Absolutely Oatrageous!

If you are looking to amp up your morning breakfast routine, then check out Kathy Hester's newest book, Oatrageous Oatmeals!

The book starts off with more conventional ways to use oats, including delectable and creative oatmeals such as Apple Pear Baked Steel-Cut Oatmeal and Pumpkin Coffee Cake Oatmeal. However, it also delves into other breakfast ideas such as muffins, granolas, coffee cakes, and breakfast bars. These are all great ideas for those snuggly winter mornings when a warm breakfast is welcome, but what about the summer months? "Oatrageous Oatmeals" also includes several recipes for overnight oats, which are cool and satisfying refrigerated oatmeals.

The most surprising part of this book is the addition of several savory recipes for lunch and dinner. Picky kids (and grown-ups!) won't even be able to tell that there are protein-packed oats in their Chickpea Veggie Soup or their Potato Gnocchi. Those with specialized diets can find something to love in this book too; all recipes have omitted the use of meat and dairy products, and included alternatives to omit gluten as well.

Kathy Hester is well-known for her contributions to the Key Ingredient blog as well as other online publications. She has written three other cookbooks.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #513 -“When one was reinventing oneself, anywhere could be home.” ~ Manju Kapur

A debut novel - Searching for Grace Kelly * by Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Callahan, is "a wonderful champagne bubble of a book - glamorous, aspirational, and relatable! The fifties never seem so fun! Wicked, naughty and clever." ~ Melissa de la Cruz

In the 1950s, there is no address more glamorous than New York's Barbizon Hotel for Women where the likes of Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Joan Crawford, Edna Ferber, and Sylvia Plath have called home. For Laura Dixon, former debutant, and a patrician beauty from Smith, arrives to work as a guest editor at Mademoiselle on the annual August college issue. In short order, she catches the eye of the most eligible bachelor in all of NY, and befriends a bartender of great intellect. Her wildly romantic, slightly thrumpy, take-charge roommate Dolly Hickey is a Katie Gibbs girl, counting on secretarial school and a job in publishing to spare her from the drudgery shared by the women in her working-class family upstate. Above all, she longs for her own prince-charming.

Vivian Windsor, a brash, redheaded British bombshell dreams of a singing career, while working as a cigarette girl at the famous Stork Club in the meantime, waiting for her big break, taking pleasures where she can, and breaking all the rules (Barbizon and otherwise) along the way.

Together, the three young women embark on a journey of self-discovery that will take them from the penthouse salons of Park Avenue to the Beat scene of Greenwich Village to Atlantic City's Steel Pier -- and into the arms of men who will alter their lives forever.

"Callahan's debut novel truly captures glamorous New York City from young women's perspective in the 1950s." "(He) suavely combines literary finesse and pulp fiction to create a fast-moving, heart-wrenching tale of romance and tragedy."

For those who remembered fondly The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film); The Group by Mary McCarthy; and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.

If you like your settings strictly contemporary, try Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess and Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.

* = starred review

The new graphic novel Here is the coolest thing ever!

Richard McGuire’s Here is graphic novelization at its best! The focus of the book is a single space and the events that take place in and around it over millennia. For much of the book, this space is a living room in a large house on the East Coast, but it is also a swamp, a city, a future archaeological dig, and much more. McGuire’s uses multiple panels on each page to show the overlapping and intertwining years. A dinosaur wanders by while a child plays with a similar plastic dinosaur in a panel on the opposite page. A question posed between people in the 18th century seems related to a question or answer between different people in the 21st century. The natural world changes and interweaves throughout the book too. A tree grows for several hundred years, and then is depicted on the forest floor. Swamps give way to glaciers, which then give way to forest and farmland. I loved how the unique perspectives that Here provides beautifully represent the transient nature of all things. “Meanwhile,” states the book jacket appropriately, “the attention is focused on the most ordinary moments and appreciating them as the most transcendent.”

PreK Bits - "V"+ valuable = VALENTINE

Ms. Rachel and Ms. Sara began storytime with "the HELLO song" and then led the audience through an activity called “I’m Making a Blanket For Baby”.
This activity pairs songs we know ... with picture-squares we know ... and we create a "singing" quilt.
YOU’RE ALL MY FAVORITES Mama and Papa Bear declare. Baby bears worry, "We can't ALL be the best."
WHERE SHALL WE GO? by Nanadini Nayar.
Sameer is out of school for the week and packing his vacation bag. Mama guesses where they are going based on the clues going into the bag.

Time to give each other a "hugga hugga hug ... A hug and a squee-ee-eeze" and try some more valuable valentine titles:
GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU? by Sam McBratney
A YOU’RE ADORABLE ... a classic alphabet "love" song, as sung on the CD SMORGASBOARD by Sharon, Lois and Bram
A BEDTIME FOR BEAR by Bonny Becker
HUG MACHINE by Scott Campbell
VALENTINE BEARS by Eve Bunting
LOVE MONSTER by Rachel Bright
TAKING CARE OF MAMA RABBIT by Anita Lobel.

TV Spotlight: The Fall

Another great police drama on BBC and Netflix, The Fall stars Gillian Anderson (Scully!) as cool DSI Stella Gibson, who is called in to help investigate a murder in Belfast. The murder is linked to possible political corruption, and she ends up sticking around to track down the killer of an inevitable string of serial murders of women. It was creepily entertaining to watch her investigation take place as the killer walked around a free man plotting his next kill after tucking his kids into bed at night.

Two seasons of The Fall have aired, and while the creator hasn’t formally announced a third season, they’re pretty confident it’s going to happen. And I hope so, because season two ended with such a cliff hanger. Check out The Fall if you’re into cop shows or well produced British television.

"Write On!" - Let's Get Started!

Thinking about entering this year’s “Write On!” Short Story Contest for 3rd-5th grade, but not sure where to start? What are short stories supposed to be about, anyway?
Good news! That's the fun part about writing - YOU get to decide. It can be scary, funny, silly, or sad. All you need is an idea! Now... where can you find one of those?!

These short story collections should get you thinking:
Ribbiting Tales: Original Stories About Frogs
Sports Shorts: An Anthology of Short Stories
Breaking the Spell: Tales of Enchantment

For some spooky ideas, try:
That’s Ghosts for You: 13 Scary Stories
Beware! : R.L. Stine Picks His Favorite Scary Stories

To find out more about the "Write On!" Short Story Contest, check out the contest home page!

Dept. of Speculation is a work of art!

When Jenny Offill’s newest novel Dept. of Speculation appeared on the hold shelf for me, I was surprised by the slim volume with the simple cover. “Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all,” opens the book jacket description, and this immediately intrigued me. I started the book right away and finished it in one sitting. Offill writes with an amazing blend of poetry and prose and evokes imagery and emotions unlike most other authors I have read. Although Dept. of Speculation lacks some of the typical details given to readers—we never learn the narrator’s name, for example—I felt that this dispensation of traditional information allowed me to better appreciate the true intention of the book. “There are enough bracing emotional insights in these pages to fill a much longer novel” says the jacket, and I couldn’t agree more. Time is another detail that is left to interpretation; the narrator describes incidents that take place over several decades—past, present, and future—while still managing to move the novel ultimately forward in time. Dept. of Speculation is truly a work of art, and a perfect read for these cold, hide-inside February days.

Offill has also written Last Things and several books for children, including While You Were Napping and 17 Things I Am Not Allowed To Do Anymore.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #512 -“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds." ~ Nicholas Sparks

Sonali Dev won the 2015 Reading List Awards for Romance with A Bollywood Affair, her first novel.

The first thing you will notice is that this romance is set in the unlikely locale of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Then this "charming contemporary Indian fairytale…(v)ibrant and exuberantly romantic" (NPR) will take over and never let go.

Mili Rathod, bound by marriage since she was four years old to a man she has not seen in 20 years, has nevertheless dutifully cared for his family in their village. Preparing herself to be the perfect Indian wife, she attends college (for sparklingly witty and intelligent conversations) while she waits for her husband Virat to come and claim her. In the meantime, she accepts the one-year scholarship in America, unaware that Virat, now married to Rima, plans to annul the marriage before the arrival of their first child.

Tasked with tracking down Mili to sign the annulment papers is Virat's playboy brother Samir, a big-time Bollywood director/filmmaker. Arriving on the Eastern Michigan University campus in a bright yellow convertible, their first meet is anything but "cute" - it is downright disastrous. Mistaken identity, conditioned expectations, personal history and family loyalty complicate matters as they fight their mutual attraction.

"Dev's heartfelt debut novel is rich in scenes and images illuminating Indian culture, leaving readers with a greater understanding and appreciation of Indian traditions while beautifully capturing the struggle between familial duty and self-discovery."

Check out these readalikes/watchalikes selected for this title by the Reading List Council:

Bride and Prejudice (2004)
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (2012)
The Malhotra Bride by Sundari Venkatraman (2009), in kindle format

Newbery, Caldecott, Printz & ALL the Youth and Teen Book, Audio and Video Awards Announced!

On Monday, February 2 in a snowed in Chicago The American Library Association (ALA) today announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – at its Midwinter Meeting. A hotly anticipated day for librarians, publishers, and lovers of youth and teen literature the awards the announcements culminate a year's worth of reading, listening and watching by a wide variety of librarians and educators all over the country. Over the years the variety of awards given out has grown to cover

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander, is the 2015 Newbery Medal winner.

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named:
El Deafo” by Cece Bell
Brown Girl Dreaming,” by Jacqueline Woodson

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” illustrated by Dan Santat, is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner.

Six Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

Nana in the City,” illustrated and written by Lauren Castillo
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett
Viva Frida,” illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jennifer Bryant
This One Summer,” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, is the King Author Book winner.

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse

In Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse, a very curious mouse wakes up one day, only to discover that all of the other mice have disappeared. The reason? The invention of the mechanical mouse trap! Our little mouse friend knows he must reach his friends and family in America, but with hungry cats guarding the ships at the harbor and owls following him each night, the little mouse knows his journey will not be easy. Late one night, the little mouse spies bats flying in the distance, and (in a stroke of pure mousy genius) realizes that he must fly to America. The mouse will build his own little wings for the long journey overseas. Although difficult at first, our furry protagonist constructs his very own pair of wings, and sets off across the Atlantic.

This story hinges on it's beautiful and breathtaking illustrations, and readers will connect easily to the mouse at the center of this inspiring story. The mechanical aspects of this book greatly reminded me of the illustrations and overall feel of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Other great mouse stories with similar themes include Mousenet, Young Fredle, and Ratatouille.

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