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January’s Picture Book of the Month

As part of my Commitment to Literacy: Picture Book It challenge, I wanted to spotlight one book that I’m completely in love with. Throughout the month, I’ll do multiple posts based on the book. I hope you will end up picking up the book and joining in on the conversation.

I’m excited to announce that the first Picture Book of the Month is…

love

Love
Text by Matt de la Peña
Illustrations by Loren Long
(Hardcover, Ebook, Audio Book)
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
January 9, 2018

Summary
From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Review
Love is a poetic picture book that will warm every reader’s hearts with its positive and reaffirming message. Perfect for gift giving. Perfect for reading aloud with those you love.

Ever since I heard about this book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And seeing other people’s early reviews of it made me even more excited- if not a bit jealous. Not only did it live up to the high expectations I had for it but Love surpassed them all.

And when I read Love again recently, it was still as special. I let a few select people sneak a peek and I loved their reactions and what they got from it. I know they’ll be sharing the book with others as well!

Not only is this a celebration of different types of love but also of diversity and of experiences. Loren Long’s artwork managed to be both complementary and of itself creating different emotions.

Add Love as your first must read of 2018!

Discussion
I’d love to hear where you’ll be getting your copy of Love from when it comes out Tuesday, January 9th. What’s your favorite independent bookstore and library you go to?

And, if you’ve read it, please share your thoughts!

— — — — — — — THANK YOU FOR READING! — — — — — — —

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Please like The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer Facebook page!

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My blogging is fueled by YOU taking the time to read my words. It is also fueled by caffeine. If you’re so inclined, my email is EARLDIZON [at] GMAIL.COM if you want to send a Starbucks gift card my way. Thanks!

— — — — — — — HAPPY READING! — — — — — — —

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Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge #NFPB2018- January 3, 2018

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Let the Children MarchLet the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An inspiring account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963 when young activists took center stage and stood up for civil rights when their parents couldn’t. The text and the illustrations depict the horrifying things the children endured in the hands of close-minded individuals from hosing them down, having dogs attack them, and even imprisoning them. But it just goes to show that anyone can make a difference- and everyone should! Let the children read this book to empower them.

The endpapers include a timeline of certain dates from the Civil Rights era. The book also contains an afterword from the author, an artist’s statement, and historical photographs.

Pair this with The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and‎ Vanessa Brantley-Newton. My review of that book can be found here: https://thechroniclesofachildrensbook…

A Peaceful Leader: Martin Luther King, Jr.A Peaceful Leader: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Sarah Albee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great early reader biography of the great Martin Luther King, Jr. A simplified account of his life and his work that still manages to get the message across to a young audience and hopefully will make them seek out more titles about him.

Includes a timeline and additional informational sections with historical photographs.

More reviews of Martin Luther King, Jr. books can be found here: https://thechroniclesofachildrensbook…

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Looking Forward to 2018

Stemming from the belief that we are “stronger together,” I decided my one word focus for 2018 would be RESIST.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, resist means to “withstand the action or effect of.”

I’m sure I’ll find different interpretations of the word as the year progresses. I recommend reading The New York Times article on what this battle cry means to others.

On a smaller scale, it is a reminder to myself to resist making the bad choices when confronted with decisions of instant gratification versus a more satisfying result in the long run. For example, I could resist the temptation to eat out knowing the money I’d be saving would help fund a vacation to see my family.

I love that as a reader, I’ve come across all kinds of characters who’ve decided to resist against forces that threatened to destroy their well-being or of others or of the world they live in. From hobbits to real-life heroes, I am inspired to join others who fight for what’s right.

Commitment to Literacy: Picture Book It

I’m excited to Picture Book It in 2018 as part of my Commitment to Literacy challenge.

My main goal is to share and get as many of my stories out there through various channels while still trying to get traditionally published. I want to challenge myself to create at least one original story to readily share with others on a monthly basis. It’ll be like being in a year-long picture book making workshop.

I also want to invite as many people as possible to pick up and read a picture book again. I’ve been saying it for years now but we are in a golden age of children’s literature again. I’m always sad for adults (and even teens) who dismiss kids books as below their reading level or of a lower quality than what they would normally read. Or, because they don’t have children of their own or don’t work around them, they don’t give themselves a reason to read a picture book. They are missing out!

To address this issue, I will be doing a Picture Book of the Month spotlighting one title that I’m completely in love with. I’ll have multiple posts on this blog- and on the Facebook page– to celebrate that particular picture book.

Writing

-Attend the SCBWI-OR Fall Retreat.
-Continue sending manuscript(s) to agents.
-Participate in StoryStorm.
-Find (or start) an in-person critique group.

storystorm2018

Reading

I’m actually planning on reading less as I want to focus more on my writing. I will still participate in the following challenges:
-Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge #NFPB2018 Goal: 104 books including MG and YA
-Must Read in 2018 #MustReadin2018- I’ll be sharing my list later this month.

mustreadin2018

And, I also want to showcase more books by Filipino, LGBTQ, and local (Portland and Pacific NW) authors and illustrators.

Personal

2018 is an exciting year for me. I’ll be turning 35 in April so I definitely want to spend the occasion with my family and friends in Las Vegas for that.

It’s also my 10 years of having moved to Portland- and consequently 10 years of volunteering- so I want to find ways to celebrate those milestones.

What are you looking forward to 2018?

 

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- January 1, 2018

I changed the name for my “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” posts to “My Reading Week.”

Happy 2018!

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I rung in 2018 by volunteering at a library’s New Year’s Eve event! Fun people. Festive times. It brought my total up to 176 volunteer hours for 2017! I’m inspired to continue doing good and hope we can all find ways to do good in the new year!

This week, I posted:
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Wednesday
My Favorite Books of 2017 Part I
My Favorite Books of 2017 Part II
My Favorite Books of 2017 Part III
Looking Back at 2017

The Pink HatThe Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on the title, I would have thought this would be a straight out political statement kind of book for kids- and I would have been fine with that. But this is actually a zippy fun read that doesn’t seem to heavy on the message that it symbolizes. This might be a good way to discuss why readers want to get involved.

Dear Girl,Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Get ready to bawl your eyes out with this sweet, life-affirming picture book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Gather the girls in your life and have them read this one.

PlumePlume by Isabelle Simler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Simple and fun of gorgeously illustrated birds and a sneaky cat who likes to collect their feathers. I wish there was a mini guide on the different kinds of birds featured to make this book stand out more!

Three Balls of WoolThree Balls of Wool by Henriqueta Cristina

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was interested in reading this book every time I saw a glowing review of it on blogs. I was pleasantly surprised it was another book focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the thirty articles are included in the back) since I seem to have come across a couple of them this year- My Little Book of Big Freedoms: The Human Rights Act in Pictures by Chris Riddell and Imagine by John Lennon.

A family becomes refugees after leaving their oppressive country. In their new home where there are more freedoms, they encounter a problem in conformity right down to the children wearing their same uniform looking sweaters. The mother finds a creative way to break free in yet another way.

Includes a foreword about Amnesty International and some historical background.

I was also surprised that this Portuguese picture book was translated by Lyn Miller-Lachmann who worked on Lines, Squiggles, Letter, Words by Ruth Rocha.

Fancy Nancy: Oodles of KittensFancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens by Jane O’Connor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fancy Nancy is back to ring in the new year with the surprise arrival of kittens. A good take on sibling rivalry when the new house pet clashes with the existing one. But if anyone could solve this kind of problem, it’s the girl who likes to introduce readers to fancy words!

These Words I Shaped for YouThese Words I Shaped for You by Megan Merchant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A board book that’s guaranteed to make new or expecting moms cry. Very sweet.

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It was a mad dash to the finish line to get these two books read to complete my Agatha Christie reading challenge for the year!

Death Comes As the EndDeath Comes As the End by Agatha Christie

Sparkling Cyanide  (Colonel Race, #4)Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s always fun to run across Agatha Christie’s secondary characters in other novels. In this case, it’s Colonel Race (and a mention of Superintendent Battle.) Sharing a plot with one of her short stories, this was like reading just an extended version of it which I didn’t particularly enjoy since I kept comparing the two. It still managed to fool me in regards to whodunit.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was surprised to discover this was an Egyptian historical murder mystery. Something I never expected from Agatha Christie. And despite me having a slight trepidation of actually reading it, I didn’t absolutely hate it. I was engrossed and fascinated by the mastery of the Queen of Mystery’s ability to make this kind of story work.

I do have to say this version needed serious editing!

Review Notes
***= Recommended
****= Highly Recommended
*****= Favorite

You can view all the books I’ve read at my Goodreads page.

Thanks also to Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their focus on Children’s Literature of this meme!

Thanks also to Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their focus on Children’s Literature of this meme!

Please like The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer Facebook page!

Please like The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer Facebook page!

If you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag #IMWAYR when sharing your link!

Have a great reading week!

 

Looking Back at 2017

My motto for 2017 was Stronger Together. It meant spending time with family and friends and getting involved with my community.

I was in San Francisco for my grandma’s 80th birthday. I loved seeing everyone again.

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Read about my San Francisco trip here. One of the highlights was definitely getting to visit the inspiration for Tales of the City.

totcsf

Volunteering and Commitment to Literacy

I wanted to do as much good as possibly can for as many people as possible. A large part of this was upping my volunteering hours to 150 for this year. With my final shift of the year at the library earlier this week, I was at 171.5 hours- and I signed up to volunteer for a fun event at New Year’s Eve at another library! (Plus, I have some things scheduled for the new year already!)

[Update 1/1: After the New Year’s Eve library event, my volunteer hours in 2017 rose to 176!]

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And, since tracking my volunteer hours in 2012, I realized I’ve reached (at least and definitely more than) 1,000 hours since moving to Portland in 2008!

I found myself seeking to do something good whenever I was feeling down or when the world seemed out of control. In 2017, there were definitely lots of those moments. I was also super impressed how the kidlit community stepped up during difficult times.

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Bookstores and Bookselling

I celebrated my five-year anniversary at the bookstore this summer. I love being a bookseller, particularly at Green Bean Books. It’s a truly special place that encourages creativity and discovery and promotes diversity.

I was thrilled to attend the Children’s Institute in the spring. I was so inspired and had so much fun talking with and learning from other booksellers across the country! And, let me tell you, book people throw the best parties!

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I also got to attend Portland’s literary festival- Wordstock- again for work!

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I got to dress up for work again this year- twice, in fact. The first time was as the Very Hungry Caterpillar…

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…and then as the Poky Little Puppy.

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I loved getting to meet Dan Santat and see him read at the store! I tried not to be too much of a scary fan. (Another time I had to pretend to keep it cool was when I ran into Mo Willems at a Starbucks here in Portland!)

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One of my favorite moments of the year was when a customer let me help her out for an special reading at her son’s school. She invited both the author and the illustrator of a book they loved; and, she organized the whole thing!

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Blogging

One of my goals was to get 150 likes on this blog’s Facebook page. Thank you to everyone who’s made it happen! And I invite those who haven’t liked it yet, to do so!

Please like The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer Facebook page!

Please like The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer Facebook page!

My Reading Life

I had a hard time concentrating this year. My reading tally was at the lowest it’s been in years- only 614 books read this year!

Here’s the breakdown:
31 Adult Fiction
18 Adult Non-Fiction
53 Graphic Novels
59 Middle Readers
446 Picture Books
7 Young Adult
(137 Nonfiction Picture Books)

mustreadin2017

With my ever changing list, I ended up not reading 5 titles, a few of which I want to carry over to next year. I updated my Must Read in 2017 list with links to posts of the books I’ve read!

My Writing Life

I successfully completed StoryStorm!

storystorm

I submitted one of my picture book manuscripts to agents. While I didn’t hear back from any of them, I will continue trying.

I completed another picture book manuscript; and, I’m excited and inspired to write more.

How was your year?

 

My Favorite Books of 2017- Part III: Picture Books

It’s that time of year when people share their best of lists- in my case, I’ll be sharing my favorite books.

Heads up: I may have gotten carried away with the number of favorites so there’ll be multiple posts to cover all the categories.

Finally, I’ll be sharing picture book favorites! Be sure to check out the other posts since there may have been some picture books that may have snuck in on there.

The Legend of Rock Paper ScissorsThe Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book I love to eavesdrop to when someone reads it at the store because I know the kids will enjoy it and the adults will be caught off guard by how much they’ll enjoy it too! Super fun, perfect for read alouds. Usually leads to impromptu rock paper scissors competitions.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's JourneyStepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stepping Stones is a beautiful heartbreaking picture book telling the story of a family forced to leave their war-torn homeland and seek refuge elsewhere. The journey will be long and dangerous but when the destination offers peace and freedom, it’s one they know they must take. Margriet Ruurs writes the text and offers how the book came to be- from an image on Facebook to reaching out via various friends around the world to cover the language barrier. The artwork is by Nizar Ali Badr. His stone medium is unique and manages to convey many emotions. Orca Book Publishers are donating a portion of the book sale proceeds to various refugee resettlement organizations in the US. A list of organizations is included in the back of the book. This would be a great addition to school and home libraries.

Crocodile TearsCrocodile Tears by André François
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This quirky picture book is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library humor. And, apparently the reason why it had a old-vibey feel was that it was first published in the 1950’s. Cased in envelope-looking slipcover, this crocodile-length book is full of silliness.

(My Caldecott Contender Pick)
The Book of MistakesThe Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This will make any reader- young or old- fall in love with picture books. In fact, I would suggest adults buy this for themselves even if they don’t have kids.

Fans of Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops! and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With an Idea? will be quite taken by Corinna Luyken’s The Book of Mistakes.

The story starts off with a mistake but, instead of giving up or starting over, the story embraces its mistake. And it leads to unexpected discoveries, more mistakes, and well… you’ve got to read it for yourself.

The illustrations is truly a piece of art and that’s why this is one of my picks to win a Caldecott!

(My Caldecott Contender Pick)
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up AgainAfter the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up Again by Dan Santat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dan Santat read the advanced copy of this picture book when he read at the store last month. (I still need to write about that most wonderful day on my blog.)

A familiar nursery rhyme is scrambled into a delectable egg-celent dish that will make you savor each moment until the final bite!

Expected release date is October 3rd.

A New School Year: Stories in Six VoicesA New School Year: Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I simply adored this book. Six kids. Six grades. Six stories. From the night before to after the first day of school, we get snapshots of their lives as they deal with their individual worries and fears as well as their expectations and lessons learned. Told in verse. And the art is wonderful!

(My Caldecott Contender Pick)
ClaymatesClaymates by Dev Petty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my favorite picture books of the year and also one I want to win a Caldecott. Great fun concept of what two balls of clay can be. I would love to see a behind the scenes video of this book was made!

Lines, Squiggles, Letters, WordsLines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha was actually read to me during an impromptu storytime last week at my volunteer shift!

We’ve had this in store for awhile and, for some odd reason, I thought it was a doodle book!

Translated from Portuguese, this picture book charmingly tells the story of a boy who sees pictures he can’t quite decipher. Until he learns how to read. He realizes that the confusing images are actually letters!

This would be a great book for kids and adults learning how to read because it’ll give them a new way of seeing the world!

Still StuckStill Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absolutely charming and quirky picture book from Japan about a boy who gets stuck trying to get his shirt off. He begins to imagine what a life in that condition would entail.

(My Caldecott Contender Pick)
The Wolf, the Duck, and the MouseThe Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was as good as everyone said it would be. It’s a completely absurd premise that only Mac Barnett can come up with paired with Jon Klassen’s signature style. Guaranteed to be a storytime favorite!

View all my reviews

 

My Favorite Books of 2017- Part II

It’s that time of year when people share their best of lists- in my case, I’ll be sharing my favorite books.

Heads up: I may have gotten carried away with the number of favorites so there’ll be multiple posts to cover all the categories.

Now, I’ll be sharing middle grade, graphic novel, young adult, adult, and audio book favorites! Check the other posts because sometimes I put a book in a different category.

Middle Grade Novels

(My Newbery Contender Pick)
Patina (Track, #2)Patina by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So good! If you loved Ghost as much as I did, you’ll love this follow up to the series as much- if not more! A great story of how life can run us off course but how family (the ones we’re born with and the ones we choose) can lead us back on the right track if we just believe in them and in ourselves.

Patina by Jason Reynolds comes out August 29th.

(My Newbery Contender Pick)
See You in the CosmosSee You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In what I think is a must read novel of 2017 and my choice for a Newbery honor, See You in the Cosmos features one of the most original voices I’ve read in awhile. Alex (who’s half-Filipino) is entering a rocket launching contest in which he wants to include a recording of himself talking about his life for any intelligent beings who happen to come across his Golden I-Pod in outer space. It’s not an easy life with a mom who has more and more of her quiet days and a brother who lives in another state but fortunately he has his best non-human friend with him- his dog Carl Sagan named after his hero. Together they end up in search of Alex’s maybe dad but finds one surprise after another.

He reminded me of myself, in the sense that we both (all of us, really) are looking for simple answers to life’s big questions and maybe aren’t satisfied by the bits and pieces we get. But we’re not meant to know everything although the realization he gets towards the end (the passage that ends with words are shadows too) of the book was great.

(The iffy thing that made me not really like this novel though is that there are adults who decide to take a kid they don’t know with them. While good-intentioned, it just didn’t seem right.)

It’s a mix of Counting by 7’s and Wonder.

(My Newbery Contender Pick)
ShortShort by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m considering this the first must read middle grade novel of 2017. More accessible and just as good as Counting by 7’s, which I also loved. Maybe I just have an instant fondness for books with short people being part of musicals. Fans of Tim Federle’s Nate books will enjoy this.

A New Arrival (Sprout Street Neighbors, #2)A New Arrival by Anna Alter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first installment so I don’t know why I waited so long to read the follow-up. The Sprout Street Neighbors welcome a new tenant into the fold and it causes many different and sometimes surprising reactions. I highly recommend this series as a read aloud because kids will enjoy the adventures and adults will be enthralled with the storytelling as well.

WishtreeWishtree by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katherine Applegate manages to write stories that will resonate with both kids and adults. Wishtree is no exception creating a memorable character and an unforgettable story.

Sometimes you can read more into a story than there really is. Sometimes a tree is just a tree even if it’s a wishtree. Sometimes a tree can stand for America and each of us represents a wish tied in its branches. And when the tree is in danger of being torn down or destroyed, we have to do our parts to ensure it remains strong and proud, rooted in its rich and diverse history and branching out in ways that can accommodate a future that we can all call home.

(My Caldecott Contender Pick)
The Purloining of Prince OleomargarineThe Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a truly special book. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder how amazing it was that I would experience a new story from Mark Twain and then have the Steads work their magic on it. The unfinished manuscript of this fairy tale was given to Philip Stead to complete- or, at least, make something of it- and then Erin Stead brilliant and gorgeously illustrated it.

I can see this as being a popular gift for years to come.

I attended a bookseller’s conference earlier this year and I got to hear them speak about how this book came to be. It was fascinating. In the exclusive first look copies, they included a peek behind Erin’s art which I wished they included in the final product!

(Audio Book)
Inside Out & Back AgainInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d been meaning to read this for awhile now and it didn’t disappoint. (I listened to this as an audio book.)

Based on the author’s actual experiences, this novel in verse tells the story of a family having to leave their home country of Vietnam during war time to uncharted territories of a new place, new language, and new culture. It tackles the kindness and meanness of strangers, the necessity and frustrations of family, and finding the necessary strength in a beautiful and ugly world. Readers will experience these dualities as well and find themselves laughing and crying as they get to know Ha and her family.

(Audio Book)
The Secret KeepersThe Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m kicking myself for not reading this sooner! I loved The Mysterious Benedict Society and I was looking forward to this when it first came out. I have to admit though that the size- it’s a pretty thick book and, listening to it on audio, was over 15 hours- made me not to want to pick it up in the first place. Also, it was a slow burn like his other books but, once it gets going, you’ll be turning pages until the end.

Graphic Novels

(My Newbery Contender Pick)
All's Faire in Middle SchoolAll’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t wait until September when people can get their hands on this title. It’s probably my favorite graphic novel of the year. I admit I didn’t think I would like it at first but the story and the art (even when the version I read was the unfinished Advance Reading Copy) won me over. This is a great coming of age story that takes place half in middle school and the other in a Renaissance Faire. The main character (Impy) decides to go to public school after years of homeschooling and she has to figure out how to fit in without losing herself. She is also a knight in training at the Faire where she realizes the dragons we face in life may not be who they really are. The conflicts she has in school, at the Faire and with her family manage to be heartbreaking and familiar. This will be great for book clubs and classroom discussions a well!

Hilo: The Great Big Boom (Hilo Book 3)Hilo: The Great Big Boom by Judd Winick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hilo continues to improve. Now on its third volume, the friends find themselves in a warring planet. Not only do they have to find a way back to Earth but they must also help Hilo remember his past. What will his memories reveal? How will it change everything? Readers will gobble this book up and start counting down to the the next installment which doesn’t release until Spring 2018. Aaaahhh!

Love Is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse ShootingLove Is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My rating is mostly due to the fact that this comic even exists in response of a tragic event. I loved that familiar characters “stood up” and many kidlit creators were also included. While I was reading this, I wrote the following as my social media post: I love the writers, the illustrators, the singers, the actors, the filmmakers, the artists, and everyone else who create things that make us appreciate the world what we have, makes us believe in all the wonderful possibilities out there, makes us see things differently, makes us feel that we aren’t alone, and makes us forget our troubles for awhile. I am reading the graphic novel Love is Love which benefits the survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting and I am taken back to last June when the horrific event happened. I’m taken aback to these days’ backward thinking actions by those in power who take away people’s rights because they aren’t like them. But out of last year’s grief, just like in response to our recent political situation, people have stepped up for love and for one another in beautiful, meaningful creative ways.

Young Adult Fiction

Long Way DownLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! Definitely a must read book (of any genre)! This young adult novel told in verse has a unique premise. After his older brother is gunned down, fifteen-year-old sets out to get revenge. The elevator ride from the top from of his building will be the longest one minute of his ride when unexpected people from his life start to board.

Powerful. Moving.

What I’m excited about with this book is that I think even reluctant readers will want to pick this up.

SoloSolo by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kwame Alexander works his magic for a young adult crowd, partnering once again with Mary Rand Hess. Being part of a rock and roll family might seem like the good life but Blade knows too well not all that glitters is gold. With a father who crashes and burns more often than not and a girlfriend who may not be quite into him as he is with her, he relies on music to get him through the tough times. But after a family secret comes out, he finds himself halfway around the world to discover what’s real and what isn’t in his life. A beautiful lyrical book. I particularly loved the poem “Konko.” And I need to check if the publisher or the authors have compiled the songs mentioned in the book into a playlist.

The Dire King (Jackaby, #4)The Dire King by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stakes are high in this final installment of the Jackaby series.

When the seams of the human and supernatural worlds are being ripped apart to create a war between the two, the resident of 926 Augur Lane must confront the evil mastermind behind it all. They soon realize that no one is safe. And nothing will ever be the same.

Another thing I like about this series that I may not have mentioned before is that readers can get a sense of how much fun William Ritter must have had writing some of these scenes. He really delivered in wrapping things up in a satisfying, high-octane, emotional conclusion.

(Audio Book)
The Kingdom on the Waves (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, #2)The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thrilled to pick up where I left off from a few years back. And, this time, I listened to the audio book version of it. I’ll admit I don’t remember everything that happened in the first volume but I was still caught up by the story. With the characters in the front lines of war, there is definitely a darker tone but still moments of levity. Includes an author’s note.

(Audio Book)
The Serpent KingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t going to read this because I thought it was a YA dystopian novel. Then I wasn’t going to continue reading it because one of the main characters was a moody skinny guy unaware of his attractiveness.

But fortunately, this was the only audiobook that was available to download and I actually enjoyed the story once it got going. Once I could understand why these supposed friends were actual friends in the first place.

But with all YA novels, I get a growing dread I’m hurtling towards a death scene and this was no different. To avoid spoiling anything, I won’t mention if anyone even died or how many or if a piece of fish was involved. You won’t get any spoilers from me.

I was really impressed by the narrators- some more than the others. It was interesting to hear how the characters were voiced when done by other actors. They almost made it seem like the story was written by three different authors which is a major kudos to Jeff Zentner creating such real and distinct characters.

I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this novel despite all the problems I had with it. I really hate the title and the whole plot relating to it. I wish that was something else. The book could have ended sooner, too. Oh, and it’s pretty depressing which may be difficult to get through for some people considering how pretty depressing real life can get.

If you want a book to make you think and feel and find someone else who has read it, The Serpent King is for you!

Adult Fiction
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Every Brilliant ThingEvery Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently watched a performance of this play. It was such a unique experience that I immediately set out to read it. It’s truly something not to be missed.

View all my reviews
I just realized my review doesn’t really say anything about it. It’s a heartbreaking tale of a child coming to grips with his mother’s depression and suicide attempt. It’s also a heartwarming tale of finding love where and when you least expect it. Of course, thinking about it now, I was bound to love this play because it’s a list of every brilliant thing that life has to offer.

Audio Books

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magic and mania. Gypsies and ghosts. I was simultaneously enchanted and revolted by this epic novel that follows the rise and fall of the Buendia family and the town of Macondo. With a large cast of characters and repeated names, it was particularly helpful to have a family tree to keep referring to although it was spoilerish.

I listened to this as an audio book and the narrator John Lee did a great job.

The biggest draw for me as I first listened to it was that it wasn’t about a war. I thought I was going to be treated with a straight up family drama. But, I guess with the time span it covered, things were bound to get even more complicated and very convoluted. By then, I was invested in the characters and needed to know how things would play out.

And a majority of these characters were hard to like. Maybe because it was a by product of their upbringing or where they grew up. But they become so real. It’ll be hard to forget them and what they went through.

And this is a book not for the faint of heart. But there’s no doubt that if you’ve read it, you’d be amazed by the scope and its audacity.

Grimm's Fairy TalesGrimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of audiobooks will be thrilled to discover some of the best narrators have been compiled to read some of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. People may be surprised by how different the original versions are to what may have popularized by mainstream media.