Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

These are the books I read the last two weeks since I didn't get a chance to post last Monday:
Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
Sigh. I almost don't want to be done with this book because it's so good. I read this on the heels of reading Book Love by Penny Kittle (I've had Readicide for several years after seeing him at the Dublin Literacy Conference; I just haven't gotten around to reading it - shameful, I know) - obviously Kittle and Gallagher are kindred spirits. I'm so sad that my enthusiastic 4th grade readers could fall prey to readicide, but there are cautionary tales for elementary teachers in this book, too. Gallagher cautions us that there is a fine line to overteaching and underteaching a book, a warning to all grade levels, and we need to be encouraging a 50/50 practice - 50% required reading/classics to 50% recreational reading. Amen! I also loved the anecdote about a book Gallagher was trying to book talk in his classroom that was just thirty-eight steps from his classroom to the library, but he couldn't get the students to check out all three copies. However, when he brought the copies INTO the classroom, they disappeared. "Instead of always taking students to the library, it is often much more effective to bring the library to the students." Some students helped me pack up my books this year since I'm moving buildings and grade levels, and one of the students said, "Mrs. Mueller - you have OBBD." Of course I asked what that was. "Obsessive book buying disorder. But that's not a bad thing!" I loved that - she happened to read over 80 books this year, many which came from my classroom library or the books I brought in from the public library. Thank you, Kelly Gallagher, for saying that high stakes testing is creating readicide - our students' creativity and critical thinking are at jeopardy. Whether or not we choose to fight that battle, however, we can be fostering the love of reading in the meantime by using some of the tips in this book.
Nora's Chicks
Nora's Chicks by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Kathryn Brown


I love chickens and geese, so I'm partial to this one! Nora's family immigrated to the prairie from Russia, but Nora doesn't like the desolate-looking prairie. There are no mountains, trees, or friends. Everyone in her family seems to have something that belongs to them except Nora. She is desperately lonely. Finally, her father brings home some chicks and two geese for eating, but Nora convinces him that they are beautiful and her friends. They follow her everywhere until one day, one chicken leads her to Susannah. Beautiful illustrations!
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

So cute! I love the concerned expressions on the animals' faces as poor Duck looks everywhere for his blue socks. This book will make you feel better about when you look everywhere for the sunglasses that are on the top of your head!
The Boy and the Airplane

I loved this wordless picture book. A boy receives a package on the first pages, and you just see a leg of a man walking off the page. The boy plays with the contents of the package, a red plane, but is disappointed when he it lands on the roof. He tries everything to try to get it down. Finally, it dawns on him as he sits underneath a maple tree and a seed twirls down, that he should plant the seed and wait for a tree to grow. Then he could climb it and retrieve the plane. The ending made me smile. Perfect. I love the sepia tones and the symbolism of the red plane - childhood maybe? Adventure? Life? The little bird throughout the book reminds me of Bob Staake's BLUEBIRD. Good one to read along with Oliver Jeffers' STUCK, THE GIVING TREE, and THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE.
Crankee Doodle

2013-book, bookaday2013, great-read-aloud, history, humor, parody, picture-book


This is a great picture book debut by the hilarious Tom Angleberger, illustrated by his wife, Cece Bell. Even though Mr. Doodle is bored, he can NOT be convinced by his horse to go to town and buy a feather for his hat. The horse's expressions are priceless, and Mr. Doodle's crankiness is going to make this book a read aloud favorite. I like that there's a little story behind the real song "Yankee Doodle" at the end. Fun book!
One Came Home


This story was a lot of fun and full of adventure. I loved the sharp-shooting heroine, the search for a "dead" sister, Long Ears, and the wild pigeons. Plus, who could resist the lead? "So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister's first funeral and I knew it wasn't her last - which is why I left. That's the long and short of it. But surely, you'd rather hear the long than the short." Yes, I would! It reminded me a little of Moon Over Manifest - could also be paired up with Okay For Now since they both talk about John James Audubon. I'd recommend this book to upper middle grades.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

This Audie Award and YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults winner was expertly narrated, and the story is magical, strange, and completely compelling. I loved the twists and turns, fantastical creatures, and the Prague setting. Karou is a teenage girl who seems completely normal - she has an annoying ex-boyfriend, a small and feisty best friend, and she likes to sketch imaginary creatures. However, she also disappears on mysterious errands gathering teeth, has powerful tattoos on her hands and blue hair, and visits a father-figure who is anything but normal. Who is she? Who is Akiva and why is he so attracted to her? This is a wild ride of a story, and I'm looking forward to listening to the sequel. If you listen to the audio, be sure to listen through the acknowledgements and interview with Laini Taylor.
The Pull of Gravity
It's ironic that I read this on Father's Day since one of the theme topics of this story is absent fathers. Do you see how many shelves I chose to describe this book? It's hard to know where to start reviewing it. The book puts a lump in my throat because it parallels Of Mice and Men, one of the saddest stories ever (it also makes me want to read it again) and because the characters just make me want to cry. I see lots of echoes of other characters and plot lines in here. Polisner's narrator is overwhelmingly real and reminds me a lot of John Green's Augustus Waters in The Fault in Our Stars - vulnerable, tough, angsty, confused, romantic, clumsy, all boy; and Jaycee reminds me of Hazel - strong, wise, witty, hopeful, irresistible and forgiving. It's funny because I wasn't sure I liked the characters at first in The Fault in Our Stars, just like I wasn't sure I liked Nick at first - they were just so blunt when talking about things. Then, as I gave them a chance and kept reading, I ended up loving them. I think it's just that I'm not used to being in a teenager's head! Scooter's story reminds me of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a truly unforgettable, strange, and heartbreaking novel. One of my favorite lines of the book comes from Scooter's mom: " the scheme of things, a lifetime of hellos meant way more than one last little goodbye." That made me cry because it made me think of one of my best friends dying two years ago and my regret about not saying some things I wished I had said, especially one last goodbye. The way Star Wars is interwoven with Scooter's character reminds me of Tom Angleberger's brilliant series and the wise and wonderful Dwight. There are lots you could use this book for - it's a quest story, it has a reluctant hero, allusions, foreshadowing, etc., but most of all, just hand it to your (teen) students and kids and let them read it. Then talk about it because they're going to want to! "'It's just that everything's always so broken, you know Nick? People leave. People die. New, stupider people come (I love that line). People are there and then gone. And you just have to sit there and take it. Deal with it. Accept it for what it is. But maybe once in a while you get a chance to fix it. At least a little. Or at least try. Or pretend that you can. Sometimes you just want to know that you tried.'" - Jaycee (How could you not love her?!)
And the Mountains Echoed

I had the privilege of seeing Khaled Hosseini at the Main Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library, in partnership with Joseph-Beth Booksellers.  It was an amazing evening - over 1,000 people attended!  Hosseini is brilliant and funny and told us a lot about his writing process.
Here are some snippets from his talk that I loved:
- Practicing medicine (he's also a doctor!!) was like an arranged marriage - after awhile it's not so bad.  Writing was like my high school sweetheart.
- You write the book and other people tell you what it's about.
- My ideas are inspired in retrospect.  I start writing and then realize later what inspired it.
- This novel is shaped like a tree.  The children are the trunk and it spans out from there.  I reach a watershed moment when I no longer have control over my characters.  It's a process of discovery rather than making things up.
- I'm interested in growing as a writer.  I don't want to rely on formula.
- This novel is more ambitious in its structure and arc.  It's more ambiguous.  I'm not interested in writing the type of characters in Kite Runner any more -  either evil or angelic.  I want to expand the mystery of human behavior instead of giving answers.
- Within family is the experience of being human.
- Writing ought to be about yourself.  What feels truthful.
- In Afghanistan, being part of a whole is more important than being an individual.  Unlike the U.S.
- This was the hardest book to write.  I wanted each chapter to have a satisfying, resonating ending.
- Reading is just symbols on a piece of paper.  You have to do the rest of the work.
- I ask my characters what their hopes and dreams are.  What do they want?

I've eagerly awaited this book since I read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, both of which top my favorites list. I don't know how Hosseini does it. His stories make me physically ache. They are so brutally honest, painful, beautiful, and unforgettable. This one is much broader in scope, with many characters and settings, all amazingly woven together. Hosseini depicts human nature as cruel and selfish, but devastatingly good all at the same time. The novel begins with a fable, which Hosseini talked about in his talk at the Cincinnati Library on May 31st was used as a device to open up the father and also frame the story. I thought that was fascinating. Since I'm always thinking about how to relate my adult books to what I can teach my students, I thought of Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and the fairy tale at its beginning - how it reveals Edward's character and frames the rest of the story. Anyway, what follows the fable is a gut-wrenching episode in which Abdullah's beloved little sister is sold to a rich couple in Kabul. This is only one of many stories within this novel. The reader definitely has to work at putting all the pieces together - Hosseini told us at his signing that we will have to connect the dots while reading this one, and he was right. The best way to read this novel is as close to one sitting as possible. Don't take too long or you will lose the thread. If I didn't have so many books I wanted to read this summer, I would start at the beginning and read it all again. Theme topics such as family, choices ("'It's a funny thing, Markos, but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really what guides them is what they're afraid of. What they don't want.'"), loss, beauty ("Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly."),loyalty, and memories all come into play. Read this book. And then if you can, read it again.


Real Revision: Authors' Strategies to Share with Student Writers  Doll Bones


Prodigy (Legend, #2)


Every Day After

I thought it would also be fun to share with you what my family is currently reading:

My 20-year-old:
The Source 
My 17-year-old:

Before I Fall

My Husband:
Deciding between
The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1) and 11/22/63

Come back Wednesday to see what nonfiction books I read this week.  What have YOU been reading?  I'd love to hear from you, and if you're not already following my blog, I'd love for you to join me!  It would make my day!





  1. Now I'm bummed I didn't see Khaled Hosseini speak when I had the chance! So thanks for sharing some of his words!

    1. He was really amazing. It made me like him even more. I didn't expect him to be funny!

  2. o no, i now know what's the problem here too- OBBD
    thanks for the diagnosis - not sure there's a cure!

    You're welcome to stop by- perhaps you'd be interested in the Canadian Reading Challenge beginning July 1st ?

    1. Ha - I'm pretty sure all of us book bloggers have OBBD! ;-) I will stop by to check out the reading challenge!

  3. 'Readicide' is the definition of high school English classes!

    Read On!
    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    1. I know - seems to be sad but true. Maybe there will be a revolution!

  4. Yes, I loved Readicide, too. I recently read Mem Fox's Reading Magic and thought it was fantastic. We worry too much about pushing reading, I think! Why do we do that?!

    Off now to add Book Love to my wish list!

    Here's my It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

    1. You will enjoy Book Love. Penny Kittle is fantastic!

  5. We're discussing Readicide in a course that I am taking this is sad, but true. :(
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  6. I thought Readicide was very thought provoking. I like the variety of books you list. I enjoyed The Source but hated Before I Fall (it was a style thing). Come see my Monday Report here. Happy reading!

    1. I haven't read either, but my daughters are enjoying both! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. How lovely these reviews are! Putting And The Mountains Echoed high up on my TBR pile. Can't wait til next week!

  8. OBBD, lol, love that ;)

    Readicide sounds fascinating! It makes me nervous/sad that kids aren't into reading. :(

    I hope you have a great week!

    1. I know - it's sad! There IS hope, though, with all these great reading gurus letting us know there are alternatives.

  9. I really enjoyed 11/22/63....couldn't put it down. Have a great week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

    1. Thanks for your input. I'll have to tell him that a lot of people recommended that one!

  10. Wow! That's a lot of awesome reading. I loved so many on your list-Daughter of Smoke and Bone and 11/22/63 are some of my favorite audios! I read Doll Bones last week and it is so lovely. I am on hold for One Came Home. It is even more appealing since you mentioned Okay For Now. Have a great week!

    1. I would love to get 11/22/63 on audio. I'll look for it. I'm almost done with Doll Bones. I think kids will LOVE it!

  11. So many, many good books-some I've read, some on my list too! How did you manage all that in a week? I'd love to get to the Hosseini book, but won't any time soon. I loved Book Love & Write Beside Them, think Kittle is a gem. Saw Kelly Gallagher at our state IRA conference this year-much good advice. I think choice is the answer for sure. Our classroom libraries are huge, but so is our library & something keeps the students from browsing and looking. I've given several book talks this year which helps! I love the way you do your reviews with the comparisons, very nice. I didn't see the parallels between The Pull of Gravity and The Fault In Our Stars, but now, with your words, I do, but for different ages perhaps? Thanks for all!

    1. I haven't read Write Beside Them yet. I definitely want to because I love Penny Kittle! Yes, The Pull of Gravity would probably be for a younger set of kids than The Fault in Our Stars, but they just reminded me of each other. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Glad to hear you enjoyed Readicide. It looks like a really informative read.
    Here is my Monday .

  13. How cool that you got to hear Khaled Hosseini in person! I bet that made reading his new book even more powerful.

  14. Amazing reading this week! I read Readicide last summer and was so impressed. A very important read. One Came Home is truly a great title. I found it so unique and loved the spunk of the main character. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is on my TBR pile from the summer. I have spent a lot of time in Prague so am excited about the setting

    1. Yes - the main character in One Came Home is definitely spunky. It was a unique story! If you've been to Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone will definitely be fun to read! Enjoy!

  15. Oh dear Holly, I love reading your musings about all these gorgeous books, and how great that you are also interweaving it with video clips and book trailers and relevant snippets from youtube. I've heard about Readicide and know of Book Love (which sadly, we still don't have here in Singapore).
    Like you, I've also read A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner and loved them both - so I really am excited and eager to read it - thank you for sharing fragments from Hosseini's talk, what a beautiful gift Holly. Thank you. I also have a copy of Kate Di Camilo's Edward Tulane, but haven't read it yet.
    Regarding the AWB Reading Challenge, will be posting the winner of both May/June by first week of July. :) We've also updated. Winner for June will receive Ender’s Game while Winner for the month of may receives “The Innocents.” :)

    1. You're so kind in your comments! You MUST read Edward Tulane. It is wonderful. :-) Thanks for letting me know about the challenge and thanks so much for stopping by! :-)

  16. Readicide looks good. And I have Doll Bones in my TBR stack. I've heard great things about that one. Happy reading!