year in review

2016 Round-Up: Short Stories

Happy New Year, and 久しぶり*!
*”long time, no see”

Starting today, I’ll be doing a round up of the best short stories, poetry, and finally, books I read in 2016.

Betty and the Squelchy Saurus, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Fireside Fiction)

(1) Closets and under the beds are monster territory. Children may obtain items from the closets during daylight hours, as long as they knock before entering. Items that fall under the bed should be considered lost forever.
(2) Monsters must not be seen during daylight hours. Monsters are free to roam the orphanage at any hour of the day or night, so long as they are not seen.
(3) Monsters may not eat children during daylight hours.
(4) Monsters may eat children at night ONLY if the child (or any portion thereof) leaves the safety of its bed.
(5) Children may ask adults to check for monsters under the bed or inside the closet. However:
(6) Children may not, under any circumstances, request that an adult drag a monster out of its territory to shoot or otherwise kill the monster. Violation of rule No. 6 will release the monsters from the terms of this treaty.


If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love
, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine)

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.


Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass
, Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed)

“All my life! All my life, I’ve read stories about fantasy worlds. I used to dream about being whisked away to my real parents, to where I really belonged.” Langford offered a tissue, and she daubed at her tears with it. “When the rabbit holes opened, I thought it was only a matter of time. I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find mine.”

She shouted it, didn’t care who heard her now:
“IT’S! NOT! FAIR!”

He nodded, let her cry for a moment, and then said quietly, “I bet that made you feel like a real Susan Pevensie.”
“Exactly! What did I do to deserve being left behind? At first, it was about escape. It’s all I ever dreamed about, you know? But now, it’s about—”

“Feeling abandoned.”

If I had to pick a favorite, I would, hands down, give that award to “Not By Wardrobe…” which is the only short story of 2016 that got it’s own entry in my personal blog, complete with excerpt.

My goal was to read at least one short story a week. That… didn’t always happen, but I’m making it a priority for 2017. This time next year, I should have more short stories to choose from to share with you.

irregular review

Irregular Review: Not Your Sidekick

29904219Not Your Sidekick
C.B. Lee
★★★★★ (It was amazing.)

“Have you ever thought about the people in Meta-Human Training who go through the program but don’t become superheroes?”

The Good
Not Your Sidekick is probably the most diverse book I’ve ever read. The protagonist, Jess, is a bisexual daughter of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants to the North American Collective (former United States and maybe Canada and Mexico, too?). One of her best friends, Bells, is trans. Jess has a crush on a girl, Abby.

The blossoming relationship between Jess and her super cute girl crush, Abby, is the most adorable and satisfying romance I’ve ever read. Like I said on Twitter,

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I know I can’t shut up about that book, because reading it was a revelation. There were casual conversations about using the correct pronouns, a character gently checking in on her friend to make sure he hasn’t been wearing his binder for too long, a minor subplot about the way cis gay men can sometimes dominate LGBT+ spaces that are supposed to be for everybody.

But don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t an “issue book.” This is a superhero story, and it kicks ass – even if Jess doesn’t have any powers.

The Bad
The superhero plot pacing was liiiiitle slow, but I feel better about that knowing there’s a sequel due out sometime next year, and I was too wrapped up in the romantic subplot to care – which is definitely a first for me.

The present tense writing always took a few minutes to get used to, each time I opened my (e)book (app), but it wasn’t too distracting.

Judging a Book by its Cover
This cover has everything it needs: Jess in action, testing herself; the mysterious M flying in the background; an in-joke about the resident super villains on Jess’s t-shirt; and the colors evoke the Southwestern currently-US/future-NAC setting. Fun, dynamic, eye catching.

tl;dr

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book recs

Picture Book Recommendation Post

Some backstory for this list: Earlier this year, my friend Lev sent me a list of short story recommendations. I know (knew) nothing at all about short fiction or poetry, and Lev dug up a bunch of stories and magazines he thought I’d like.
So I figured I’d repay his kindness/pay it forward with a list of picture books for people who haven’t read a picture book since elementary school. If you’re my age (I’m 27), I can pretty much guarantee it’s a lot better than you remember!
This list isn’t intended to be some kind of “kidlit canon.” It’s just a bunch of books I wanted to recommend to my friend. I hope you’ll like them, too.

Books You Probably Haven’t Read, If You’re My Age and Haven’t Read a Picture Book Since Elementary School


princess-pony2The Princess and the Pony
, by Kate Beaton
Let’s start you off easy. If you’re on the internet, and you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Kate Beaton’s ineffable webcomic, Hark! A Vagrant. Well, guess what? She writes picture books, too, and this is exactly the picture book you think Kate Beaton would write about princesses, and ponies, and sweaters, and Vikings.
You’re welcome.
yo-yesYo! Yes?, by Chris Raschka
It’s only 34 words long (yes, I counted), but this book can take as long to read aloud as a 500-word picture book. Why? Getting the students to imitate the posture and tone of the characters. Read it to a kid (or a bunch of kids) if you can.
Even if you’re reading it to yourself, I’d recommend reading it out loud for maximum effect. (You will feel weird. You will get used to it. I do this all of the time.) Notice what Raschka does with the gutter. There’s a lot of craft going on in this deceptively simple picture book.
not-my-hatThis is Not My Hat & I Want My Hat Back, by John Klassen
Another set of apparently “easy” picture books. Only, instead of a heartwarming story of friendship across borders between two very different kids, both of these are creepy and unsettling and weird. I think sometimes the littlest kids don’t get it, but the adults who read it to them usually shiver.
Moral: Don’t take things that aren’t yours. You will regret it.
the-darkThe Dark, by Lemony Snicket and John Klassen
Yes, that Lemony Snicket, who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events – and illustrated by John Klassen, who I introduced you to above.
Admire the illustrations. The play between light and dark is exquisite.
rabbitsThe Rabbits by Jon Marsden & Shaun Tan,
Do you want to cry? No? Too bad, read The Rabbits anyway. An allegorical tale of the colonization of Australia, The Rabbits is heartrending – excruciatingly beautiful.
I cry every time I read this.
heartandbottleThe Heart and the Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers Oliver Jeffers writes a lot of strange books and strangely sad books, but The Heart and the Bottle is just sad – the story of a girl who, after her father’s death, put her heart in a bottle to protect it – and then couldn’t get it back out again until it really mattered. Another weepy one. Let’s talk about something fun already.
mooseZ is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham
This is your run-of-the-mill ABC book, except that Moose keeps interrupting and making a mess of things until the whole alphabet is in chaos.
Best read aloud to a kid (or kids) who are just a little too old for ABC books. If you’re just reading it to yourself, you’ll be done in about two minutes. That’s about how long it takes to steep a cup of good tea. Read it while you’re waiting.
flora2Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle
If I tell you this book has no words, you’ll probably think you’ll breeze right through it in sixty seconds or less. You could do that, I guess, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Sit down. Drink the tea you made while you read Z is for Moose. Savour the artwork. (There are two more books about Flora dancing with birds: Flora and the Peacocks, which I’ve read, and Flora and the Penguin, which I have not, but looks utterly delightful.)

Books You Maybe Read as a Kid, but Will Probably Appreciate More Now

grandfathers-journeyGrandfather’s Journey & Tea With Milk, by Allen Say
Say’s biographical accounts of his family history beautifully told and illustrated. Grandfather’s Journey and Tea With Milk are chronological, telling first his grandfather’s travels between Japan and the United States, and Tea With Milk is his mother’s story of life between cultures and continents. His family history continues with Tree of Cranes and How My Parents Learned to Eat.
If you liked those, read his autobiography, Drawing from Memory.
three-pigsThe Three Pigs, by David Wiesner
This one was at the cut-off for “probably new to you” and “stuff you maybe read.” It came out in 2001, the year I started seventh grade. But that was the year I finished sixth grade, which was elementary at my school. I think I missed this one, which is too darn bad, because it’s great. It’s a bizarre metafiction meditation on the “Three Little Pigs” fairy tale and… I don’t want to spoil too much.
It’s great. I saved the best for last. (Read this one to a kid if you can.)
I almost included Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles in the “new books” category, but I like this one better and I didn’t want too many of the same author – but read that, too. It’s fun.