read The Day the Crayons Quit! I had some students LOVE this book and others were just okay about it.

  8. Hi Lorna, What great books you have here. The Day the Crayons Quit is an absolute fave from this year. I have Mr. Wuffles in my library pile, but have not looked at it yet. I like the looks of your Hanukkah books. I am starting Counting by 7’s tonight! I hear once you start, you can’t stop.

  9. whoa, so many books I want to read! I have The Real Boy, Counting by 7s and Mr. Wuffles checked out right now just waiting for me! I read The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming to my family every Hanukkah, it’s one of my favorite holiday books.

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