It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/25/16

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. 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.

Last Week’s Books:

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen is a satisfying middle school fantasy with elements of mystery and lots and lots of riddles to help solve it. Hagen has built and exciting and intriguing world, and it is fun to root for Gabriel and his friends. Plus, there are talking ravens!


The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine is set in the 1950s in my hometown, Downers Grove, Illinois. When Tommy tries to get revenge on store-owner Mr. McKenzie by planting a communist newspaper in his store, he ends up regretting the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, Tommy’s sister is recovering from accidental severe burns in the hospital, and his mother is becoming more withdrawn and angry than ever before. My description does not do justice to how beautifully Levine weaves in all the threads of Tommy’s story and paints a clear picture of life and sentiments during that time. I loved this book, as I did her previous works The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had and The Lions of Little Rock.


Gregory Maguire’s Egg & Spoon is an epic (475 page) fantasy set in Russian around the turn of the 20th century. As expected, he weaves in many Russian folk and fairy tales, most notably Baba Yaga, as he recounts the adventures of royal relative Ekaterina and peasant girl Elena as they switch places one fateful day. There is a monk narrator who speaks like a storyteller as well. This is a difficult book for me to place, as I think most middle grade readers would not have the stamina to see this one through. Yet it is not quite YA. And, in fact, I think the best audience may be adult fans of Maguire’s work.


I also have mixed feelings about The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis. I must start by saying I have not read Elijah of Buxton, and while this book is not a sequel, it does take place in Buxton, also near the turn of the 20th century. Half of the book seemed very much like Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago, as it was very episodic and it felt like Red and Benji’s chapters could have stood alone as short stories. The two do meet up halfway through the book and forge a friendship, even though Red is an Irish immigrant to Canada and Benji’s family descends from escaped slaves who fled north from the U.S. The madman’s legend is an interesting one, and the real madman ends up bringing people together in a very unlikely way. This one was a “like” for me, not a “love.” I listened to this one, and the audiobook was excellent, with dual narrators.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

Note: Fables is an adult comic series that I am reading for the Panels Challenge. It is way too mature to put in my middle schools.

On Deck:

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4 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/25/16

  1. I was so disappointed with Maguire’s Wicked (NOTHING like the play I enjoyed and loved in San Francisco) – and so I dread reading his other works, though I admit I still keep on collecting them. Do you know about his latest novel, After Alice? I got a copy of that one, but I have no idea when I’d ever get around to reading it. 🙂

    1. I never did read Wicked (although I saw it in Chicago), only Confessions Of an Ugly Stepsister, which, as a Cinderella lover, was a bit off-putting to me. I think I have seen the cover of After Alice but after the two I have read I am not really in a hurry to read it either.

  2. I read Gabriel Finley a little over a year ago and really liked it. The Paper Cowboy sounds really interesting, and I have Levine’s other two that you mentioned in my classroom library, but I haven’t read either one yet (blushing!). Which one to start with?? Opinions?

    Thanks for making me more aware of those. Have a good “rest of the week”.

    1. Oh, they are both strong, but I think start with The Lions of Little Rock. It has been quite popular with students since it appeared on the Rebecca Caudill list a couple of years ago.

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