Dojo Daycare!

Dojo Daycare is a hilarious new addition to our picture book collection. With its digitally drawn comic style illustrations and rhythmic rhyming, Chris Tougas' first foray into the world of picture books is a pure joyride.

When adult ninjas leave the house, their little ninjas are dropped off at the Dojo Daycare. The Dojo Master tries to instill values of kindness, respect and honor in the young ninjas, but they have other plans. KABOOM! KAPOW! With kids kicking, jumping, and screaming, the Dojo quickly descends into chaos. The Dojo Master attempts to regain control but cannot get through to his little ninjas. When the little ninjas see that they have saddened the Dojo, they quickly regroup to furiously clean the Dojo and restore peace to the Daycare.

This adorable and funny book puts an emphasis on personal responsibility and respect for your peers. For other interesting and off-beat stories about good manners, try A Quest for Good Manners or Rules of the Wild: An Unruly Book of Manners.

IAW 2015 Get to Know the Judges: Cyn Balog

Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of choosing the top three contenders in each grade. Up first is Cyn Balog, who also writes under the name Nichola Reilly.

Originally from New Jersey but now in Pennsylvania, Balog has written a number of paranormal and post-apocalyptic young adult novels, including FAIRY TALE (2009) and DROWNED (2014). Her books have been translated and published in Germany, Italy, and Hungary.

DROWNED is an unusual post-apocalyptic book (the first in a series) that takes place on an island where the tides routinely swallow up the land, and the only thing that saves the inhabitants is the creaky wooden platform they must stand on for hours at a time until the tides recede. Coe, the one-handed teenage protagonist, has always felt unwelcome among and reviled by her people. When the king who rules them falls ill, however, it's up to Coe to find answers to secrets long buried and to find a way to save everyone before the waters swallow them all whole.

Interesting facts about the author: She's obsessed with all things Disney, she once had a crayfish named Harry as a pet, and her favorite book is Charlotte's Web.

Please, Mr. Panda

Here are two super cute picture books that involve manners.

Please Mr. Panda is a new picture book and features a panda with a box of donuts to share, but his friends aren’t asking for them very nicely. It’s a simple book with few words and lively illustrations all about the word please.

Thank You, Octopus offers a hilarious dialog between a boy getting ready for bed and his octopus friend. There is a lot of thank you and no thank you between the two that will enduce much laughter.

If this sparks further dialog with your little one, check out more picture books all about manners.

Can't Wait for our 3/23 Laura Ingalls Wilder Event? Try Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen!

In advance of AADL's upcoming event, Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Place in the World on Monday, 3/23, here is a review of Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen, a beautiful work of fiction that ties into loving Laura Ingalls Wilder, and shares themes that appear in the Little House books and in Laura's own life

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen is the story of Lee Lien, a first-generation American daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, who spent her childhood reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series in the backseat as her family crisscrossed the Midwest, running one tacky Asian buffet after another. Lee is now grown and in possession of a English Literature Ph.D, but no job offers. In returning to live with her short-tempered mother and goodnatured grandfather, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may prove a connection to Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Lee’s beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. As she chases down clues to prove her theory, she struggles with the everyday realities of her own family.

Nguyen draws some striking parallels between her story and that of the real life and fictionalized versions of the Ingalls Wilder characters. There’s the “missing pieces” of the Ingalls’ family’s real life that are not depicted in the books, such as the birth and death of a son and a stint as innkeepers in Iowa, which relates to the unknowable things in Lee’s own family history, such as the impact of her grandfather’s Saigon cafe on a traveling American writer, the circumstances of her father’s death, or the true state of her mother’s relationship with a family friend. The fraught relationship between the real life mother and daughter Laura and Rose is mirrored in Lee’s interactions with her own mother. Even Laura’s “itchy foot” desire to move ever westward appears as Lee follows her investigation from Illinois to the California coast.

This is the story of a young woman who must go back in order to go forward and how you never know what you might find between the covers of a book.It’s an excellent read whether you are a Little House lover or not, but readers of the Little House series will be especially appreciative of hints of Nguyen’s own obvious adoration.

Looking for more Laura Ingalls Wilder? Try this list of titles that includes biographies, writers chasing their own Laura obsessions, or books that just capture that young girl/big frontier feel.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #518 - “Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.” ~ Jennifer Worth

I have been unashamedly hand-selling The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth in the past weeks and so far, great reports from everyone who've read it.

Former Australian (Melbourne) Event Planner Sally Hepworth sets her US debut in Providence/Conanicut Island (RI) where three generations of midwives called home. This is a lovely story about family, and at the heart of the matter - "biology was only part of it".

In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is still determined to keep the identity of the baby's father hidden from her family and co-workers. Though her mother Grace has a hard time accepting Neva's request for privacy, her grandmother Floss, a retired midwife herself, is handling the news with great understanding, having kept a bombshell-of-a-secret in the front pocket of her handbag for five decades.

As Neva's due date approaches, her decision to raise her child as a single parent turns complicated when her best friend, Patrick Johnson, a McDreamy pediatrician offers to be the baby's father while two other likely candidates (Neva is never quite sure) actually have claims on the title. When a difficult birth threatens Grace's license, and Floss suffers a heart attack, secrets are revealed; and the family rallies to usher in Neva's baby, born during a horrific winter storm.

"This intelligent, well-plotted debut will draw readers in from the very first word and keep them engaged until the end." Readers interested in further exploring the topic of midwifery would delight in Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian; the Hope River series by Patricia Harman; and let's not forget Call the Midwife, a BBC series adaptation of Jennifer Worth's memoir.

Baked (and Unbaked) Delights for Everyone!

Tomorrow, March 20, is officially the first day of spring. And what better way to celebrate than baking tons and tons of sweet treats? Check out these recently added, dietary-specific cookbooks.

Sweet Eats for All, from popular blogger and cookbook author Allyson Kramer, is a lusciously photographed collection of vegan and gluten-free recipes that covers a huge range of desserts, from cupcakes, cookies, and pies to puddings, candies, and ice creams. While you'll find a few standard recipes here (classic yellow cupcakes; apple pie; chocolate pudding), there are many more unusual and creative ones that don't often show up in basic cookbooks: speculoos cookies, pistachio rose cheesecake, strawberry balsamic sorbetto, and hand-pulled taffy, just to name a few. There's also a whole chapter dedicated to no-refined-sugar recipes for those who want to cut out the processed junk.

Rawsome Vegan Baking's claim to fame is that it's not only gluten-free and vegan, but raw too! This book (called an "un-cookbook") by Emily Von Euw is probably not for people with nut allergies, as nuts are prevalent here (though there are a couple nut-free recipes). The photographs are gorgeous, and it's nice to have minimally-processed recipes on hand. One interesting twist to this book is that some recipes use GF-oat or buckwheat flour to cut down on the density (and expense!) of all-nut-based desserts while still being gluten-free. Some examples of what you'll find in these pages: cashew coffee vanilla creme cake with cinnamon chocolate crust; go-nuts donuts with frosting and sprinkles, and fresh citrus tart with lemon cream.

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking by Cara Reed is also not to missed. Within its pages you will find recipes not just for sweets like cookies, cakes, and pastries, but also savories like "Cheez-It" crackers and focaccia bread. Highlights: GF, vegan versions of Girl Scout cookies! Reed also shows you how to make your own natural food dyes.

A Pond Full of Ink

" 'Would you like to come out walking?' said the table to the chair,
'I've been standing here forever, and I'd like to take the air.'
'Now you mention it, I'd love to come, ' the chair at once replied.
'Why, we both have legs beneath us that we've never even tried.' "

Looking for something a little silly? A little goofy? A little bizarre or 'out-there'? Turn to A Pond Full of Ink for a quirky display of poetry with unbelievable illustrations. This poetry collection by Dutch author Annie M. G. Schmidt contains 12 funny and nonsensical poems, which are paired with fantastical images. These sketch-like illustrations are the true star here, and remind me quite a bit of Quentin Blake's great illustrations for Roald Dahl's books.

While reading A Pond Full of Ink, I was immediately reminded of the late great Shel Silverstein. If you have yet to check out this brilliant author, take a gander at some of his best works, including Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up.

Waiting (not so) patiently for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

Anne Tyler's 20th (and rumored to be final) novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, continues her trademark talent for finding beauty and complexity in the mundane details of average family life. The story follows the Whitshaw family, whose long-married, but mismatched parents, Red and Abby, are aging and beginning to struggle with the upkeep on the big house in which they raised their four children. As Abby's memory begins to fail, their grown children circle home to help, to make decisions, and to open old wounds and resentments. Fans of Tyler's previous novels may find some familiar ground here, but all readers will appreciate the Tyler's ability to hone in on universalities in family dynamics.

Here are a few titles to tide you over while you wait or to recommend to your book club after they devour A Spool of Blue Thread:

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - The 13 Turner children, nearly all of them born and raised in the family's 3 bedroom house on the east side of Detroit, face the realities of their pasts and their futures as they come together to decide the fate of their family home in a disentigrating city.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver - The house at Ashaunt Point has long anchored the Porter family through the upheaval of war, personal tragedies, changing fortunes, in this powerful examination of the ties that bind families together.

Someone by Alice McDermott - This gem of a domestic fiction novel follows Brooklyn-born Marie Commeford as she navigates changing social norms and expectations from her pre-Depression birthdate throughout her humble yet fascinating life.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley - This first part of a planned trilogy tells the story of Iowa farming family the Langdons, starting in 1920 and moving through the decades as their family grows and changes against the backdrop of the 20th century.

Life-Changing Magic…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is an international best-selling book by Marie Kondo that is apparently magically changing lives. Kondo is a cleaning consultant that has created the KonMari Method, and with this she challenges you to ponder the significance of everything you own, and to keep only those items that spark joy. This includes everything – clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and items with sentimental value. She instructs on how to sift through these items, how to purge what is not needed, and how to feel wonderful after doing so.

The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to make what you own fit into the space you live in. She states that no one should claim they have no space for storage. Her idea is that if you tidy a little bit every day you will be tidying up for the rest of your life. If you follow the KonMari method and follow through, tidying every day will not be necessary. This is not simply buying some bins and storing your stuff. This delves much deeper into analyzing every item you own and in a particular order.

People across the country have been devouring this book, including me, and I wonder how others are doing with the process! Will you Kondo your house?!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #517 - "Excuse me, but I absolutely cannot understand how after eating my fill here I could go past a bakery and steal a roll.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

One of The Huffington Post's most anticipated debut of 2015, Hausfrau* * a novel by award-winning poet Jill Alexander Essbaum (faculty, University of California, Riverside) is an exquisite tale of an expatriate American wife living in Switzerland and her sexual and psychic unraveling, "(written) with an elegance, precision, and surehandedness that recalls Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anita Brookner's (Booker Prize) Hotel du Lac." ~ Janet Fitch

38 year-old Anna Benz, "is a good wife, mostly." Mother of three, married to a Swiss banker, they live in a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. But Anna is falling apart inside. At the suggestion of her analyst Doktor Messerli, Anna enrolls in German language classes "to become more connected to the world", but continues to slip into a string of extramarital affairs that eventually exact a price far more than she could ever imagine.

Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz's story reveals how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves, and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves. "Isolated and tormented, Anna shares more than her name with that classic adulteress, Anna Karenina."

Literary fiction readers might want to further explore the subject with Adultery by Paulo Coelho; A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux; and I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum.

* * = 2 starred reviews

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