Archive for the ‘ages 5-12’ Category

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Holiday Gift Guide: Season’s Readings!

December 14, 2011

Sometimes, I get the sneaky feeling that the majority of book-buyers out there think How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express are the only two Holiday titles in existence…

Don’t get me wrong, I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I actually had it memorized for a few years when I was little because I would listen to the book-on-tape every night before bed. And, well, I think the jury is still out on Polar Express… maybe my parents ingrained “stranger danger” into me too well or something… seriously though, does no one else think it’s weird that the little boy just hops on board a random train that pulls into his yard?

My point is, there are so many fantastic Christmas and Holiday themed picture books out there! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Olivia Helps with Christmas (Hardcover, $18.99): Who doesn’t love Olivia? As equal parts Ramona Quimby, Eloise, and Curious George, dear old Olivia is a wee bit sassy, pretty darn stubborn, remarkably creative and, unfortunately, incessantly “helpful” in all of the wrong ways. Ian Falconer’s witty text and mixed-medium illustrations are entertaining for parents and children alike. And the fold-out page in the middle that display’s Olivia’s method of decorating the dinner table will have you laughing out loud.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas (Hardcover, $16.95 / Board Book, $7.99): You may recall my minor obsession with bears (see prior post on Very Hairy Bear). Well, Karma Wilson has a whole picture book series about an adorable bear and all of his woodland-creature friends. Though Wilson’s simple rhyming narratives are well written, and perfect for reading out loud to little ones, it is Jane Chapman’s illustrations that make this series really stand out. Bear Stays Up for Christmas is just as sweet as the rest of the books in the series, but I think this is my favorite because it really highlights the importance of friendship, and spending time with one another, during the holidays. I’m warning you though… it is dangerously adorable…

Santa Claus: The World’s Number One Toy Expert (Hardcover, $16.00 / Paperback, $6.99): While often overlooked, Marla Frazee’s silly Santa book is my latest (and greatest) discovery. Though it was published in 2005, I just got my hands on a copy and I don’t ever want to let it go. Readers will love this original, and entertaining, look at all of the hard work Santa puts in before Christmas, as he tries to find the perfect gift for each boy and girl. Frazee’s illustrations are vibrant, playful, and wonderfully detailed! Whether it is the mini file folders where Santa keep all of his post-it notes, the ever-growing mass of cocoa mugs that litter each page, or the back-brace and walkie-talkie that Saint Nick dons in his warehouse, adults and kids will love to look for all of Frazee’s fun details in this hilarious holiday find. *This book is also available as a “Send -A-Story,” a cute little paperback storybook that you can throw a stamp on and mail directly to a friend!

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking to get glamorous, and expand your vocabulary this Christmas, check out Fancy Nancy. A crowd favorite among little girls right now, Nancy loves everything to be fancy, including the way she speaks. Nancy teaches her readers elevated language on the sly, “I love Christmas so much. It is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma (That’s a fancy word for smell). I think bigger is always better, but my dad says we must compromise. That means we end up with the tree my mom wants.” Author Jane O’Conner presents readers with a great story about how to make any Christmas splendiferous, even when things go wrong. And Robin Preiss Glasser’s intricate and elegant illustrations will have little ones oo-ing and awe-ing for hours.

Christmas Cookies: Bite Sized Holiday Lessons (Hardcover, $12.99): Follow up Fancy Nancy with another sneaky way to introduce new vocabulary. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s holiday follow-up to her earlier book Cookies: Bite Sized Life Lessons, teaches little ones the meaning of words like “celebrate,” “tradition,” and “appreciative” through baking. “Tradition means each year at the same time we make the same cookies and wear our special matching aprons.” Jane Dyer’s illustrations of cherubic children and anthropomorphic animals are as sweet as Rosenthal’s words. And the recipe to make your own sugar cookies, located in the back of the book, is also wonderful touch.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking for something slightly sillier, pick up Anna Dewdney’s latest book in her Llama Llama series. Though a bit repetitive, this is a great rhyming book for early readers to practice on this holiday. Kids love Llama Llama, and can relate to his total and complete impatience for Christmas to arrive. But in the end, a cuddle from Mama Llama reminds him that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.”

So this holiday season, give that old Grinch a rest and reach for something new! And don’t forget to support your local independent booksellers if you can!

From my bookshelves to yours, Season’s Readings!

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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

Buy on Amazon

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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Mud Pies and Other Recipes

March 10, 2011


Title: Mud Pies and Other Recipes
Author: Marjorie Winslow
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Best for Age: 5-12
ISBN: 9781590173688
Publisher: New York Review Children’s Collection (2010)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.95
Buy on Amazon

 

Have you been in the market for a make-believe cookbook?

I thought so. Well, I am pleased to inform you that your search is over! You needn’t look any further than Marjorie Winslow’s Mud Pies and Other Recipes.

There are few other cookbooks out there that include such delicacies as Seesaw Salad, Mud Puddle Soup, Gravel en Casserole, or Pencil Sharpener Pudding.

As Winslow describes in the Forward of her text,

“This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime. It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared. They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue […] Doll cookery is not a very exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends upon how long your dolls are able to sit at the table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a teacup or a buttercup. It doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that you select the best ingredients available, set a fine table, and serve with style.”

This may be a make-believe cookbook, but it doubles as a fantastically creative storybook. Read Winslow’s instructions out loud and you are sure to receive lots of giggles in return. Young readers will love her downright silly recipes, such as Fried Water, Dandelion Souffle, and Crabgrass Gumbo. And children are sure to enjoy Erik Blegvad’s timeless black and white illustrations.

This fabulously fictional cookbook was originally published in 1961, but it was brought back into print by the New York Review of Books.

According to the New York Review of Books website:

“The New York Review Children’s Collection began in 2003 in an attempt to reward readers who have long wished for the return of their favorite titles and to introduce those books to a new generation of readers […] Praised for their elegant design and sturdy bindings, these books set a new standard for the definition of a ‘classic.'”

After doing a bit more research I have to admit that I agree wholeheartedly with their claims. I love the idea of reviving a favorite old book from its “out-of-print” grave. Sure $14.95 may seem a bit steep for a make-believe cookbook, but I think the price is great for such a beautifully constructed version of a timeless classic.

And the best part is, you can submit your own out-of-print favorites for consideration! Simply go to the NYRB website and give them the author, title, and original publishing date of the book you want to see published as a part of the NYRB Classics series!

In the mean time, have your little ones curl up with a nice warm cup of Rainspout Tea, and a fresh slice of Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, and they are sure to devour Marjorie Winslow’s delightful Mud Pies and Other Recipes.

My Out Of Print Favorites (DIBS on submitting them to NYRB):

1. Becky’s Birthday, by Tasha Tudor. First published in 1960, this is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. You know those books you used to read as a kid that you just wanted to jump inside of? Well, this book still elicits the same reaction out of me every time I pick it up. It is the most adorable story following a little girl’s special day, complete with fresh churned peach ice cream and a party in the woods with a cake that floats down the river. I remember I would always pick it as my bedtime book when I had a babysitter, because it is deceivingly long and I would try to stay up until my parents came home. But the instant comfort of Tudor’s sweet-as-homemade-peach-ice-cream story and breathtaking illustrations always lulled me into an easy sleep. I would love for this book to be reprinted, because as of now there are only 5 used copies available on Amazon, and they are priced at $56 each (however, I’ve seen new copies for as much as $250).

2. Miss Jaster’s Garden, by N.M. Bodecker. Although it was first published in 1972, my dad and my older sister and I found this gem at our public library’s annual used book sale years and years ago. I don’t know how old we were when we got it, but I do know that our very well-loved copy has some added original illustrations of our own (of the purple crayon variety). It follows the adventures of a little hedgehog by the name of Hedgie, and his loving, yet mostly blind, caretaker named Miss Jaster. One day Hedgie falls asleep in one of Miss Jaster’s empty flower beds, and she mistakenly sprinkles flower seeds on his back. A few weeks later Hedgie has a lovely bouquet growing out of his quills, and as he prances and dances around the grounds, showing off his beautiful garden to the world, Miss Jaster mistakes him for a flower thief and adorable chaos ensues. If you can get your hands on a copy I HIGHLY recommend it!