It’s Monday! What are you Reading? 12/9/13

IMWAYRIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Book Journeys. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

Thanks to my #nerdlution goal of reading at least 30 minutes a day, I was able to finish three books this week.

Last Week’s Books:


This week I finally read Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. And I have to say I have mixed feelings about it.

Shortly after World War II and the death of his mother, Jack Baker is uprooted from his Kansas home and sent by his Naval officer father to live at a boarding school in Maine. There he befriends Early Auden, a misfit of a boy who has a penchant for numbers and a drive to find his brother, Fisher, a soldier who was declared dead in the war. In Vanderpool’s author’s note she says that by today’s standards we would say that Early has a high-functioning form of autism.

On a school break, the two boys head out on a quest to track a great Appalachian Bear, but not really. It is really about Early searching for his lost brother and recounting tales of the journey of Pi (the number), and about Jack dealing with his own loss and grief.

This book is intricately plotted and has so many instances of truly beautiful language. There is so much loss, grief, and regret in this book, and Vanderpool encourages the reader to think about it all, rather than push an agenda or teach a lesson. Each character is carrying a heavy burden, and each in his or her own way.

So now for the “mixed feelings” part. I really wanted to love this book, but I fell a bit short of that. I know that the book has elements of magical realism and that, as such, it demands some suspension of disbelief. However, there were so many coincidences, and everyone Jack and Early met on their journey tied into the master plan that allowed Early to find his brother. However, I think it was Gunnar’s connection to Miss B., the librarian, that finally did me in–the book just didn’t seem to need one more connection so neatly wrapped up at the end–at least not for me. Ultimately, I am glad to have read the book, but I think Vanderpool might have taken things a little too far–as far as Early tried to take the digits of Pi.

That said, I would be really interested to see how children are responding to this book. After a few months, it has not yet been checked out of my school library. I will try to think of a reader with whom it might resonate as I am really interested in whether a young person would be bothered by or would embrace how neatly it is all wrapped up in the end.

cover38474-mediumThis week, I also read the e-galley of Stephen G. Gordon’s Expressing the Inner Wild: Tattoos, Piercings, Jewelry, and Other Body Art, which will be published in January. The topics in this book are certainly a large part of popular culture, and judging by what my students look at in the Guinness World Records books, they would enjoy reading it. 

The book focuses on today’s trends of body decoration in the United States, but it also includes information about other cultures’ practices both in the past and the present. There are plenty of intriguing pictures of celebrities and others who exhibit extreme dedication to decorating themselves.

There were a few instances in which the text flow was interrupted mid-sentence by a nearly full-page side bar or illustration. A more careful layout would have prevented readers from having to flip back and forth to keep their train of thought. I am really starting to hate it when books do that. On a positive note, the back matter includes source notes, an extensive bibliography of print and online resources as well as a healthy index.

Because of its very heavy inclusion of current celebrities, I think that Expressing the Inner Wild, while an interesting book, would become dated more quickly than I would like for my library. However, it would make a high-interest addition to larger collections.

It Cant Be TrueI will spend my 15+ #nerdlution minutes writing a review for It Can’t Be True: The Book of Incredible Visual Comparisons for Library Media Connection. I am not allowed to share my review until it is published by LMC. Suffice it to say that DK has created yet another visually stunning book that will engage readers who enjoy “gee-whiz that’s a cool fact” books.

Currently Reading:


I just started The Clockwork Three  by Matthew J. Kirby. In fact, in my current chapter I am meeting Hannah, the third of the book’s main characters to be introduced.

On Deck:



16 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What are you Reading? 12/9/13

  1. Wild themes keep coming up this year! Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and Reading in the Wild and now Express Your Inner Wild…even though it’s a 2014 book, I’m counting it towards the year of going wild. I pretty much felt the same way you do about Navigating Early, I haven’t read her Newbery book, not sure I will.

  2. I understand your mixed feelings about Navigating Early. I loved it and thought the writing was superb, but I don’t think a ton of kids will pick it up and love it. The few kids that did read it in my room did love it, though. However, they were very sophisticated readers. I think Moon Over Manifest was the same way – I loved it, but only a few of my middle grade readers attempted it.

    1. Often I wish that the Newbery committee would place a greater emphasis on appeal to intended audience. I have read several winners that are certainly exemplary pieces of literature, yet are not as accessible or appealing to as many young readers as I would like them to be. For example, When You Reach Me and A Year Down Yonder are books I love, but they are only checked out after I really sell them to dedicated readers.

  3. I will have to look for Expressing the Inner WIld for my class library. It sounds like a book that would be a hit. There are a lot of books that I have mixed feelings about. I haven’t read Navigating Early, but it sounds like the kind of thing that would bother me also. I still am interested in reading it for the beautiful language and the story of grief. It would be interesting to see how students react to the book.

    1. Yes, Expressing the Inner Wild is definitely a high-interest book. And reading Navigating Early has given me the motivation to move Moon Over Manifest higher up in my TBR pile, as I hear it is an even stronger title. I usually get to the Newbery sooner than I have gotten to that one.

    1. It is not a book that I think I could book talk to a big group, so it would have to be an individual student. Maybe students who have read Sharon Creech or Gary D. Schmidt? It will take some thinking….

  4. I had some issues with Moon Over Manifest that weren’t entirely the book’s fault–the appeal to intended audience issue; the predictable Newberyness of it, if that makes sense. But I did ultimately like Moon and appreciate what it was doing. I was interested in reading her new book, but those types of coincidences make me CRAZY when I’m reading, so this may not be the book for me! Sounds like your #nerdlution is going well!

  5. I loved Moon Over Manifest – it has a meandering quality to the narrative, taking its sweet time but the lyrical language made up for it. I’ve been meaning to read Navigating Early, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Clare Vanderpool does have a tendency for tying up loose ends – same thing with Moon over Manifest, if I’m not mistaken. These are the kinds of books my 11 year old daughter won’t readily pick up though.

  6. I’ve got Navigating Early out from the library right now, so it’s interesting to see your peek at it. I just finished and enjoyed the Titanic book and I read The Clockwork Three last year, so I feel like you’ve justified my reading choices lately. I liked the Kirby book more than I thought I would based on the cover, and was surprised to realize that I had read other books by him.

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