Friday Reads and Link Love

Happy Friday, dear readers! Sorry for such a late post. Sorry for such a slow blogging week! I've been doing a lot of reading, attending the girls' dance classes for Observation Week, borrowing Brony bandages, and making vanilla cupcakes for no reason whatsoever. I made the most delicious pasta sauce tonight: roasted zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, and garlic, mixed with sauteed onion and heated tomato paste and a can of San Manzano tomatoes, then put through the food processor with some salt and pepper and basil and oregano. I let it simmer for a little while, then spooned some over rotini pasta. Sooooo good.

Okay, books first!

What We Read

The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer by Ann Arnold. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

I've seen the book Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters on a few blogs, but my library doesn't have it. They did, however, have another culinary-themed children's book by the illustrator of that one, Ann Arnold. I had never heard of Alexis Soyer before reading this book. His life was fascinating. Born in France in 1810, he emigrated to London, becoming the head chef at the newly formed Reform Club. While there, he co-designed the most amazing kitchens. His young wife died in premature childbirth, and he vowed never to remarry. He helped make and serve nutritious soups to the poor, both in England and potato-blighted Ireland. His work eventually took him to hospitals and the front lines of the Crimean War, developing recipes and food preparation methods for soldiers in the field. He worked alongside Florence Nightingale, saving lives in his own right with his healthy food. [One of his inventions was the Soyer's Field Stove, which my former Marine husband is familiar with now.] Both he and Nightingale became ill, and while they recovered enough to function, their health plagued them for the rest of their lives. The girls and I enjoyed this book very much. The subject was fascinating, the text was well written, and the illustrations were lovely. It looks like it's out of print now, which is a shame.

What Big Sis Read

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book One: The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003.

2003? Really? I remember when this series was brand-new! Of course, there are tenth anniversary editions now, so I don't know why I felt so surprised when I typed that. Anyway, despite selling many copies of these books through the years, I'd never read them. Big Sis was looking something up at the library a couple weeks ago. "What are you looking for?" I asked. "I want to know if there are other books by the lady who wrote Doll Bones." "Oh," I answered. "I don't know if she has other kids' books. Most of her books are for teenagers." Then I remembered The Spiderwick Chronicles, co-written by Tony DiTerlizzi. These books are short, fast reads. I read the first book in about 45 minutes. She's working on Book 2 now, and I haven't gotten to it yet. Because of its brevity, it's hard to review The Field Guide. I want to know where the rest of the story is going. We haven't seen the movie yet, either, but I've put in a request for it, so we can watch it when we're done.

What Big Sis is Reading

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar. Starscape, 2008.

While she's reading The Spiderwick Chronicles at home, this is Big Sis's current selection from the school library. She's reading it during silent reading time. From what I gather, it's funny and scary, and she says she really likes it. I've never seen it in person.

What Little Sis and I Read

Magic Tree House #30: Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Random House, 2003.

It's Little Sis's turn to tackle the Magic Tree House series. She read the first chapter on her own, then we started to alternate pages, and finally, I was cajoled into reading the rest aloud. I like these books. They deliver small doses of history, science, or mythology, and serve as a nice jumping off point for further discussion. This one wasn't my favorite, and since I've only read sporadic titles, in willy-nilly order, the Morgan/Merlin stuff confuses me.

What I Read

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Viking Press, 1962. 

My mother has been after me to read this for years! Well, Ma, I finally did. It's such a strange book. Merricat Blackwood is a fascinating narrator. I knew nothing of the plot when I opened my library copy, but as the story unfolded - how the wealthy Blackwood sisters were hated by the village, first because no one liked the high and mighty Blackwoods, then because Connie Blackwood was tried (and acquitted) for the murder of her parents, brother, and aunt - I wondered if Merricat's weirdness was a reaction to the events that took place years ago, or if she was actually a little psychotic. I read The Haunting of Hill House over a decade ago - I was playing Elinor in a community theatre production, at the time - and we were assigned "The Lottery" in my eighth grade English class. Both stayed with me for years. Shirley Jackson was masterful at creating atmosphere.

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis. Vanguard Press, 1955.

After We Have Always Lived in the Castle, it was refreshing to escape to the campy fun of Auntie Mame. I've only seen the Rosalind Russell film once, and I've never seen the musical, but the book was a blast. Little Patrick Dennis is sent to live with his unconventional aunt, following the death of his father. Aunt Mame is a wild, high-living sort. The book follows her exploits through Patrick's narration, from the roaring twenties to hard times, from marriage to widowhood, from scheme to scheme and so on. I need to grab a copy of Around the World with Auntie Mame soon!

We read a few other things, too, but I'll cover them separately next week!

And now, for a few of my favorite links this week:

Wow. That's a lot of links. Sorry about that!  As always...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Skippyjon Jones Snow What

Skippyjon Jones Snow What by Judy Schachner. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Oh, Skippyjon Jones, our favorite Siamese kitty-boy who pretends to be a chihuahua. We checked out the newest title over Christmas break. You know, when we had snow on the ground.

Yesterday, it hit 73 degrees. There is no snow to be found.

But Skippyjon Jones is a little bit about snow, a little bit about "Snow White," and a lot of fun. (And when I read it aloud, it's also about breath control and tripping over my own tongue.)

We love Skippyjon Jones.

In Snow What, he tumbles through his closet into a snowy forest, where his seven Chimichangos are waiting for him. It's up to Skippyjon to save Princess Nieve Que (Snow What) from her icy prison - with a kiss! 

There's also a dragon. And some teasing from his sisters, who are listening to Mama Junebug Jones read "Snow White."

As always, the illustrations are fabulous. It's as silly and nonsensical as ever, which makes it perfect when the gloomy weather has you stuck indoors.

It isn't 73 degrees today. It's twenty degrees cooler, and it's been raining on and off.

If you or someone you love is a Skippyjon Jones fan, be sure to check out the official website. There are printables, games, wallpaper for your computer, videos, and links to the books. If you're on Facebook, "like" Skippyjon Jones for more news and fun posts. I can also recommend I've ordered pajamas as gifts, and everything on the site is adorable. I would like this t-shirt, I think.

Hanging out with Skippyjon Jones during a 2011 storytime.

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