Archive for April, 2011

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Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids

April 18, 2011

Title: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids
Author: Jill O’Connor
Photographer: Leigh Beisch
Best for Age: 5-12
ISBN: 9780811867825
Publisher: Chronicle (2009)
List Price: Spiral-bound, $19.95

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When I’m not poring over children’s books, I’m usually pouring out the contents of various mixing bowls into cupcake pans. I absolutely love to bake! So you can just imagine how excited I get about cook books for kids! They are, after all, the intersection of my passion for pastry and my love for children’s literature.

I have very fond memories of the beautiful, 80’s-tastic, cook book you see to your left. My grandparents gave it to my older sister for her birthday in 1990, and it quickly became one of our favorites. Now, Meghan is brilliant and meticulous, and always has been. I, on the other hand, came out of the womb impatient and hungry, and not much has changed. So as I recall, she was the one who actually made most of these treats for us (probably while I perfected my drum solos on the pots and pan), but I remember reading this cook book cover to cover, as though it were a picture book, because I loved the illustrations so much. Our favorite recipes were for the raisin cookies, and for the melted ham and cheese sandwiches.

To take this discussion of culinary arts for kids back a generation further, you will see my mom’s first cook book to your right. Her older sister, my lovely Aunt Chris, gave her this copy of Better Homes and Gardens’ Junior Cook Book: For the Hostess & Host of Tomorrow in 1965.  Now, I have always been quite certain that I was born in the wrong era; therefore, one shouldn’t be surprised that I am completely in love with this cook book. It is so fun to look through! The photos and illustrations alone will make you think you’re in an episode of Mad Men. But most of the recipes are really good too, my sister an I loved to make the “Lime Fizz” when we were younger. My mom pointed out that this was before America got lazy and obsessed with the word “instant.” She showed me another cook book of hers from a few years later that actually included “1 box of yellow cake mix” in a list of ingredients. But this book is definitely dated; for example, my sister and I were always really grossed out by the “salads” in the vegetables section. “Banana-Roll Salad” with lettuce, mayonnaise, canned grapefruit, and walnuts? Or how about the “Peter Rabbit Salad” with lettuce leaves, cloves, canned pear halves, maraschino cherries and marshmallows? Or even the fancy “Pineapple Double Ring,” with lettuce, canned pineapple, and even more maraschino cherries and walnuts? Ya… no thank you…

I am determined to own these piggie containers, if you find them please let me know where!

I say all of this merely to illustrate that having a good kids cook book is a great way to fill time on the weekends or after school, get kids away from the television, and make memories. And if you are looking for a great book of kid-friendly recipes, you can’t go wrong with Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids. Parents, do not fear, these recipes are not as messy as they advertise. But I should warn readers that this is not a cook book for just kids; young chefs will definitely need help from their parents with these recipes. They aren’t too tricky or advanced by any means, but they certainly require adult supervision.

O’Connor’s recipes for various breakfast, after-school, and party treats are delicious and fun. From “Cinnamon Toast Soldiers with Mostly McIntosh Sauce” to “Banana Montana After-School Cake,” kids will love these fantastic snacks. O’Connor provides not only easy instructions for each of her 30 recipes, but she also gives them silly names that are often borrowed from popular children’s stories. I would have to say my favorite recipe from the book would be the “Quickberry! Quackberry! Blackberry-Apple Crumble” (those familiar with Jamberry, by Bruce Degan, should recognize the name). And if you have some little princesses who love the Pinkalicious books by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann  (despite my rather vocal dislike for the series), you can find a recipe for “Pinkalicious Princess Cupcakes” on page 73. O’Connor also provides parents and blooming chefs with helpful explanations, hints and tricks for common baking problems; for example, according to the author, the key to fail-proof “Ghostly Meringues”  is a VERY cold metal mixing bowl and a little lemon juice.

I think what I love most about this cook book is the quotes from O’Connor’s own kids, nieces, and nephews. For example, she writes that Sam Farnsworth, age 10, said while making meringues, “This is what clouds should taste like.” Or seven-year-old  Emma Galeckas’ wise words: “When I grow up, I want to be a baker and the weather girl.”

Like ALL of the books Chronicle publishes, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids, is beautiful to look at. Chronicle is a very visual and artistic independent publishing house. Which means that they have complete freedom to produce exactly what they want, and what they want to produce are amazingly gorgeous books that are little works of art in and of themselves. This cook book’s lay-flat, spiral binding, is practical and sturdy, but the scalloped pages, recurring use of doily prints, and colorful, floral-fabric-esque graphics make this book positively pretty. Not to mention that Leigh Beisch’s photography will have you drooling all over each page.

So if you are looking for an excuse to get your kid in the kitchen with you, or even just to eat something delicious, pick up a copy of Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids!

Want a more grown-up version? Get O’Connor’s original cook book, simply titled Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

Looking for a picture book about baking? I can’t say enough good things about This Little Bunny Can Bake, by Janet Stein. It is SO adorable!

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Miss Rumphius

April 9, 2011

Title: Miss Rumphius
Author: Barbara Cooney
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780140505399
Publisher: Puffin (1985)
List Price: Paperback, $7.99

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In the spirit of spring, I just had to tell you all about Miss Rumphius!

This lovely picture book, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is one of my favorite springtime stories from when I was little. Although it was published a good 25 years ago, people still come into my bookstore looking for it. Probably because it is amazing. Or maybe because it is a story about growing up, traveling the globe, and making the world a more beautiful place. Or perhaps, they seek it out because it is a story about lupines, blue and purple and rose-colored lupines, but I will get to that later.

Cooney writes about a little girl who lives in a city by the sea. This little girl is named Alice, and she works with her grandfather (an artist, who every now and then lets her paint the skies into his pictures). Alice loves to hear her grandfather’s stories of faraway places, and she always tells him, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.” But her grandfather responds by saying that she must do a third thing, she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grows up, and Cooney writes about her adventures to tropical isles, through jungles and deserts, and to tall mountains where the snow never melts.

But as Alice gets older, she realizes it is time for her to find her place by the sea:

From the porch of her new house Miss Rumphius watched the sun come up; she watched it cross the heavens and sparkle on the water; and she saw it set in glory in the evening. She started a little garden among the rocks that surrounded her house, and she planted flower seeds in the stony ground. Miss Rumphius was almost perfectly happy. “But there is still one more thing I have to do,” she said. “I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.” But what? “The world already is pretty nice,” she thought, looking out over the ocean.

The following spring, Miss Rumphius is surprised to find that the blue and purple and rose-colored lupines that she had planted popped up not only in her garden but over the hill from her house as well. “‘I don’t believe my eyes!’ she said as she knelt in delight. ‘It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped!’ Then Miss Rumphius had a wonderful idea!”

She decided to scatter lupine seeds all over her town that summer. With her pockets heavy with seeds, she wandered over fields and pastures, along highways and down country lanes sowing lupines.

When spring arrived there were blue, purple, and rose-colored lupines everywhere! Miss Rumphius, or The Lupine Lady as she came to be known as, had finally done the third, and most difficult thing! She made the world more beautiful!

Barbara Cooney’s story is interesting, unique, and inspiring, and her illustrations are gorgeous! If you are looking for a great springtime picture book, or really just a fabulous tale for anytime of the year, be sure to pick up Miss Rumphius!

[This is my favorite illustration from the whole book, if I could have it framed I would. I just had to include it here!]

Like Cooney’s paintings as much as I do? Check out her illustrations for Alice Mclerran’s Roxaboxen, another great picture book about adventure, childhood imaginations, and growing up.