The Day the Crayons Came Home!

If your kid loved The Day the Crayons Quit, and it seems like almost every kid on the planet did, check out the new companion book, The Day the Crayons Came Home, by collaborators Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers!

Oliver Jeffers’ amazing illustrations drew me to The Day the Crayons Quit, but the text in this new book really shines. The illustrations are still wonderful, and Drew Daywalts’ story is sharper and funnier than the first book. In The Day the Crayons Came Home, each crayon has written their owner Duncan a postcard telling the sad story of where they have been and what they are doing. I won't ruin any surprises, but each crayon's story is sillier than the last. Particularly funny is Neon Red Crayon’s journey through the world. He’s a little confused on geography (he reports riding a camel through the deserts of New Jersey), but he has a great trip. And of course, all of the crayons get their happy ending.

It’s National Waffle Day!

Today just happens to be National Waffle Day, so let’s talk about breakfast. Breakfast is also good for lunch or dinner, and with good purpose – breakfast foods are delicious and wonderful! Waffles, toast, fried potatoes, piles of bacon, eggs any way you like it – the list goes on.

Here are a few all-star breakfasty books featuring waffles and beyond to wake you up and fuel your day at any time:

Crepes, waffles, and pancakes!: Over 100 recipes for hearty meals, light snacks, and delicious desserts

Vegan brunch: homestyle recipes worth waking up for-- from asparagus omelets to pumpkin pancakes

The big book of breakfast: Serious comfort food for any time of the day

Breakfast for dinner: Recipes for frittata florentine, huevos rancheros, sunny-side-up burgers, and more!

What's your favorite breakfast food, and when's the best time to eat breakfast?!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #549

"A literary thriller", Dragonfish * * * by Whiting Award winner Vu Tran is the "nuanced and elegiac, noirish first novel" of an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Chicago.

Robert Ruen, an Oakland (CA) cop with an anger management issue is forced at gunpoint to travel to Las Vegas in order to help find Suzy, his Vietnamese ex-wife who has disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese businessman, smuggler and gambler. As Robert pursues Suzy through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," he realizes how little he knows of her - from her perilous escape from war-torn Vietnam, to the dangers and hazards in a Malaysian refugee camp where she first met Sonny.

Parallel to Robert's investigation is a secondary narrative in the form of letters to a daughter Suzy abandoned decades ago, throwing light on a woman debilitated by sorrow and haunted by ghosts and guilt.

"Vu Tran takes a strikingly poetic and profoundly evocative approach to the conventions of crime fiction in this supple, sensitive, wrenching, and suspenseful tale of exile, loss, risk, violence, and the failure to love."

"A superb debut novel…that takes the noir basics and infuses them with the bitters of loss and isolation peculiar to the refugee and immigrant tale. " (Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air). Also check out this week's The New York Times Book Review for Chris Abani's review (and podcast), whose The Secret History of Las Vegas would be an interesting readalike.

Vu Tran will be participating in the Suspenseful Reads panel at this year's Kerrytown Bookfest. September 13, at 2:45 at the Kerrytown Concert House.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

PreK Bits - "N" is for Noisy

Ms. Rachel did noisy stories in storytime.
There are so many ways to make noise!
The NOISY COUNTING BOOK … has lots of pond noises. Let's count with them.
WHOSE NOSE? is a guessing game book.
We played “Whoops! I dropped my nose!” to get some body action going.
We heard the noisy story “The Princess, The Frog, and the Little Bird”. This story has been passed from storyteller to storyteller, and uses sound effects to tell the story. Did you see the princess?

If you like to make noises and you want more noisy tales, try these favorites:
WHERE The WILD THINGS ARE … the night Max wears his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another…
TICK-TOCK DRIP DROP: a bedtime story
NOISES ... the STORIES To GO set of books and activities for fun with preschool concepts.
The LOUD BOOK ... poetic descriptions of "what is loud?"
TIPTOE JOE … shhhh …. On tippytoes ….
For older preschool kids who enjoy a bigger story, try The CABOOSE WHO GOT LOOSE a Bill Peet classic. My boys loved poring over the book and talking about it when they were in preschool. We couldn’t have grown up without Bill Peet in our bedtime stories.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #548 - “I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” ~ Maya Angelou

The Lake Season "sparkles with wry wit, sweet romance, and long-kept family secrets", is the first adult fiction by YA author Hannah Roberts McKinnon.

Iris Standish arrives at her childhood lakeside home in the midst of the whirlwind of activities in preparation for her sister Leah's wedding, just when her own marriage to a high-power lawyer is coming apart. As Iris work through how her carefully-constructed life spins out of control while helping Leah with the preparations for her wedding, both learn more about themselves and each other than they ever thought possible.

"McKinnon’s voice is sharp and evocative…Making use of a gorgeous setting and serious themes, this novel rises above a flock of fluffier beach reads."

The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick, is her first stand-alone (from her Cobbled Court Quilts series) in many years.

Political campaigner Lucy Toomey’s hard work is about to pay off now that her candidtae is entering the White House. But when her estranged older sister, Alice, unexpectedly dies, Lucy is drawn back to Nilson’s Bay, her small, close-knit, Wisconsin hometown. To meet the terms of Alice’s eccentric will, Lucy must take up residence in her sister’s cottage, and over time, begins to see the town, and Alice’s life, anew.

"Bostwick depicts the mental and emotional struggle Lucy undertakes as she grieves a sister she never truly knew and weighs small-town life against the bustle of Washington, D.C."

Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith is (a) "sharp perceptive (debut) novel about family and forgiveness."

Like most identical twins, (William) Whiskey and Charlie were thick as thieves as children though they were polar opposites. By the time they reach adulthood, they are estranged. Charlie is repulsed by Whiskey's flashy ad-executive lifestyle and his impulsive marriage to the lovely Rosa. But when a freak accident puts Whiskey in a coma, Charlie is forced to face the fact he may never speak to his brother again.

"Whiskey and Charlie is a wise, clever exploration of making mistakes and facing up to them, of sibling rivalry, the damage it can do, and the ways family can make us whole."

Library Lists: (Useful!) Fitness, Nutrition and Exercise Materials

Lots of fitness, diet, and exercise books and materials seem to be repetitive or refuse to acknowledge that losing weight, dieting, and being fit are all difficult things to do! Others are too boring to make it through, despite having potentially useful tips. Even motivated people looking for some good information can become discouraged wading through the endless materials on fitness and diet that are out there. For some actually useful, beneficial and well-laid-out materials on exercise and health, try:

Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog: The format of this recently published book is over 100 short directives for how to lead a life of health and fitness. Drawing on the most recent science, and ignoring any of the “fad” diets that have sprung up in the past few decades, this book is an easy and useful guide to both physical fitness and nutrition.

Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run is the wonderfully honest story of Alexandra Heminsley, a woman who decided to take up running in her mid-thirties. She expected immediate weight loss, toned legs and the lauded “runners high”… but that’s not exactly what happened. She admits that starting to run can be a brutal and discouraging experience, and talks about motivating herself to get past those first miserable weeks (okay, months) and ultimately reaping the rewards of a running lifestyle.

Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred: Although most workout DVDs don’t do it for me, Jillian Michaels’ are a huge exception. Her workouts combine cardio, strength training and ab workouts in 20 minute workouts that really WORK. Each of her DVDs contains multiple workouts that progress by intensity level as you gain fitness and improve. 30 Day Shred, along with Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 are the perfect solution if you nee d to work out at home and really want to sweat.

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual clearly and concisely explains how to eat well. Incorporating many of the rules that he describes is easy, and this book is so compact that it’s a great one to have around the house when you need a reminder of how and why to eat healthy. Advice such as “Things that never go bad aren’t food,” is clever and really hits home.

No Sweat: In this brand new book, University of Michigan researcher and professor uses the results of her own research—and that of others—to explain why so many people begin exercise regimes with the best of intentions, but then fail to stick with them after a few weeks or months. Her information and advice are extremely useful, and this book is a quick and straightforward read.

Making healthy, complete meals is a challenge for everyone, and it can be especially difficult to get the nutrients and the right amount of calories when you're increasing physical activity or maintaining an active lifestyle. The Runner's World Cookbook contains over 150 easy and varied recipes that will help with overall nutrition (whether you're a runner or not!). I love the healthy, diverse, and straightforward recipes it offers. It even contains vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for the athlete with dietary restrictions.

For even more excellent materials on health and fitness, check out the extended list here.

Nonfiction doesn't mean non-interesting Maya van Wagenen's Popular wins YASLA's award for excellence in nonfiction!

Maya was not your traditional 8th grade student, and not because she made a six figure book deal out of her memoir of the 8th grade. No Maya decided that she would adopt the styles of the 50's and wear them to school regardless of what her friends and fellow school goers thought about it. She used a 1950's popularity guide by Betty Cornell and for the rest of the year she followed what it said. What she found out was... well I won't spoil it for you! Read and find out for yourself!

This book is great and wonderfully put together. Sometimes when you're reading it you forget for just a moment that the person was only 15 when the book was published! So check out Popular : a memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek and find out why it won the award for yourself.

The Martian

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are people who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

After a freak accident during a vicious sand storm at the Ares 3 mission base, Mark Watney wakes up to discover that his crew mates, believing he did not survive the storm, have abandoned him on Mars. With only enough supplies to last the original 35 days of the mission (and no chance of a return mission to rescue him for another 4 years), Mark must rely on his training, quick wit, and intellect to help him stretch his supplies to the limit and find a way to survive in the harsh Martian landscape.

Throughout the novel, Mark's optimism blended with his witty (and sometimes crude) remarks humanize his character and bring a more light-hearted aspect to the novel. This fast-paced and thrilling novel intertwines the story of Mark with the respective stories of his devastated crew members on their way back to Earth, NASA's frenzied attempts to save Mark, and the media's fascination with the Mark Watney story. First-time novelist Andy Weir includes quite a bit of technical detail (most of which is backed by real science), adding to the intensity of this great story. The Martian is a classic story of hope and survival in a foreign wilderness that is sure to delight adult readers. Watch out for the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon, which hits theaters in October!

The Blue Whale

“Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read.”

I was so happy to come across this beautiful and educational picture book! The Blue Whale is written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond and presents facts and info about the majestic blue whale. A young boy becomes immersed in the book as he learns about the animal. With words and images it’s written in a way that’s simple enough for children to understand and appreciate. If you have a kid that’s into facts, numbers, animals, or just pretty picture books, check it out! Even as an adult reader, I sure learned a lot about these amazing creatures.

For more books from Enchanted Lion Books be sure to check out the list to find some of the most unique, quirky and beautiful picture books around.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #547

The industry buzz on Kitchens of the Great Midwest * by TV producer (The History Channel and the Discovery Channel) J. Ryan Stradal has been relentless for weeks. The latest is the review in The New York Times. (Also check out the reviews in the L.A. Times and the Petoskey News where a pivotal scene is set).

Eleven year-old Eva Thorvald does not fit in - not with her hard-working, well-meaning but unsophisticated parents or the kids at school. She finds comradery in her cool cousin Randy who has a troubled history with the law, and solace in the prized hydroponic chocolate habaneros she cultivates in her closet. When her ingenious attempt to even the score with the bullies lands her in hot water, she bolts for the big city (Evanston, IL) where her cousin Braque is a college student. Eventually she would become the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, and in the process, comes face to face with the secret her loving family tried to shield her from.

"Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises." Recipes included.

"(A) big-hearted, funny, and class-transcending pleasure. It’s also both a structural and empathetic tour de force, stepping across worlds in the American midwest, and demonstrating with an enviable tenderness and ingenuity the tug of war between our freedom to pursue our passions and our obligations to those we love.” ~ Jim Shepard

"(A) charming, fast-moving round robin tale of food, sensuality and Midwestern culture..." ~ Janet Fitch

Readalikes: Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe; Mangoes and Quince by Carol Field; and La Cucina : a novel of rapture by Lily Prior.

* = starred review

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