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As the daughter of Jacques Pépin, one of the first celebrity chefs on American television, Claudine Pépin has lived a life that makes her the perfect person to write a bilingual family cookbook featuring French cuisine. As she writes in her introduction, she "didn't grow up knowing how to cook," but she was around "tremendously good food." As a child, she spent summers in France with her grandmother, but instead of wearing a beret and riding a bicycle with a baguette under her arm, she was out in the country, peeling potatoes and eating a special goat cheese that was pungent enough that, when she would sweat, she "stank like goat cheese." Claudine cooked with her father on his show, as well as on other people's food shows. Along with her father, mother and twelve-year-old daughter, Pépin's husband, a professional chef and instructor at Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, helped put together Let's Cook French: A Family Cookbook. As someone who loves cooking (and eating), especially when I know it is being enjoyed by my loved ones, I appreciate the traditions that three generations of a family have to share in this cookbook. I also love what Claudine said about her daughter in an interview with the Washington Post,
Shorey eats just about anything. That said, she doesn't like sweet potatoes. And asparagus makes her shudder - yet I've seen her eat it when we're out somewhere and it's put on her plate. That has to do with respect, for the food and those who made it.
If I can't pass on a love of food, I hope that, like Pépin, I, too have passed on a respect for food and the people who make it.
Pépin divides the book into four parts with headings that I love: To Start, To Continue, On the Side and To Finish. There are well known dishes you might expect, like Vichyssoise, Boeuf Bourguignon, Salade Niçoise, Crème Brûlée, Quiche, and Claudine's special Croque Monsieur, and, of course, Crêpes. There are also traditional recipes that I've heard of but never eaten and plan to make like Gougères, which are cheese puffs with suggestions on how to serve (warm and in a bread basket lined with a cloth napkin, naturellement) and Sablés, a French version of the sugar cookie. To get a better idea of the layout and complexity of the recipes in Let's Cook French, you can sample the Whole Roasted Chicken with Herbs of Provence, a classic Sunday dinner in France. As someone who likes to cook, these recipes and ingredients are not intimidating. Although the font is small, the instructions are always contained on one page. Honestly, while I adore the idea of a family cookbook, especially a bilingual one, I really think that this would be a fantastic cookbook to give to an adult chef who is comfortable in the kitchen and interested in exploring French cuisine for the first time. At least, that's how I plan to use this book!
Source: Review Copy
Let's Cook Spanish: A Family Cookbook by Gabriella Llamas is one of three books in a new series from Quarry Books. And, while Llamas's book has all the qualities that I love in this series, from format, trim size and layout to the range and accessibility of the recipes, which appear in English and Spanish, it has something I especially like that Llamas has written an introduction for adults and for children. Llamas reminds parents that, "cooking with children is a communication based in trust, love and respect," that supports, "creativity, independence, responsibility, order, motivation, concentration, patience and courage." In her introduction for children, Llamas details the joys of sharing food with others, talking about the small bites developed by the Spanish as a way of sharing food. From tapas to pinchos (skewered bites) and raciones (a bigger portion to be shared among a few) which are all a Spanish way of eating as they "encourage human relations and friendships." She ends her introduction by reminding readers of two stand out habits that her parents taught her when she was young:
First is to bless the food and the people and give thanks. The second is to wash your hands before eating and arrive at the table clean and tidy. It is a sign of respect and love for ourselves and for others. So, now go wash your hands!
Llamas divides Let's Cook Spanish into four parts, Tapas and Pinchos, Meat and Fish, Vegetables and Salad and May Your Life Be Sweet plus suggested menus and lined pages for notes. There are thirty recipes and they all sounds marvelous, from tapas like Basic Potato Omelet and Stuffed Eggs to first courses like Valencian Paella, Iberian Pork Fillet. I especially liked the range of vegetable dishes, from Potatoes Rojas Style and Vegetable Stew to the Country Potato Salad and the Cheese-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. You can get a better taste for Llamas's recipes with Two Tapas to Cook with the Whole Family.
However, I think that the desserts recipes are the most exciting in Let's Cook Spanish. The Chocolate and Churros, above, sound delicious. But the Santiago Almond Cake, the Baked Apples with Custard, the Meringue Milk Ice Cream and the Orange Confit recipes are all simple enough that kids will love them but elegant enough that you can serve them at a dinner party for adults. And, I was tickled to learn that Torrjas, the final recipe in the book, is a special Easter Lent dessert that is loved all over Europe and, in America is known as - French Toast! Llamas's recipe includes lemon zest and a honey sauce. Let's Cook Spanish: A Family Cookbook is a book that you and your kids will love exploring.
Source: Review Copy
Polly Faber makes her debut as a children's book author with the story of a girl and her tapir - or maybe the story of a tapir and her girl, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig. Illustrated by the marvelous Clara Vulliamy, who, with her mother, the venerable British children's book author Shirley Hughes, created the Digby O'Day series, this new series has a similarly charming format that is perfect for emerging readers ready to move on to chapter books. Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane and Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery feature illustrations on every page, great characters with intriguing details, fantastic design and a great story. Vulliamy, who is a very creative person with a website worth checking out (Sunny Side Up) is also a fan of felted animals. She commissioned dolls of Digby, Charlie and Digby's beloved red convertible as well as a cute little tapir - Bambang - which I first saw on her website last year.
My kids grew up going to one of the best zoos in the world. I have known what a tapir is for decades and was so excited to see that someone chose this curious looking animal to be a character in a book! But first, Mango and the rest of the cast, as seen below.
Mango Allsorts (allsorts is a licorice candy that comes in all sorts of shapes and colors . . .) is good at all sort of things, but, as the narrator tells us, "that is not the same as being good." She lives in a big city at the top of a very tall building with her "papa who was also tall and very busy." When his job gets especially tough, she makes him buttered noodles. Mango is also good at karate, jumping off the highest diving board (without holding her nose) using the Sicilian Defense in chess and wiggling her ears while sucking on a lollipop. She is not good at playing the clarinet, but she is practicing. One day, heading home from karate and hoping to cross using the striped crosswalk, she spots a commotion. There, perfectly camouflaged by the black and white stripes is a quivering, crying tapir whispering about a tiger that chased him out of the jungles of Malaysia.
Mango tempts the skittish Bambang, who sees tigers everywhere (construction trucks, cats) with the promise of banana pancakes with whipped cream and syrup and the two become fast friends. They head to the public pool where Bambang has a bit of an embarrassment that ends up with finding another new friend. Next, they meet an enemy. Dr. Cynthia Prickle-Posset, a Collector of the Unusual tries to collect Bambang, but Mango puts an end to that. The fourth and final part of the book finds Mango and Bambang performing on stage, overcoming their nerves, side by side.
Faber's Mango is fiercely confident and the perfect match for Bambang, who is anxious and shy, understandably. Vulliamy brings these characters to life marvelously with her black and white illustrations, accented with lavender in this first book. There is just enough information about tapirs in Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig that readers will know that tapirs are real and hopefully will want to know more about this curious looking animal. I can't wait to know more about the adventures that Mango and Bambang get up to in the next two books in the series!
If you loved Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, or if you think you will, be sure to check out the Digby O'Day series that Vulliamy illustrates, written by her mother!
Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery
Years ago I bought Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto and loved everything about it, from the simplicity and clarity of the instructions (this is definitely a book kids can use without an adult's help, even if they can't read) to the, well, the cuteness of the animals. My kids have outgrown this book, so I put it on the shelf in my library at school and it is very popular. I am SO excited to be reviewing Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story!
But, before I delve into the very cool format for this book, I want to share some a passage from the letter to readers at the start of the book. Umoto encourages readers to "put your heart and soul into it, and just draw," telling readers that even if they copy the drawings or trace the designs, "each version will be different - it will never be the same story twice!" I LOVE that advice. Kids (and even adults) hassle each other about tracing and copying drawings, but this is in fact one of the best ways to learn how to draw. Tracing and copying are like training wheels and eventually artists will take off on their own. Umoto ends with words I especially like, telling readers that by "drawing your own world, it becomes part of reality and connects it to the world that we all share. . . You can make connections with lots of people by sharing the joy of creating something with your own hands."
Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story begins by getting artists set up, even noting the best way to erase something from the page. Then she covers the basics, with tips like draw larger shapes first, apply different pressure to the tip of your pen and let the colors inspire you. The rest of the book is comprised of a story about a princess who escapes from her story to get help from twins Pen and Rayon and their dogs, Book and Marble. The princess, who is to be named by the artist, begs Pen and Rayon to return order to her world, where the Eraserheads have erased everyone on her island home.
There are 29 scenes in the book, and each one has a similar format. The story unfolds while at the same time artists/readers are invited to engage with the story by adding text and replacing lost illustrations. Artists can trace over existing illustrations, but there is also room for them to add their own artwork to the story.
Umoto's illustrations are in color when she is in storytelling mode and grey and light grey when engaging with readers. Incorporated into the story are spreads where Umoto gives step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals to food to weather to facial expression, all with the clarity and simplicity of her previous books. The story itself travels through many scenes, giving artists experience drawing an array of things, from a desert to a castle to a monster island and a robot island as well as inviting them to decorate a room, draw a meal and draw a costume contest. Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story is the perfect book for any creative kid in your life, but it is ideal for travel, snow days and sick days.
Source: Review Copy
In 2014 I reviewed the stand out graphic novel Lowriders in Space written by author, artist and librarian Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third. I didn't think it was possible, but I love the follow up, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, even more than the first book! While the ingenuity of the characters, the cars, and of course, space travel were big draws in the first book, the second book manages to pack in even more fantastic features that I know the students in my school will love. Camper ups the usage of Spanish vocabulary in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, including a coyote who puns in Spanish, and weaves characters and themes from Atzec mythology and Mexican folklore into this fast paced, action packed graphic novel with even more of the intensely detailed, superb illustrations by Raúl the Third.
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth starts with Lupe, a master mechanic and "an impala extraordinaire," Flappy, an octopus who wears a deer stalker and often travels in a jumbo popcorn bucket, and Elirio, painter of cars who has a "beak that was as steady as a surgeon's hand, his skill in detailing cars unparalleled, heading out to find Genie, their beloved missing cat. Footprints lead them out of town and into a giant cornfield where their odyssey beings.
It seems that Mictlantecuhtli, which I know is pronounced mick-lan-te-COOT-lee, thanks to the "What Does it Mean / ¿Que Significa?" back matter which also includes definitions of the geological terms used in the text, (but do know that these translations also appear in the story itself, at the bottom of the page) has taken Genie to his raucous underworld lair, which can be reached by way of a volcano. Straightaway, they hear a crying, wailing sound and discover a beautiful, blue weeping cat woman looking for her babies. La Lllorona takes a liking to Flappy and, while her crying can be a bit much, she does prove good to have along for the ride.
The gang have to face Mic's skeleton crew, the Wind of Knives, the challenge of transporting a bucket of water to the center of the earth and back and a wrestling match with lots of wrestling terms and a surprise from little Genie (spoiler!! their pet is really Tepeyollotl, the Aztec jaguar god who is Lord of the Animals) before they can reclaim their pet and return to the surface of the earth. There are so many more details in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth that I haven't even mentioned. I'll leave you with my favorite cameo appearance in the underworld comes when the gang pulls up to a torta shop where they see a familiar face. Perched behind the wheel of a monster truck with massive wheels, looking like a roadie for Mötley Crüe, his arm around a doe-eyed goat and a bottle of sangre de cabra in his hand is . . . the Chupacabra!
Source: Review Copy
Last year I read and loved, as I do any book that makes food and cooking a central plot thread, Rutabaga the Adventure Chef #1 by Eric Colossal. Rutabaga, his pop-up kitchen and Pot, his trusty cauldron/pet, are back for more food, fun and adventure in Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Feasts of Fury. And, as before, Rutabaga is a little bit goofy, a little bit gullible and a very passionate about cooking and feeding his friends, and even his enemies, from time to time.
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Feasts of Fury finds Rutabaga and Pot in the land of the dreaded gubblins where he meets, and cooks for, an old timer who shares memories of a soup he ate more than 30 years ago, prepared - with a special, secret ingredient - by his uncle. But, as he leads Rutabaga to the spot where he thought his uncle found the secret ingredient, a big, fanged surprise is waiting for him.
From there, Rutabaga meets a troupe of actors and inspires a new play with an old favorite from his cooking school days, Poisoned Pot Pie. The pie isn't really poisoned, but there is a bean hidden in one of the individual pies and the person who gets it has to wash up. Rutabaga meets a mysterious thief/princess/liar named Minus and a very cool ingredient is part of a fantastic recipe that involves lock picking. When those dreaded gubblins do finally materialize, I think you can guess how Rutabaga gets himself, Pot and Minus out of a very dire predicament. And, quite happily, as with book 1, Colossal shares a handful of Rutabaga's special recipes - that kids can really make - at the end of the book. There are Popping Chocolate Spiders, Gubblin Snot, No-Bake "Poisoned" Cookies!
Source: Review Copy
Originally published in 1974, author Jill Murphy, who was fifteen when she began writing The Worst Witch. The Worst Witch series is beloved in the UK and has been made into a television film and a television series that spawned two spinoff shows. Long before there was Hogwarts, there was Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches where out hero, Mildred Hubble, is a stand out student - a stand out
Lowriders is Space is the first installment in what I hope will be a long graphic novel series written by Cathy Camper, author, artist and librarian and illustrated by Raúl the Third. Like no graphic novel I have seen before and arriving with a raft of celebrity blurbs from the likes of Jon Scieszcka, Megan McDonald and Amy Sedaris, Lowriders is Space is about three talented friends and
The Explorer series, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, just keeps getting better. Mystery boxes then lost islands provided the themes of the graphic shorts in he first two books. Now, with hidden doors setting the theme for the third book in the series, imaginations soar even higher, if possible. As always, Kibuishi kicks off the book with a short of his own. "Asteria Crane" will remind you of his
Theseus and the Minotaur is a new book by beloved French author Yvan Pommaux, known for his detailed research and illustration style, who has won many prestigious awards and had three schools named after him! Theseus and the Minotaur is also a new title from TOON Graphics, a new line of graphic novels for kids reading at 3rd grade level and above created by the amazing François Mouly and
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef by Eric Colossal began life as an online and is now available in book form and in full color (although I couldn't find any color images to share here...)!
I absolutely love the character of Rutabaga and the world that Colossal has created for him to wander in. When we first meet him, he is trekking through the wilds with a huge pack on his back (it turns out to
Yvan Pommaux, beloved, multiple award-winning author and illustrator in France, has a detailed research and illustration style that we were treated too on this side of the Atlantic when TOON Graphics published Theseus and the Minotaur last year. Pommaux's books are a very welcome addition to the shelves of graphic novels and Greek mythology. George O'Connor's graphic novel series The
Ursula Vernon is the author of the excellent, comic hybrid Dragonbreath series (Book 11 comes out January, 2016!) and the superb stand alone novel, Castle Hangnail. Vernon is a triple threat when it comes to kid's books. She is a great illustrator who makes creepy cute on every page. She is an imaginative author, always adding to the fantasy genre. And, best of all, she is a very funny
Blog: Children's Book Reviews and Then Some
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The fantastic publisher FirstSecond, whose motto is precisely and perfectly, "Great graphic novels for every reader," started a new non-fiction series for kids this year. Science Comics: Get to Know Your Universe debuts with superb creators and subjects, Coral Reef: Cities in the Ocean by Maris Wicks and Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood. Wicks, author of the excellent non-fiction graphic novel for kids, Human Body Theater, worked as a part-time program educator at the New England Aquarium and just spent two months doing scientific outreach for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on board the R/V Atlantis! Her passion and knowledge shine through in Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean and her introduction is definitely worth reading, especially when she tells readers that we, "make choices that impact the environment with every dollar you spend, every action you take, and every vote that you cast," and encourages us to plant a milkweed, listing all the benefits of giving Monarch butterflies a food source and breeding habitat that can trickle down and benefit the dying coral reefs. With humor and an understanding for her audience, Wicks starts big with a first chapter titled, "What is Coral?" describing the classification system. Chapter Two, "How and Where Coral Reefs are Formed," where I learned that, despite the fact that coral reefs occupy about 1% of the earth's surface, cora reefs are home to more than 25% of all the animals found in the ocean! Chapter Three, "The Coral Reef Ecosystem Explored" takes a closer look at the 25% of the sea life living there and Chapter Four, "How are Coral Reefs Connected to the Rest of the Planet?" is the longest and possibly most important chapter in the book. From start to finish, Wicks makes Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean as vibrantly bright and compelling as a healthy coral reef with her popping palette and engaging writing style. A glossary, bibliography and additional resources included in the back matter.
I have to, with great embarrassment, confess that, despite learning a fair bit about dinosaurs as each of my three children went through that phase of fascination, I tend to think of them as static. Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, by MK Reed and Joe Flood, with an introduction by a dinosaur expert, changed my mind in a big way. In his introduction alone, Leonard Finkleman, Ph.D points out the many things that continue to be discovered about dinosaurs, as well as dinosaurs themselves, including the fact that once we didn't even know that dinosaurs lived on every continent. He goes on to write that Reed and Flood bring a "balance of science, philosophy, and history," to their book that is, "informative, funny, and, above all else, imaginative," noting that the lesson of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers is that scientific discovery is very different from normal discovery. Finkleman writes, "Rather than limiting our imaginations, scientific discovery lets us imagine more about the world around us." With that in mind, Wicks and Flood follow paleontologists through history as they try to solve the greatest mystery of all, what happened to the dinosaurs?
Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers begins with a little time traveling, showing readers how ancient humans discovering dinosaur fossils thought they were anything from cyclopes to elephants to griffins. In the year 1800, these ideas changed radically when Mary Anning made remarkable finds on the Dorset coast, spending the next 35 years fossil hunting. They also detail the backhanded, sometimes dishonest machinations of the men who made these discoveries and pronouncements and delivered papers about these dinosaurs.
Joe Flood's illustrations are perfectly matched to the subject matter of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. While the illustrations of the dinosaurs are full of action and expression. The panels with humans present more of a challenge, because of the mostly Victorian time period and somewhat static nature of their roles int he story, yet Flood makes these compelling, especially through the expressions of the characters. There are notes, a glossary and further reading as well as two superb representations of the periods of the dinosaurs. Despite all this amazing information and illustrations, my favorite part of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers comes at the end when the author and illustrator put themselves on the page an error in the text. There are 11 years between my oldest and youngest child. I learned that the big herbivore with the long neck was called the brontosaurus when my first child went through her dinosaur phase. By the time my youngest was going through his we learned that it was now reclassified as an Apatosaurus. On this page, Reed and Flood explain that, a few weeks before this book was due at the printer, researchers concluded that there was in fact enough difference between the two to make the Brontosaurus its own genus again, with a fact box noting that the Brontosaurus is now, "MK and Joe's least favorite dinosaur." With humor and knowledge, Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers proves that dinosaurs are anything but static.
Coming October, 2016 and February, 2017
Source: Review Copies
How can you not love a graphic novel titled, Cleopatra in Space? Just when I was quietly mourning the end of Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, Mike Maihack gives us a new spacegirl to root for. As is the way with many great graphic novels, Cleopatra in Space began life as a webcomic in 2009 and ran until 2012 when Maihack began working on the graphic novel format of the story.
The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn is a great book for a young reader who is looking for a good ghost story but needs a gentle start. The ghosts in this story are not malevolent, although there is a very cranky, mean old lady who hates cats. Approximately the same reading level as a Goosebumps book, Hahn's story offers a genuine ghost story without the
Bart King is the undisputed master when it comes to writing fact-filled books for kids that are incredibly fun to read - and do. With The Big Book of Superheroes, illustrated by Greg Paprocki, King covers new territory, exploring the ins and outs of this semi-secret occupation. The Big Book of Superheroes is perfect for any kid with a great sense of imagination and drama, but it is also great
SMASH: Trial by Fire, a graphic novel by Chris and Kyle Bolton reads like the handful of superhero middle grade novels that have been published over the last few years, which makes it perfect for an audience reading at a slightly lower level.
Jack D Ferraiolo's Sidekicks is fast paced and suspenseful with a great plot twist as well as a poignant look at what it means to
Of course any book with the word "poop" in the title is going to catch my attention - and that of most young readers. But the fact that a book with the word "poop" in the title is authored by the fantastic Tom Angleberger makes it a MUST READ. Originally published in 2007 by Dial Books as The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Sam Riddleburger and now out of print, Abrams Amulet has republished
It's been so long since I read (and reviewed) a Judy Moody or Stink book (6 years!) that I forgot how much I love both of these characters - especially when their series cross paths. Double rare! Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds have created truly memorable characters in these siblings. On top of that, way back in 2005, five years after the debut of the first Judy Moody, McDonald was
Along with Adam Gidwitz's phenomenal trilogy that begins with A Tale Dark and Grimm, Suzanne Selfors's Imaginary Veterinary series are very special in my house because they are the first full-fledged novels that my son read on his own, with great enthusiasm AND voraciousness, proving that he has the stamina and drive to move into a new realm of reading. I read and reviewed A Tale Dark and
I have been getting glimpses of Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre since March of 2013 when they were at the Bologna Children's Book Fair promoting this fantastic book with and amazing array of seawigs, costumes and accoutrements. I've included a few images of the great getups that Reeve and McIntyre don for events, but be sure to check out Sarah's blog entries for
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka with fantastic illustrations by Brian Biggs is the book I have been most anticipating this year and it definitely delivers! Of course, everyone knows Scieszka, the author of contemporary picture book classics like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales, but The Time Warp
With the new live action movie coming out at the end of this year, there is a renewed interest in Paddington, the wayward bear from Darkest Peru. The Paddington Treasury, a collection of six picture book stories about Paddington and the Browns, the family that finds him at Paddington Station in London and takes him in, is a new, lovely collection with illustrations by American R.W. Alley,
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Star Wars Reads Day (in schools) IS TODAY!!!
Look for nationwide events in libraries & bookstores tomorrow also . . .
Click here for more details
By now, many of you may of a certain age and state of parenthood should have received or given a copy of Jeffrey Brown's books Darth Vader and Son and/or Vader's Little Princess on Father's Day, Christmas or another gift giving