You know that feeling you get when you finish a book and know, just KNOW, that someone you love is going to love it? I finished Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society last night, and I’m kind of ridiculously excited to hand it off to my daughter. What’s not to love about a rigorously tested group of gifted kids saving the world from the plans of an evil egomaniac? If you can imagine a mashup of Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, Ender’s Game, and the movie “Sneakers,” you’ve pretty much got The Mysterious Benedict Society–and if you enjoyed all four of those, I’m betting you’re going to love this! (And if you need a Christmas gift for a reader who loves mystery and adventure, look no further. I may not bother giving my oldest the library’s copy, considering…)
Okay, so I know I skipped a post on Wednesday, but that was because my fabulous hubby took me to see Billy Joel in concert.
We were a little busy. And it was AWESOME.
I suppose I’ll spare you the play by play, however, since it would take forever to type, and instead pass along this lovely recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Everybody in the family likes it, doubling it just feeds our family of six (although our youngest is two, so definitely triple it if you have four kids but they’re all in elementary school or older), and it’s beautifully forgiving. Forgot to do self-rising flour instead of regular? No worries, just throw in some baking powder and salt before you pour the batter on the griddle. Want to do half whole wheat? You’re good! Don’t have quite enough leftover pumpkin? Just use more applesauce instead. If you want a lovely fall breakfast–or breakfast for dinner–my family can wholeheartedly endorse this one.
Okay, that sounds ominous, but it’s true; I got the second Babysitters Club graphic novel and decided to read it for fun before giving it to my older girls, but other than the title–The Truth About Stacey–I remember nothing about the original. I did enjoy the graphic novel, although the premise was a bit more unlikely (also a bit more sitcom-episode-y?). The rival ‘Babysitters Agency’ made for a neat plot conflict and resolution, while Stacey’s parents’ efforts to help her diabetes was a nice contrast. Both situations, however, read a little differently from a parent’s point of view! Bottom line? If you have an interest in reading it, pick it up and enjoy it; if you’re not drawn to it naturally, you probably won’t miss it.
Do with that what you will.
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the gift to children’s literature that is Andrea Beaty? Because really. Her picture books are a delight–Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect, and Ada Twist, Scientist, not to mention Hush, Baby Ghostling, etc.–and the Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies duo is quite the romp, but I LOVED Dorko the Magnificent. I texted screen shots of pages to more than one person just to share the laugh, and yet if Robbie had had a different style of narration I probably would have cried a few times as well. (The style worked perfectly for the book, though, and there was plenty of poignancy.) If Joan Bauer had Anne of Green Gables on the brain–in a very contemporary setting–she might have written Dorko. Robbie has all the passion for magic that her characters have for their various hobbies, but with Anne’s penchant for getting into scrapes rather consistently. And Grandma Melvyn could conceivably be a modern-day mashup of Marilla, Rachel Lynde, Mr. Harrison, Mrs. Gibson, and whatever other of L.M. Montgomery’s crotchety older characters that you can think of. (Although she’s also very much her own person.)
Anyway. Comparison can only take you so far, however, because Andrea Beaty is fabulous in her own right. Robbie’s quest to wow the world (starting with Hobson Elementary School) with his magic act intersects with Grandma Melvyn’s move into his home in an unforgettable mix of disaster and triumph; the relationship between the two of them, however, is what makes the book great. It’s a classic plot–the sort that’s classic for good reason–and it’s executed almost flawlessly. Get this for your kids, read it yourself, and recommend it to a friend, because it’s a thoroughly delightful read.
Because really, my oldest is still sick, and I’m still sick, and Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow…yeah. It seemed the perfect time to read the fourth ‘Tale from Deckawoo Drive,’ Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package. And while it wasn’t my favorite of the bunch–the climactic transition seemed a little sudden–it was (as always!) a delightful read. Eugenia Lincoln has been a joyless martinet for books and books now, but in this one we finally see a softening. Not a complete transformation, you understand, but a softening. Pick this one up and open her package right along with her!
Okay, that’s an awfully short review/post, but ugh, this virus! Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. I’m off until the 25th in hopes that more rest will get me better faster…
Sadly, I have finished the last of Matthew Loux’s Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny graphic novels; I could happily read 5 more just like them, but it doesn’t seem like I’ll be given the chance.
Still, you should read them. Caldera’s Revenge: Part 2 resolves Part 1‘s cliffhanger nicely, although the wrap-up is perhaps on the speedy side. With a ghost whaling ship, a cranky albatross, and fermented whale blubber, how can you go wrong? Sunny the young giant squid and Caldera, a whale of monstrous proportions (and temper!), have impressively drawn personalities, I have to say–even if I still don’t love the way Loux does hands. (It bothered me again in this one, albeit briefly.) I wouldn’t vote this best in the series, but it’s not a disappointment, either. What IS a disappointment is that some of these are out of print; I did, however, manage to buy used copies of all of them. Seek them out at your library today!
My oldest stayed home from school today with a cough, exhaustion, and a low-grade fever (but NOT an appetite). I ended up taking her in since it’s downright freaky to see her that lethargic, and of course, she has a virus. By the time the day was firmly started, I was experiencing enough of the same symptoms to realize that this is going to be one of those bonding experiences that no one actually wants to have; we had leftover soup and toasted English muffins for dinner, and I’m trying not to fall asleep before my kiddos are in bed and I can do so without failing to do something major, because I just feel yucky.
On the other hand, I did finish Kristy’s Great Idea, the graphic novel version of the first ‘Babysitters Club’ book. From what I remember–I did read the original when I was a kid–it’s pretty faithful to the story, and Raina Telgemeier’s art adds the kind of emotion that only perfectly drawn facial expressions can. It’s fluffier than her memoirs, which is no surprise, but it’s fun. If you have elementary-age girls, give this a try, and if you read the series as a kid, enjoy this one for nostalgia’s sake!*
*If you’re too young for the original series (or lived under a rock in the late 80s!), the Babysitters Club books are about a group of friends who form a club (!) that parents can call to reach four babysitters instead of one. You read about their babysitting jobs, their friendships, and their problems, and most of the girls I knew were fans in elementary school.)
I generally don’t review the books I speed read on the treadmill, although I’ve made a few exceptions; one of those exceptions mentioned Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer and its sequel, The Wright 3. I enjoyed both of those, although the mystic ‘meaning of art’ emphasis is harder for me to relate to. (I’m weakest in the visual arts.) The Calder Game was similar, if on a broader scale, and I enjoyed that one as well. The amount of disbelief to suspend as an adult and a parent grows a bit with each book, but I’ve decided that’s life with middle grade mysteries. It is what it is.
After The Calder Game I read Balliett’s two stand-alones, The Danger Box and Hold Fast, because each has a character that shows up in Pieces and Players, which comes after The Calder Game. I enjoyed those two the most, I think, probably because they emphasized the written word rather than the visual arts, and I’m all over that. Tonight I finished Pieces and Players, which is why I opted for more of a group review, and I had mixed feelings about it. The amount of disbelief to suspend grew astronomically for this last installment, and I had some trouble doing so. My real problem, however, was the randomness of the bulk of the book. I may have been affected by some of the reviews I read beforehand, but there really did seem to be a lot of announcing random facts as significant bits of information. There was most certainly an excess of behavior (and people!) described as sinister. (Also rather a lot of obsessing about various effects of puberty, not all of which came across as completely natural.) Thankfully, the ending was enjoyable enough to leave a more positive feeling about the book with me; it was, however, still the weakest in the series. On the other hand, I imagine my artist of a ten-year-old will enjoy it!
I honestly haven’t shopped there in years, but I’d heard boys’ polos were $5, and now that I’ve scheduled our family pictures I have to figure out what we’re actually going to wear. (Mere words cannot express how much I loathe this process.) The saleswomen were incredibly friendly, patient, and helpful; I was there until after closing, and they still went out of their way to help me look for color matches and assure me that I wasn’t the only one left shopping, I was fine. I think I ended up with a successful color combination, too, although it involves me wearing grey (something I generally avoid like the plague in pictures). The Old Navy in Jordan Landing is the place to go, folks. I haven’t had that level of service in ages.
I made two pans of bars to bring up to my in-laws’ last weekend; one was for my nephew’s baptism, and the other for a birthday dessert for my oldest, since she’s one of the two November birthdays we celebrated on Sunday. I desperately loved the ones I made for Will’s baptism, let me tell you what. These Salted Caramel Chocolate Sugar Cookie Bars were amazing to the point that I could not resist them.
Seriously. I probably ate a third of the pan myself, over the course of fewer days than I want to admit.
My daughter, on the other hand, picked these Mounds Brownies for me to make for her, and she loved them. (Which is as it should be!) My hubby’s stomach was feeling iffy on Sunday, but when he finally tried these and I asked him what he thought, he paused with the fork in his hand.
“These are disturbingly good.”
So there you have it. I posted both recipes so that you could judge for yourself!
Note: If you want a bar that cuts prettily and isn’t terribly messy to serve or eat, don’t go with the Mounds Brownies–wowsers! And I didn’t have canned frosting for them–I really don’t care for it–and so I found an easy recipe to make instead (of the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cocoa, and evaporated milk variety). The homemade taste was totally worth it.