Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
The London Eye Mystery has been written for a younger audience. I would say it is ideal for fifth through ninth grade readers. It tells the story of twelve year old Ted who has, I believe, Asperger's Syndrome, and his older sister Kat who decide to solve the mystery of their missing cousin Salim. All three had been on a queue (another word which keeps me reading British novels) to ride the London Eye. A stranger offers Salim a ticket to ride, and he goes up on the sealed pod but does not come out when the ride is over. Ted' brain which "works on a different operating system" than other people's is ideal for solving the mystery. It is a tightly constructed mystery too, making for a very satisfying read.
Friday, March 27, 2009
So, is this a family friendly book? On the negative side, it is full of expletives and questionable descriptions of food (orgasmic or having the consistency of a nipple, for example). On the other hand, it is filled with many, many great recipes that would appeal to all types of eaters and about as many interesting and often sentimental stories. Kenny and his wife basically raised their children in the restaurant and his writing reveals his unabashed love of family. The cookbook includes many great photos and a cover gimmick that my kids couldn't resist playing with repeatedly. The cover shows a white egg. At the top, a little tab reads "Do not pull." Who could resist? When the tab is pulled, the egg turns into a photo of a plate with a fried egg, toast, and bacon.
I found Eat Me a fun and fascinating read. It was nice to learn that Kenny's famous pancakes begin with Aunt Jemima frozen pancake batter. He argues that pancakes are all about the equipment, physics, and chemical reaction. Furthermore, he tells anyone who would question his use of frozen prepared batter to face what pancakes really are: "...flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. As far as food value, you might as well take Crisco, whip it up with powdered sugar, and spread it on your face. I'm not saying that they're not delicious or you shouldn't eat them, but they're a luxury, a recreation, like smoking marijuana or having sex." See what I mean?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
2. "ER" is up to its final episode. I've watched it from the beginning with Doctors Ross, Green, and Benton. If I were to have a girl baby in the future, I would fight my husband tooth and nail to name her Neela after the doctor played by Parminder Nagra. Judge all you want. Thank God for "30Rock" or I'd be lost on Thursdays in the upcoming months. Maybe I'll get more reading done.
3. I dropped my son off to play at a friend's house on Saturday morning. The boy's mom, a friend of mine, invited me in to see her new couches. They are lovely, but of more interest to me was the episode of "The Brady Bunch" the daughters of the house were watching. They had checked out the entire third season of "The Brady Bunch" on DVD from our public library. I could have parked my rear on those couches all day once I heard Jan whining, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia." Luckily, I know she gets hers when that ball whacks her in the nose.
4. Finally, in bookish screen news, at my book club last week, I heard that a movie is being made of one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler's Wife. Apparently it will star Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. While information like this might not be as accurate as something read in Variety, it is lots more fun to hear it from a neighbor while working on a whiskey sour than by reading it in a magazine.
Friday, March 20, 2009
It makes perfect sense that I would choose pizza as the focus of this Foodie Friday. It's in fact surprising I haven't used it on any past Fridays considering how many Friday nights I order it for dinner. By the end of a week of school, homework, sports, and activities, my mind and energy are often too fried to come up with a great dinner idea. Pizza and a salad makes a terrific default dinner. Pizza is the ideal food to serve kids. It's tasty, it includes three major food groups, it can be eaten without utensils, and let's hand it to God and the Italians for creating an entree that is so helpful in teaching fractions. Moreover, if you do like my dad did when I was a kid and tear the delivery box into plate sized pieces, you've got no dishes to clean. It's no wonder there are so many kids' books on the topic. For this Foodie Friday, I'm going to share a beloved old family favorite and a fun new find. We've had Pizza Pat on our bookshelves since my eight and ten year olds were toddlers. It has been joyfully read so many times it is now held together with Scotch tape and hope. This easy reader by Rita Golden Gelman and illustrated by Will Terry tells the story of a pizza baked by chef Pat and stolen by a bunch of rats in the style of a cumulative poem such as "The House That Jack Built." It is addictively fun to read such lines as "This is the oven 800 degrees, that cooked the pizza and melted the cheese that topped the sausages, spicy and choppy, that sat on the sauce, all gooey and gloppy, that covered the dough, all stretchy and floppy, that lay in the tray that Pat bought." Pat and his pizza helped all three of my kids learn to read, making it as beloved and utilized as the phone number to our local pizzeria that delivers.
Our new literary pizza find is Tony and the Pizza Champions, a picture book energetically illustrated by Matthew Trueman and written by Tony Gemignani. Tony is, according to the dust jacket, "a world renowned pizza acrobat and chef." Tony and the Pizza Champions tells the story of the team he assembled to go to the World Pizza Championshp. Readers get a little geography as he criss crosses the USA to collect Mighty Mike and Strong Sean from Ohio, Silly Siler, a unicycling pizza chef from South Carolina, and Famous Joe, a sky high pizza tosser from New York City. Like any good team, the guys have to practice, and then they fly to Italy for the big competition. Gemignani the author uses this opportunity to show some of the many ways people eat pizza around the world, such as the Brazilians who like ketchup on their pies and the Swedes who enjoy them with coleslaw on the side. This is one of several features of the book that would make it a fun elementary school classroom read. Happily, the book ends with Tony and his team winning the world championship, and it includes recipes and illustrated instructions for tossing pizza dough. The process is pretty nicely explained in the book, but you can also check Tony out on YouTube.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I like my ten year old son to read the sports page of the newspaper. It is some of the best writing around- colorful, detailed, and action packed, Sports stories often open with the most engaging lead sentences in the paper. That's a skill I know elementary school teachers are trying to develop in young writers headed into statewide tests with essays: grab your readers' interest early. When recounting exciting athletic feats, sports writers make great use of literary devices including metaphors, similes, allusions, and even onomatopoeia (what would March Madness be without some "swishes" ?). So when I read a good story or something historic happens in sports, particularly ice hockey, I save a copy of the article for Aaron This morning I picked up a New Jersey newspaper for him because Martin Brodeur, goalie for my son's beloved NJ Devils, broke Patrick Roy's record to become the winningest goalie in NHL history last night. I left it on the kitchen table for him to find when he gets home from school. It's the ideal way to inspire him to spend some time with good writing. Midday I received an email from the wonderfully organized manager of Aaron's own ice hockey team. An article about the team he plays for ran in our local paper. You know the kind of local I mean. It's printed twice a week and runs stories about Brownie troops and goings on at the local senior center. But it's ink about his team and it includes a photo. So I picked up a copy of that paper too while doing errands. Both are waiting on the kitchen table. Which do you think he'll read first?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
But thanks to Andrew, I met the Hardy Boys and Hans Brinker. I went Where the Red Fern Grows and imagined living on My Side of the Mountain. I loved My Side of the Mountain but knew, even as a child reading it, that I would have been miserable and never survived on the mountain. I think, on the other hand, it sparked Andrew's imagination, and he pictured himself surviving, even thriving, in the wild. It had that same effect on my own boy who was captivated by it when he read it last year. And, thanks to Andrew, I read one of the best series of my youth, John D. Fitzgerald's Great Brain books. Oh, how I adored The Great Brain. For that, I am forever in his debt. Those books gave me hours and hours of enjoyment.
I am looking forward to my own kids meeting The Great Brain, TD, and Sweyn, and reliving their adventures. Every once in awhile, I read a book with my kids and think how much the eight or ten or twelve year old Andrew would have loved it. Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations being a perfect example. It combines humor,mystery, plot twists, and adventures he would have relished. The first time I read one of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio books, I physically felt sad that it hadn't existed in 1977, because boy, was there a kid I knew who would have enjoyed it.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Potatoes, Potatoes is a great little antiwar picture book for preschool through third grade by Anita Lobel
The Greatest Potatoes is a fun historical fiction picture book written by Penelope Stowell and illustrated by Sharon Watts for that same age group.
For eight to twelve year olds, I highly recommend Patricia Reilly Giff's Nory Ryan's Song which deals with the potato famine in Ireland in the mid 1800's.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I especially love Aaron's selection. Aren't rebus puzzles great? Remember the old VA DERS and
A ? (Space Invaders and Niagara Falls) When we went to Maine on vacation as kids my dad used to drink a New England beer, Narragansetts (referred to as "Gansetts" by the locals, I believe) that had rebus puzzles printed under the bottle caps. Oh how I loved those! The caps, not the beers.
In honor of "Read Me Day," here are a few pieces of t-shirterature I get a kick out of:
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
On Fridays I like to feature a food related book here at The Book Bench, but this Friday I've just got a bunch of random food and book thoughts I need to clean out of my mental closet. Heaven knows that's the only really spring cleaning I care to do.
1. My daughter has been enjoying The Everything Kids' Cookbook by Sandra Nissenberg this week. It has kept her busy in the car, at the school bus stop, and in the waiting room at the dentist's office because it has word searches and scrambles, puzzles, and games as well as recipes and cooking tips for kids.
2. Peeps are back in the stores! Sure, there were Peep pumpkins in October and Peep snowmen and Christmas trees in December, but we all know the old school bunnies and chicks are the best. Have you ever put one in the microwave and watched it puff up? Good times. Speaking of Peeps fun, my kids learned the meaning of the idiomatic expression "gilding the lily" a few years back when we dipped the bottoms of Peep chicks in melted chocolate and then sprinkles. They were fun to make, really cute, and disgustingly sweet. Http://www.marshmallowpeeps.com/ is worth a visit with kids if you love those little marshmallows the way we do in my household. They are a fat and gluten free food by the way.
3. I think I mentioned that I have begun my third read aloud of Harry Potter, this time to my youngest. Somehow it got all three kids talking about the Harry Potter books and their favorite characters, settings, and plot points. We all agreed that we love Honeydukes Sweet Shop purveyors of chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, Bertie Botts' every flavor beans, and more. Interestingly, they noted that although it is a wonderful reading experience that Honeydukes sells enchanted treats, candy stores in and of themselves are magical places.
4. There is no easy segue from magical candy stores to Cormac McCarthy's bleak and gripping The Road. My husband is finally reading it and finding himself pulled into the store. As we were discussing it this week, I told him that every single time I have opened a can of food (soup, sauerkraut, stewed tomatoes) since reading The Road more than a year ago, I have thought of the man and the boy.
5. Speaking of me and cooking, here's an effect of the current economic nightmare: every night as I put dinner on the table, I find myself mentally calculating how much it cost to prepare per person. For example, Tuesday's Mexican lasagna night cost about $2.80 a person, but last night's grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit cost about a buck a person. I never really did these calculations on a regular basis before, but lately I can't help myself.
Those are my random Foodie Friday thoughts. Anything new with you and food?