Archive for August, 2012

I’ve had three interviews since my last book reviews, two I didn’t get. The third one is for a temporary FT library position, which I did today, so fingers crossed for that one. Other than that, I’ve just been reading a lot. I’m making real progress with this Caldecott Challenge, though a lot of the early books are hard to find. Luckily my local public library has a collection of supposedly all the honor and award winners, so sometime soon I’m going to go there one Saturday and try to read as many as possible. I finally got to read the new Rick Riordan book 3 of the Kane Trilogy and I’ve got my hands on the latest Artemis Fowl book by Eoin Colfer. I’m still waiting for Mary Hoffman’s new book to come in, but I’m the first on the wait list for that, so hopefully it’ll be in soon. Ooh and I’m also listening to the audiobook of Erak’s Ransom (Ranger’s Apprentice #7) by John Flanagan. My dad complains that I’m always reading “all those kiddie books,” lol. Well what can I say? I am a youth services librarian, even if I’m not employed as one at the moment. I know he’s just teasing me. I do occasionally break the spell with some adult books, just a lot of good children/YA books have been coming out recently.  On to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.


Maisy Goes on Vacation: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins

I really like these Maisy and friends First Experiences books. My son liked the bright colors of the illustrations, even though he was a bit fidgety for the story. Maisy the mouse and her friend Cyril the squirrel are going on vacation to the beach. They take the train there and build sand castles and play in the water. This book shows kids who may not have ever gone to the beach, or have gone for the first time a good glimpse of what they can do there. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

Hans my Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm by the Brothers Grimm, retold by Kate Coombs, illustrated by John Nickle

I had heard of this folktale before from the TV series Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, and enjoyed it, so when I randomly found the book the other day in the children’s section, I picked it up. Yes, the real Grimm fairy tales are usually dark and frequently do not have happily-ever-after endings. That’s kind of the point though, as most of them were supposed to be moral tales. I wasn’t a huge fan of this retelling as it made the story too Disneyfied, with parents that were kind and loving and a easy-to-digest ending. I think the real story is just more interesting. I think I will read the real story. I did like the illustrations though, which is why this book got 3 instead of 2 stars. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Purple Little Bird by Greg E. Foley

This was a very cute and colorful book about Purple Little Bird (aka Pierre) who thinks there is something missing from his house, so he travels all over to find that something special. My son liked the illustrations. Highly recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Boy and Bot by Ame Dychman

A very cute book about a young boy and a robot he finds while collecting pinecones. They play together until the robot is accidentally switched off, and the boy tries to nurse him “back to health.” The boy’s parents check in on him while he is asleep and turn Bot back on, and then he thinks there is something wrong with the boy, so he tries to take care of him. I loved the bright colorful but simple illustrations, as did my son. Highly recommended for boys ages 1-7, 4 stars.

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

I had seen this book somewhere online and decided I wanted to read it and then forgot about it. Today, while I was walking into the Children’s section of the library, I saw it on display and immediately picked it up. Words alone cannot describe how much I absolutely love this book, the concept and the illustrations! The whole premise of the book (and the upcoming series) is that the Man in the Moon (MiM for short) is the first of the Guardians of Childhood. He creates the other Guardians after losing his family and being raised by servants on the moon, and discovering that other children like him lived on the Earth. These Guardians include Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Mother Goose. He makes them vow to “watch over the children of Earth, guide them safely from the ways of harm…guard with our lives their hopes and dreams.” Highly recommended for older kids ages 5-10, 5 stars. Can’t wait to start the rest of the series!

Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea

A bit over-the-top in the cutesy factor, this repetitive book shows the love between a father/grandfather and his son/grandson. The Old Bear is always taking care of and looking after the Little Cub, even when the cub thinks he knows better. Little Cub can finally show his appreciation by taking care of Old Bear when he gets sick. While I wasn’t a fan of the story, I absolutely loved the illustrations! Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Chicken Little by Rebecca & Ed Emberely

This book was a cute version of the Chicken Little story, though they only thing that stood out in this book were the brilliant and colorful illustrations that looked almost like they were done by kids, hence the appeal. Recommended for ages 1-5, 2 stars

Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

It’s hard to find Elephant & Piggie books in my library, they’re so popular, they’re always being checked out! I loved these books, so as my son and I were walking out of the library and I saw this new one, I had to read it. Gerald is having a conundrum. He got some ice cream, which he loves, but can’t decide if he wants to share it with his best friend Piggy or not. He waits so long the ice cream melts and falls off his cone. He is destroyed, until Piggy comes by and offers to share her ice cream with him and cheers him up. I just love how many things go through Gerald’s head while he is making a decision, and his facial expressions. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho

This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor. A young mother is trying to keep her baby asleep, but all the animals of the jungle are preventing her from doing so. I loved the illustrations, which were cut-paper collage and ink, that just popped with the colors Holly Meade used. I thought the story was just too long. The age group for this book is supposed to ages 2-6, but trust me when I say that their attention would be gone after the second animal (and there were 10 in all). Given that, I would recommend this book for ages 4-6, 3 stars.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback

This book was 1998 Caldecott Honor, and is about the classic children’s poem of the same name. The illustrations were very bright and lively, and had the die-cut center for the old lady, so you could see what she just ate while reading along. I actually preferred some of the animal comments to the actual poem. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Despite having watched the cartoon, I had never read the original book until now, when I’m doing my Caldecott Challenge. This book won a 1940 Caldecott honor. The story is simple and rhyming, but it is still great for kids today. It tells the story about a boarding school ran by Miss Clavel, which has twelve little girls in it, who go everywhere together in two straight lines. They see people and locations all over Paris. One day, Madeline is not feeling well and it turns out her appendix had burst and she is rushed to the hospital. After being there nearly two weeks, the girls come to visit and then everyone wants a scar, just like Madeline. Recommended for ages 1-8, 4 stars.

Sam, Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness

My version was a May 2011 paperback reprint of the 1966 original. The book won the 1967 Caldecott Award. I had never heard of this book before, but picked it up today at the library in the new children’s books section. This was really weird story. It makes me wonder how crappy the rest of the books selected that year were if this was the one to win the award. The story is supposed to be moralistic, but it just goes about it in a odd way. Samantha (or Sam as she is normally called) is a liar. She’s always telling fantastic fibs about everything. One day her lies puts a young boy named Thomas, who adores her, as well as her cat Bangs in jeopardy. She tells her father in time and the boy is saved and Bangs eventually comes back to Sam. The girl learns her lesson. I hated the illustrations, which just looked like they were thrown together before the book was published. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2 stars.

Animals of the Bible edited by Helen Dean Fisher, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop

This book won the very first Caldecott Award in 1938. Despite the fact that it is not an actual story, just direct quotes from the King James Bible concerning animals, it is actually a pretty good book solely because of the illustrations. Dorothy Pulis Lathrop, who began illustrating children’s books in 1919 and continued into the 1960s, did these gorgeous black and white drawings of the animals from the Bible. For more examples of her illustrations, check out this website.  Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

The version that I read is the 1976 reprint of the 1948 original hardcover. This book won a 1949 Caldecott Honor award. Sal and her mother are on Blueberry Hill picking blueberries, or at least that’s what Sal is supposed to be doing, instead of picking one and eating the rest. Sal’s mom wants to save the berries to can for the winter. Little Bear and his mother are also eating blueberries to prepare for the upcoming winter. The children get mixed up and start following the wrong mothers, but eventually are restored to the correct parent. While I liked his illustrations, the story just went on for too long, which made me lose interest as I was reading aloud to my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Frederick by Leo Lionni

This book won a 1968 Caldecott honor award. It was a cute story about a group of five mice preparing for the winter by gathering food, all except for Frederick. He gathers the warmth of the sun, the colors of the spring and a poem for his mice companions. I like this quote that famous children’s author Eric Carle wrote about this book: “In Frederick, a mouse who is a poet from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail demonstrates that a seemingly purposeless life is indeed far from that—and that we need not live by bread alone!” Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss

This was the first Dr. Seuss book to win an award, in this case a 1948 Caldecott honor. It was the sixth book he published, but it definitely shows Seuss’s brilliant imagination in the number and kinds of fish that young Marco believes that he can catch in McElligot’s Pool, despite the farmer warning him that it’s a trash dump and he won’t catch anything. It is an interesting book because Seuss not only employs his traditional black and white drawings, but also some of this color paintings as well. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss

This book won a 1950 Caldecott Honor, the second of three for the author/illustrator. This is not your typical Seuss book as instead of being a really fantastical tale, it’s more like a fairy tale about a king who is not happy with the weather he’s been getting. So he orders his magicians to cook up a new kind of thing to fall from the sky, which comes in the form of an oobleck, a incredibly sticky substance that will attach to anything it touches, be it king or farmer. The king apologizes for creating this kerfuffle that he has gotten the entire kingdom into and the stuff magically disappears. As I’ve not yet read the rest of the books from 1950 awards, I have no idea of the competition. This book was a sequel to Seuss’s earlier book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2 stars.

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

This book won Seuss’s third Caldecott Honor award in 1951. This is a much better book than his previous honor award winner, in my opinion. Although a bit long and dated, it is another excellent imaginative book where the main character Gerald McGrew decides that a traditional zoo isn’t good enough, so he will go all over the world to find new and bizarre species to add to his collection and bring in loads of people. I do have to wonder if Seuss was the first person to come up with the word “nerd” in this book though. Highly recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

Children and Young Adult

The Serpent’s Shadow (Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan

I have been waiting forever to read this, as the wait-list was a good fifty people long before I got on it. Worth the wait though, as I really enjoyed the story. A continuation of the previous two books, Sadie and Carter are trying to stop the God of Chaos, Apophis from destroying the world. They think they may have found a way, one that not involve them both dying (with luck and a lot of the gods’ help). They end up getting this shady (pun not intended) dead magician named Setne to help them, but he keeps trying to get them killed. Then there’s the whole Sadie-Walt-Anubis love triangle to sort out (which was an interesting plot twist), as well as will Carter and Zia ever figure things out. People are getting possessed by gods willingly, and all kinds of crazy mayhem breaks out. Overall, very good end to the trilogy with a hint at a “Heroes of Olympus” crossover book. Highly recommended for ages 9+, 4 stars.

Young Adult

Star Trek: The Manga Ultimate Edition by David Gerrold, Troy Lewter, Wil Wheaton

Originally when I found this, I thought it was a comic book from the most recent Star Trek movie, as that is something I can seen teens getting into (which is where it was shelved). They seem to be putting manga on everything these days, though they aren’t really manga (just on newsprint, but not in the traditional Japanese manga format). It was actually a selection of the “best” stories from Vol 1-3 of the Star Trek original show with Captain Kirk series. The first couple were alright, but then it just started to get boring. I did like the one Wil Wheaton wrote about the Klingons and Captain Kirk. I never really watched the original show, although I do like the movies. I think I might do better with the Star Trek: Next Generation manga series Tokyopop is doing next. Recommended for ages 14+, 2 stars.

Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix

I have been listening to this forever, like over a month, because I hardly ever travel by car anymore and it was 13 discs. I finally finished it this morning and I feel a little annoyed by it. It’s one of those in-between books, so it carries on the story from the previous book but doesn’t quite finish its own (plus it takes absolutely forever to get to the point). Lirael never knew her father and her mother died when she was 5. She lives at the Clayr glacier, and waits way past her childhood for the Sight, which will allow her to see glimpses of the future. She eventually becomes an assistant librarian and creates the Disreputable Dog (which has to be one of my favorite characters in literature to date). Meanwhile, it’s been about 19 years since Sabriel married Prince Touchstone and they became king and queen of the Old Kingdom. She is still the Abhorsen, and is always having to leave to fight the dead. They had two children, Ellimere and Sameth. Since Ellimere is the eldest, she has been trained to be queen, while her younger brother Sameth is to be the Abhorsen-in-waiting, a role he has taken to very well. In fact he hates it. Eventually Lirael and Sameth’s paths cross and they realize that they are seeking out the same thing. What lies on the edge of the Red Lake that the Clayr cannot see, but even the Abhorsen knows is bad? A hint is given in the epilogue of the book.

I figured out who Lirael was about halfway through the book, though it is not revealed until the end. While I really enjoyed Lirael’s exploration of the vast Clayr library and her job as a 2nd and 3rd Library Assistant, the progression to these stages was very slow. That strategy, which continues throughout the book, is what made me give this book 3 1/2 stars instead of 4. Recommended for ages 14+


Rubbish!: Reuse your Refuse by Kate Shoup

I actually went to the library to check another book called “Alternacrafts” and thought this one looked more interesting. This would be a great book for library teen programming craft projects as I’ve seen similar projects on Pinterest boards. This book is a good way to recycle every day items like old LPs, license plates, corks, credit cards, board games etc. 4 stars.

Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook: Rock Your Kitchen–And Let the Boys Clean Up the Mess by Nadia Giosia

I really enjoyed her show on TV and jumped when I found out she had a cookbook. She’s got this rockabilly Next-Gen don’t-take-crap-from-no-one thing that I really like. Although I did bookmark a couple of her recipes, overall most of the recipes were pretty generic and all the TV gimmicks (half-naked men, the Greek boy etc) were a little over the top and made the whole thing just too busy. She has released another cookbook since this, so maybe it will be better. 2 stars.

The DASH Diet Cookbook: Quick and Delicious Recipes for Losing Weight, Preventing Diabetes, and Lowering Blood Pressure by Mariza Snyder

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is also supposed to help with obesity and diabetes. Since that runs in my family, I thought I might give it a try. I picked this up hoping it would be something different, but it is very similar to the Anti-Inflammation diets that I’ve been reading up on lately. I’m also looking for healthy recipes and it did include some good ones such as several breakfast smoothies, Asian Quinoa Salad, Homemade Granola, and Spinach-Artichoke Dip. 2 stars.

The Zen Monastery Cookbook: Stories and Recipes From a Zen Kitchen compiled by the Monks at the Zen Monastery Practice Center under the guidance of Cheri Huber

I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes, and this looked like a good book to check out. They definitely know how to cook tofu at this place, as apparently they eat as much as 60lbs a week! I did find quite a few recipes I want to try, such as the Sweet Potato Biscuits, Curried Mushrooms and Chickpeas, a Miso Sauce for Tofu, Spiced Tomato Chutney, and Tofu-Mushroom/Tofu-Avocado/Tofu-Ginger-Sesame Spreads. There are also a lot of stories from the monks in the monastery, as well as people who have gone to retreats. 4 stars.

Taste of Home Kid-Approved Cookbook: 300+ Family Tested Fun Foods by Taste of Home

A rather generic cookbook with traditional American recipes, this book did have pictures of almost all the food produced, which was nice. I found about 4 recipes I would try. 2 stars.

Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman

I really wanted to like this book, as it has after all, been on my to-read list forever. I like the author and his cooking. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was And it is very apparent from this manifesto, that the man knows his salt and how to use it. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of salt (over 100) or so many ways to get it. It was a little bit too detailed and over the top for my needs, but for those wanting to know more about salt, this is a great reference guide. It seemed a bit like a plug for his store that he opened in Oregon, i.e. use fancy salt, which you can buy here. 2 stars.

I know it’s been ages since I’ve done one of these posts, and I apologize. Part of the reason was because they take me forever to compose and my attention span has been a bit wonky lately due to taking care of my child at home, trying to find a job and keeping afloat financially. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, as I have hinted at in previous posts. The Northern Renaissance is my favorite time for art and was the first period that I got interested in when I decided to study art history. It is roughly the time between the 1400’s – 1600’s AD/CE. When I was 16, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for the first time since I was born. One of the coolest things I got to see while I was over there was at St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. It is an unassuming church but has, as I later found out, one of the most famous works of art of all time there. There was a separate chapel in the cathedral, where for a small fee, you could see The Ghent Altarpiece. Also known as The Mystic Lamb or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the painting was completed in 1432 by Jan Van Eyck and his brother Hubert. The group I was traveling with, high schoolers and a couple of adult chaperones, had seen a couple of churches before so I knew what altarpieces were. I figured, what the heck. I was blown away when I walked inside, as the altarpiece took up the entire room, literally floor to ceiling. I ended up getting a poster of it, so I could remember all of the details. I believe that this work of art, plus the trip as a whole, was the reason I decided to study art in college.

This is the polyptych (panel paintings divided into scenes) of the open altarpiece.

This is the altarpiece closed.

The cool thing is that earlier this year, in February, the Getty Foundation teamed up with St Bavo’s Cathedral to “undertake comprehensive examination and documentation of the altarpiece”, by removing it from its glass exhibition case so that the polyptych could be conserved. While it was out of the glass, the Getty Foundation came in and digitally photographed every centimeter of the painting, so that it could be examined more closely on a website that they were creating for the project. The painting is so detailed that a lot of its components get ignored. That is no longer the case with this website, where you can literally zoom in on any aspect of the painting that you want. If you would like to learn more about how they did it, which is really pretty fascinating in and of itself, check out the Closer to Van Eyck website address listed above.

The painting itself is one of the high points of the Northern Renaissance style of new realism. As this article from the Met Museum on the painting states: “the astonishing realism of the altarpiece rests not only in the fidelity with which figures, plants, and animals are represented in a convincing space, but also in its ability to forge a sense of continuity between the pictorial and the real world. On the exterior, the frames between the painted panels of the Annunciation scene appear to cast shadows into the Virgin’s chamber, in accordance with the actual direction of light in the Vijd Chapel. On the lower level, the technique of grisaille is used to depict fictive statues of the two Saints John, possibly as a painterly challenge to the long-established convention of sculpted retables. More astonishing still are the near-life-size nudes of Adam and Eve on the interior, who appear to project out of the depths of their niches into real space.” The subject matter, as is the case with most Northern Renaissance artwork is religion. Most artwork created during this time period was to glorify God and the people who commissioned the painting, to get them one step closer to heaven. The patrons of this piece are depicted on the very bottom left and right of the closed altarpiece. The title The Mystic Lamb points to the central bottom open panel where the Lamb of God (Jesus) is standing on the altar and his blood pours into a chalice, which is reminiscent of the Eucharist that Christians celebrate in churches today.

Another painter I really like from this time period is Robert Campin, also known as the Master of Flemalle. His most famous work is the Annunciation Triptych (The Merode Altarpiece)Again the Met has one of the best descriptions of his work in the following article: Like Van Eyck, Campin (and especially this work), is known for “its detailed observation, rich imagery, and superb condition.” You can observe this in the way the two artists depict the drapery on the figures. In the Annunciation Triptych, the central panel is the focal point. We see the Virgin Mary calmly reading while the Angel Gabriel comes in and tells her that she is to be the mother of Jesus, the son of God. The left panel features the donors/patrons of the painting kneeling and listening into what is happening with Mary and the Angel. The right panel shows Joseph, Mary’s fiancée, hard at work in his carpentry workshop. According to the Met, the central and right panel were probably painted first and then the left panel was added at a later time.

The Merode Altarpiece, ca. 1427-32

A student of Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden (also known as the Great Master of Tournai), is another of my favorites. One of his most famous paintings is one that was intended for a chapel in Belgium, but ended up in the Prado Museum, in the Royal Collections, because of the Spanish occupation in the 1500s. This occupation is how so many fantastic works of Belgian/Dutch art ended up in the Prado, the most famous example being Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly DelightsIt is entitled The Deposition or the Descent from the Cross, and shows Christ’s body being taken down from the cross after the Crucifixion. Again, notice the color of his sumptuous textured fabrics (such as Mary’s blue dress, created by grinding lapis lazuli) and as this website puts it, “the way he puts so many people (10 in all) in the scene without making it seem crowded, but rather intimate”. Jesus is being taken down from the cross by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (the older bearded gentleman). His mother has fainted and collapsed due to her son’s death, and is being supported by Saint John the Evangelist. Mary Magdalene is depicted down by Christ’s feet. Despite the small size of the painting here, the actual piece is 7ft tall by 8 1/2 feet across.

The Deposition, ca. 1435

If you are interested in learning more about Northern Renaissance art and/or the Ghent Altarpiece, check out The Mirror of the Artist: Northern Renaissance Art in Its Historical Context by Craig Harbison and Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story about the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece by Noah Charney. I also found this series of videos on famous Northern Renaissance paintings such as The Ghent Altarpiece and The Deposition. 

I had known about this for a while and I knew I was going to write a post about it, as Julia Child is one of my culinary heroes, plus she was just an intriguing person to boot. I swore that I had written about her before, for this blog, but then I remembered that I had done a post on my previous blog for a short-lived group called Cookbook Lovers UniteMy first post for the group was about the first cookbook I ever loved (a 1950s black and white basic cookbook I found at a book sale in 5th grade), but it was also about another of my young adult favorite cookbooks, Julia Child’s Baking with Julia, and includes a recipe that I’ve still yet to try. One of the reasons she is so famous and beloved is because of her idea that anyone can cook and they should have fun doing it. I read her biography, My Life in France, which was co-authored by her nephew and for an average-looking young woman from Massachusetts, she led a varied and fascinating life and helped to impact generations of chefs and common folk alike. Today’s Google Doodle is a tribute to her, as well as this article by Julie Powell, who penned the novel Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, which was later turned into a movie (which I only really liked for Stanley Tucci as Paul Child and Meryl Streep as Julia Child), although I did love the book. I particularly liked this quote from Ms. Powell’s article, “Julia was her own brand of feminist, one who saw the kitchen not as a symbol of drudgery and female oppression but as a place of opportunity, no less potent than a boardroom, a place where women – and men – can exhibit rigor and individual power.” The Smithsonian, in 2001, asked for and got the entirety of Julia Child’s kitchen, which is now a permanent exhibit at the Museum of American History. As I have said in a previous post, I love public television and watched a lot of it growing up (same goes for public radio) and still do today. I grew up watching episodes of The French ChefBaking with Julia, and Cooking with Master Chefs. PBS has a whole page of cool Julia Child stuff in celebration of her 100th Birthday, including videos, quotes, factoids, a Pinterest board, recipes and more.

The majority of people have no idea who William Goldman is or that his birthday was yesterday. I will admit that I didn’t until about 10 years ago, when I read the book The Princess Bride. Of course, I had seen the movie before, but had no idea it was based on a book. Goldman invented the pseudonymn S. Morgenstern as the fictional writer of the book, which he wrote in 1973. How can you not love a story with romance, adventure, humor and R.O.U.S.’s?

The Princess Bride became one of the 1980’s most popular movies in 1987, and I’ve watched it so many times that I know most of the lines. Goldman was also the screenwriter for the film. In case you have no idea what I am talking about and/or have never seen the movie or read the book, here is a very brief and overly simplified summary. Some of my favorite scenes include the marriage scene between Buttercup and Prince Humperdinck and the infamous Battle of Wits. If you’re interested in more behind the scenes info on the film, this article is great for that. Little known facts about the movie, courtesy of this Internet Movie Database webpage:

  • Director Rob Reiner left the set during Billy Crystal‘s scenes because he would laugh so hard that he would feel nauseated.
  • According to author William Goldman, when he was first trying to get the movie made in the 1970s, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to play Fezzik, and he was strongly being considered because Goldman could never get his first choice, André the Giant, to read for the role. By the time the movie was made about 12 years later, Arnold was such a big star they could not afford him, Andre was cast after all and the two big men had gone on to become friends.
  • Vizzini’s advice on not getting involved in a land war in Asia is derived from principles stated by Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery (Viscount Alamein) in a speech in the House of Lords on 30 May 1962: “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war is: ‘Do not march on Moscow.’ … Rule 2 is: ‘Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.'”
  • Director Rob Reiner was the voice of the R.O.U.S.s.
  • Most of the movie was filmed on location in England. The castle used for the film dated back to 1065 and had original tapestries on the walls.
  • The giant rodents were created with diminutive actors inside rat suits. On the day Westley was supposed to battle the giant rat, the “rat actor” was pulled over for speeding and subsequently arrested, and actually had to be bailed out of jail by the filmmakers so the scene could be filmed.
  • There really was a “Dread Pirate Roberts” (Bartholomew Roberts, also known as Black Bart) who operated in the Caribbean in the early 18th century. He is reckoned by many to have been the most successful pirate of all time.
  • Cary Elwes was cast because of what Rob Reiner called his Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn quality. Fairbanks and Flynn both played Robin Hood (Fairbanks in Robin Hood and Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood). Later Elwes spoofed their performances in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
  • Mandy Patinkin has said that the role of Inigo Montoya is his personal favourite over the course of his entire career.

Aside from The Princess Bride, William Goldman is an accomplished screenwriter. He wrote and produced one of the most famous westerns ever Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, he was a screenwriter for  A Bridge Too Far with Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, and Michael Caine, Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier (wrote the novel as well), All the President’s Men (about the Nixon Watergate scandal) with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, Misery, Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr, and he also wrote Maverick. Goldman has won two Academy Awards: an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for All the President’s Men.

My Crafty Book Club meeting was last Thursday and I was so much looking forward to it. Getting out of the house, even with my child, is a welcome relief. My son managed to charm all the ladies that attended (which is kinda crazy really as he was running around, bumping into things the entire time), and but we didn’t manage to get much book discussion done. I am still trying to read Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl: Confidant of Hitler, Ally of FDR, which is actually a really excellent biography. I’m just incredibly slow when it comes to reading nonfiction biographies. I discovered the subject matter, Ernst Hanfstaengl, when I was listening to Erik Larson’s book In the Garden of Beasts, which is about Hitler’s coming to power in the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his family. I found it fascinating that this guy went to Harvard and lived in the States for awhile and yet was a German in Hitler’s Inner Circle, and then later betrayed him by becoming a spy for FDR. So I’m reading this biography, which as far as I know, is the only book written on the man, apart from his personal biography. I am also  finished with the audiobook version of Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) by Garth Nix.

Aside from that, I have been having some luck in the job search. I got an email about another position in a local library and interviewed for it last Tuesday. Still no word back, but I’m still hoping that good news will come out of it. I’ve also got an interview coming up with a local museum that I hope will pan out, if the library one doesn’t. I know it’s only been about 2 1/2 months, but I’m going stir-crazy in this house and we could use the extra income. Well anyways, on to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.


Bearskin by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

I found this book after looking up other Trina Schart Hyman illustrated books and it looked interesting. The storyline was predictable and seems like it had just borrowed elements from other tales. Basically the king wants to prevent a prophecy from coming true, so he pays off the miller and takes his son and tells his huntsman to get rid of it. The huntsman’s wife takes pity on the baby and they leave it in the woods and bring the king back a rabbit’s heart. The baby is then raised by a motherless she-bear, who later helps the man, called Bearskin, out on his quests. He prevents the princess from marrying a deceitful steward of the king after it is revealed that he, not the steward, actually slew the dragon. The illustrations were great and featured an African princess and wise man, as well as other characters scattered through the story who were from a variety of different cultures. This was a nice change to your traditional fairy tale. I also like that the illustrator included top of page illustrations, so it made it look like a much older book. Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

I enjoyed this quick easy read from Mo Willems. I think the combination between the whiny slightly annoying Pigeon and the super cute Duckling is fantastic. Basically the Duckling asks for a cookie wit nuts(politely) and gets one, then the Pigeon rants and raves about how he always asks for things but never gets them. Then the Duckling gives him the cookie, and the Pigeon is blown away. Afterwards, the Duckling asks for a no-nut cookie. My son loved this book, I think mostly because I loved doing the voices for it! Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Queen Esther Saves Her People retold by Rita Golden Gelman

I never really knew the story of Esther so I figured getting a children’s picture book would be one of the easiest ways to find out the story. Well that and I’m trying to find more books to put on my Biblical Children’s Book list. The story is basically this: The King of Persia (called Ahasuerus in the Bible but in actuality it is Xerxes) has banished his wife for refusing to dance, and a few months later, he is lonely. So his advisors look for a woman to replace the queen. Esther is a beautiful young Jewish woman who lives with her cousin Mordecai. She is soon found by soldiers and brought to the palace. She lives in the harem with the rest of the young women brought to see the king, and one day she meets him and she is named Queen. Mordecai stops a plot to kill the king. Now Hamen, was the king’s vizier and he demands that people bow down to him. Everyone but Mordecai does because he will not bow before another human, only God. Hamen vows to kill all the Jews because of this, and Mordecai finds out and tells Esther to talk to the King. So she does and saves not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people as well, so now Jews celebrate this victory in a celebration called Purim.

Now I enjoyed the overall story, but I didn’t like the way the author dumbed down the story because it was meant for children. You can always use the correct words (like harem instead of “special house” or vizier instead of “prime minister”) and have an index in the back of the book or put definitions in the book. The illustrations were really good too, and helped to put the story at a child’s level. I would recommend this book for ages 7-10, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

This book won a 2001 Caldecott Honor. Like her other books I’ve read “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” and “Duck for President,” Betsy Lewin’s illustrations are what make Doreen Cronin’s books awesome for kids. Well that and the cutesy storyline about cows that borrow a typewriter from the barn and start making demands of Farmer Brown. The best one was when they promised to give back their typewriters for electric blankets, because the barn is too cold. Now if only he could stop those ducks from making demands. My son loved the pictures. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

So Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

This book was the 2001 Caldecott Award winner, though I must preferred “Casey at the Bat” or “Olivia” to win that year as I thought they were much better done books. This was an interesting take on the US presidents, giving fun factual information like what kind of pets each president had, who was the tallest/shortest, thriftiest/spent the most money, and what kinds of sports they liked to do. It gets the most props for the illustrations, which were amusing and full of caricatures. The back of the book featured a list of the illustrations, in case you couldn’t figure them out from the descriptions and a list of all the presidents and their major achievements in office. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This book won a 2000 Caldecott Honor award. It is a gorgeous nature-filled adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic  fairy tale, done in Jerry Pinkney’s glorious watercolor illustrations. The ugly duckling spends a year being bullied by all sorts of animals and birds before finally realizing that he is a beautiful swan that everyone now adores. I loved the paintings of the Canadian geese and the swans. Highly recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

This book won the 1999 Caldecott Award, and I must agree with some others that have said that it was nice that a non-fiction book won. I will say though that I waited forever to read this book as it was so touted as a good book that I tried to avoid reading it. Once again, I was proven wrong. Snowflake Bentley was the name of a man who lived in Jericho, Vermont and loved the winters there. He was so fascinated with the different shapes of snowflakes that he asked for and got a special camera that could photograph them. He became the world expert on snow and when he was 66 years old, with some help from fellow scientists, he finally got a book of his photographs published. The back of the book features a picture of Snowflake Bentley with his special camera, as well as some reproductions of some of his snowflake pictures.

I like how you have the main story in the middle of the page and the facts on the outskirts, for more information. I love the illustrations that are woodcuts that are hand-tinted by watercolors. They really make the story more awesome. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 5 stars.

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I loved the diva Olivia and her zany adventures dressing up, building sandscrapers, going to the museum and unleashing her inner artist. My favorite lines are at the end where she is reading books with her mother before bed and her mother says “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” I totally know how that mother feels, as I feel the same way about my son. This book was a 2001 Caldecott honor winner. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor award. Now it is supposed to be for kids, but really I think adults will appreciate the graphic design of it more (after all, that is what the author/illustrator’s main job is). As a reviewer on Amazon said, this book would be great for art teacher to use in their classes. It is definitely not your traditional ABC book. Recommended for ages 4+, 3 stars.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This book won a 1999 Caldecott Honor, but it would’ve been really hard to choose between this book and “Snowflake Bentley” for the Caldecott Award, because they are both excellent books in story and illustration. The author does a fantastic job in retelling the life of Edward Kennedy Ellington, otherwise known as Duke Ellington, jazz musician and composer, and his orchestra. The illustrator Brian Pinkney, who happens to be Jerry Pinkney’s son, did a fabulous job at making the pictures match the music. He did it in scratchboard renderings with dyes and paint, which makes the artwork look like it is in constant motion, just like a musician does when they feel the music flow through them. The back of the book contains a small biography of Duke, as well as the source materials used for the book, which included books, videos and a museum exhibit. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

This was a 1997 Caldecott Honor award winner. I can see why for its lovely painted illustrations, which help depict the life of a paperboy. The young boy goes out and does his paper run in the dark and only returns to bed, just as light is about to dawn on the rest of the world. My favorite painting was the last one in the book where the boy and his dog are floating off into dreamland. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

This book won the 1996 Caldecott Award, but I have been putting off reading it forever because there was so much press about it. It was actually a really cute book, and even my son liked it. Officer Buckle knows all there is to know about safety and regularly lectures about it at the local school. However, no one listens to him until he gets a new K-9 dog named Gloria who makes his lectures fun and everyone wants to see them. I especially liked the girl with the star-shaped paper. Cute story and good illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.


My Life As a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash

I found about this biography after I blogged about the Muppets yesterday and put a link to the Muppet Wikia, which listed this book. I had already seen the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” I absolutely loved the movie and it gave me a little more respect for Elmo, whereas before I just found him to be incredibly annoying. Kevin Clash has had a fascinating career and he is doing something that he loves doing (and it gets paid for it!). If only all of us were that lucky. In the book, he and his co-author give a short biography of himself and how he came to be working for Jim Henson and Sesame Street. By being Elmo’s puppeteer, he has learned love, joy, creativity, tolerance, courage, friendship, cooperation, learning and optimism. Some of the cool things I found out in this book include the following: Mo Willems (one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators) was a Sesame Street writer who came up with the concept of “Elmo’s World,” the mix of computer-generated and live action that brings out a child’s imagination. The Elmo’s World segment of the show was created in the late 90s to get to their new audience: two to four year olds. Originally the show’s audience was 5-8 yr olds. In the section on friendship, Kevin discusses Jim Henson, something I always find fascinating because he seems like he would be a really cool guy to work for, and apparently he was. I also found it interesting that in 2002, “Elmo and Kevin went to DC to testify in front of Congress at the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to help prevent them from eliminating funding for school arts programs.” Kevin talked about his own experiences in music and drama in school, and how important he believes it is for children to be able to get the same opportunities he did. In the Tolerance section, he discussed the South African version of Sesame Street and how they had decided to put an AIDS-infected character on there to represent the thousands of infected Africans who had the disease. I thought that was a really cool thing they did to address issues of modern society that some people aren’t willing to deal with, but it’s okay to do it on Sesame Street because it is almost like it is in a neutral setting. Anyways, overall I really enjoyed the book and it was a nice quick read. 5 stars

Preacher, Vol 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis

Overall, didn’t like this one as much as the last one, but they did explain a lot more storyline in the second half of this volume. I guess the title is about Jesse being overly full of pride and an American, which is one of his downfalls. Continuing the storyline of the last volume, the Grail organization has control of Cassidy and they are slowly killing him. Jesse doesn’t want Tulip to get hurt, so he leaves her at a motel and asks to meet up in a couple weeks in NYC. He goes on to Masada alone. Starr’s mutiny plans aren’t quite working out as the Allfather decides to show up with the actual Grail (inbred offspring of Christ)and figures out that Starr is working against him. Oh yeah, and the Allfather is distantly related to the L’Angelle family, so he’s pissed that Jesse killed Aunt Marie (Jesse’s crazy grandmother). The Saint of all Killers finally catches up with Jesse and almost kills him, until they find out that Jesse knows the secret of what really happened to the Saint’s family. The only problem is he has to be able to access Genesis’s memory, which is currently locked up, according to the angel father of Genesis (who was cast out of heaven and has been imprisoned by the Grail organization). God appears to Cassidy and tells him to tell Jesse to back off and stop trying to find him. Jesse and Cassidy manage to escape and head to New York. The end of the volume we learn of Cassidy’s story, and turns out he’s not quite 100 yrs old. The funniest part was learning Cassidy’s first name. 4 stars.

Preacher, Vol 4: Ancient History by Garth Ennis

This was my least favorite volume of the Preacher series so far. It was solely about minor characters, in this case, the Saint of Killers, Arseface, and the rednecks Jody and T.C. who used to torment Jesse Custer. I will say that my favorite, though definitely the bloodiest/gun-riddled part of the story was about the Saint of Killers and how he got that title. I’m still not sure exactly what miraculous thing Jesse is going to reveal about him and his family, but we will have to wait and see. The Arseface section is where the son of Sheriff Root earns his name and appearance, and vows to hunt down and kill Jesse Custer for his role in his father’s death. You kind of feel sorry for the kid, even though he did it to himself. The Jody and T.C. section just explained how bad-ass they were, despite appearances, and how they took care of business. Overall, I give it 2 stars.

Preacher, Vol 5: Dixie Fried by Garth Ennis

This was much better than the last one as it actually involved storyline. In this volume, we see the less glamorous side of Cassidy. We see his past, where he meets up with another vampire in New Orleans, decides he’s a douche and kills him. Herr Starr goes back to San Francisco to meet up with Featherstone as the new Allfather and is pissed at Jesse for scarring his head, and vows to kill him. Tulip meets up with Jesse and Cassidy in New York and can’t decide whether she wants to stay with him or not, but a conversation with her friend Amy, helps her decide after Jesse swears that he will always trust her. Ever since Cassidy saved Tulip, he has developed feelings for her and finally tells her in NY, which she naturally gets really pissed off about (as she loves Jesse and Cassidy just swore a vow that he would stay with them till the end of this conflict). Arseface returns and eventually finds the gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) but the boys manage to convince him to stop and take him with them to New Orleans. They are going there to get a friend of Cassidy’s who can hypnotize Jesse and help him remember Genesis’s memories. Only things don’t go quite according to plan for anyone, and Cassidy’s stupidity/selfishness is partly to blame. The only major thing we find out is that God is responsible for the existence of the Saint of Killers and the death of the Devil, and that makes Jesse even more determined to find him. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 6: War in the Sun by Garth Ennis

This volume is like volume 3 as it is chocked full of storyline and action! It starts out with Herr Starr’s story of how he got into the Grail and worked his way up the ranks. The new Allfather enlists the help of the American military, via his connections to the President, to help kill the Saint of Killers, so he can get to Jesse Custer. Cassidy apologizes to Tulip for his behavior, then ends up hanging out with Jesse philosophizing about life. The gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) head to Monument Valley, where Jesse brings some peyote and plans on accessing Genesis this way, only things don’t go according to plan. They run into the Saint of Killers, and Jesse tells him that God is who made him what he is and the Saint swears that they’re even. Despite shooting him with a tank and about a million bullets, the Saint doesn’t die. The gang tries to escape on a plane, but the Allfather drops a nuclear bomb on the Saint (which still doesn’t kill him), and Jesse ends up falling out of the plane. Tulip goes into a horrible depression thinking Jesse is dead, but he miraculously survives and only loses his left eye. One of my favorite parts is when Jesse meets up with the guy out in the desert, Johnny Lee Wombat. After a month goes by and Jesse is healed (thanks to Johnny), they go out to drink beers and smoke in the desert. Johnny is explaining himself and his choices and says “See, you gotta remember, man…It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you got things. Sooner or later, sh*t goes wrong for everybody. Sooner or later, there comes a time when all you want to do is shout f*** you to the world.” Jesse manages to make his way to Phoenix, where he believes Tulip is and finds her with Cassidy, and he is blown away. Can’t wait to see what happens next! 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 8: All Hell’s A-Coming by Garth Ennis

So for whatever reason, someone decided to permanently borrow Preacher Vol 7 from the library and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere else in the area. So I had to skip it and go to Vol 8. From what I can tell, not much happens anyways, so there ya go. Tulip has had enough of Cassidy keeping her drugged and drunk, so she skedaddles outta there right quick. We finally get to see Tulip’s back story, how she was raised by her dad, met Amy and Jesse, and eventually meets up with Amy in the present. Amy informs her that Jesse isn’t dead, and that he’s coming to her house to get her help in finding Tulip. Jesse and Tulip reunite and she spills the beans on Cassidy and what he did to her. Jesse finds someone from Cassidy’s past that tells all his secrets and Jesse means to punish him for what he did. Meanwhile, Herr Starr is trying to get rid of the one person that can screw his plans up. Arseface has been disgraced and lost everything. It ends with an episode from Amy, Jesse and Tulip’s past that explains a bit more about Jesse’s cowboy tendencies. Overall, it was action-packed edition that explained a lot of storyline that was left out in the past. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis

I enjoyed this volume, but the ending was a bit disappointing. Jesse teamed up with the Saint of Killers to give God his comeuppances for the havoc he’s caused. He plans to have his final showdown at the Alamo, which is rather fitting given that he is a Texan, with Cassidy. Herr Starr finds out his plans and plans an attack of his own. Arseface finds Salvation, Texas (where Jesse was in Vol 7) and meets the girl of his dreams there, and decides to settle down. Jesse tries to save Tulip again by drugging her, but she wakes up in time and reeks mayhem on Herr Starr and his men. Cassidy and Jesse beat the crap out of each other, and then they both pay for their crimes. Or do they? Can’t give away more because you’ll want to read it. 4 stars.

Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies by Artemis Morris

I picked up this book because I have joint issues and thought that this diet would help, as it is supposed to help those that suffer from asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes due to inflammation. It very plainly outlines anti-inflammatory nutrition, how certain foods can be toxic for your body and cause allergies/sensitivities, and some really great recipes to use on the Anti-Inflammation diet. Anyways, they break down their food requirements like this: heavily dependent on fresh organic fruits and veggies, beans/nuts/seeds make up 3-4 servings per day, at least 3 servings of omega-3 rich seafood per week, only 1 dairy serving per day, 3-4 servings of whole grains per day, 2-4 servings of lean meat per week, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to be used at least once per day, and anti-inflammatory oils (olive, sesame, sunflower or coconut) 2-4 Tbsp per day. So basically I need to cut out red meat and eat more whole grains, legumes, seafood, healthy oils and spices. Also stop eating so much professed food, white sugar/flour, and drink more water. While I may not be able to get my husband on the anti-inflammation bandwagon, I will try to be healthier and hopefully that’ll help with some of my issues. 4 stars.

The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living by Jack Challem

A bit too technical/doctor-speak for my liking, this book was pretty much a much more in-depth look at what I previously read in “Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies.” Mr. Challem’s diet varies slightly from the Dummies version in that it follows more of the Paleolithic caveman diet that has become so popular lately. I get that organic is healthier for you, but it is also more expensive and with the cost of grocery products rising every day, it is sometimes hard to justify the cost. Also as much as I like fruit and veg, I don’t see myself getting 5-10 servings per day. Other than a couple good recipes, the only other good thing I got out of this was the section on fish oils improve mood, which detailed how “omega-3 fish oil supplements were helpful in treating depression, reducing impulsive behavior and hostility, and those that take it are less likely to develop cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease.” 2 stars.

Vegetarian Indian Food & Cooking: Explore the Very Best of Indian Vegetarian Cuisine with 150 Dishes from Around the Country, Shown Step by Step in more than 950 photographs by Mridula Baljekar

I found this one browsing the new cookbook section at the library. I have been looking for more vegetarian recipes since I started looking at starting the anti-inflammation diet, which expects you to eat 5-9 servings of veggies a day. I love Indian food, so I figured it was a good place to look. It is a well-done cookbook with a whole introduction section on every province of India and the type of food they cook before getting to the actual recipes, which all had gorgeous photos with every recipe. My biggest issue with the book was that most of the recipes were fried (shallow fried vs deep fried, but still), which I am trying to avoid. Aside from that, it had some really yummy-looking food, like Plantain Curry, Chickpeas in a spice-laced yogurt sauce, Masala Dosai (rice pancakes filled with spiced potato mixture) from South India, not to mention Wheat-flour flat bread with spiced greens, Cardamom-and rose-scented mango drink, and Soft mango fudge. 4 stars.

Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry: Nourishing, Flavorful Main Courses That Fill the Center of the Plate by Lukas Volger

I picked this up at the library this past weekend as I’m trying to eat more veggies/fruit, but have run out of ideas of what to do. This book caught my attention as it is frequently the problem I and my husband have with vegetarian food, i.e. it fills you up but you’re hungry afterwards. While I’m not a fan of squash, which the author is fond of in the book, overall I thought it was a great cookbook that definitely expanded the world of vegetarian cooking outside of pasta and pizza (though those are in there too). I found the vegetarian Kimchi to be intriguing, as well as dishes like Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta, Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach and Chestnuts, and Soba Noodles in a Mushroom-Ginger Broth. He also had five marinades for tofu, which is excellent for me because I am no expert on it either but it is full of calcium and protein and a non-meat source, which I’ve been trying to eat more of. Plus I get bored with my traditional tofu marinade, i.e. soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. I wouldn’t mind owning that book. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Five-A-Day Cookbook: 200 Vegetable & Fruit Recipes by Kate Whiteman, Maggie Mayhew, and Christine Ingram

I’ve been looking for more veggie-themed recipes lately and thought this book would help, so I picked it up at the library yesterday while I was browsing. I definitely marked more desserts than entrees, but found a few good recipes like Spinach in Filo with Three Cheeses and Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms. I think the only reason I would give it three instead of two stars was because of the fruit and veg dictionary parts at the beginning of each section, as they were very thorough and I discovered some things I’ve never heard of or seen before. 3 stars.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I had no idea that this place or the cookbook existed until I saw it mentioned a couple times on one of my favorite food blogs, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Now I don’t have an ice cream maker, but this cookbook definitely makes me want to buy one right away. Jeni has such amazing and intriguing flavor combinations that I would’ve never thought to put together, like Sugar-Plumped Cherries and Earl Grey tea, Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries, Gorgonzola Dolce with Candied Walnuts, or Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne. I definitely would also want to try the Tuscan Sundae, which involves whipped cream, Salty Caramel Ice Cream, Honey/Vin Santo (a sweet Italian dessert wine) Sauce, and topped with a real cherry and Biscotti on the side. Yum, ’nuff said. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Other Useful Guides by Matthew Inman

I had looked at a few of “The Oatmeal” comics online via some of my friends, and thought they were pretty funny, so when I found this at the library the other day, I checked it out. I will say that most of the comics were definitely geared towards guys, and would probably be more funny to them. However, I did enjoy the grammar and other food-related guides, even if you learned totally useless facts, which I happen to enjoy. Like I learned that if you’re lactose intolerant (which I think I am), you can have cheddar and other aged cheeses because it doesn’t really contain that much lactose. I loved the section on Nikola Tesla, which just made me want to read a biography about him. 4 stars.

The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur

I liked that new Israeli food is much more diverse than people think of as traditional Jewish food. There are so many different cultures and languages spoken in the country that the food can’t help but be changed by that. Israeli food has influences from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia, Russia, Poland, Spain, Austria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Iraq. The cookbook recipes reflect these countries with dishes such as Shakshuka (traditional Israeli breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and hot sauce) with Spinach and Feta, Chreime-North African Hot Fish Stew, and Chicken Albondigas in Tomato Sauce (Sephardic chicken dumplings). I am very much looking forward to cooking items from this cookbook. 4 stars.

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson

I’m pretty sure I’ve been on her blog before, to check out a recipe or two, but never really looked at it. This cookbook was awesome, full of not only amazing recipes like Chocolate Malted Buttercream Frosting and Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, but also it had a really personal funny family touch as well. I enjoy it when bloggers/cookbook writers tell you about family history and anecdotes and not just make it all about the food. It gives their story personality and makes you want to come back and read it again. This is one of those books. Can’t wait to try out the recipes! 5 stars.

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