January 6, 2017

Best Frints in the Whole Universe

best-frintsTitle: Best Frints in the Whole Universe

Author/Illustrator: Antoinette  Portis
Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, 2016
Editor:  Neal Porter
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-7
Theme: Friendship

Opening Lines:

Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies. They play and snack, and sometimes they even fight, all in a language similar to but slightly different from, English. When Omek decides to borrow Yelfred’s new spaceship without asking (and then crashes it), it sparks the biggest fight yet. Can these two best frints make up and move on?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

An outer-worldly book about friendship.

What makes this book special is that the author has taken a standard story arc and made it fresh with the alien world and language. Just from the cover and the opening end pages, you know this is a book with fun words. It is a righteous read-aloud!

endpage

The book has great pacing and emotional beats. The author adeptly knew where to have text and where to pull back and let the art tell the story. No words needed in this picture below.

frints2

At it’s core this is a story about enjoying each other’s company, having a fight, and making up, which these two adorable blobbies do. The child-like characters and phrasing is spot on. The made-up words are easy to decode while reading.

A great read for preschoolers through lower elementary.

Find Best Frints in the Whole Universe at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 162672136X
ISBN-13: 978-1626721364

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

January 1, 2017

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

happy-new-year-2017-imagesHappy New Year to all my readers!

Once again I am participating in Julie Hedlund’s anti-resolution revolution. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t accomplish, I review my successes and use that as a building base for my 2017 goals. You can see my 2016 goal setting here. It worked quite well in that I was able to stick to my plan for the most part.

List of 2016 Successes:

  • Got an Agent!! (THE highlight of the year. This wasn’t a listed goal since it wasn’t fully under my control, but I did have a goal to finish revisions for prospective agents. So Check!)
  • Going on submission with several PB stories. (another highlight, but again not a goal since it wasn’t entirely under my control.)
  • Wrote 8 NEW first drafts of picture books! (My goal was to write 12, but I’m still happy with 8. My previous record was only 5.)
  • I finally attended the NJ SCBWI conference!! This had been on my bucket list since I first started writing five years ago. Also attended the SCBWI Summer conference. (Goal met. Check!)
  • Took the Nonfiction Archaeology class and completed a draft of my first picture book biography. (Check!)
  • Read two craft books, Story Genius and Big Magic. (My original goal was to finish reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit which didn’t happen. These two books were more of what I needed at the time. Lesson learned – be flexible.)
  • Read/listen to 23 novels and 230 picture books. (My goal was 25 novels, so I almost met my goal. Check!) Check out my post where I break down the numbers and list some favorite titles (Adult thru PB)
  • Added one more polished story to my portfolio. (Had set a goal of two. Will be working on this again in 2017.)
  • Kept up my blogging. Still a little sporadic. (My goal was to blog at least once a month. Check!)
  • Wrote 3K words for a YA novel. From this, I learned I need to have more structure laid down. This ties into a 2017 goal.
  • Became involved in South Asian kidlit. I wrote a piece for WNDB on South Asian kidlit and did a promotional post for 2016 South Asian books and authors. Hadn’t planned for any of this, but will definitely continue.
  • Got two accountability partners. 🙂
  • Volunteer PB application reader for We Need Diverse Books

My word was for 2016 was CREATE and that I did by completing 8 new PB drafts and starting my YA novel. The last few months have ended with a pile of rejection slips which while expected is still a downer. I had one story which I spent 6 months revising in 2016 and that I thought was done, only to realize I may have to tear it up and start again. So my word for 2017 is PERSEVERE – to stay focused on growing as a writer. And if I get a book deal along the way that’s a bonus.

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Goals for 2017

  • Persevere in the difficult picture book revision. Review course material, favorite books, do paid critiques and above all keep trying. Start to explore early chapter books to see if that’s an option.
  • Take a novel craft class. Have the big elements figured out – story arc, main and secondary characters, motivations, stakes, etc.
  • Continue research efforts for the novel.
  • Attend agency retreat and one conference.
  • Write 6 new sh***y first drafts.
  • Revise 2-3 stories to a polished state.
  • Read/listen 20 novels.
  • Blog once a month.
  • PERSEVERE

Wishing you the very best. What are some of your goals for 2017?

December 28, 2016

My Book Reading Report for 2016

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

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2016 = 255
5 Adult;  11 YA;  6 MG;  2 CB/ER; 231 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2016 and past years.2016reads

ADULT: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi), Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

YA: The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon), The Game of Love and Death (Martha Brockenbrough), The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

MG: Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White (Melissa Sweet), Hour of the Bees (Lindsay Eagar), Dear Mrs. Naidu (Mathangi Subramanian)

PB:

  • Strictly No Elephants (Lisa Mantchev and Taeeun Yoo)
  • Horrible Bear (Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hora)
  • Mother Bruce (Ryan T. Higgins)
  • Nerdy Birdy (Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies)
  • Mirette on the High Wire (Emily Arnold McCully)
  • Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes (Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton)
  • Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay (Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport)
  • Diary of a Spider (Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss)
  • Are We There Yet? (Dan Santat)
  • Poppy Pickle (Emma Yarlett)
  • Maple (Lori Nichols)
  • Pink is for Blobfish (Jess Keating and David DeGrand)

What were some of your favorite reads? I’m always looking for excellent titles for my 2017 to-read list.

November 2, 2016

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduTitle: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher: Zubaan Books, 2015
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Activism, Friendship, Economic Diversity
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Zubaan Books website):

Twelve-year-old Sarojini’s best friend, Amir, might not be her best friend anymore. Ever since Amir moved out of the slum and started going to a posh private school, it seems like he and Sarojini have nothing in common. Then Sarojini finds out about the Right to Education, a law that might help her get a free seat at Amir’s school – or, better yet, convince him to come back to a new and improved version of the government school they went to together. As she struggles to keep her best friend, Sarojini gets help from some unexpected characters, including Deepti, a feisty classmate who lives at a construction site; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter who becomes Sarojini’s secret pen pal. Told through letters to Mrs. Naidu, this is the story of how Sarojini learns to fight – for her friendship, her family, and her future.

Why I Like This Book:

This book is a window into another world, another lifestyle, one filled with hardship, friendship, and community coming together to improve the education for the lower class students. I love the main character Sarojini, who shows that even a 12-year old, a girl full of heart and courage CAN make a difference.

The story is told in epistolary style. Sarojini is writing letters to a deceased Mrs. Sarojini Naidu as part of a school assignment. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was an activist and freedom fighter during India’s struggle for independence from the British. As the story unfolds, we see the young Sarojini gain strength. She makes friends with the Deepti the new girl from the construction site, and together they are the heart of the Child Rights Club.  Their fight is to make their government school a better place for kids — by advocating for a playground, clean drinking water and more. But gathering support from the community and the local government is a challenge.

I enjoyed the realistic representation of the neighborhood Aunties and the headmaster of Sarojini’s school. While the Aunties initially dissuade the girls and remind them of the dangers of talking to the press, they eventually come to help the Child Rights Club. The headmaster we learn has lost faith in the government from a previously failed attempt, hence the reason he has become jaded.

While this book was published for the Indian audience, I do think there is an audience for this book in the United States. It’s not just for children of Indian ancestry but for any child that is interested in learning about other cultures and what life is like elsewhere. Adults may need to provide some background information on the following topics – fight for Indian independence, slums, government vs private schools in India, views on Hindu-Muslim relations. Short glossary of common words – roti (thin bread), dosa (South Indian rice paper roll), Amma (mother), Appa (father).

Read the Author’s Note to find out the extent of research the author undertook. Impressive.

I highly recommend this book for any middle-school collection.

Find Dear Mrs. Naidu at the following spots:
Kitaab World | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 9383074981
ISBN-13: 978-9383074983

September 30, 2016

They All Saw a Cat

they-all-saw-a-cat_fcTitle: They All Saw a Cat

Author/Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016
Editor:  Ginee Seo
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3 and up! (all ages should read it)
Themes: Perspective, Subjectivity

Opening Lines:

The cat walked through the world,  with its whiskers, ears, and paws …
and the child saw A CAT,
and the dog saw A CAT,
and the fox saw A CAT.
Yes, they all saw the cat.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):cat-eggs

In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat,
what do you see?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A gorgeous thoughtful book sure to become a modern classic. I love the dichotomy of taking simple picture book text paired with colorful child-appealing art to talk about a big, abstract, philosophical idea. Pure Genius!

The book follows a cat as he walks through the world and the reader gets to see how each of the other animals – a fox, dog, rat, fish – view the cat. What I find amazing about this book is that the big idea is not addressed anywhere in the text. It only exists in the reader’s mind as he/she is reading the text and looking at the pictures. It is something to be realized and felt inside.

A variety of materials were used to make the art: colored pencils, oil pastels, acrylics, watercolor, and more. The author used different styles to help show each animal’s unique perspective of the cat.
This is an important book, one that I hope will find its way onto every bookshelf.

Find They All Saw a Cat at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452150133
ISBN-13: 978-1452150130

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.

 

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