21 May 2015

Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club: May Selections

Remember when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I'm committed to featuring or reviewing the books selected for this club because I think Scholastic has picked winning titles that have broad appeal.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. The resources are perfect for book clubs, teachers, homeschoolers, and any one who wants to get more out of reading books with middle grade readers.

This month's picks are perfect for the end of the school year. Your young readers are looking forward to summer vacation and to having fun. Both books are light, easy reads with plenty of magic, lots of laughs, and loveable characters.

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie SteifvaterOkay, I'm just going to come out and say it: Something magical happened when authors Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater got together to write Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures. After nine-year-old Pip has a little misadventure with a unicorn on school career day, her parents arrange for her to spend the summer with Aunt Emma, who runs a veterinarian clinic for magical creatures. Pip may sometimes feel tongue-tied around people, but she has no trouble talking to the animals. And they talk back.

Of course, pretty much no one believes her when she says she understands the many languages of magical creatures, but her new friend, Tomas, is supportive nonetheless. All seems to be going smoothly until tiny Fuzzles start invading the town and spontaneously bursting into flame. Can Pip and Tomas figure out what's causing the infestation and the fires before the animal authorities take drastic (and permanent) action?

Pip is such a great character, it's easy to relate to her. She keeps notes on her observations of (and conversations with) all the magical creatures she meets in her aunt's clinic. She's a good kid, but can get herself into trouble when she lets her curiosity get the best of her. Tomas has a million allergies, and I love the way he is always prepared for a sneezing attack. I also love the illustrations of the creatures, complete with Pip's annotations of her personal encounters of each species.

Book clubs will likely want to talk about friendship, the importance of animals in their lives, and maybe even living with allergies. The discussion topics on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site include questions about learning and about being different. The suggested recipe is for grilled pineapple, which is a favorite food of one of the creatures Pip befriends and is an easy summer treat.

Whatever After: Beauty Queen by Sarah MlynowskiThis isn't the first time one of Sarah Mlynowski's fractured fairy tale books has been picked for the Scholastic book club, and for good reason. These books about Abby and her little brother, Jonah, take us on fun adventures, and I'm glad to see that the series is going strong. In Whatever After: Beauty Queen, the kids find themselves inside the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

The basic premise is that Abby and Jonah discover a magic mirror in their basement. If they knock three times at the stroke of midnight, they are transported into the world of fairy tales. The only problem is that sometimes the stories don't go quite the way they're supposed to. In this adventure, Beauty and the Beast meet and, well, don't fall in love. Oops. What can Abby and Jonah do to save the well-known story and still get home before their parents wake them up for school?

One thing I like about these books is that we get to see Abby both in fairy tale land and in real life. The lessons she learns during her trips through the magic mirror often help her understand issues she might be struggling with at home. In this case, she learns that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and that jealousy isn't a pretty thing.

Your young readers will find a lot to talk about, such as jealousy, friendship, and finding the beauty of people beneath the surface. Don't forget to download the reading guide on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site, which includes several questions about different kinds of relationships. The Beast would love the suggested cheesecake recipe and so will you and your kids. 

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures: Scholastic Press, 2015; ISBN-13: 9780545709262
Whatever After: Beauty Queen: Scholastic Press, 2015; ISBN-13: 9780545746540
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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20 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday 342

Fern, 2015


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19 May 2015

Today's Read: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place for Us by Harriet EvansWhat if your mother requested your presence at a party, luring you in by adding that she had something important to tell the family? Martha Winter, on the eve of her 80th birthday, does just that, though she's sure her revelation will have devastating effects.

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

She woke early. She always did, but lately she couldn't sleep. This summer sometimes she'd been up and dressed by five: too much to think about. No point lying in bed, fretting.
A Place for Us by Harriet Evans (Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books, 2015, p. 5)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: English countryside, modern times; flashbacks to Europe during World War II
  • Circumstances: Everyone makes sacrifices over the course of a long life, and Martha and David Winter are no exception. But not everyone carries the secrets that Martha has. When she tells her family the truth, there is no predicting their reactions.
  • Characters: Martha and David Winter plus their three children and their spouses and their grandchildren
  • Genre: family saga plus a little bit thriller
  • Topics & themes: family, love, sacrifice, secrets, marriage, parenting
  • What I know: The story is told in four parts and from multiple points of view. The core of the novel takes place in the twenty-first century, though there are sections set in World War II Italy and and France.
  • Reviews & thoughts: Readers have had a wide range of feelings about this novel. None of the negative comments bother me (for example, I don't mind time shifts and I like multiple points of view), and the positive reviews note the strong emotions and well developed characters. I will likely save this book for a lazy summer weekend.

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18 May 2015

Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night by Kent HarufKent Haruf's Our Souls at Night is the perfect ending for his run of novels about the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. I've written about Haruf and his work before (Plainsong; Benediction) and will leave those posts to continue to speak for me.

Haruf finished this slim novel just days before he died at the age of seventy-one. It's hard to accept that is our last visit to Holt and the last time we'll be immersed in the ordinary lives of its citizens. I'm sure these thoughts heightened my emotional involvement with Our Souls at Night, but I can assure you that Haruf was at the top of his game until the last second.

This story focuses on Louis Waters and Addie Moore, both in their seventies, long-time widowed, and living alone. Although they are neighbors and Addie was a friend of Louis's late wife, the two don't really know each other, so Louis is initially taken aback when Addie comes for a visit and proposes something surprising: Will Louis consider spending the night at her house? She isn't interested in something physical, she simply misses the companionship of talking in the dark while lying in bed on the verge of sleep.

As with all of Haruf's books, Our Souls at Night is not full of drama or last-minute twists. Nor is it a fairy tale romance. Instead, it's a look at the everyday life of two people trying to find a way out of loneliness while preserving their dignity and independence and honoring their pasts.

Read this one slowly. You'll want to savor every moment of Addie and Louis's developing relationship: their uncertainty in the early days, their nighttime confessions, the pettiness of those who don't understand, the simple joys of a summer afternoon, the sorrows of what cannot be.

Kent Haruf will be missed, but Holt, Colorado, lives on in my heart. I hold tight to the promise of hope.

__________

For more about Kent Haruf--his life and work--see this New York Times article and especially this one from the Wall Street Journal (have a few tissues handy). Our Souls at Night is a standalone novel and is perhaps Haruf's most personal.

Audiobook fans shouldn't miss the outstanding performance by Mark Bramhall, who also read Benediction. See my review for AudioFile magazine.

Random House / Knopf, May 26, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781101875896
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

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16 May 2015

Weekend Cooking: Movie Menus by Francine Segan

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

_______
Movie Menus by Fancine SeganLike movies? Like Food? Then you're bound to get a kick out of Francine Segan's Movie Menus.

Author Segan sounds like someone I should meet: Her biography notes that she's a food historian, a good cook, and a movie fan. What's not to like? Plus we'd have a lot to talk about.

The concept behind Movie Menus is to match Hollywood films to recipes in terms of time period, place, and cultural norms. But Segan goes further by including all kinds of cool movie trivia scattered among the recipes.

Rather than match a single menu to a single movie, Segan organized her book by movie genre, pairing dishes and movie recommendations. For example, in the "Knights and Kings" chapter, which covers the Middle Ages, the recipes include meat pies, fruit pudding, and penne (a medieval Italian invention). Becket, several versions of the King Arthur story, and a number of Robin Hood movies are found in the list of recommended films.

The recipes in Movie Menus range from "Ancient Times" (stuffed figs) to modern times (shrimp with sugar snap peas) and the movies run the gamut from historic (Amistad) to romantic (Breakfast at Tiffany's) to perfect for the whole family (The Princess Bride).

All the recipes are doable and have been adapted to the modern kitchen. I thought it was fun to see the wartime recipes that were developed during times of rationing, dishes that Shakespeare might have eaten, and the hearty fare downed by cattlemen and pioneers in the Old West.

Here's a recipe for Prohibition Punch from the "Gangsters to Greasers" chapter. Make a batch and settle in to watch The Untouchables or Chicago. BTW, Segan notes that this tame recipe is excellent "with a generous splash of hooch."

Prohibition Punch
Serves 8
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 tea bags
  • 1/2 cup mint jelly
  • 1 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • Juice of 4 lemons
1. Bring 3 cups of water and the sugar to boil in a small saucepan. Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and discard. Stir the mint jelly into the hot tea until completely dissolved.

2. Pour the tea mixture into a large pitcher along with the grapefruit, pineapple, and lemon juices and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice.

Published by Villard Books, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780812969924
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


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