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Reading Resolutions: Summer Update

I figured keeping a quarterly update on the reading challenges I’m participating in will be a great way to keep track of my progress!

Posts of Interests:
Review: The Lord of the Rings
Writing Entry #2
Series Review: Tales of the City

My Reading Snapshot
315 Books Read (So Far) in 2017
19 Adult Fiction
12 Adult Non-Fiction
34 Graphic Novels
26 Middle Readers
220 Picture Books
2 Young Adult

mustreadin2017

My #MustReadin2017 list continues to change. I would say I’m close to halfway through it.

I’ve read about 57 Nonfiction Picture Books already. My goal is 104.

Some reading and literary events I attended- as well as what I did for my Commitment to Literacy:
-One of the highlights of this year was getting to see Dan Santat read at the store! Here’s a post about it I’d been meaning to share:

“Dan Santat did a reading at Green Bean Books. Even though I wasn’t scheduled to work, I made sure not to miss it. The Adventures of Beekle is one of my favorite books to recommend. And seeing him read it- and after hearing him share the story behind each page- I love it even more!

He had been doing school visits all day leading up to the event but he still somehow managed to be as lively and entertaining as one can imagine- even if only basing it on his hilarious Instagram posts. The adults in the audience (including myself) may have been more excited than the kids who enjoyed themselves as well.

Dan Santat first read his latest book Rodzilla. He’s such a dynamic reader- very expressive. I felt like I was learning how to be a great storyteller just by watching him!

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He followed that with Are We There Yet? and I think it blew people’s minds who hadn’t heard of it before just how creative it was not only with the premise of the story but also the way it had to be read. (His promotion for this book on Instagram was nothing short of genius!)

He then read The Cookie Fiasco and shared he had another Mo Willems collaboration in the works!

The highlight for me was definitely getting to listen to Beekle. It made me appreciate the book even more and I can understand why it deservedly won the Caldecott. (During the Children’s Institute in Portland the month before, I mentioned to a fellow bookseller there that I was a bit nervous meeting Dan Santat because he was such a big name in kidlit. She reassured me he was great. It turned out she was part of the Caldecott committee the year Beekle won!)

We were in for a treat when he read from his upcoming picture book After the Fall. What got me was that his books are basically just love letters to his family. Are We There Yet? for his younger son. Beekle for his first son. After the Fall for his wife.

My favorite part was when a balloon randomly popped during a particularly dramatic scene and it was perfect and improvised.

The last book he read was Dad and the Dinosaur. After that I basically just became a fanboy getting my book signed and having my picture taken with him.

I felt truly inspired.”

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-I reached 100 hours of volunteering! My extended goal is 150 by the end of the year. I upped it since I decided to do as much good as I can to help as many people as possible.
-Most of the volunteering has been with the Multnomah County Library. I picked up extra hours helping them get ready for summer reading. This year’s theme is “Build a Better World.” We had a pizza party recently for Volunteer Appreciation and it was such a wonderful surprise!

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-I volunteered at the Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale. I did a different task than I was used to the previous years but it was still rewarding. I’m always happy when people buy boxes full of books!
-With The Children’s Book Bank, I was able to co-lead another volunteer session again and I helped out at their annual fundraiser, Tell Me a Story. Local Portland celebrities and literary figures (including Chelsea Cain) shared various stories about how books transformed their lives. It was great fun!

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-A non-profit that I was able to be part of again was Write Around Portland and I volunteered with them at one of their readings.

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-A couple non-literary related Good Deeds I did was help out at Earth Day and my regular blood donations. And, I don’t share these things to brag (OK, maybe a little) but I just want to show how many opportunities there are for people to help others out. It doesn’t even have to be through some sort of organization or even in an official capacity!
-Last week, I got to help out a parent with an author and illustrator reading at her son’s school. They’re regular customers and wonderful. I practically forced myself into being part of it because I was so impressed by her commitment to literacy! And, I also have to give props to Curtis Manley and Tracy Subisak for agreeing to read their book Shawn Loves Shark. I’m sure it was an experience those kids won’t soon forget! (It was my first time attending a school visit presentation so I was definitely taking notes for when my time comes!)

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A few things I may have forgotten to mention in previous updates in regards to my writing:

I did participate and successfully completed StoryStorm!
storystorm

Book people are the best people; and, I would go so far as to say kidlit folks are the nicest of them all. They’re a supportive bunch willing to help one another out along the entire journey. I wanted to give shout-outs to these programs who had offered some sort of free content to let people like me see if the courses they provided were right. Please click through to learn more about them!

12X12 Challenge
The Children’s Book Academy
Storyteller Academy

It was actually during one of the Storyteller Academy’s online classes that I ran into Mo Willems at a Starbucks when he was in Portland for a couple events! I was so nervous and I wanted to convey how amazing his books were without coming off as an insane fan!

 

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge #NFPB2017- June 28, 2017

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J.R.R. TolkienJ.R.R. Tolkien by Alexandra Wallner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good biography on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien. The illustrations are interesting because the whole concept of the book is that his life story is told as a board game with even a couple codes to solve. I was definitely more intrigued by the presentation than the narrative.
View all my reviews

Who Was J. R. R. Tolkien?Who Was J. R. R. Tolkien? by Pam Pollack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A pretty comprehensive biography of one of the most genius writers of all time. Lots of tidbits that may or may not be well known. I know I learned some new things which made me appreciate his life and his work even more. You really get a sense of how his life inspired many things in his books.
View all my reviews

John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. TolkienJohn Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien by Caroline McAlister
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m currently in the middle of reading Lord of the Rings. I’ve watched and loved the movies- as well as The Hobbit and its films. Before I couldn’t see why people were such fanatics about Tolkien and Middle-Earth but now it all makes sense. What he’s accomplished in world making and storytelling is unparalleled so to read about the man behind the genius has been great. The picture book includes author and illustrator notes that will enhance the reading experience. Definitely one of the best picture books- nonfiction or otherwise- this year!
View all my reviews

Click on the following titles to read my reviews of:
-The Hobbit
-The Lord of the Rings

 

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- June 25, 2017

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

This week, I posted:
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Wednesday
Writing Entry #2
Series Review: Tales of the City

The Storyteller's Candle/La velita de los cuentosThe Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucia M. Gonzalez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A family misses their tropical country after moving to New York. They miss the sun and the holidays they celebrated there. But once they get over the intimidating facade of the public library, they meet an amazing woman who brings Puerto Rico to the wintry streets. Told in both English and Spanish, readers will meet Pura Belpre who left a continuing legacy in what libraries are meant to do.
View all my reviews

Ron's Big MissionRon’s Big Mission by Rose Blue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A great story based on an astronaut’s childhood experience of wanting to learn more about what he was passionate about but being denied to check out books just because the color of his skin. An inspiring book about standing up for fairness no matter how young!
View all my reviews

Splat!Splat! by Jon Burgerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kids will giggle their way through this book as each page turn reveals a messy unfortunate but hilarious result!
View all my reviews

The Jelly Bean TreeThe Jelly Bean Tree by Toni Yuly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A sweet book about Jelly Bean the giraffe who has the unexpected job to pretend to be a tree when a bird accidently builds a nest on her head. Older readers might find her dedication as endearing as Horton who once heard a Who and somehow managed to hatch an egg!

The tissue paper art to illustrate the book was creative.
View all my reviews

The Crane GirlThe Crane Girl by Curtis Manley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A retelling of a Japanese folk tale which the author made totally his own incorporating haikus from each character’s perspective into the original narrative text.

The back matter is full of information about Haiku clubs, the variations of the story, as well as the different kinds of Japanese poetry most people would probably lump together as just haiku.
View all my reviews

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)After the Fall 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.
View all my reviews

Shawn Loves SharksShawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got to help out with a school visit featuring both the author and illustrator of this picture book. I normally wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise but I’m so glad I did. It’s a great story not only for shark lovers but all kinds of animals. But the most surprising thing was that it’s a perfect for classroom readings because it’s also about friendship and being open to new experiences.
View all my reviews

Brave (Awkward, #2)Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jensen just wants to fit in but he just doesn’t seem to belong- whether it’s in Art Club or the Newspaper crew.

An interesting take on bullying- and the many ways it can manifest- makes this an important read but it still manages to be fun.

I wish Jensen was a more fleshed-out character, though.
View all my reviews

mustreadin2017

Evil Under the Sun (Hercule Poirot, #23)Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Perfect summertime read!

On a cozy vacation spot, a beautiful woman sets up the stage for drama resulting in her own murder. Fortunately, Hercule Poirot is there to set things right, to make right all the evil under the sun!
View all my reviews

Click on the image below to read my reviews of the entire series of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

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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!

 

Series Review: Tales of the City

It was a few years ago now that I first met the residents of 28 Barbary Lane. I was instantly enchanted. Each return visit as I read each installment was like catching up with old friends- and growing up with them and even growing apart from some.

As a gay man, this was a wonderful eye opener of what kind of love is possible and how much color variances there are in the LGBTQ rainbow spectrum.

As someone who grew up in San Francisco, I loved how the city was as much of a character as the people who called it home.

These are my reviews of each book in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series.

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin is my 40th favorite book! I had picked this for my World Book Night giveaway this year.

It was a bit risky to ask to give a book out I hadn’t read before but I knew I was going to at least like it a little bit from the chapters I previewed online. I just didn’t realize how much I would love it- the characters, the writing, the format. Originally written as as serial in a San Francisco newspaper, the chapters are short and makes you want to read what happens next. Each one is like getting a piece of puzzle and it’s wonderful when they start to fit together. The fact I grew up in San Francisco added another level of enjoyment.
View all my reviews

More Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #2)More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Chock-full of surprises and scandalous secrets, this kept me up all night! Seriously, “just one more chapter” is impossible once you know the characters. And, probably even if you didn’t, the sometimes outlandish situations they get themselves into will keep you turning pages!
View all my reviews

Further Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #3)Further Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Apparently I’ve been reading one Armistead Maupin Tales of the City novel a year. I find myself completely engrossed in them every time I pick one up but I haven’t had a desire to binge read them. Book three in the series brings back the characters readers have grown to love and putting them into even more ridiculously good situations. (Depending on which edition you read, the publisher-provided summary is too spoilery considering some of the thing it mentions doesn’t happen until much later in the book.) There was hardly a chapter I didn’t at least laugh out loud or shake my head in disbelief at what was happening.
View all my reviews

Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4)Babycakes by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The gang’s back and as dysfunctional as ever. Times are changing as characters face the lost of a loved one, an uncertain future, and the arrival of the Queen of England.

I listened to this on audio book and its short chapters and soap opera plots makes it great for taking longer walks just to see what happens next.

Not as tight as previous installments- relying too much on coincidences and convenient happenings- but nevertheless enjoyable.
View all my reviews

Significant Others (Tales of the City, #5)Significant Others by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
By far, my least favorite in the Tales of the City series.

Not only has the characters I’ve gotten close to become quite insufferable but there are also new characters I really had no interest in. I understand that they are flawed beings but it’s almost like character assassination the way Armistead Maupin seemed to make them unlikable this go around.

And for some reason, the over the top situations that I delighted in before didn’t work- neither did the “it’s a small world” of it all.

But to be fair, the second half of the book was much better than the first.
View all my reviews

Sure of You (Tales of the City, #6)Sure of You by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This sixth volume of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City was originally the final one in the series after he revived it about two decades later. It didn’t feel like it ended at all. There’s no problem with ambiguous endings so we can imagine the characters continue living their lives after we close the books but this one felt it needed a few more chapters.

I liked that the problems in this one was more grounded and less scandalous. It gave us a chance to focus on how the characters have changed. Unfortunately, I felt Mary Ann has gone through a character assassination. I’ve made peace with the fact that people do grow into characters we don’t recognize from when we first meet them and I can see how she might have gotten too ambitious for her own good but she was utterly cold-hearted in this one. The fact she was barely in the previous book- after starting to become unlikable in the book before that- didn’t help. I guess it’s understandable the focus of the series will be on Michael Tolliver but to basically sideline and ruin another character seemed unnecessary.

I listened to the audiobook version of this and I’ve got to say Eric McCormick who narrated this did a great job.

View all my reviews

Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City, #7)Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s nice to get back to these familiar characters- although I didn’t have to wait almost twenty years since the last book in the series as the original fans had to.

The characters are older. There’s a stronger sense of nostalgia even as they find themselves in new situations, new predicaments.

Unlike the previous books, this is told in first person and through Michael Tolliver’s eyes.

The audio book was read by the author and includes an interview with him- as well as a short infomercial of sorts about the importance of reading aloud to children and that publisher has a whole array of audio books for kids to choose from. The only thing I didn’t like was the weird musical segues from time to time.
View all my reviews

Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If Michael Tolliver Lives was a return of characters we’ve loved reading, Mary Ann in Autumn is a return to form to this special series. Not only do we get the serialized format that people either love or hate depending on who that chapter’s focus is but we also get the outrageous plotlines (and the it’s a small world mentality) that will keep readers hooked.

Mary Ann faces an uncertain future while the past ends up clawing its way into her present. Mary Ann has become quite unlikable in the later books in the series so I was worried having the focus on her. Will she be redeemed? Or will the series’ heroine complete her downward spiral?
View all my reviews

The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9)The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
From Barbary Lane to Burning Man, from present day dramas to secrets surfacing from the past, this is the final installment in the Tales of the City saga.

With its revolving and evolving cast of characters, this definitely had a goodbye party vibe to it as familiar faces pop up in unexpected ways.

The matriarch of a San Francisco logical family, Anna Madrigal has lived a long life and feels the end is near. And even despite the convenient coincidences that Armistead Maupin likes to use in his books he managed to come to the end in such a way that somehow felt both satisfying and unsatisfying yet the way it should be.

Even after the final page, I’m sure the characters have a few more adventures awaiting them.

View all my reviews

There have been TV mini-series adaptations of the first three novels. While I watched a few clips, it didn’t capture me. Although with talks of reviving it with some of the original actors, I may end up giving it a second chance. Although, I would have loved to see the musical!

What are your thoughts on Tales of the City?

 

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge #NFPB2017- June 21, 2017

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Bravo!: Poems About Amazing HispanicsBravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bravo, indeed! A great spotlight on Hispanic Americans and their contributions. Beautiful poems. Gorgeous artwork. Mini biographies are included in the back- as well as another poem naming more amazing people!

View all my reviews

Filipino FriendsFilipino Friends by Liana Romulo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The storyline is pretty weak- and having it told in rhyme was problematic as well- but, as a word book, it’s pretty good. I liked that there was a drink recipe and a game based on a popular Filipino kid song.

View all my reviews

Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World: People Who Changed the WorldPaths to Peace: People Who Changed the World: People Who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love books featuring amazing people doing wonderful things to make the word a better place. This collection features changemakers who made a difference through strength in their characters and values all the while not resorting to violence.

View all my reviews

 

Writing Entry #2

It’s been awhile since I shared what’s been going on with my writing– about a year and half ago, in fact!

There’s definitely been ups and downs. The downs are the same monsters that plague everyone.

Insecurity.
Laziness.
Lack of energy/motivation.
Fear of not being good enough.
Fear of not having anything (worthy/worthwhile) to say.
Fear of rejection.

And these are big hard to get rid of monsters that may never completely go away but sometimes they can be forced to retreat for awhile.

One of the ups in my writing is the realization that we all have stories to tell and it’s more important more than ever to share them. And we have to find the stories within ourselves that only we can tell.

Another realization that I shared awhile back: I am going to make writing something fun I want to do again and not this thing that causes me stress and anxiety.

For the actual progress report…

Of all the story ideas I’ve come up with over the years, there have been at least a handful that are begging to be told first- including the picture book manuscript I mentioned in the first writing entry.

It’s been amazing how that manuscript has continued to evolve over time and I do feel it’s just getting better with each revision.

I have finally steeled myself to start looking for an agent. It’s actually been kind of fun. And, while I wait to hear any sort of response, I will continue writing.

Until next time…

 

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- June 18, 2017

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

This week, I posted:
-Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Wednesday

A local author and her critique group started their own press- Wednesday Night Press– to “allow readers to learn or experience something new.” I decided to read one of their latest offerings.

The-Pie-Contest-Wednesday-Night-Press-360x500
A girl enters a Farmer’s Market baking contest using her grandma’s recipe- and everyone begins to wonder what the mysterious secret ingredient is. Sweet story and includes a recipe in the back.

And here’s another one of their books which I read awhile back:
Magdalena's PicnicMagdalena’s Picnic by Patricia Aguilar Morrissey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Enjoyable tale of a girl with a big imagination who transforms her afternoon out in the backyard into a wild jungle adventure. I love the illustrations in this one and readers will definitely enjoy identifying where her imagination ran wild.
View all my reviews

Silent Days, Silent DreamsSilent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Portland author/illustrator Allen Say delivers another stunner with his upcoming picture book Silent Days, Silent Dreams. The life of artist James Castle is explored in this imagined biography. Although I read an advanced copy and artwork may not be final, the different styles Allen Say shares is incredible. An author’s note of how the project came to be and his art method is included in the back matter. Expected pub date is October 31st.
View all my reviews

Blue Sky White StarsBlue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kadir Nelson’s art is truly magnificent. You just want to stare at each one for hours and you’ll notice something new during the course of it. Spare text with plays on words portray an America that was the ideal foundation for a new country and its people.

Author and illustrator notes are included in the back. Additional author notes with info on American symbols can be found in the author’s website which they should have found a way to incorporate into the book- even in the back of the dustjacket would be fine!
View all my reviews

Where is Bear?Where is Bear? by Jonathan Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Cute with text and pictures that will appeal to young readers. Avoid reading the copyright summary because it spoils the story’s twist.
View all my reviews

The GoatThe Goat by Anne Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you want a Kate DiCamillo-esque book along the lines of her Flora & Ulysses, pick up Anne Fleming’s debut middle grade novel The Goat. A large cast of memorable characters- including the titular animal living in the rooftop of a New York apartment building- inhabit this charming story about how lives intersect in the most mysterious ways. It may be difficult to keep track of all the storylines at first but it pays off in the end.
View all my reviews

mustreadin2017

Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City, #7)Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s nice to get back to these familiar characters- although I didn’t have to wait almost twenty years since the last book in the series as the original fans had to.

The characters are older. There’s a stronger sense of nostalgia even as they find themselves in new situations, new predicaments.

Unlike the previous books, this is told in first person and through Michael Tolliver’s eyes.

The audio book was read by the author and includes an interview with him- as well as a short infomercial of sorts about the importance of reading aloud to children and that publisher has a whole array of audio books for kids to choose from. The only thing I didn’t like was the weird musical segues from time to time.
View all my reviews

Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If Michael Tolliver Lives was a return of characters we’ve loved reading, Mary Ann in Autumn is a return to form to this special series. Not only do we get the serialized format that people either love or hate depending on who that chapter’s focus is but we also get the outrageous plotlines (and the it’s a small world mentality) that will keep readers hooked.

Mary Ann faces an uncertain future while the past ends up clawing its way into her present. Mary Ann has become quite unlikable in the later books in the series so I was worried having the focus on her. Will she be redeemed? Or will the series’ heroine complete her downward spiral?
View all my reviews

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!