Archive for January, 2013

Monday was my seventh wedding anniversary, though my hubby and I celebrated this past weekend. Nothing too crazy, just an afternoon/evening without my son (thanks to my parents agreeing to babysit), where we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and got a quick dinner. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you don’t read the rest of the paragraph as I give some spoilers. I liked the movie, although there are definitely some caveats to that answer. First off, I think it is ridiculous that they’re making this into three movies (they originally said two) as there simply isn’t enough material to stretch it out. I think Peter Jackson is trying to make it as grandiose as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those three movies. To make three movies, that I’m assuming will all last 2 1/2 hours, he’s added a lot of material into the storyline. I’m reading the book again now, as I’ve not read it since I was about 13. The whole Pale Orc thread, the scene at Rivendell with Galadriel, Saruman, Gandalf and Elrond where they are talking about the Necromancer and the Witch King of Angmar, and the more detailed introduction to the movie are all not in the book. Wargs were technically in the book, though they are referred to as wolves for the most part. I liked their addition of Gandalf speaking to the moth like he did in The Fellowship of the Ring to summon the Lord of the Eagles to their rescue from the Orcs and Wargs. I was glad they kept in the songs, like the one the dwarves sing about breaking Bilbo’s plates and glasses and the one about the Lonely Mountains, which becomes the theme song for the dwarves throughout the movie. I must say, I was crushing on Richard Armitage quite a bit in the movie (he plays the prince Thorin Oakenshield), even since I started watching the BBC’s most recent Robin Hood series (even if he does play a baddie). On a side note, I did find this interesting article while looking for the songs from the animated and movie version of The Hobbit. I grew up with the 70s animated version, so I love it!

Since I am a book nut and youth services librarian and I knew someone who went to Seattle this week for the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference, where they announce all the ALA youth media awards, I knew I wanted to post on it. They released the info on Monday, but I’ve been so scatterbrained that I’ve been unable to post on it until today. At least this year, I’ve read the Caldecott winner (wouldn’t have been my choice, but there ya go). I was happy that Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin won a Theodor Geisel Honor award, as I love that book series! And I was glad to see Seraphina by Rachel Hartman win the William C. Morris for best debut YA book, as it was a really interesting first book to the beginning of a series, especially for someone who has never written YA books before. Here are the results as taken from School Library Journal’s posting:

Here is the list of winners of the ALA’s Youth Media Awards:

Newbery IVAN Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

(John) Newbery Medal
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
by HarperCollins Children’s Books

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Dial/Penguin Young Readers

CALDECOTT NotMyHat 300x219 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals(Randolph) Caldecott Medal
This Is Not My Hat, illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press

Creepy Carrots! illus. by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds
Simon & Schuster

Extra Yarn illus. by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett
HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

Green illus. & written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook

One Cool Friend illus. by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo
Dial/Penguin Young Readers

Sleep Like a Tiger, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Grouped Winners 1 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Theodore Seuss Geisel Award
Up, Tall and High written and illustrated by Ethan Long
G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Let’s Go for a Drive! written & illus. by Mo Willems

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, created and illus. by James Dean

Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover written and illus. by Cece Bell

(Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award
Katherine Paterson

Andrew Carnegie Medal:

Anna, Emma and the Condors
Produced by Katja Torneman

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
By Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin written and illus. by Robert Byrd Dial/Penguin Young Readers

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 written by Phillip M. Hoose and published Farrar

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster written by Deborah Hopkinson

Mildred L. Batchelder Award
My Family for the War
written by Anne C. Voorhoeve
Dial/Penguin Young Readers

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return
written and illus. by Zeina Abirached, tr. by Edward Gauvin
Graphic Universe/Lerner

Son of a Gun written and tr. by Anne de Graaf

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
Andrea Davis Pinkney

Grouped Winners 2 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Pura Belpré Awards
Author: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

Illustrator: Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert
Illus. by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt

Grouped Winners 3 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Michael L. Printz Award
In Darkness
By Nick Lake

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins Children’s Books

The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna
Red Deer Press

Odyssey Award
The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd
Produced by Brilliance Audio

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, produced by Listening Library, written by Eoin Colfer and narrated by
Nathaniel Parker

Ghost Knight, produced by Listening Library, written by Cornelia Funke and narrated by Elliot Hill

Monstrous Beauty, produced by Macmillian Audio, written by Elizabeth Fama and narrated by Katherine Kellgren

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
By Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
By Karen Blumenthal
Feiwel & Friends

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
By Phillip Hoose,

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
By Deborah Hopkinson

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
By Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree Publishers

William C. Morris Award
By Rachel Hartman

Wonder Show
By Hannah Barnaby
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books

Love and Other Perishable Items
By Laura Buzo
Knopf/Random House

After the Snow
By S. D. Crockett
Feiwel and Friends

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By emily m. danforth
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Margaret A. Edwards Award:
Tamora Pierce for her “Song of the Lioness” series\

Grouped Winners 4 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Author: Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
By Andrea Davis Pinkney illus. by Brian Pinkney

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E. B. Lewis
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner

Illustrator: I, Too, Am America
illus. by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes
Simon & Schuster

H. O. R. S. E., illus. & written by Christopher Myers,
Egmont USA

Ellen’s Broom, illus. by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Putnam/Penguin Young Readers

I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., illus. by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr. Schwartz & Wade/Random House

Virginia Hamilton: Demetria Tucker
Practitioner Award for Lifetime achievement

AristotleDante PuraBelpre 198x300 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott MedalsStonewall Book Award 
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster

Drama, written and illus. by Raina Telgemeier
Graphix/Scholastic Inc.

Gone, Gone, Gone, written by Hannah Moskowitz
Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
written by Lesléa Newman

Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie, written by S. J. Adams

Grouped Winners 5 Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Schneider Family Book Award:
 Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am, written by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis
Simon & Schuster

Middle Grade: A Dog Called Homeless written by Sarah Lean,
HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Book

Children: Back to Front and Upside Down! written and illustrated by Claire Alexander

I was never into really into video games until I met my hubby. When we were first dating, he used to play the game Eve Onlinea MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) set in space. He got me hooked on it, probably because I didn’t mind doing mundane tasks like mining, which is good because you’re always needing to mine to make stuff in that game. It was a way for us to connect, which might seem a little weird, but our relationship was not what most would call traditional (we met online) so it worked for us. I played casual computer games before Eve, like Bejeweled, Solitaire, and Mahjong.  After we got married, he got me into Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the first Fable, which was unlike anything I had ever played. It was a way for us to spend time together, and yes we didn’t necessarily have to talk during it but just gaming with another person was fun. Plus it gave us more to talk about later. He still gets mad at me as I have a tendency to steal his loot in-game. My favorite game that he introduced me to was Final Fantasy XII for the PS2, which I sadly can’t play on the PS3 for some idiotic reason, but I can play PS1 games like Final Fantasy IX (which I’ve never managed to get through). I loved the first Dragon Age: Origins  (the second one wasn’t as good though) and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been fun, although I still haven’t managed to finish it either. Even if you have no idea what most of the others, I’m sure you’ve heard at least some mention of Skyrim and the phrase “I used to be a warrior, until I took an arrow to the knee.” I also loved Mass Effect 2 & 3though still haven’t finished the third one yet. I liked Diablo III, even if no one else in the gaming community seemed to. It was a bit rushed to get out, even though they had been promising it for 10 years.

I’ve played tons of free online role-playing games with and without the hubby like Flyff, LOTR online, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), but the most fun we’ve had lately is from playing MinecraftI complained forever when he was playing it in the beginning (about a year ago), because it looked so basic and stupid (compared to the awesome graphics of a game like Mass Effect 3 or Uncharted 2). I mean how much fun can you get out of a game where you mine blocks, kill skeletons and zombies, and make houses? But that was kind of the point. I changed my mind about the game  after watching the documentary on the company that made the game, entitled Minecraft: The Story of Mojang. It’s crazy to think that the creator made the game in his free time and it went from an on-and-off thing to something where he could feel comfortable quitting his job and inviting others to join him to form the company (which was all done before the game had even been fully released to the public, by the way). All the big gaming magazines, shows and websites were raving about how awesome it was. The documentary even has the head of Lion’s Gate Entertainment, who created Fable, say that he thinks it is the best game he’s ever seen because of the creativity you can use in the game. And it really is endless. The Minecraft world is bigger than the Earth, so that’s infinite places to explore and create whatever you want. The crazy castles, monuments and yes even the Starship Enterprise can be built in the world. I thought it was fascinating that so many young kids are playing, and there’s even a teacher in New York that was using it to teach computer technology to elementary school kids (and most of the kids seem to really love it too). I started playing it by myself, after my hubby didn’t always want to play with me, but I wanted to explore on my own. The cool thing is that you can set the world to several different difficulty levels depending on your skill. So if I’m just building stuff,  I tend to go on peaceful setting, unless I have weapons because dying and losing all the stuff you spent hours creating or getting sucks. And yes, if you’re playing the non-peaceful difficulty settings, those Creepers really do creep up and scare the bejeebies out of you when you least expect it. You can get your stuff back if you die, but you have to find it. This isn’t easy, if you for example,  burned to death in the bottom of a cave system and spawned way far away from that. Anyways, I think it is a fun game and more people should play it.

First Book Review of the Year!

I’ve finally been able to concentrate enough to read, sort of anyways. I’m about halfway through Laini Taylor’s newest book Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke  and Bone #2). I like it but it is hard to get through at times because some of it has to do with war and torture. I have to go to the library, today after my son’s nap,  to drop a bunch of books off and pick up my holds and interlibrary loans. I’m happy because I finally finished the audiobook version of Brian Jacques’ Doomwyte and am about to start Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton, which sounds pretty awesome. 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, which I started last May, is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present. This year, I will include some photos of illustrations that I like with the reviews.


hippopposites - free and caged

Hippopposites by Janik Coat

I picked this up originally not for my toddler (although he also liked it), but for myself. The title jumped out at me and demanded I pick it up. Besides, how can you not pick up a book that stars a cute red hippo? With comparisons of tradition things such as small and large, and left and right, mixed with more interesting concepts such as dotted and striped, invisible and visible, free and caged (pictured above), and front and side (the shows the 2-D hippo for front and a thin black line for side). I enjoyed the book. Recommended for ages 1+, 4 stars.

Curious Chiro

Nightsong by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long

I loved this book, and especially the illustrations! Chiro is a young bat who has never explored the world alone before, until tonight, when his mother says he must. He has to use his good sense and sing, in order to find his way in the dark and eat his dinner. This is a good way to teach echolocation to young children, as the illustrator Loren Long shows wonderfully in acrylics and graphite. My favorite illustration was the one after Chiro eats, when he wanders out of the safety of the pond and into the wide world, with a closeup on the face of the bat (it has great detail and the bat looked so curious, like a young child – pictured above). Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Corgiville Fair

Corgiville Fair by Tasha Tudor

I had fallen in love Tasha Tudor’s Caldecott Honor Book 1 is One and wanted to check out her other books, so I picked up this one. The author herself liked to live in a circa 1830’s house and do the kind of crafts one associates with that era (candlemaking, quilting, canning, etc). She dedicates the book to her eight Corgis, which makes sense since the book is about a Corgi family named the Bigby Browns. The book is set in a bygone era, looks to be the turn of the 20th century, in a town in Vermont called Corgiville. It is home to rabbits, cats, Corgis and boggarts (Swedish trolls who like to make fireworks). Their biggest event of the year is the Corgiville Fair, and Mr Brown’s son Caleb is racing his prize goat Josephine. Edgar Tomcat also likes to race and will stop at nothing to win, including sabotaging Caleb and Josephine. Will Caleb and Josephine be able to win the race? Read this delightful book to find out.

The only reason it gets four instead of five stars was because of the length. I thought the story was never going to end. I loved the attention to detail in it though, from the clothes the animals were wearing to the fair itself and all its tents and activities. The book reminded me a lot of Beatrix Potter. Because of the length of the book, I would recommend it for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Once Upon a Time - Traditonal Latin American Tales
Once Upon a Time: Traditional Latin American Tales/Habia una vez: Cuentos tradicionales latin americanos by Rueben Martinez, illustrated by Raul Colon
I must admit, I picked this up because of Raul Colon’s illustrations. I think he is a genius. It just so turns out that Mr. Martinez has also put together a great collection of Latin American folktales, which included a story I knew (“Martina the Cockroach and Perez the Mouse”) and many I had not. My favorites were “The Mother of the Jungle” and “The King and the Riddle.” This is a bilingual volume with English and Spanish side-by-side, which is great for either a public library or school library. The only downside I see to the book is that I wish there were more illustrations, instead of just one large one at the beginning of each story and then at the top and bottom edges of the pages throughout the tales. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.
The girl in the Castle Inside the Museum
The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
I originally picked this up because I enjoy stories in museums and also because of the artwork. I honestly gave this three stars because I really liked the illustrations, which are done in acrylic paint, clay models, photography and digital media. The story, however, left a lot to be desired, as there really wasn’t much of one. It’s almost like the author was trying to hard to draw the audience into the story, probably because she is used to writing for adults and this is her first children’s book. It starts off being about a girl who lives in a miniature castle in a children’s museum and how if you look really hard you might see her. The girl in the castle is lonely and wants to see kids, and dreams about them visiting her. But then it goes off in a tangent about a book within a book and I got lost. So maybe it would be good for little girls who like dollhouses, other than that, I’m not sure the book would hold any child’s attention very well. Recommended for ages 6-9, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

Audrey and Don Wood are a great storytelling/illustration team, so after I found out that they created this book, I knew it would be imaginative (and it definitely was). This book won a 1986 Caldecott Honor. King Bidgood does not want to come out of the bathtub, despite his page and court’s best intentions. He plans on doing everything in there, from battles, dining, fishing, and merriment. It’s after the page has had enough, that the king finally leaves. It is a very clever but random book, and I will say that the tub is enormous! Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Mirette lives with her mother in their boarding house in late 19th century Paris, which is always filled with actors and circus performers, who not only are colorful characters but tell fascinating stories. One day, a sad old man comes to live with them. He keeps to himself, but Mirette notices him walking across the laundry rope and decides she wants to give it a try herself. She falls off a lot but eventually stays on, and this is when he decides to teach her what he knows. It turns out that the man is the Great Bellini, a very well-known tightrope walker, but he is now afraid to perform in public. With a little help from Mirette, he regains his courage and is able to perform live again.

One reviewer I read compared Mirette to Anne of Green Gables, for her sense of adventure and high spirits, which I thought was a pretty accurate assessment. If anyone is interested, this website has a great view on the book as part of teaching kids about philosophy, or more specifically for the purposes of this book, questions on bravery and fear. This is the second tight-rope walking book I’ve read for the Caldecott Challenge (this book won the 1993 Caldecott Award), and both of them I thoroughly enjoyed. The book has lovely impressionistic style watercolor paintings, which fit right in with the time period. Highly recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone

The book was an interesting glimpse into the life of an Italian immigrant family living in NYC at the turn of the 20th century. It is apparently based off stories about the author’s grandfather. Peppe lives with his father and seven sisters, though his mother has passed away. Because his father is ill, Peppe must take a job to support his family. He tries everywhere and finally gets a job with Domenico the lamplighter, who is going back to Italy to get his wife. Peppe is very proud of his job, which he equates to lighting the candles at church and praying for his family. His father, however, thinks that he didn’t work this hard to get his family to America only to have his son get such a menial job. His father’s mind is changed however, after Peppe must use his lamplighting skill to rescue his youngest sister Assunta who is afraid of the dark. Ted Lewin’s gorgeous illustrations definitely make the book more special. As this reviewer pointed out, “you can clearly tell that the depiction of light in the realistic watercolor scenes in the darkness are the reason why the pictures won the artist recognition with a [1994] Caldecott Honor. The light plays both an important part of the story and the paintings.” My only gripe about the book is that the story is a little long. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

Denise Fleming really works her magic with this book. She uses her trademark technique for illustrations, pulp painting, which according to the dust jacket is “pouring colored cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils.” I’ve seen a video on how she does it and it is a really cool process. The illustrations are vibrant and fun and show how animals and insects live around a pond from spring to winter. The rhyming text helps the paintings come alive with phrases like “wiggle, jiggle, tadpoles wriggle.” The creativity of this book will tell you why this book won a 1994 Caldecott Honor award. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Working Cotton by Sherley Anne Williams

The book, which won a 1993 Caldecott Honor award, is seen through the eyes of an African-American girl whose migrant family is working in the cotton fields. It is based on the author’s own experiences as she and her family picked cotton when she was little in California, as well as a volume of poetry entitled “The Peacock Poems”. The families get bused out early in the morning before the sun rises and work all day, all of them from Shelan, who is probably seven or eight, to her two older sisters and parents.

Even though the story is a bit bleak, the illustrations are splendid acrylic paintings. The cotton reminds me of snowy cherry blossoms, and the sunrise/sunset images are gorgeously colored, which almost offsets the dourness of the story. Recommended for ages 7-10, 3 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Doomwyte: Redwall Series, Book 20 by Brian Jacques

My version is not an MP3 just regular audiobook CDs. It took me forever to finish this book. First I tried it in print, but couldn’t get through it, so I tried the audiobook version In my opinion, the author and full cast reading the book, is much better than just one narrator reading it by him/herself.

This wasn’t the typical Redwall book, as it was too dark. This might’ve coincided with the author’s health getting bad, I don’t know (the book was released in 2008 and he passed away in 2011). The book had three villains: Korvus Skurr the Doomwyte (a raven), Baliss the adder (who was related to the infamous Asmodeus, the most famous snake villain in Mossflower), and Tugga Bruster (the bullying chieftain of the Guosim). Basically the story is that a couple of the youngsters in Redwall hear the story of Prince Gonff the Mousethief stealing the four eyes of the Doomwyte a long time ago, but they’ve never been found. So an expedition is mounted to find them. Meanwhile the leader of the Wytes (a collection of carrion birds) led by Korvus Skurr finds out about the Gonff story and sends birds to capture a Redwaller to find out if the story is true, but the bird is killed by a newcomer, Laird Bosie McScutta of Bowlaynee (a Highland hare who is a warrior bard – great name by the way). Bosie becomes Abbey Champion and gets to carry Martin the Warrior’s sword. On the hunt for the Doomwyte eyes (two emeralds and two rubies), Bisky (a young mouse) is kidnapped by a group of tree rats called The Painted Ones and meets another captured animal, a Guosim named Dubble. Turns out Dubble’s father is the infamous Tugga Bruster, who thinks his son is no good and bullies him as well. The Log-a-Log causes plenty of trouble when the Guosim join up with Bossie and the Redwallers rescue party. Baliss is in league with Korvus Skurr, and after his head is accidentally embedded by a Redwall hedgehog’s spikes, they become infected and he goes insane and blames the Wyte’s leader. The bad guys get it in the end and the Redwallers finish their quest with success. Recommended for ages 10+, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Grimm Fairy Tales: The Library by Joe Brusha

I had high hopes for this series, as I love library-themed books, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and comics, but sadly it was disappointing. The premise sounds good. A fourteen year old girl’s father is about close down a library but brings his children with him to do some business. He is disconnected from his family after the death of his wife from cancer. The girl and her younger brother find a spell book in a hidden part of the library and activate it with a key. Suddenly good and bad characters (and dinosaurs) from books are coming to life all over the library. The girl must stop Baba Yaga and the Wicked Witch of the West from getting their hands on the book and key, so that evil doesn’t rule the world. There is a happy family by the end of the book and good conquers evil. The storytelling was rather choppy and the illustrations were second-rate. It’s like they were trying too hard. I thought it was pretty cool that she had Robin Hood and Pecos Bill on her side, though and that all of the creatures from her recent nightmares were manifesting as book characters on the baddie side. Recommended for ages 13+, 2 stars.

Cinderella, Vol 1: From Fabletown with Love by Chris Roberson, illustrated by Shawn McManus

I had heard about the Fables spinoffs, so when I saw this in the library, I had to pick it up and read it. While I love Bill Willingham’s work, Chris Roberson did an equally awesome job with this comic. The premise is Cinderella works as a spy for Beast, Fabletown’s new sheriff, although she’s been doing it for hundreds of years since Bigby Wolf (the former sheriff) originally recruited her. She’s got a great cover, in that she owns a shoe store in Fabletown but makes it look like she is a jet-setting fashionista to cover all her missions. She’s divorced from Prince Charming, mayor of Fabletown, and enjoying her single life as we see from this volume after she meets the other protagonist, Aladdin. It turns out they are on the same mission, to recover and stop the sale of magical items that are being sold in the Mundane (regular human) world. They eventually trace the weapons back to a part of the old Empire called Ultima Thule and run into an old “friend” of Cinderella’s. Will they manage to stop this person before they get their hands on more magical weapons? To find out, read this excellent addition to the spin-off series. Highly recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars.


Toddler 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Toddler by Denise Fields and Ari Brown

I picked this up in the new book section at the library, and since I have a very rambunctious 17 month old, I needed some help. I had questions about illness, bodily functions, behavior problems, and eating habits. Honestly, I just wanted to makes sure the way he was acting was normal, as he is my first child and I’m still pretty new at this parenting gig. This book answered my questions and assuaged my fears. I recommend it to parents, 4 stars.

Whole Grains for A New Generation: Light Dishes, Hearty Meals, Sweet Treats, and Sundry Snacks for the Everyday Cook by Liana Krissoff

I don’t eat as healthy as I should, so when I can find new ways to get whole grain, fruits and veggies into my diet, I jump at the chance. This is a very extensive cookbook. First, the author tells you about each grain featured, how to cook them and ways to serve them. Then there’s the actual recipes. I’m one of the weird people who actually like oatmeal and the author offers up so many topping combinations, I don’t think I’d ever get bored. I’ve never really cooked with black rice, quinoa, wheat berries, or amaranth, but this book shows you how with some pretty tasty recipes like Mexican Puffed Amaranth Sweets, Black Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk and Candied Sweet Potato, a good recipe for Fried Brown Rice, and Sprouted Wheat Berry Salad with Avocado and Picked Red Onion just to name a few. This book makes me want to check out her other cookbooks. 3 stars.

Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook it at Home by Andrea Nguyen

Despite how much most people complain about tofu, I actually like it. And I’m always looking for new ways to cook it. This book, goes a step beyond simple recipes and tells you how to make it at home. Starting with homemade soy milk and ending up with tofu skin, soy lees and tofu blocks, with a few simple tools, you can prepare it at home. The author is very thorough with her tofu buying guide, basic cooking tips, and then the recipes themselves from all parts of Asia, including China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, and India. I’d seen variations of some of the recipes before in other cookbooks, but was pleased to see a whole variety of ones I’d never seen before, such as Tofu, Tomato and Dill Soup, Soft Tofu and Seafood Hot Pot, Spicy Yuba Ribbons (basically tofu skin briefly cooked with spices), and Cashew and Cardamom Fudge. The gorgeous photos of nearly every recipe helped a lot with the unfamiliar dishes. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Bake: The Essential Companion by Alison Thompson

I really enjoyed this baking book, and the author is apparently a world-renowned pastry chef from Australia who used to work in London and is now back in Melbourne (sorry never heard of her). Aside from that, the book was a nice glimpse into how enjoyable and easy baking can be. It is nice to see an international edition, where the measurements are both in metric and US Imperial, so I can actually use the recipes without having to convert everything. I do enjoy British cookbooks but the conversion measurements take forever. Every recipe has a lovely picture, so you have some idea of what it is supposed to look like when you finish them. I am very excited to try her Sourdough Bread as it has an interesting preparation (i.e. different from traditional starters). Her recipe for Hot Cross Buns also looks excellent, as we were pretty disappointed after we tried some at a local church last year and they were dry and flavorless. I liked her recipes because even though the titles sounded complicated, the recipes themselves look pretty easy to handle. Some of the other recipes I’d like to try include the Apricot Streusel Cake, Pumpkin Orange and Poppy Seed Cake, Ginger Cake with Whipped Honey Buttercream, Hazelnut and Chocolate Meringue Layer Cake (topped with Gianduja), Smoked Salmon and Dill Savory Scones, and Spanikopita with Homemade Phyllo. 4 stars.

Random thoughts in my brain

I’ve been really distracted lately, and haven’t been able to focus on anything, including reading or blogging. Let me try to explain. I didn’t get the librarian position I recently interviewed for, I’m guessing because they wanted someone with more experience. Again, I’m stuck in the Catch-22 situation of not being able to get any additional experience because no one will hire me (which really sucks). I’m gonna try not to dwell on that too much. Apparently I “interviewed very well and should keep trying to apply for jobs with them.” This was my 6th interview with this organization, and I am getting a bit frustrated. Just have to keep applying for jobs, the same way I’ve been doing for the past 8 months. Finances are rearing their ugly head at us, with a bunch of major bills all due at once and us not being able to cover them. So that is stressing me out, in addition to the stuff listed in the following paragraph.

My toddler has been acting out. Part of it, I know, is normal and the rest I don’t know what to do. Usually it’s just because he wants attention and wants me in the room with him. Or he’s trying to be more independent and wants to do things for himself. The other day he just started a 20 minute screaming tantrum, while I was in the room with him. He was thrashing all over the floor and I was afraid he was going to hurt himself, so I moved him to the crib. I just felt so helpless because I couldn’t help him and he didn’t want me to touch him to comfort him. It’s time like this that I really miss my maternal grandmother. She passed away the day before Thanksgiving 2011. I would usually call her up to talk about these sorts of things but I can’t do that anymore and it makes me miss her more. She never got to meet my son, her 2nd great-grandchild. Plus I keep seeing all these things about Alzheimers (which she had) that make me cry. Like there is this cool charity that collects used MP3 players and puts personalized playlists on for senior citizens in nursing homes. The video on their homepage made me cry because I wondered if it would’ve helped her when the memory loss got really bad. Even now, I’m trying not to tear up. When she passed away, I was on anti-depressants for post-partum depression and though I was very sad because we were very close, I couldn’t grieve properly because the pills made me numb. Yesterday, my cousin posted that her mother passed away. She was my dad’s sister and not that much older than him. Even though we were not close, it made me really sad because it reminded me of my grandmother, then it made me think of my dad.

So not to totally depress everyone, so I’ll include some happy things I found today. As most of you know, at heart I am a Youth Services Librarian. I do love the Harry Potter series, so when I saw this article, I knew I wanted to share it. As anyone who frequents this blog knows, I love Neil Gaiman! He is one of my favorite writers. So when I saw this write-up about his latest children’s book, Chu’s Day, I had to share because the illustrations are precious and the story looks funny.

I agree with her, and all that she says is true, esp her first bullet-point after the article.

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