Tag Archives: Reading

Picture Books Read in 2021: #51-100

28 Feb

The picture book parade continues to stomp through the year. Normally it would have taken me an entire year to read through 100 of these dazzling masterpieces, but now with a clear goal of at least one picture book per day, I’m roaring above expectations. There are so many great books out there, and we’re fortunate that the creators persisted long enough to bring them to us. Many from this collection cemented my love for the medium, rekindled my affection for Beach Lane Books, and helped me discover new favorite creators in Bob Shea, Kelly Dipucchio, Minh Lê, and Jessie Sima. Of the lot, the following were my personal favorite 5-star books:

Reading as Fishing

13 Jan
Kids love to learn which explains ‘why’ being their most uttered word. As a child I rejoiced in both reading (looking at pictures) and fishing, but was unaware how linked the two were. Emerging from my teenage years I shed myself of both. Only now as an adult writer has the passion for reading and fishing returned.

Kids don’t know what they’re looking for. They just want to have fun while they learn and grow. Neither fishing nor reading need a purpose. Sure both take a dose of patience, but much like each new page brought an interesting picture, each reeling delivered an element of surprise. And it didn’t hurt that Grandma and Grandpa had a knack for catching perch off the thousand islands.  

Grandma & Grandpa: The best life coaches a writer could ask for.

As an adult, I never caught anything, and thus found fishing to be rather dull. I equated a dead fish as success. I failed to realize fishing was much like reading. You shouldn’t pick up a book hoping it will change your life, lead you to riches, or motivate you to open Iran’s largest juice bar. Instead, read to enter a parallel universe through someone else’s eyes. Enjoy the act, and if in the end you haven’t caught anything, you’ve atleast spent a morsel of time peacefully adjusting to your surroundings (the fish can disagree with ‘peacefully’).

Perhaps my absence at the fishing pond is due to how I’ve never been much of a reader. I’ve always wanted to tear through the pages of a colorful book, but often 10 pages in I’d become lost, tired, or compelled to take advantage of the 24 hour drive-thru window.

With everything I do, I need a purpose. Since writing is my sole (99%) reason for breathing, reading has recently become an integral consumer of time.

Now when I read I bring along my fishing pole: the hi-liter. Sitting back, looking at the world the author presents me, I’m content catching the quotables from a text much like a fisherman catchs a fish. But there’s need to reel in a prize-winner or any ‘fish’ at all. I just sit my pole by my side and if I get a bite, I highlight that juicy ‘creature’ to digest later.

Recently, I finished Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, a post-modern collection of surreal short stories. While I enjoyed the hours shaking on a train and snuggled in bed reading it,  the dessert arrived when looking back at all of green highlighted parts. In addition to fulfilled enjoyment I now have a collection of word parades to hang on my metaphorical wall. But these ‘fish’ were caught by someone else, namely Murakami. Thus the grandeur, wit, and wisdom of his sentences mock me as a writer and thus inspire me to pen better.

They say a writer reads, and this is true. If you haven’t been inspired, you’re are learning, despite if you consciously know it or not. But if you have yet to catch something, you haven’t sat by the pond long enough. Remember, the prize is in the act, not the catch.

Be on the look out for future ‘Fisherman’s Net’ posts where I’ll display the catches from a recently read book.

Keep fishing imaginators!

A Year of Goals: 2011 Reading List

12 Jan

I’ve learned that amassing a lengthy to-do list only wastes the time you could have spent on accomplishing something. It’s better to begin working naturally and then once you’re aware of your drive to succeed, setting, and time limitation, then set small goals on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. For instance, I’ve created a PDF checklist for CRAVEWRITING in which I have to post 10 new entries each month. Given how I wrote 30 in November, 10 posts has proven to be a reasonable and achievable goal.

When looking at my 2010 reading list and the scores of un-read novels collecting dust on my desk, I felt the urge to compile a list of books long enough to blanket Rapunzel’s hair. Luckily my brain posessses the ability to re-think. While it would feel heroic to pick off titles from the list one-by-one, the reality is that I would probably never finish it. I don’t know about the rest of your imaginators, but I like the feeling of completion, especially since I get to blast the Superman theme song from my speakers. Plus, who knows what ‘must-reads’ I’ll encounter over the next year. It’s inhumane to ask myself to name each and every title I must scour over the next 365 days.

So I opted to look beyond the books and into my soul. I asked myself, “Why do you read?” Wait a minute, I read? I then re-phrased the question to “Why should you be reading?” There, I got it.

Well, let’s see. I read for many reasons. Specifically, I read to…

  1. Learn the trade from the published masters: As they say, “writers are readers,” and if I’m going to write, I need to aggressively yet comfortably dive into stacks of similar titles, past, present, dusty and famous.
  2. Increase my reading speed and endurance: I am a slow reader, and quickly fall asleep mid-way through a chapter. I’m beginning to notice though the more I read the faster and longer I’m reading for. On several occasions I nearly pulled an all-nighter by being glued to the final pages of a novel (in this case Harry Potter). Time is limited, thus reading more in less time appeals to me.
  3. Increase my working vocabulary: I may have an English Education degree, and can spin words in infinite directions, but my arsenal of weaponry is is bone-dry. I need to upgrade my vocabulary not only to rock the GRE in the hopes of entering a creative writing PHD program but to also add a glitter of diversity and spice to my word parades.
  4. For entertainment: Honestly, I enjoy everything I read. Though I would say that non-fiction essays and memoirs from comedians such as Lewis Black and Steve Martin have equalled the joy of watching a movie in a theatre. I love reading about the adventures of like-minded souls, but namely ones who are funny and successful.
  5. To learn new things and/or enhance my knowledge in certain areas: This would include cookbooks and Lonely Planet titles, but mostly this is goal exists to satisfy my unearthly obsessions with all things roller coasters, zoos, cartoons, professional wrestling, toys and mythology. Pretty much whatever fascinates me as a kid, still does today. Just because something is intended for children, doesn’t mean an adult has any less to learn.

Then I perused my GoodReads account and analyzed the types of books I read. I graciously ommitted the recipe and travel books. While they belong on the shelf, and satisfy Reason-To-Read #5, I figured I should stick to literature. Consequently, the types of books I am (should be) reading are listed below and in paranthesis are the Reasons-to-Read they satisfy along with descriptions and books on deck to read.

  • Picture Books (1,3,4) Despite how I said I wouldn’t set lengthy goals, I’m determined to read at least 100 picture books published over the past two years. Having been in Japan, I’ve lost access to new trends/styles/leading publishers. When I return in the fall, I’ll be able to quickly catch-up by scaring children in the local Barnes & Noble and pissing them off by borrowing all the good titles at the library. I could easily list all of the great titles I’ve seen from other blogs and newsletters, but I’ll just wait to see what’s available to me in the fall.
  • Chapter Books / Middle Grade (1,2,3,4) Currently, I’ve penned 38 PB manuscripts with another 28 rough drafts on their way in February. Of course the publication process could take years, but I’m already eyeing potential titles in the early reader / chapter / middle grade arena. Though having neglected the classics as a child, it’s one that I’m ill equipped for. I feel the need to begin reading timeless award winners to modern trend setters, so that when I am ready to pen one of my own, I’ll have the background knowledge necessary to propel me. Books on deck include: the Hank Zipper, Captain Underpants, Dear Dumb Diary series.
  • Fairy Tales / Fantasy (1,2,3,4)I’ve longed to write in the folktale and fantasy genres. While many drafts have been written, including 200 pages into my ‘Book of Feste’ original folktale collection. But I have much to learn and rejoice in relaxing in the worlds of other imaginators. Books on deck include: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Neverending Story, Peter Pan, Chronicles of Narnia, LOTR, Harry Potter (books 4-7).
  • Motivational / Resources (4,5)When I can’t bring myself to write for children, I enjoy reading about children’s literature. While many of these ‘how-to’ books repeat information, a few of them are quite inspirational. If anything, these books just help keep me on track and remind me of my dreams. I’m currently reading Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book edited by Anita Silvey, Today I will by Eileen & Jerry Spinelli, and I Wish Someone Had Told Me That! edited by Jon Bard (ebook).
  • Short Stories (1,2,3,4)I wouldn’t mind penning a collection of short stories. Especially after reading Haruki Murakami, I’m eager to try my hand in the abbreviated literary world. But mostly I need to swim in this genre in order to gain acceptance into a creative-writing program. Currently on deck is a short story collection by Roald Dahl and I’m eager to get my eyes on two more collections by Murakami.
  • Essays / Autobiographies (1,2,3,4)I did my 11th grade book report on Howard Stern’s autobiographical ‘Private Parts’ partly because I like controversy but mostly because it was the only interesting thing I could find to read. I’m constantly on the look out for amusing non-fiction from comedians and laid-back personalities. I found David Sedaris too dry and Chuck Klosterman too academic on topics I didn’t care about. Any suggestions? I’m currently reading David Cross’s “I Drink For a Reason,” and for the first time am reading the text as an editor/writer. Instead of feeling miniscule, I feel that I’m ready to tackle this genre.
  • Mythology (4,5) I’m obsessed with studying mythological creatures, especially Japanese folklore monsters. I never tire of reading repeated information or finding conflicting reports on those curious creatures. On deck: Pandemonium and Parade, The Mythical Creatures Bible, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, and Cryptozoology AtoZ.

In conclusion, outside of picture and chapter books I would like to say that I read one book per week in 2011. Thus I have a loose goal of 52 books for the year. But as long as I continue to satisfy my reasons-to-read and am covering a fair amount of material in each area I will walk into 2012 an accomplished reader (writer) with the Superman theme song deafening the neighbors.

To all you imaginators out there, happy reading in 2011!

Hawaii: Okazu at the Zoo

27 Aug

A day at the zoo isn’t complete until you pass through the gift shop. Usually, it’s the same ‘Made in China’ plush animals, stickers, toys, and coffee mugs. Though the Honolulu Zoo had something to strike a writer’s nerve. Children’s books! These weren’t your run-of-the-mill animal themed books. They were authentic Hawaiian creations.

With a handful to choose from, at a reasonable $12.95, I ended up taking home “Okazu at the Zoo,” written by Laurie Ide and illustrated by Daniel Kanekuni, both native Hawaiians. Published in 2006 by Mutual Publishing, the in-book summary reads: “Karley and Kamren share unique Hawaiian foods with the friendly animals at the zoo.” The deal maker was the author and illustrator autographs. I must admit, I’m a sucker for signatures.

“Okazu” is more of a overview of Hawaiian cuisine, than an education in its history, ingrediants, and preparation. Though a ‘Food Definitions’ page at the back of the book provides a foundation.

The story itself is lacking. Typically each page features the two children protagonists offering different animals food. By the end of the book I still hadn’t figured out how to define ‘Okazu.’ I’m assuming it’s an Hawaiian name for local food, though an urban dictionary tells me it’s Japanese for side dish and something a little more disturbing (see for yourself). Regardless, the array of edibles is intriguing. From the standard hot dog to the eccentric spam musubi, an interest in Hawaiian cooking will be sparked.

While the illustrations match the bright colorful nature of Hawaii, each page resembles a carnival caricature instead of displaying an innocent picture for children to get lost in. But the pictures do save the book from its random text.

Each page contains a short poem ranging from a forced rhyming couplet “Do you see the tiger by the tree? / Shall we give him a cone sushi?” to a bizarre  five-line stanza about a pink lion eating a hamburger. Children are guaranteed to giggle their way through the menagerie of animals and food. However, as a writer, this book feels rushed. It reads as a spell-checked first draft. If only some crucial editing took place, this could become a time honored read-aloud, and certainly a treasure for Honolulu.

Perhaps I’m being too technical here but why is the gorilla, which in nature is a vegetarian, dining on shoyu pork? Regardless, I still recommend “Okazu at the Zoo” as a wonderful souvenir from Hawaii. Especially for me as a writer, this book has been a useful learning tool. I felt as though my own ideas ran parallel to the comedic list of scenes, and related my own struggles to the uneven meter and lack of flow within the text.

“Okazu at the Zoo” may not be an award winner, but it deserves a space on your souvenir shelf!