March 1, 2016

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

I am thrilled to bring you today’s book review. I first ‘met’ Julie Falatko over the Internet back in 2012. She had just started doing book reviews on the Brain Burps podcast when I recommended Mathew Cordell’s ANOTHER BROTHER to her, hoping she would love it. I am so excited to see her witty, quirky humor getting out into the world.

My fun-filled interview with Julie Falatko and Snappsy.

SnappsyTitle: Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

Author: Julie Falatko (awesome interview of Julie, Tim, and Joanna at 7’Imp)
Illustrator: Tim Miller
Publisher: Viking Books, 2016
Editor: Joanna Cardenas
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Friendship

Opening:

Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.
His tail wouldn’t swish this way and that.
And, worst of all, his big jaw wouldn’t SNAP.

“This is terrible! I’m just hungry! Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?”

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A fusion of meta-fiction and unreliable narrator with a dose of heart. A book that can be simply enjoyed for the witty humor or dissected in classroms for its clever storytelling.

Right away from the book cover you know something is awry with the first part of the title in bold maroon letters, and the second part in a Snappsy dialogue bubble. This is the basic jist of the story, overbearing narrator vs humble Snappsy. I love the interplay between what the narrator says about Snappsy versus what Snappsy is actually doing – Snappsy hunting for animals to eat (false) vs Snappsy on his way to the grocery store (truth). I think Kirkus Review said it best by likening the narrator to Rita Skeeter. No wonder Snappsy is snappy. But he does humor the narrator by throwing a party to spice up the book. The reveal of the narrator was an unexpected pleasant surprise.

I love the narrator’s authoritative voice. (Come back tomorrow to find out the author’s influences on this.) I also really enjoyed Snappy’s dialogue when retorting back. Who actually says “You are really cheesing me off.” So original. It is sophisticated storytelling to pull-off essentially two characterizations of a single character, and in a picture book format.

Ms. Falatko provided the skeleton and framework which Mr. Miller filled out with his unique artistic vision. A perfect marriage of text and art.

The retro-cartoony art are simple drawings but full of charm and depth. I loved all the little tidbits that the illustrator added to Snappsy’s character such as the tie and fez. I also enjoyed the interpretive license. Text says “forest” but the art shows a bamboo forest. Snappsy visits a grocery store but it’s actually and ABC Grocery store where the aisles are letters not numbers. The art enrichs the story taking it to another level.

This is a fun read and one I can see kids going back too for more. For a special Snappsy treat take of the dust jacket.

Check-out this awesome book trailer. Enjoy!

Find Snappsy the Alligator at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0451469453
ISBN-13: 978-0451469458

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

January 21, 2016

Be A Friend

beafriendcoverTitle: Be A Friend

Author/Illustrator: Salina Yoon
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2016
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Friendship, Self-acceptance

Opening Lines:

DENNIS was an ordinary boy …
… who expressed himself in EXTRAORDINARY ways.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Dennis is an ordinary boy who expresses himself in extraordinary ways. Some children do show-and-tell. Dennis mimes his. Some children climb trees. Dennis is happy to BE a tree . . . But being a mime can be lonely. It isn’t until Dennis meets a girl named Joy that he discovers the power of friendship–and how special he truly is! At its core, this book is a heartwarming story of self-acceptance, courage, and unbreakable friendship for anyone who has ever felt “different.”

Activities:

  • Downloadable activity sheets – BE A FRIEND Valentines, coloring, and spot the difference.
  • Lovely post by Ms. Yoon on how the story has parallels to her own childhood.

Why I Like This Book:

A tender and powerful story about the loneliness a child feels until he has someone who understands him. While this book is aimed at the children just starting to learn how to make friends in a school setting, I think this story is something any aged reader can relate to. The story is one that will fill the reader with courage to be yourself and re-assurance that there is a friend for everyone.

Ms. Yoon has a knack for creating stories that emotionally connect with children and are also simplistic and charming in their excution. The subdued color palette with red accents is eye-catching and plays well with the short text. One of my favorite parts of the story is the title “BE A FRIEND”, what a subtle and perfect way to get kids to remember to be ‘that friend’ to someone else. In a recent blog post, Mr. Sharp hoped that the kidlit world would mobilize behind this message similar to the “Choose Kind” movement. I certainly hope so.

This book has tons of heart. Check-out the trailer below and see for yourself.

 

This is a good book for pre-school thru KG classroom storytime or lap-reading at home.

 

Find Be A Friend at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1619639513
ISBN-13: 978-1619639515

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.

 

January 1, 2016

Celebrating 2015 and Looking Forward

happy-new-year-resolutions-2016

Hope you all had a relaxing holiday break. Many wishes for you in 2016.

In setting my goals for 2016, I am first following Julie Hedlund’s anti-resolution revolution and writing down my successes. In the past, I didn’t even make resolutions. Seemed pointless since they came from a place of what wasn’t achieved, a place of negativity. With Julie’s approach, you celebrate successes from the previous year and use it as a base to build upon. I did this last year and faired better in making forward progress. My next thing is to figure out what happens at mid-year when the plan starts to unravel. It’s possible I should make only 6-month goals in order to remain flexible with my changing needs. Without further adieu, here is my recap of my successes big and small for 2015.

  • Rejoined my in-person picture book critique group. Love being back with my peeps.
  • Got an accountability partner. Just sort of happened and it’s been great.
  • Three month picture book mentorship with Kathi Appelt.
  • Winner of the 12×12 Diversity Scholarship!!
  • Attended three SCBWI conferences (Asilomar, Spring Spirit, and Oakland) and Kidlit Summer School.
  • Took an excellent on-line class on Character Building in Picture Books.
  • Grew in my picture book writing skills.
    • Realized I love writing with lyrical language.
    • Started using storyboarding during the revision process and loving it. Really helps with pacing and being able “to see” the full story.  (Got the idea after seeing this terrific post.)
  • Volunteer PB application reader for We Need Diverse Books
  • Positive feedback on my stories from a few agents.
  • I read 212 books! Checkout my post where I break down the numbers and list some favorite titles (Adult thru PB)
  • Seeing myself continuing to grow as a writer. Taking joy in the process without getting too consumed by the agent search.

This past year turned out to be a year of “revision”, due to my three-month picture book mentorship, professional critiques, and an R&R (request and resubmit) I received from an agent. As a result, I only wrote 1 new PB draft. So my word for 2016 is CREATE. My over-arching goal is to create new material. Whether they be drafts of new picture books stories, or background material/character sketches/free-writes for my YA novel idea.

wordle4

Goals for 2016

  • Finish latest round of revisions for prospective agents.
  • Take Nonfiction Archaelogy and start a new PB story which will be a NF Biography. (So excited to be finally taking this class.)
  • Attend 1-2 writing conferences. (maybe NJ-SCBWI ??)
  • Finish reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole – excellent craft book.
  • Write 12 new sh***y first draft PB stories.  (This will be my biggest challenge. I dread first & second drafts. I have a strong internal editor. Thanks to Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas group I’m gonna shoot for the stars!)
  • Read/listen to 25 novels. (I love audiobooks! No way I would be able to get through this many novels without it.)
  • Restart research efforts for my novel.
  • Add two more polished stories to my portfolio.
  • Blog at least once a month. (I do miss conversing with all of you.:-) )
  • Write/think about stories/Study Craft EVERYDAY – even if only for 5 minutes. (Up till now I work in spurts which is okay, but when I fall off the bandwagon I lose momentum.)
  • BELIEVE

Wishing you the very best. What are some of your goals for 2016? 

December 29, 2015

My Book Reading Report for 2015

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

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2015 = 212
4 Adult; 9 YA; 5 MG; 1 CB/ER; 1 Graphic Novel; 192 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2015 and past years.

2015 Reads
ADULT: Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks)

YA: I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson), An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

MG: The War that Saved My Life (Kimberly Bradley)

PB:

  • Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (Alicia Potter & Birgitta Sif)
  • The Iridescense of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse (Patricia MacLachlan & Hadley Hooper)
  • Snoozefest (Samantha Berger & Kristyna Litten)
  • Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena & Christian Robinson)
  • Water is Water (Miranda Paul & Jason Chin)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Kate Messner & Christopher Neal)
  • What do You Do With an Idea(Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom)
  • Miss Brooks Loves Books! (Barbara Bottner & Ed Emberley)
  • Seven Blind Mice (Ed Young)
  • The Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton)
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (Monica Brown & Sara Palacios)
  • Peek-a-Who? (Nina Laden)

What were some of your favorite reads? Always looking for excellent titles for my 2016 to-read list.

December 26, 2015

My Love Note for I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN

There are some books you read to find out what happens, does the MC survive, escape, get the love of his. It’s thrilling, page-turning, keep you up at night. And there are some books which immerse you in character and place where the plot is slow going or more hum-drum.

giveyouthesunThen there is the 2014 Printz Winner, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson. Never before have I read a book that has engaged me at every level – character, plot, writing, and especially the space between what is said and unsaid. Borrowing Ms. Nelson’s words this book affects me “like a wave crashing over … completely submersed.” Of course in this case it’s a good thing. While the larger story arc of what happened between Jude and Noah moves the plot along. I read/listened to this book for the little things – Noah’s mind painting, Jude’s anecdotes, the lyrical language, turns of phrases, little surprises. In picture book writing we are told to make every word count, that is what Ms. Nelson did in this novel. This is not a to speed-read through to find out what happens, but to live and experience each breath, each moment with her unique, quirky, soulful characters. It is a journey, and a fantastical one at that.

I have found my new long-term career writing goal, which is to write a novel that is as engulfing and rich as this one. Thank you Ms. Nelson for the inspiration of what a story can be.

If you’ve already read the book, what were some of your favorite parts?

Find I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0803734964
ISBN-13: 978-0803734968

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