December 11, 2018

My Book Reading Report for 2018

It’s that time of the year to tally up. Here are my stats according to Goodreads.

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2017 = 350
1 Adult;  14 YA;  8 MG;  11 CB/ER;  313 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2018 and past years.

YOUNG ADULT: Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy), Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo), Caraval (Stephanie Garber), Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee), You Bring the Distant Near (Mitali Perkins), I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Erika L. Sánchez)

MG: Ghost Boys (Jewell Parker Rhodes)

PB:

  • The Truth About Hippos: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals (Maxwell Eaton III)
  • How to Be an Elephant (Katherine Roy)
  • Grandma’s Purse (Vanessa Brantley-Newton)
  • The Rabbit Listened (Cori Doerrfeld)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G vs Inequality (Jonah Winter and Stacy Innerst)
  • I Dissent: Ruther Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark ( Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley)
  • Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist ( Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns)
  • Give Bees a Chance (Bethany Barton)
  • How to Code a Sandcastle (Josh Funk and Sara Palacios)
  • The Rough Patch (Brian Lies)
  • Head Lice (Elise Gravel)
  • We Are Grateful: OtsaliheligaAll Are Welcome (Traci Sorell)
  • This is a Taco (Andrew Cangelose, Josh Shipley)
  • An Inconvenient Alphabet:  Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution (Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley)

 

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December 7, 2018

Mina vs. the Monsoon

Title: Mina vs. the Monsoon

Author: Rukhsanna Guidroz
Illustrator: Debasmita Dasgupta
Publisher: Yali Books, 2018

Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Multicultural, soccer

Opening:

Mina was feeling sad.

She was watching peacocks walk past the mango tree outside her house, when one of them let out a piercing cry. Mina knew the monsoon rains were coming. She was going to be stuck indoors all day.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Mina loves to play soccer all year round. Nothing comes close to it. But when the monsoon arrives, Mina is stuck indoors and she can’t help feeling restless and bored. Her ammi doesn’t understand. The doodhwalla doesn’t understand. That’s when Mina decides she’ll find ways of chasing away the clouds herself. In doing so, she makes an unexpected discovery. Soccer will never be the same again for Mina!

In a charming story that any kid who loves a sport will relate to, soccer-mad Mina tries just about any trick to stop the monsoon clouds from raining on her game. In doing so, she shows us glimpses of her life in a village in eastern India, highlighting the important role played by monsoon rains in this part of the world. The heart of the story, however, is the bond forged between a mother and her daughter on a gray, gloomy day.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A delightful book for any child who has ever longed for something and wishing somebody else understood.

Mina is a soccer-loving girl from a rural village in India. Mina is feeling blue about the impending monsoon rains. Her mother appears to be unaware of Mina’s passion for soccer as she suggests having chai and samosa instead. Spunky Mina is not about to give up and tries one thing after another to chase away the rain. During this time we learn about Indian village life: tablas that beat din-din-dah, the doodhwalla with his milk cans, Indian clothing and dance, and the importance of the monsoons. Mina stumbles upon an item she hasn’t seen before which leads to a heartfelt bond between Mina and her mom.

I love the rustic and colorful art which nicely complements Mina’s energy and the specificity of the South Asian village life. The author seamlessly sprinkles in some Hindi and Urdu words giving the book a richer feel. A glossary can be found in the back.

A wonderful book for those new to South Asian culture and those already familiar.

Find Mina vs. the Monsoon at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Yali Books | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1949528987
ISBN-13: 978-1949528985

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

October 26, 2018

Diwali (Celebrate the World)

Diwali is coming up on November 7th this year. We tell our kids Diwali is big like Christmas is here in America. I personally haven’t celebrated Diwali in India but I hear it’s quite amazing. This lovely board book is a wonderful introduction for those new to the holiday and those who already celebrate it. Enjoy!

Title: Diwali (Celebrate the World series)

Author: Hannah Eliot
Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan
Publisher: Little Simon, 2018

Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-4
Theme: Diwali, Indian Holiday

Opening:

Each year in October or November, we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights! Diwali is a Hindu festival honored by many people all over the world.

During the holiday, we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Each autumn we gather with our friends and family and light our brightest lanterns. It’s time for Diwali, the festival of lights! In this lovely board book with illustrations from Archana Sreenivasan, readers learn that the five days of Diwali are a time to pray for a bountiful season, celebrate the special bonds between siblings, and rejoice in the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

Activities:

  • A Pinterest board containing Diwali crafts, food, decor and more!
  • Diwali kids crafts here and here.
  • List of other kids Diwali books and Rina Singh’s new board book Diwali Lights.

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful book to introduce the holiday of Diwali. It provides a good overview for non-Indians as well as Indians. The text is simple and explains the origins of the Hindu religious holiday and then goes on to explain the five-day celebration. The art is colorful and rich with details and authenticity. The Indian illustrator brings to life Diwali celebrations on the streets of India. I love that she depicts inter-generational families which is very common over there and the use of different skin tones.

While the format is a board book the depth of text and illustrations makes it more suitable for kids in elementary school rather than preschool. For example, in the opening spread, the text says Diwali is celebrated around the world with one scene from the US and other from South East Asia, however, there is no text speaking to it. Therefore, it is easy to miss. One other criticism I have is that with only two small spots from outside and Indian combined with the rest of the scenes being set in India does not adeptly convey the largeness of this holiday around the world but rather makes it seem like a holiday just in India.

It’s unfortunate to be in this small format as it would’ve been great for story time during Diwali celebrations in school. It’s still a wonderful read and one I highly recommend. Take a look at the art below!

Happy Diwali!

Find Diwali at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound Goodreads
ISBN-10: 9781534419902
ISBN-13: 978-1534419902

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

October 9, 2018

The Diamond and the Boy plus Interview with Hannah Holt

I am excited to be featuring Hannah Holt’s debut picture book. Hannah and I met years ago through the 12×12 Picture Book group. And became closer over the years as our writing journey took twists and turns. Now on my family trips to Portland, Oregon we make a point to meet-up. Hope you enjoy the review and interview. 

Synopsis for The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall (from Amazon website):

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.

What I Like:

Love, love the parallel stories of the creation of the diamond and the journey Tracy Hall took to become an inventor. I love how the lyrical prose and emotional beats match at every spread. Brilliant writing!

Find The Diamond and the Boy at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062659030
ISBN-13: 978-0062659033

Now onto the interview with Hannah!

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1) Writing for children is not your first career. Tell us about your background and how you came to write picture books.
Sure! My degree is in civil engineering, and I used to design transportation master plans for cities. My former career was all about keeping communities connected physically. My current work is about making emotional connections.

I enjoyed engineering, but my job had a demanding schedule with many public open houses. When my children were born, I transitioned to a work-from-home editing job. Then one Christmas, we were short on cash, and I thought, “I could write stories for family members for presents.” That launched a decade long journey into children’s publishing.

2) I understand this book is based on your grandfather’s life. Did telling a personal story, present any unique challenges? Any particular joys?

Young Tracy Hall

Writing about my grandfather was mostly a joy! My uncle let me wade through his garage one afternoon and bring home boxes of Grandpa’s personal papers. I also enjoyed interviewing family members and researching my grandfather’s successes.

On the flip side, it was difficult reading about the bullying my grandfather experienced as a child. I don’t delve into specifics in The Diamond and the Boy, but there’s a reason he learned to hide in the walls of his school. Reading about these hard times helped me understand his life and development better, but it was gut wrenching at times.

This sounds like a really special experience.

3) The story has two parallel narratives. I love how you lined up the beats of the two stories. How did you decide upon this structure?

My parallel version of this story came as a result of responding to failure. My first agent and I did not part ways on happy terms. She wrote a long and hurtful note when we separated, and after that I wasn’t sure if I could or should go on writing. For the next month, I didn’t write a thing. Instead, I did a lot of soul searching. In the end, I came to the following conclusions:

I liked writing and missed it.

I couldn’t control whether or not anyone else liked my writing.

I could improve my craft.

I could become smarter about how and where I submitted my work.

This story, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, was one of the first stories I revised after this writing break. Previously, I had tried writing the story about Tracy’s cleverness or rocks that sparkle, but those ideas no longer seemed important.

Instead, I saw the need for resilience.

Graphite needed to become resilient…Tracy had to become resilient…

And I needed to get over myself, too, if I wanted to write this story well. So I threw out all my old drafts and started from scratch. Writing a story in parallel about change and resilience seemed natural because it was the journey I was on myself.

This story went on to attract interest from multiple houses.

Lasting success takes hard work and resilience. I’m really glad I didn’t give up!

Thank you for sharing that personal story. I’m so glad you were resilient!

4) Pretend this is the year 2028, what types of books would I see your name on?

I’d like to have a middle grade novel accepted for publication. However, I’m also happy to keep writing more picture books. I love the challenge of telling complex stories in 800 words or less. Picture books are my favorite creative outlet.

5) Any books in the near future we should be on the lookout for?

My second book, A Father’s Love, comes out this year just in time for Father’s Day. It’s a lyrical non-fiction picture book that celebrates different types of animal father’s from all around the world.

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Some rapid fire questions.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Napping. I’ve spent the last month prepping for a book launch. Napping sounds really good right now.

If you could interview any person living or dead, who would it be?
Edwin Chadwick. That’s just my answer today. Ask me next month, and I’ll come up with someone different.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Chocolate.

What book is on your bedside table?
Smart But Scattered

Where can readers find you on the Internet?

Websitehttps://hannahholt.com/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/hannah.w.holt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahwholt

About the Author:

Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

Thank you, Hannah, for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes!

September 17, 2018

Interview with Margaret Greanias

Last Friday, I shared the heart-warming Maximillian Villainous. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with my dear friend and debut author Margaret Greanias.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh wow, this is a tough question! I have many creative influences when it comes to books, and I’m sure I can’t name them all because sometimes influence is a subconscious thing.
During my early years, my favorite authors and stories that I read over and over again were:

  • Tammi Sauer’s “Mostly Monsterly” and “Nugget and Fang” for the humor and full circle structure.
  • Bonny Becker’s “A Visitor For Bear” for the writing, humor, and voice.
  • Kelly Di Pucchio’s “Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet” and “Zombie in Love” for the humor.
  • Pat Zietlow Miller’s “Sophie’s Squash” and “Quickest Kid in Clarksville”
  • Michelle Knudsen’s “Library Lion” and “Big Mean Mike” for the storytelling and read-aloud ability.
  • Peter Brown’s “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and “Children Make Terrible Pets” for turning concepts on their heads.
  • Tara Lazar’s “Little Red Gliding Hood” and “7 Ate 9” for clever wordplay.
    More recently, I’ve really enjoyed the lyricism of Megan Wagner Lloyd’s “Finding Wild” and Katherine Applegate’s “Sometimes You Fly.”
    Can you see any of these influences in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS?

As writers, we take in our surroundings and experiences and sometimes put it into our writing. Are there any details in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS that have come from your life?

Most of the details and actions in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS were inspired by real life. For example, the idea of writing about villains came because my kids were loving the Despicable Me movies. The idea of wanting a pet came from my own childhood experience of pining away for a dog.
Also, smaller elements of the story — from the way Max pesters his family to get what he wants to making the leprechaun trap — all were inspired by my kids and what they were doing at and around the time I was writing the story.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process of writing this story? Any particular joys?

I encountered many challenges in writing MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS — it took two years from concept to ugly drafts to completion.
One challenge was creating a fresh story. I tried addressing this by mashing up two different concepts (villains and wanting a pet).
Another challenge was giving each family member a unique voice to distinguish them from each other especially since two family members (the dad and the grandfather) don’t have any action, only dialogue.
Another challenge was letting go of an ending I loved to find the right ending that worked best for the story. I initially had Max solving his problem and then the family rejecting his solution even though he met their requirements. I got the very astute feedback that the story should wrap up quickly once Max solves his problem. I always keep this feedback in mind even with current projects so that I don’t repeat the same mistake.

My biggest joy was when I found a way for Max to solve his problem in a surprising yet inevitable way (you’ll have to read the book to find out how he does it!). It gave me the same sort of satisfaction as solving a tough puzzle.

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Some rapid fire questions.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Park ranger

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
drink: green tea
snack: berries or stone fruit

If you could have any kind of animal as a pet, what would it be?
Of course, a bunny. 🙂

What book(s) is on your bedside table?
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretGreaniasAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margaretgreanias/
Website: http://www.margaretgreanias.com

Thank you Margaret for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes!

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