Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Cake Thief

In The Cake Thief, by Sally Lee, Clarence is a young boy that enjoys stealing cakes others in his neighborhood work hard at baking. He sneaks around town, in a somewhat scary mask, stealing freshly baked cakes and bringing them back to his house. When he receives an invitation to a party, where he is instructed to bring a cake of his own, Clarence realizes he can't very well bring a cake that he has stolen from someone else, therefore he must learn to bake his own. Once he has taken the steps to learn how to bake his own cake and actually follows through, Clarence feels much more rewarded than when he was simply stealing cakes from his neighbors.

Hmm...I'm not really sure what to think about this short picture book. It does have a good message: stealing is wrong and working towards something ends up being much more rewarding than the stealing, however the message is portrayed in an overly simplistic and very short manner. The ending came rather abruptly for me. The illustrations, also done by the author, are beautiful, though I do have to admit, a little strange in places. The mask Clarence wears could be a bit scary to children, but I may just be overly picky. Author Sally Lee definitely has something going here, I'm just not sure the overall package was quite right. For me at least! Other reviews on Amazon rave about The Cake Thief, so you'll have to judge for yourself!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Country Explorers

I had the chance to review three books from a very cool series, perfect for a Non-Fiction Monday post. The Country Explorers series, published by Lerner, includes approximately twelve titles, ranging all over the world. I was lucky enough to read Egypt, Indian, and Japan and loved each one. They are written in such a cool way, not at all “textbook” and will definitely hold a young reader’s interest.

Each title is like a short, whirlwind trip to the specified country. The reader gets to learn about the landscape, culture, people, and much more. In India, I learned about different food dishes, such as dal, and about different clothing styles. In Egypt, I learned about the pyramids and the holiday known as Sham al-Nessim. In Japan, I learned about Japanese comics and the dog statue of Hachiko. Let’s just say, I learned quite a bit from these little books!

The books are filled with photographs of the country and its people, short language lessons, and a section for specific facts about the country. The flag, capital, major rivers/landforms, animals, and population are all covered. There is also a glossary, index, and a listing of additional resources for those doing reports.

Even as an adult, I still managed to learn a lot from the different types of facts presented in the books. I enjoyed how aspects such as food and clothing were covered, along with religion, language, and other typical country facts. It was nice to read a book on a country that was dry or a textbook. I think kids will get a lot of use out of these books for school work, but they can also be fun to read with parents as well, as the kids start to learn about new cultures.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Lucky Place

Written by Zu Vincent, The Lucky Place is a newly published juvenile fiction book that also happens to be an incredible emotional rollercoaster. Set against the backdrop of the 1960's, young Cassie is growing up learning how to love two very different fathers. Her biological father is an alcoholic that only comes around when it's convenient to him, leaving Cassie and her brother loving their dad, but confused as to why he won't stay around, not to mention why their mother hates him so much. Their stepfather, Ellis, is a wonderful man that sweeps their mother off her feet and makes promises to the children that he actually keeps. Though she loves Ellis, Cassie is often made to feel as if she is betraying her real father by doing so. When Ellis becomes ill and Cassie's fears of losing the love and stability that Ellis provides, she is more confused than ever, always wondering what the right thing to do really is.

Vincent has created a novel, though not exactly exciting and page turning, definitely kept me reading, wanting to know just what would happen to Cassie and her brother. The portrayal of emotions is very realistic and the love that Cassie has for two different men pours off the pages. This is a unique story, one that I have not yet come across in another title, and one that will stay with you after the last page is completed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Picture Book Saturday

2 picture book offerings for you today. Enjoy!

Hogwash by author/illustrator Arthur Geisert is a lovely picture book without words. The basic premise is that the piglets on the farm are all dirty, much to their mother’s dismay, and are in need of a scrub down. By using intricate machinery, the mother pigs are able to clean all of the piglets at one time, rather than running baths for each one. The machines are huge and complicated, very cool for those budding farmers or engineers. The illustrations are beautiful and easily convey the plot, even without the typical text we are all so used to.

Books without words are definitely a challenge for me, working in the field that I do. The books are great for one on one time, as a child and parent can look at the pages together and through the illustrations, decide what is happening within the story. I don’t usually find these books all that great for story times though, for the simple reason that 30 children have 30 different ideas on what they think the story line is about and having them all shout it out at once just never ends well. Miss Amanda has a headache and is ready to scream by the end of the session! Hogwash by author/illustrator Arthur Geisert is one of those books. Great for one on one time, but I would skip it for library stuff.

Turtle Girl, written by Carol Crowe and illustrated by Jim Postier, is probably more suited towards older children, as it does have death in its theme. Though subtle, the idea is there and it may end up evoking questions from younger children you just aren't ready to answer.

Magdalena and her grandmother spend hours at the beach, waiting for the arrival of the famous sea turtles, coming ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. Her grandmother promises that no matter where she is, she will always be with Magdalena at turtle time. When her grandmother passes away, Magdalena refuses to have any interest in the sea turtles or the hatching of the eggs, as she has for so many years. Her grandmother has left her and she is incredibly angry and frustrated at being left behind. Finally, her mother is able to convince her to go witness the hatching of the baby turtles and while there, Magdalena is able to realize that her grandmother is indeed with her all the time, especially at turtle time.

Beautiful illustrations accompany an equally beautiful story, again, probably best suited towards the older crowd. A great addition to home and library shelves.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Baby Jacob Update

It's been a week since baby Jacob Aaron was born and what a week it has been! For the weekend and the beginning of this week, he did fantastic. They took him off his ventilator and only had him on nasal prongs, pretty amazing for a 27 weeker. He started taking feedings really well and just seemed determined to get big and strong really quickly. Unfortunately, Wednesday and Thursday, things went downhill a bit. He stopped taking feedings, started having episodes where his heart rate would dramatically drop, his right lung decided it wanted to deflate a bit, resulting in him being put back on the oscillator (a bit more intense than a regular ventilator), plus he has to have a PICC line catheter put into him for his nutrition, which after 4 attempts at, the doctors haven't been able to get in. Now they have to cut open Jacob's arm and vein in order to snake the catheter in. It's all been quite traumatic, stressful, emotional, and every other bad word in the book.



Aaron and I are hanging in there, just as our little guy is. We've been placed in the local Ronald McDonald house for the duration of Jacob's stay, which is fantastic and hard at the same time. We aren't at home, with our friends, dog, and normal life,but rather living out of suitcases three hours away, while our baby boy fights to get bigger. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers, we definitely need it right now.



As we have established somewhat of a routine, I should be getting back into posting reviews this weekend or early next week. I have lots of publishers waiting for book reviews of their titles, not to mention readers that want A Patchwork of Books back to normal. Believe me, I do too! I'll still post periodic baby updates, as you've all seemed to show an interest in how Jacob is doing. I'm also including a few more pictures for you all to see. Thanks again for all your support!

Friday, May 16, 2008

We Have a Baby!!

Sorry I've been missing in action everyone, but it's with good reason. Our baby boy has made an early appearance! Without giving all the crazy details, here's what happened over the past five days:

Monday we went for another blood pressure appointment and to be put on the fetal heart rate monitor, as we have twice a week since bed rest was ordered. The baby's heartbeart kept doing dips, so I was admitted to the hospital for observation. My blood pressure was once again sky high and the heart rate continued to dip, so I was flown from Alamogordo to the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque. This also happened to be our anniversary...what a day!

Tuesday I was kept on monitors all day and was given two ultrasounds to watch the baby. He appeared fine, but between my blood pressure and his heart doing weird things, they were still pretty concerned. Aaron and I were of course in a panic, because we knew we didn't want to have to deliver yet...it was too early.

Wednesday our worries were proved to be right, as the doctors decided to deliver me. I went in for a C-section at about 8pm and the baby was born at 8:35 pm on Wednesday, May 14th. He was officially at 27 weeks 3 days gestation and weighed only 1lb 5oz. He did give a little cry when he was born, but was then whisked away to the NICU. My uterus decided it didn't want to stop bleeding, preventing the surgery from being as quick as it should have been, but all ended up fine and I was able to see the baby about an hour later.

Now, baby Jacob Aaron Snow is doing remarkably well for his size. He is on a ventilator, but is barely needing it, which is great! Lots of tubes and wires coming out of his tiny body, but he is stable and hopefully will remain that way. We do not expect a perfect ride and know there will be setbacks at times, probably a lot of them. He is a tiny, tiny boy, but has lots of hair and is just beautiful. Already the nurses in the NICU call him the "cute one in bed 24."

Jacob will be in the hospital at least until his due date, which is still 3 months away. I will be living here in Albuquerque, 4 hours away from home, at the Ronald McDonald house. Aaron will be going back to work in Alamogordo during the week and coming up on weekends. Difficult, but necessary for the time being.

Jacob Aaron was named after my brother and his daddy. We, unfortunately do not have our nice camera with us, but this picture should tide you all over for the time being. I probably will not be posting reviews for awhile, at least until I recover a bit more, am discharged from the hospital, and get settled in at Ronald McDonald. I'll be updating lots on Jacob though, so stayed tuned and please keep him in your prayers. He's tiny and has a struggle ahead of him. We know God has a plan though and trust He will do what is best for our baby and our family.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Comfort Food

When I read last year's Friday Night Knitting Club, I was delighted to find a new author that wrote an enjoyable, comfortable story. The characters were all very relatable and the plot believable. Unfortunately, on Kate Jacob's second outing, Comfort Food, I found that the second helping of her book just didn't compare to the first. I didn't connect with any of the characters and though I love anything "food" related (I'm a food network junkie), I just didn't love this book.

Augusta "Gus" Simpson is approaching her 50th birthday and is stuck planning her own party and being forced to bake her own birthday cake. Food tv guru, thus making her world famous, planning parties and making cakes is her job, yet Gus wishes that this year, someone else would make her feel special, other than herself. She knows that in order for this to happen, she has to help the close people in her life learn to take care of themselves and not to rely so much on her to solve everyone's problems.

By creating a cooking show that will teach real people how to make gourmet meals and will incorporate her family and friends, as well as a couple of people Gus is less-than thrilled about, Gus hopes she will accomplish her task of ensuing a sense of independence in her family and friends, ultimately benefiting everyone's lives, not to mention Gus's career, and maybe even fall in love while she's at it.

Though very witty and description when it came to food, this second outing by Kate Jacobs just didn't stand up to the first. I love knitting and I love food, so I'm not being biased on the subject matter, I just didn't enjoy the characters nearly as much, nor did I really enjoy the storyline. I was more than a bit bummed, as I was looking forward to another book by an author I really enjoyed the first time around. Oh well, we can't win every time! I still look forward to a third by Jacobs, I'm not giving up!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!!

It's time for another Picture Book Saturday folks! I have a few great choices here, ones I really enjoyed, so I hope you find at least one that you and your family will enjoy.

Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War and Peas is written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Scott Magoon. Both Rabbit and Squirrel love their separate gardens, until their vegetables begin disappearing. They instantly blame each other, without considering any other possible culprits and declare war on each other's gardens. Both Rabbit and Squirrel soon learn that jumping to conclusions is almost always a big mistake!

This was a really cute story, with a plot that kids are bound to enjoy. My only complaint about the book is the coloring of the illustrations being so dark. They are done in dark browns and greens and unfortunately, Squirrel looks more elephant-like than squirrel-like. Not a big enough issue to cause me to not enjoy the book. This would be a great story time choice as well.

The next book, 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day, written by Catherine Ipcizade and illustrated by Ben Hodson, is a selection both my husband and I really enjoyed. To the tune of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the reader gets to learn just how the zoo animals and their keepers get ready for the big day at the zoo. Unfortunately for the keepers, none of the animals want to cooperate, making for a very crazy day, filled with silly animal antics.

I read it out loud to the baby every few days and Aaron read it to my belly last night. The illustrations are adorable and the rhyming is perfect. I also really like how different activities are included in the back of the book, allowing the reader to do worksheets and puzzles on the different animal facts they learned throughout the story. It's a cute, educational selection that will definitely be kept on my shelves.

Finally, another book my husband has really enjoyed lately is author Frances Watts and illustrator David Legge's Kisses for Daddy. As a little bear is starting to get ready for bed, his dad wants a Big Bear kiss goodnight. The little bear refuses, so Daddy Bear begins suggesting other types of kisses, such as upside-down bat kisses, wiggly monkey kisses, and wet crocodile kisses. Though the little bear continues to refuse each kiss, it is apparent from the illustrations that he is very much enjoying his daddy's silliness.

I can definitely see this book being a lot of fun for kids and their parents to act out. Each different kiss is described and after reading the book I would suggest trying out the different kisses with your children. You'll end up in giggles! The illustrations are fabulous too...very detailed and vibrant. A great book overall!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Peeled

It's another one folks! Another title that I have seen rave reviews on, all around the blogosphere, that I just didn't really enjoy. Who knows why, just another I didn't get, though there must be something that is making the rest of you love this story so much!

Peeled, written by the popular Joan Bauer, is the story of Hildy Biddle (gotta love that name), a reporter for her school's newspaper, "The Core." The town newspaper has begun running stories on some eerie happenings around town, namely creepy messages that are starting to worry the residents of the town. Sensationalism gets to an all time high and Hildy decides to take on the story herself, for the school's paper, to get the truth as to what is really going on. The town's reporters only seem to be interested in selling the story and ultimately creating a huge haunted house amusement park in town, which would shut down farmland that the residents of Banesville make their living off of. Hildy begins her own in-depth investigation, resulting in her entering into incredibly hot water and risking everything to get the truth.

I honestly don't know why I didn't enjoy Peeled. Who knows...maybe it's just the mood I've been in lately, affecting my reading taste. It is written in typical Bauer fashion, with funny characters and humor spun throughout the seriousness of the plot, yet I still just didn't connect with the story. I do, however, need to comment on the genius of the cover. The cover depicts the plot perfectly and definitely is one of those that make you want to grab the book off the shelf and take it home. Covers too often stray too far from the story, though this one is just perfect.

Tera's Dawn

Those who love horse stories (you know you are picturing a little girl or two) will enjoy Susan Schank's book about a wild, young horse that is determined to not be captured by rancher's, as her mother was long ago. All Tera wants is to be able to see her mother again, when the worst that could happen occurs and she is indeed captured. While in captivity, however, a wonderful thing happens and Tera is still able to make her dreams come true.

The book is a quick, heartwarming read that children will enjoy. They will root for Tera as she works hard at meeting her goals while living on a farm, rather than in the wild where she belongs. The illustrations, done by Denise Seah are beautiful as well, my only complaint being that the text is done in white and written in a cursive-like font, making it hard to read out loud in a flowing manner. Other than that, a very nice book for the young ones!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

17 year old Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma after a terrible accident, not knowing who she or anyone else around her is. She doesn't know her parents or her grandmother, does not remember the accident she is told almost took her life, and has no idea who she really is, only what she is told. As time goes on, Jenna begins to remember things, or at least she thinks she does. Some of the memories she has would have taken place so long ago, she shouldn't be able to remember them. And just how has she gotten so smart? She certainly doesn't remember being a genius, but now has all sorts of amazing facts in her head. What exactly are her parents hiding?

As Jenna learns more about her accident and what happened after, she wants to believe she is also learning more about herself, though instead, feels as if she is actually losing more and more of the Jenna she really believes is true. What really happened to her? How exactly is she alive today...and does she even want to be?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, written by Mary E. Pearson, was a page turner from the very beginning. I was hooked from the very first sentence, instantly wanting to know what this character had experienced and how she has become the girl she now is. Lots of ethical questions are brought up in the text, making this a great book discussion choice, as well. Teens and adults alike will love this thrilling novel.

Someday When My Cat Can Talk

This new book, written by Caroline Lazo and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, is adorable and a lot of fun to read out loud, not to mention educational. An excellent combination, in my picture book-loving opinion!

Told simply, through cute, rhyming text, we learn of a little girl's fantasies as to just what her cat does during the night while the girl sleeps. She dreams that the cat jets off to England and participates in Parisian fashion shows, among a myriad of other lovely adventures. On each page, the reader learns a bit about the country the cat visits and at the end of the book, the countries and their cultures mentioned in the text are explained a bit more in-depth.

Someday When My Cat Can Talk is just plain cute and the illustrations are absolutely lovely. I also loved the fact that each page taught a short country lesson, which of course your children will not even realize they are learning while you are reading this to them. A great choice for one on one or storytime. Loved it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Trouble by Gary Schmidt

The book title happens to be Trouble and I can tell that my opinion of this novel by Gary Schmidt is going to get me into trouble with my fellow bloggers. I've already read several rave reviews, one by the lovely Miss Erin, completely adoring the story and falling in love with the characters. Unfortunately, I just do not agree, though I guess that's why it's fun to read each other's reviews!

When a pickup truck, driven by a Cambodian student that attends the local prep school strikes Henry's brother Franklin, a high school sports star, Trouble really does come to this small town and this prominent family. All sense of normalcy flies out the window after the accident that results in Franklin losing his arm and being left in a coma. Henry is no longer sure how to act around his family, let alone his classmates. The fact that it was a Cambodian immigrant that struck Franklin leaves huge racial tensions at the school and creates another rift within his Henry's family.

Not sure what to do with himself, Henry sets off to climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, which he had originally planned to do with Franklin. Henry and Black Dog, the stray he rescued from drowning, set off to complete this difficult journey, without telling a soul. On his trek, Henry learns a lot about himself, why he thinks the way he does, as well as about his family and their many issues.

I think Trouble is just a book that I didn't really get, simple as that. It seemed like all the characters were just there to take a place, rather than coming across as real people. I didn't connect with any of them and I didn't come away from reading this book with any emotion. As happened with Looking for Alaska (which Becky and I have chatted about several times :-) ), lots of bloggers love this book, I am just not in agreement..which is ok! We don't always have to agree!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Baby Update: Bed Rest for Me....

Last Thursday we had what we thought would be a normal appointment with our high risk doctor, that unfortunately turned into a two day hospital stay and now strict bed rest. Apparently, my hyper-tension is now affecting the baby, in the way of low blood circulation between myself and him. From last month, he actually got skinnier, rather than chunkier, as he should have, meaning that he just isn't growing the way he should. I stayed in the hospital for constant blood pressure monitoring, as well as fetal heart monitoring, where we realized that though the baby is not growing well, he is definitely a mini-soccer player and has a great heart rate!

For now, I am on strict bed rest until delivery, with twice-weekly doctor's appointments and once weekly ultrasounds to track the baby's growth. Already, with bed rest, my blood pressure has gone down significantly, so we're praying that's all it takes to make our little man get bigger. If he doesn't show growth, we have to be transferred to a bigger hospital in Albuquerque, 4 hours away, until they decide to deliver the baby. Worst case scenario is that he just won't grow in utero and I will be forced to deliver him very early. We are just barely at 26 weeks, my due date is not until August, meaning it is way too early for Baby Snow to be here! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Bed rest is not much fun, but I'll do whatever it take to keep that little man inside for as long as possible!

Lots of reading and blogging for me, so look for 2 reviews daily!

Summer Snow

Oh boy, has Nicole Baart done it again! Summer Snow, the sequel to last year's amazing After the Leaves Fall, is just as fantastic as it's predecessor, if not more so. The characters in these books are just so real, so relatable, that I couldn't help but form connections with these "people" I've never met. I even think, at times, Baart was channeling my thoughts as she was writing, as some similarities between my current situation and Julia's throughout the story are almost scary!

Summer Snow picks up pretty much right where the previous book left off. Julia is pregnant and still living with her beloved grandmother, after dropping out of college. Constantly dealing with worry about the baby coming, finances, and overall life disappoint, Julia is suffering from an insane amount of internal struggle, but has learned to lean on God to help her through. When her estranged mother shows up one afternoon, completely unexpectedly with a little boy she claims is Julia's half-brother in tow, Julia has no idea how to react, except with her signature anger and frustration. She doesn't know what her mother wants, but does know it can't possibly be anything good. As she takes a chance at connecting with Simon, her new-found brother, as well as come to terms with the impending birth of her baby, Julia slowly begins to understand why her mother may have done some of the things she did, and starts to think that maybe through God's grace and forgiveness, a new relationship can be formed.

I wish I had more of a talent at writing book descriptions. It is completely impossible to convey the amount of emotion and heart in this novel. The individual relationships between characters, whether it be between Julia and Simon, Julia and her mother, or anyone else, the feelings the characters are described as having are emitted in the most perfect way, truly allowing you to connect. Such an important part of enjoying a plot is to be able to put yourself into the story and with this book, that is definitely an easy task to accomplish. I loved the story, the writing, the characters, and the feelings I got after finishing each page and chapter.

I was also able to feel a great connection with God through this novel and through Julia's character...a very awesome feeling, I must say! When Julia has an ultrasound to tell her the sex of her baby, she, as I did, went into the ultrasound room already knowing what I was having. I had "known" since I became pregnant that I was having a little girl, though nothing concrete had ever been said to me. On ultrasound day, the tech was very enthusiastic, not to mention very certain, that I had a little boy in my belly. I wasn't disappointed, I was just in disbelief. I had a mother's instinct about these things didn't I? I knew I was having a little girl...how could I now be having a boy? I was disappointed in myself for lacking that instinct I thought I had. Well, Julia got over it, so did I, and now I'm ready to meet that little boy that God has so graciously given me!

Another little similarity was the whole chocolate chip and heartburn thing. I had never heard of anyone else having pregnancy heartburn from chocolate chips, besides myself, so knowing that Julia was experiencing that problem as well was pretty cool! I love those chocolate chips, but they just kill me!

Enough rambling from me...just make sure you read this book. And if you haven't read After the Leaves Fall, make sure you pick up that one first. You will most certainly not be disappointed. These are incredibly unique stories that will leave you with that special feeling when you are finished. Just lovely.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Carter House Girls

Melody Carlson is quite the name in Christian fiction. With over two hundred books for teens and adults under her belt, most readers of this genre have at least heard of her books, if not read several of them (or bunches, as I have). This new series for teens, The Carter House Girls, is bound to be just as successful as her other series have been, if not more so, due to the updated societal aspects that have been thrown in.

Mixed Bags, the first title in the new series, introduces the readers to the girls residing in the Carter boarding house. Mrs. Carter is a former 60’s fashion icon and plans to run the boarding house as somewhat of an etiquette school for well-off girls. Her granddaughter, DJ, already resides in the home and is very much not what her grandmother wished for in a granddaughter. When the other girls begin showing up, loaded down with Prada purses and Louis Vuitton luggage, DJ can only hope she will make a friend or two.

As the girls get to know each other, their quirks come out and with more than one snob in the mix, things are bound to get interesting. Friendships form, as do dating relationships (not to mention those expected love/hate relationships) and life at the Carter House takes off.

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy this book as much as Carlson’s others, for the simple reason of all the “rich girl” stuff thrown in. I am not a fan of The Hills, can’t even afford a knock-off bag, let alone a real one, and my sunglasses come from the lovely racks at Walmart. The plot, however, definitely lends more to the relational aspects of the girls, making this a pretty good start to the series. My only complaint is that the concept of Christianity doesn’t make it into the book until the last quarter.

Stealing Bradford, book 2, puts boy/girl dating relationships front and center. Everyone in the Carter House is dating someone, except spoiled rotten Taylor. When she finds out that Rhiannon is dating the most popular jock in school, a fellow Christian, Taylor decides to steal Bradford away from Rhiannon, leaving a big mess in her wake. More than one girl gets her feelings hurt and Taylor brings upon a reputation she never expected.

This title includes a lot of the same product talk as Mixed Bags, though now that DJ is also a Christian, along with Rhiannon, more of the Lord comes through. Carlson’s books are great for getting the Lord’s message across to teen girls and without that aspect, the book would definitely fall flat. Realistic situations are used to describe what the Carter House girls go through and their reactions and manners of dealing with issues are, for the most part, true to life.

Fans of Carlson’s True Colors series will definitely enjoy these!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cooking With Marie

I don't review a whole lot of recipe books on this blog, but this one is definitely an exception and one worth checking out. The recipes are easy (I've tried several), the photographs actually show you what your recipe is going to turn out looking like, and for the most part, all the ingredients can be found at local grocery stores, inexpensively. Very cool!

Cooking with Marie: On Any Occasion features recipes by up and coming cooking show star, Marie Hejl. The recipes cover all genres, including appetizers, salads, entrees, breakfasts, salads, desserts, etc. and each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful, color photograph. Each recipe also includes a little intro as to how Marie came up with the recipe or where it may have come from in her family, as well as suggested occasions to make the recipe for.

I have made a few recipes out of the cookbook, all of which are most definitely worth a try. I've tried the Warm 'N' Cuddly Blueberry Muffins, the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches, and the Hot 'N' Crunchy Tilapia. All were delicious and easy to make. My next task is the Peach 'N' Blueberry Cobbler. Sounds awesome for a summer dessert, doesn't it? Lucky for you, I am able to reprint one of the recipes I tried, allowing you to take part in the yummy tasting of a great dish. The Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches are great for lunch or a light dinner (which is what I made them for), though I actually toned down the curry powder just a tad, only because this baby and spicy food make my poor heart burn! Enjoy!

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches
1 precooked rotisserie chicken
2-4 T light mayonnaise
¼ cup dried sweet cranberries
¼ cup quartered red seedless grapes
¼ cup coarsely chopped unsalted pecans
¼ cup minced celery
Juice of ½ lime
1 T yellow curry powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8-12 slices white or whole-wheat bread

Remove chicken from bones; remove skin. Chop chicken into small bite-size pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl; add 2 T mayonnaise. Add more mayonnaise if needed and depending on your preference.

Add cranberries, grapes, pecans and celery; stir gently until all ingredients are coated. Add lime juice, curry powder, salt and pepper; stir again. (Finished salad should have a light yellow color from the curry.) Spread onto four or six slices of bread; top with another slice of bread. Cut on the diagonal for an elegant presentation.


Cooking with Marie: On Any Occasion recipes reprinted with permission from Bright Sky Press (www.brightskypress.com).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Picture Book Saturday!! Bedtime Books...

I have piles and piles of books to review and lately many of them have had a bedtime theme. Works great for a Picture Book Saturday posting! These books are brand new, all just recently published (or about to be), so you should be able to find them at your local library or on Amazon. Enjoy!

The House in the Night
The House in the Night,written by Susan Marie Swanson and beautifully illustrated by Beth Krommes, we have another Goodnight Moon on our hands. The text is simple, as the reader gets to explore different aspects of light within a house, while preparing for bedtime. It's very repetitive, which will be pleasing for early readers, though I guarantee after reading this out loud two or three times, you parents will have the text memorized!

The most striking part about this book is definitely Krommes illustrations. Done in subtle black and white, infused with yellow as the light source. I will definitely be looking for more books illustrated by this talented and unique artist. A very enjoyable bedtime story, you'll probably have to read again and again.

Wynken, Blyken, and Nod
Though most of you are probably familiar with the famous poem written in the late 1800's by Eugene Field, this is a brand new edition, illustrated by Giselle Potter, that I have just fallen in love with. The same lullaby-esqu poem is used as the text, but the illustrations are simply phenomenal and better than I have seen in any other Wynken, Blynken, and Nod adaptation. The poetry is flowing and soothing, perfect for a bedtime story. Your kids will love this, though you will love it too...always a plus when you have to read books over and over again. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, illustrated by Giselle Potter, would be a fantastic purchase for any home or library.

In a Blue Room
First time picture book author, Jim Averbeck, has created a unique bedtime story that had me chuckling, as well as seeing the sweet side. Little Alice is wide awake and though her mother keeps bringing her different things to comfort her, such as tea and a soft quilt, but none of those things are blue and Alice is convinced she can only fall asleep in a completely blue room. When the light finally is turned off and the room fills with soft moonlight, setting a blue glow over everything, Alice is finally able to fall soundly asleep.

In a Blue Room is a cute story and the illustrations, done by Tricia Tusa, are beautiful. Children will giggle at Alice's impossibility, but will also see the sweetness is the mother's doting and kindness. When Alice finally falls asleep, that's your cue to put your own little ones to bed! Let's just hope they don't insist on falling asleep in an orange room or something strange like that! :-)

If Animals Kissed Goodnight
My final selection for this week's Picture Book Saturday, Bedtime Edition, is an adorable book by Ann Whitford Paul, definitely worthy of some buzz. While getting ready for bed, a young girl and her mother have a conversation about what it would be like if animals kissed goodnight, creating lots of hypothetical, cute, animal smooching situations.

The illustrations, done by David Walker, are soft and serene, perfect for this type of story. Between the illustrations and the adorable, rhyming text this is an excellent book, one that is sure to please all types of readers and listeners. I'm definitely getting this one for my home shelves!