Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Healthy eating series from Lerner, by Jennifer Boothroyd

Next up from the TBR pile: two titles from the Healthy Eating series from Lerner.

Taste Something New!

Caution in the Kitchen!

As we have come to expect from our Lerner junior readers, these are filled with bright photographs and large, lively print, making them instantly engaging for the target audience. 

Getting some kids to try new foods can be a struggle, so an eye-catching book is a good start! In addition to making everything from eggplant to cauliflower visually attractive, the first book also talks about needing a variety of nutrients to have the energy to play. It then takes a turn I wouldn't have thought of, comparing fresh, frozen and canned foods. That is a good point, though - perhaps a child doesn't like canned green beans because they are mushy, whereas crispier frozen or fresh ones would be gobbled up. 

Especially if the child helps prepare them himself! The book also talks about different ways to cook foods. How many ways can you find to cook a potato? (Many kids are surprised to learn that's where french fries come from!) Other suggestions include trying foods from different countries, or visiting a Farmer's Market to see what they have. Many states have Bountiful Baskets sites available. While ours is waiting to be re-added after a recent reorganization, I have found many new flavors that way!

Of course, before you start experimenting together, you'll want to go over some food safety tips. Or, maybe not - I was roundly scolded by my 5yo for licking raw cookie dough off the spatula the other day! Germs are covered in this second title, as well as allergies. Safe storage (who labels their leftovers, "leftovers"? How does that help?) Rinsing vegetables. Thawing meat in the fridge instead of on the counter. Come to think of it, this book is trying to ruin my life. One part I have to argue with: a food's "best by" date is not the same thing as an expiration date, and it is important to know the difference!

Other than that, this series seems to have good, if basic, factual information, with web sites at the back for further exploration. Read with little ones who are interested in getting involved with the shopping and cooking!

Other titles in the series include Why Doesn't Everyone Eat Meat? and What's On My Plate?, exploring alternative diets and the basic food groups, respectively.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Recipe: Jalapeno Jam with Canned Jalapenos

A friend who gets food once a month from a local food bank mentioned a while back that they always get a few jars of jalapenos, and she can't do spicy foods. My kids don't do much spice either, but I said I would take them and see if I could 'do something' with them. I didn't have time just then, so I put the jars she gave me in the pantry. As well as the jars she gave me the next month. And the next month. This past weekend, I was straightening out the pantry and realized..

it was time to actually do something with them!

That's 22 jars and one stray can. That's a lot of nachos. I needed some other ideas.

Last year I made jalapeno jam with some fresh jalapenos, and gave it away for Christmas. Yummy on cream cheese and crackers! I wondered if canned jalapenos could be used the same way, so I started searching for recipes. Mostly I found recipes for jalapeno jelly, with someone in the comments asking the same question I had! Time to start experimenting.

I looked at the ingredients list, and as I thought, there was a lot of water, so I decided to drain them well first. Then I tossed them in the blender and chopped them up nice and fine.

Okay, that doesn't look terribly appetizing. But it sure smelled good!

These were labeled "hot and sweet", and a quick taste test told me they weren't lying on either part. Most recipes would call for a ton of sugar for this much pepper, but I just added a cup of sugar and a cup of honey. I also decided not to add vinegar, since that was already an ingredient in the jars. Yes, I had drained them, but they had obviously soaked a lot up. So, basically, the canned (drained) peppers, sugar, and honey. Bring to a boil, then cook and stir for ten minutes.

It really bubbled and popped at this point, so I put a lid partway over my pot, and actually put a glove on the hand I was using to stir! Before I did that, a small amount popped out and landed on my thumb, and I automatically licked it off. HOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOT!!! But yummy:)

I added three packets of low-sugar pectin, cooked for five minutes more, and then canned. It made about 12 pints, although I put most of it in half-pint jars.

It looks a lot like salsa verde, but is definitely set like jam. Of course, we have to taste test, so let's break out the Ritz...

Please ignore absolutely EVERYONE'S shoes in the picture. It was a big moment.

Yum!! Enough bite to make Daddy happy, not so much I couldn't stand it. The cream cheese really brings out the flavor, so you don't just taste hot.

Verdict: canned peppers will work just fine. If you want it to be more jelly-like, you could add juice to the peppers and reduce it a bit. Apple or cranberry might add interesting flavors. These will appear in a few Christmas baskets this December - if they last that long! This seems to be our new bedtime snack!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Build, Beaver, Build! Life at the Longest Beaver dam, by Sandra Markle and Deborah Hocking

Build, Beaver, Build!

This book is going to fit several niches for me. For anyone not aware, next year's national summer reading theme revolves around building - building as in construction, building as in creating, building as in making better. Animal builders will definitely be a featured subtopic, and nobody can build quite like a beaver!

Markle's text loosely follows the life of a young beaver, from three weeks old and "softball-sized" to two years old and ready to find a mate. Most of it centers around the family's dam - the protection it provides and the way each beaver helps to maintain and build it - as well as the changing seasons and some of the predators they face. You won't find complicated engineering descriptions, but that could lead to some fun at a nearby waterway, letting your kids figure out what works and what doesn't themselves.

What I found intriguing is that this is set at the biggest beaver dam in the world - visible from satellites (although that isn't mentioned until the afterward.) Generations of the same family of beavers have been adding onto it since the 1970's. This could be a great segue into the children's own families - what have they built together, be it a business, a tradition, a way of service? Or, what could they start building together now? We are right in the middle of our county fair here, and the theme is heritage - lots to think about there, whether you have a long family history to look back on, or want to start something for future generations to build on!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reviews: Monsters!

I recently finished planning preschool programs for the rest of the year, and of course October would not be complete without a monster-themed story time. I am always happy to add fresh new stories to my repertoire, so let's see what the TBR pile has for us:

Go to Sleep, Monster!

Getting George to sleep is a nightmare. But getting a monster to sleep? That's an adventure.

Now, this is cute! George can't sleep because there is a monster under his bed. The monster (who looks like he came off Sesame Street, actually) can't sleep, because...there's another monster under the floor! A successive chain of monsters, each slightly scarier-looking but never really awful, takes us to the center of the earth, where the final monster (a dragon) has an entirely different problem.

A quick, silly read, this one will easily fit into October's story time with no worries of causing actual nightmares. For an activity, we may create a scene with many layers and add monsters to it. So many fun ways to make monsters!

Monster Trucks

Ready, set, go! The monster truck race is on in this frightfully delightful picture book.  On a spooky speedway, Monster Trucks moan! Monster Trucks grumble! Monster Trucks groan!
Join Frankentruck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and more as they race to the finish line. But one of these trucks isn’t quite who you think.

Get your different reading voices ready for this one! If you get as far as Frankentruck, and you don't read "He's alive! HE'S ALIVE" like this, you are hereby stripped of all your librarian laurels:

You'll moan, you'll howl, and you'll have your young listeners on the edges of their seats to see who wins the race - will it be Frankentruck, Werewolf Truck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, Vampire Truck, Blue Bus? Another non-scary crowd pleaser, we might have to create our own monster trucks and have a race around the room!

Finally, one I picked up at the recommendation of many other librarians:

Tickle Monster

You can't scare us, monster! Prompt your listeners to reach out and tickle the monster as you turn the pages, prompting him to lose his horns - which become the moon, his hands - which become bushes, and so forth, until nothing is left but a quiet bedtime scene. Lots to do here with seeing parts of a whole, conquering fears, looking at shapes in different ways, etc. Plus it's just plain fun! This one just screams to be made into a flannel board.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reviews: Mighty Truck by Chris Barton and Troy Cummings

Mighty Truck

Meet Clarence, a rickety old truck who goes from average to awesome when an unexpected trip through a mysterious truck wash transforms him.

We've had superhero parents, superhero kids, and superhero dogs, but a superhero truck...well, why not?

Clarence starts off looking a bit like Mater from the movie Cars. He couldn't care less, more interested in going out for donuts with his buddy, but the boss orders him off to the car wash...during a thunderstorm...

The illustrations throughout are as eye-catching as the cover. The text is a little forced to my adult ears, (the car with a surfboard of course begins and ends sentences with "Dude"), and the plot line was pretty far-fetched (I know, I know, a superhero truck story is far-fetched? Who' a'thunk it). 

BUT, all of that is perfectly suited to the intended age group, which is probably not middle-aged grandma types. An easy one to use different voices with, this may make it into some story times both here and at home. I wouldn't be surprised to see a whole series of Mighty Truck stories in the future, if this one takes off. Hand it to the very young reader who is into cars and a lot of action.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Never Too Late for Mother's Day Books

Yeah, so that TBR pile I mentioned dates back a bit. I was sent these books to review in time for Mother's Day, and...that obviously didn't happen. Fortunately, these are books that can happily be read all year round, and there are some sweet ones!

Silly Wonderful You

Before YOU came along, so many things were different! But now there's a giggly baby, a house full of adventures and toys, a million little surprises. . . . And so much love.

The illustrations looked familiar right away, and sure enough - this is Patrick McDonnell, who illustrated The Skunk, a book I have used in story time, and The Perfectly Messed-Up Story, one of my class visit staples. Just look at that sweet face on the cover! Did you automatically want to reach down and pick her up, like I did?

This is one of those books that is written as much for the adults as they are for the kids, which may be appreciated in story times. Both parents and children will chuckle as they recognize familiar surprises (like finding "so many things in unusual places" - Daddy has learned to be careful putting his boots on!) Choosing books children can see themselves in is a big step in promoting love for reading, and the scenarios in here are pretty universal. We never see another family member, so this could be any family that includes at least one mother and at least one child. One busy, sticky, loud, cuddly child.

You Made Me a Mother

Another familiar illustrator (Fancy Nancy, of course), the text for this one reportedly started off as an advertisement. It focuses on a mother's excitement and nervousness as she waits for her baby to arrive, and then guides him as he grows up. "I followed advice. I read twelve books. I ate lots of spinach...I wasn't sure I was ready. But then you were here." A very sweet book, but I think it will speak more to mothers than to children, who aren't going to readily identify with the mother's feelings. Both the illustrations and text would make this a perfect baby shower gift, though. Nothing like making the hormonal expectant Mommy cry!

All We Know

A seed knows how to sprout. A lamb knows how to bleat. A bee knows where the nectar is to make the honey sweet. Stars shine, seasons change, and waves rise and fall. Invoking the majestic beauty of the natural world, a mother affectionately explains that some things just come naturally—like a parent’s love. a world with postpartum depression and news of abusive parents, the description alone seems slightly guilt-producing. A nice enough book that I will put on my shelves, but nothing I would bring out in a group, especially not knowing everyone's stories. If nothing else, though, the pictures and comparisons might make this a good introduction to discussions about nature, animal instincts, etc. - provided the ending isn't a trigger for the reader!

So, one hit, one maybe, and one...meh. With lots of color in the pictures, but...a little diversity in skin tone, please, HarperCollins?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blogger Guilt

The TBR pile, AFTER weeding it out:

So what did I just finish reading on my lunch break?

Glass Sword (Red Queen Series #2)

A book I have no intention of reviewing. But, MAN was it good (even if it did end exactly as I didn't want it to). Even better than the first (Red Queen), one of those books that leaves you feeling exhausted at the end. And now we have to wait until February for the third.

So, there's a mini review for you - more actual reviews coming soon!