Tag Archives: writing

2023 Picture Books Read #101-150

1 Apr

Thank you to all of the talented picture book imaginators for sharing their whimsical creations with us!

From 2020 to 2021: A Writer’s Reading Goals

31 Dec
Bitmoji Image

As another thankful year of reading comes to a close, I reflect on the imagination, brilliance, and potty humor etched onto each page. This year I triumphantly reached my goal of 100 books!


While this brings a smile to my face, I’ve been analyzing whether enough fruits (writing craft, knowledge, confidence, joy, and global awareness) were harvested along the way.

There is no benefit to basking in past or present glory when there are improvements to be made!

I’m fortunate to have a trusted writing accountability partner, and she has superbly brought to my attention that I’m damn good at creating “writing-related” distractions. Simply put, writer’s write, and while reading is an essential ingredient in the stew, it by no means should take away precious time from the craft at hand. Therefore, I’ll slow the mad rush to 100 and instead read books that will help me savor the sweetness of my “leisurely labors.”

Mediums by the numbers in 2020…

  • 50 Chapter Books
  • 34 Graphic Novels
  • 9 Non-Fiction
  • 6 Middle Grade (fiction novels intended for ages 8 to 12)
  • 1 Adult Fiction (Novel)
  • 0 Young Adult (fiction novels intended for ages 13-18)
  • 0 Short Story Collections

In 2020, 38% of books read earned 4 stars (33 books) or 5 stars (5 books). We can do better than that! So let’s look at the data (can you tell I’m a principal?):

  • Graphic Novel – Batman Vol. 13: City of Bane Part 2 {#80-85} – written by Tom King, art by Tony S. Daniel – 2019 [DC]
  • Graphic Novel – DCeased: Unkillables {#1-3} – written by Tom Taylor, art by Trevor Scott and Karl Mostert – 2020 [DC]
  • Nonfiction – Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection – by Haemin Sunim – 2018 [Penguin Books]
  • Nonfiction – Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers – by Mike Sacks – 2014 [Penguin Books]
  • Novel – Buffalo Lockjaw – by Greg Ames – 2009 [Hyerion]
  • Graphic Novel – DCeased {#1-6, A Good Day to Die #1} – written by Tom Taylor, art by Trevor Hairsine – 2019 [DC]   
  • Graphic Novel – Batman: Last Knight on Earth {#1-3} – written by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo – 2019 [DC Black Label]  
  • Chapter Book – The Bumpy Mummy {The Notebook of Doom #6} – by Troy Cummings – 2014  [Branches, part of Scholastic]  
  • Graphic Novel – Flash Forward {#1-6} – written by Scott Lobdell, art by Brett Booth – 2020 [DC]  
  • Chapter Book – The Flurry of the Snombies {The Notebook of Doom #7} – by Troy Cummings – 2015  [Branches, part of Scholastic]  
  • NonFiction – Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life – by Rolf Dobelli – 2020 [Sceptre]  
  • Children’s Graphic Novel – New Kid – by Jerry Craft – 2019 [Quill Tree Books]  
  • Chapter Book – Eva Sees a Ghost {Owl Diaries #2} – by Rebecca Elliot – 2015 [Scholastic]  
  • Chapter Book – Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue {Kitty  #1} – written by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie – 2019 [Greenwillow Books]  
  • Graphic Novel – Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension {#19-28} – written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jorge Jimenez – 2019 [DC]   
  • Early Graphic Novel – Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea {A Narwhal and Jelly Book #1} – by Ben Clanton – 2016 [Tundra Books] 
  •   Chapter Book – Meet the Bigfeet {The Yeti Files #1} – by Kevin Sherry – 2014 [Scholastic Press]
  • Chapter Book – Perfect Princess Party {The Princess in Black Book #2} – written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham- 2015 [Candlewick] 
  • Chapter Book – Hungry Bunny Horde {The Princess in Black Book #3} – written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham- 2016 [Candlewick] 
  • Chapter Book – The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation {The Princess in Black Book #4} – written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham- 2016 [Candlewick] 
  • Chapter Book – The Mysterious Playdate {The Princess in Black Book #5} – written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham- 2018 [Candlewick] 
  • Graphic Novel – He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse {#1-6} – written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Tom Derenick – 2020 [DC] 
  • Middle Grade – Aru Shah and The End of Time {The Pandava Series #1} by Roshani Chokshi- 2018 [Rick Riordian Presents! (Disney)] 
  • Nonfiction – The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing – by Gavin Edwards – 2016 [Random House] 
  • Chapter Book – Charge of the Lightning Bugs {The Notebook of Doom #8} – by Troy Cummings – 2015 [Branches, an imprint of Scholastic] 
  • Chapter Book – Rumble of the Coaster Ghost {The Notebook of Doom #9} – by Troy Cummings – 2016 [Branches, an imprint of Scholastic] 
  • Chapter Book – Snap of the Super-Goop {The Notebook of Doom #10} – by Troy Cummings – 2016 [Branches, an imprint of Scholastic] 
  • Chapter Book – March of the Vanderpants {The Notebook of Doom #12} – by Troy Cummings – 2017 [Branches, an imprint of Scholastic] 
  • Chapter Book – Battle of the Boss-Monster {The Notebook of Doom #13} – by Troy Cummings – 2017 [Branches, an imprint of Scholastic]
  • Chapter Book – Eva and Baby Mo  {Owl Diaries #10} – by Rebecca Elliot – 2019 [Branches, part of Scholastic] 
  • Graphic Novel – Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs {#86 – 94} – written by James Tynion IV, art by Tony Daniel – 2020 [DC]
  • Nonfiction – Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be:  An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania – by Frank Bruni – 2015 [Grand Central Publishing] 
  • Graphic Novel – Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Ghosts – by  Márk László, Jennifer Rostowsky, and Michael Walsh – 2020 [Archaia]
  • Middle Grade – Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic – written by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny [Yearling] 
  • Graphic Novel – Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War {#95-#100} – written by James Tynion IV, art by Jorge Jimenez – 2020 [DC] 
  • Nonfiction – The Art of Thinking Clearly – by Rolf Dobelli – 2014 [Harper Paperbacks] 
  • Chapter Book – Splat! Another Messy Sunday {The Fantastic Frame #2} – written by by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Samantha Kallis – 2016 [Grosset & Dunlap] 
  • Chapter Book – Trip to the Pumpkin Farm {Owl Diaries #11} – by Rebecca Elliot – 2019 [Branches, part of Scholastic]

Medium wise, of the 4-5 starred books:

  • 47% chapter books (Notebook of Doom and Owl Diaries being the most frequent)
  • 29% graphic novels (of those, 25% were Batman titles)
  • 16% nonfiction
  • 5% middle grade
  • 3% adult-fiction (novel)

These numbers generally go along with how many of each I read, as chapter books and graphic novels respectively were read far more than the other mediums. So let’s look within the medium itself for a clearer picture to see of each medium how many were 4/5 stars:

  • 100% of Adult Fiction (Novel)
  • 67% of Non-Fiction
  • 36% of Chapter Books
  • 33% of Middle Grade
  • 32% of Graphic Novels

It’s easier for adult fiction and nonfiction to have higher 4/5 star percentages, because I read less and was pickier. Of concern is how middle grade books were only at 33% satisfaction, so I need to be pickier with middle grade so I don’t waste crucial time on books with minimal enjoyment or impact. Consequently, the data supports adjusting the numbers read for 2021 as well as setting minimums by medium. Let’s hope we can get at least 90% 4/5 stars in all mediums!

Chapter books happily invaded the list with 50 reads, and now even though the market is not desperate for the medium I’m anxious to apply my craft and see what I can bring to the field. Having read so many in 2020, I feel I’m in a much better spot to understand the variety of diction, tones, and how to keep longer arcs going across multiple installments.

Graphic novels (trade hard/paperback collections of comic books as well) were still my go-to in a time crunch as they came in second with 34 reads. I enjoy reading graphic novels, but I want them to be for enjoyment and escape and not just to hit a big goal.

As an educational leader, reading has helped expand my circle of competence, and I aim to continue to read even more books that will help lead my school towards heightened learning and joy for all of our students.

I was happy to see me pull off 6 middle grade books. I’m learning to read them faster, and it all comes from dedicating the time to remain somewhat-still on the couch. I’m confident that I can reach 12 middle grade books. There are just too many delicious treats on my shelf waiting to be read.

The saddest number from 2020, was the 0 attached to young adult fiction and short story collections. No wonder I’ve gotten nowhere in 2020 with my writing of young adult and short fiction. I’ve got a few YA novels brewing in the old imagination factory, but I’m not as well-read in that medium. I may have started John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, but BY THE MUSES, I will finish it along with 3 others (hey maybe more? okay let’s not get too ambitious (distracted)). Given that my lone adult fiction earned 5 stars, I look forward to more similar experiences and with only 4 to read, I can carefully select them based on interest and recommendations.

Since I’m by nature a slow reader who tries to tackle a dozen books simultaneously, I will try to read a book from the designated mediums each month to help my focus on each book. For 2021, the desired mediums and minimum number of books are:

  • Chapter Books: 12 books / months
  • Middle Grade: 12 books / months
  • Graphic Novels: 12 books / months
  • Young Adult Fiction: 4 books / months
  • Adult Fiction Novel: 4 books / months
  • Short Story Collections: 4 books / months
  • Personal-Interest / Writing/ Motivational /Global Awareness Non-Fiction: 6 books/months
  • Education / Leadership Non-Fiction: 6 books/months)
  • Total: 60 books

This equates to me reading 5 books each month; which is reachable and realistic. While this is 40 fewer books from 2020, I feel that I’ll be in a better spot to enjoy what I read and take more from the books I choose. Having to reach one of each medium in a month’s time will help me to focus more on finishing, set more appropriate paces, and avoid cramming shorter books into tight time periods.

So 2021’s focus is on mediums, and perhaps in 2022, I’ll zero in on topics and genres.

In closing, I hope you have an AMAZING year full of enjoyable and enlightening reading!


Let the Idea Parade Begin! PiBoIdMo 2015

1 Nov



Quote Parade: Mini Habits

12 Jan

Besides dust, I enjoy collecting words of wisdom. Whenever a catchy arrangement of words motivates, stimulates, or wraps me in a giant smile I digitally engrave it into my personal archives. These motivational quotes appear in Stephen Guise’s self-improvement book: Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. 


“Fear can’t exist if you’ve experienced something and it wasn’t scary.”

– Stephen Guise 

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

– Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

“As I age, I realize that now is yesterday’s later, and that later is a bad plan.”

– Stephen Guise 

“If you don’t execute your ideas, they die.”

– Roger von Oech, public speaker

“Emotions will either serve or master, depending on who is in charge.”

– Jim Rohn, entrepreneur

“I am a brain, Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle from “Sherlock Holmes”

“When you never lose, you tend to win. ” 

– Stephen Guise 

“Be happy, but never satisfied.”

– Bruce Lee

Quote Parade: Best of 2014

30 Dec

Besides dust, I enjoy collecting words of wisdom. Whenever a catchy arrangement of words motivates, stimulates, or wraps me in a giant smile I digitally engrave it. These are my favorite “other people’s words” gathered in 2014.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”

– Dalai Lama XIV

“Don’t take yourself out of the game, there’s already plenty of people that are willing to do that for ya.”

– ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage 

“Eventually things get tragic enough and they circle back to comedy.”

– Mandy Patinkin from “Wish I Was Here”

“I’m not gay. I’m not a cop. Just a guy who sees a guy who might need a sandwich.”

– Bill Murray from “Broken Flowers”

“Writing fiction is lying in a good way.”

– Kristi Valiant, Children’s author and illustrator

“I think that it should become some sort of rite of passage that if you sleep with someone, whoever the more experienced person is should cook an omelette for the other. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?”

– Anthony Bourdain

“I write picture books because I have funny ideas in my head that I think would entertain children.”

– Josh Funk, Children’s author

“If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do.”

– Neil Gaiman

That’s a Wrap: PiBoIdMo 2012

8 Dec


Special thanks to Tara Lazar for hosting the fourth annual Picture Book Idea Month. My third venture with this global creativity party left me feeling less than “imaginative,” as you can see from my idea list below. This could be my gut saying, “it’s time. Revise and send out your existing stories, before you go mustering up more ideas.”

However, the true joy was seeing my talented ninth grade students generate ideas each and every day. I’m proud of their “imaginator” skills and look forward to guiding them as they turn one of their ideas into a genuine picture book manuscript. I just need to remember to add one student to my roster: ME!

Happy writing everyone. For those with a picture idea or three, I urge you to consider Picture Book Marathon in February.

This year’s ideas, well the titles at least:

  1. Busy Baby
  2. Thomas LeClair the Strange Little Bear
  3. Journey of the Droplets
  4. The Unlucky Cannon
  5. Frank and Steve’s Monster
  6. The Greedy Gyoza
  7. Septopus
  8. Mirror Jumper
  9. Outside the Box
  10. Down the Mountain
  11. The Giant Eraser
  12. Super Slice
  13. The Chip Monk
  14. The Wampire
  15. The Ark
  16. Sensory Field Trip
  17. Pet Buffet
  18. For Giants Only
  19. Owl Cafe
  20. The Late Bird
  21. Birthday Doors
  22. My Pony is Bigger Than Yours
  23. Girl VS. Cap
  24. Cop Kid
  25. Santa’s Apprentice
  26. The Haunted Boy
  27. Uninsultable Kid
  28. The Vegetable Jar
  29. Cinderello
  30. Aldo the Alligator Finds a Job


Musical Motivation: Don’t Give Up

14 Jul

What motivates you? We all have our muses, our creative Jiminy Cricket so to speak. It just so happens mine is a DJ. Music manifests whatever mood I’m in the… mood for. I’d like to offer one of the many tunes that have helped me, as the Japanese say, GANBATTE! (fight/press on).

The Caesars – Spirit from the Paper Tigers album provides that little push you need when the fear of failure trips you up. This song depressingly tells the truth f how life is hard and that you aren’t going to get much help. What I love most is how it doesn’t explain why you should press on. Instead it simply asks you not to quit. That’s enough for me, and hopefully you too.

The Caesars – Paper Tigers – Spirit

I, I need some young blood
Come Friday night
Bring on the big flood
Like September’s coming on
Summer won’t be back for long

Hey, let’s start a big fire
Let’s shake it up
Let’s try to open brighter
There’s no one here to catch our fall
No one here to hear us call

Tonight, this dirty September night
We’re stuck out here
You’re caught in the starlight
Running through these empty streets
You see this filthy you and me
Running through these empty streets
You see this filthy you and me

I, I know that the road’s long
It lingers on
And Lord knows it’s uphill
Seems like you’re not getting anywhere
You give up just before you’re there
Seems like you’re not getting anywhere
You give up just before you’re there

Hey, don’t lose your spirit
Seen all along
But its there if you need
Seems like you’re not getting anywhere
But don’t give up you’re almost there
Seems like you’re not getting anywhere
But don’t give up you’re almost there

Relax Towards Success

11 Jul

Hard Work = Success

…if only we squeeze enough relaxation into the equation

If you’re ready to relax, and I hope you are, please take these words into your heart while you listen to the Doctor prescribed melody below.

“Movies teach us that AMAZING just happens and when returning to reality we drown in “it takes hard work, sacrifice, trial and tribulation.” But we’re wrong. AMAZING is not something we find. It’s not something we discover, earn, or even buy. It’s something within us. We each desire to smile at the end of our own movies as the orchestra segues the credits. End your movie today, I’m sure they’ll be enough in the ‘budget’ for a sequel tomorrow. Feel good now and forever, because AMAZING just became a habit.”– Crave Cravak

IMAGICISE: Zootastic

2 Jun

Answer the call of the wild, well a caged wild, in this zoopendous imagicise! This session is all about enhancing your creative discovery while frolicking through a zoonderful world.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Human Habitat

    A world renowned zoo has decided to add a human habitat. You’ve been hired as the chief designer. You’re responsible for a main enclosure and four individual unisex indoor spaces. Describe your plans and explain the rationale behind your design.

  • Day 2: Speed Mating

    Quickly write down 8 animal species. It’s time to imagine that these animals will be participating in a animal version of speed dating. Using the 8 animals you listed, make 4 pairs. For each pair write a 2 minute dialogue on what each animal may say during their brief “date” session. This is a great exercise for those wishing to hone their dialogue writing skills.

  • Day 3: Name that Zoo

    A benefactor in your city has decided to open a new zoo. Though the city already has a zoo, and an original name must be devised for the new zoological park. Create a list of possible names. Examples: Wildlife World, Magical Menagerie, Animal Gardens. For those bulking up, select five of the names and write slogans for each one.

  • Day 4: Fantastical Menagerie

    You’re the curator of a magical zoo. It’s full of extinct, mythical, and just plain weird animals. What animals will be in your collection? Feel free to experiment and mix and match different animals. Example could include: dodo birds; unicorns; Blue Flamingo, a pink flamingo injected with blue poison dart frogs to give it blue feathers; Horny Hippos, a hippopotamus with rhinoceros horns. For those bulking up, describe the enclosures for three of the animals.

  • Day 5: Escape Plan

    List three of your favorite animals. Now select one of them. Pretend that you are a member of this species and  currently reside in a zoo. However, the zookeeper forget to lock the cage door. You’ve escaped. Where will you go, what will you do? For those bulking up, devise another ‘escape plan’ for another animal species.

IMAGICISE: Saying Goodbye

26 May

Prepare yourself for this emotionally jarring and tear invoking week of imagicises. Goodbye is a dangerous word, as we never know if another hello will be uttered. This session is all about exploring death while preparing ourselves to say farewell.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: Bon Voice Mail

    List five people from your life, that you cherish. Consider the possibility that you will never see them again, and your message on their voicemail is the last thing they will hear before their untimely demise. What do you wish you would have said. Please keep in mind you can’t tip them off about their impending doom. Write the message for each of the five people. As a bonus, if the situation was reverse, what do you wish each of the five had said in their final voice mails.

  • Day 2: Original Goodbye

    It’s fun (depending on who you are) to break down words and to guess their origins. Farewell probably came from “fair/do well,” while “take care” is the shortened form of “take care of yourself.” Now pretend you are a government endorsed linguist and it’s your time to shine some new light on everyday expressions. Consequently, create a slew of new words or phrases for goodbye. They can be completely original, based on other languages, inside jokes, or abbreviated forms of existing words or phrases. For example, “break it” could be used as an abbreviated form of “go break a leg.” This is a difficult imagicise for some, and you not know where to begin. To aid the process, think of a variety of characters or personalities and imagine if they had their own way of saying goodbye what would it be? For instance, a irate taxi drive won’t say “farewell.” What would a high strung hair stylist, or a retired mob boss say? Here is a sampling of the possibilities: dayo, boodles, to infinity, until dinner, funbe.

  • Day 3: Reverse Pirating

    List your 5 most prized possessions. The bad news is, the time has come to tell them “bon voyage.” The good news is, you get to choose their next destination and owner. For example, who gets your diamond ring, the Xbox 360, and your Adam West autographed batman cape. However, you can not choose family or close friends. Where and/or who do you choose, and why?

  • Day 4: Putting the Fun in Funeral

    This may be difficult for some and enjoyable for others. You’ve been warned. You’re in the funeral business, but the business side is taking a turn for the worst due to stiff competition from Wal-Mart opening its own funeral parlor. It’s up to you to save the day by coming up with unique and innovative ways to say goodbye to a loved one. Be sure to think outside the coffin box. For example, perhaps the corpse is given a ride on a roller coaster that soars underground staying buried. Maybe, the funeral parlor can relocate to a beachside location and offer viking funerals where the recently deceased is cremated in custom built boats set aflame and sent out to sea. Death is a touchy subject, but as a writer you’ll have to deal with it from all angles, so practice escaping your preconceived notions, and feelings on death.

  • Day 5: Fictional Tombstones

    Make a T-Chart (self-explanatory) with a left and right column. In the left column, for 1-2 minutes, list your favorite fictional characters from cartoons, movies, comics, and/or literature. In the right column, for 1-2 minutes, list fictional villains you despise. Now choose 3 to 5 favorites in the left column and 3-5 of your least favorites from the right column. Next, for each one, pen the words that should appear on their tombstone. Optional: Compare and contrast the tombstones from the left and right columns. Were you bias, or were you able to remain objective and pen beautiful words for both columns?