Abrams Rules!

Unfortunately, I'm enormously pressed for time so I can't write anything, except to share how excited I am that I got this in the mail yesterday:

Will write soon with a round-up of Little, Brown's preview - which I'm heading off to now - and this week's Dining section.

Happy Halloween to all!


WHAT I'M COOKING: This Week's Menu

Well, I’d like to tell you all that, since the co-parent is home now, my menu is going to get more sophisticated and fancy-schmancy. But I can’t. Because like all families, particularly those with two parents working outside the home, I don’t have the time right now for anything challenging and fresh. What I do have time for, though, is hanging out with friends, enjoying Halloween with my family, and celebrating all the wonderfully warm flavors of autumn. And in the immortal words (or word, as is the case here) of that silly credit card company, the perfect way to sum that up is: priceless.

TONIGHT: We had no plans at all. So the kiddo got warmed up mac and cheese – the leftovers from our fatherless days. But I don’t just microwave it. Oh, no, not me. In fact, our “mikey” got donated with our move to NYC - no microwave in our house. I warmed it over the stove with some butter, half-and-half, and pecorino sprinkled in to give it a fresh flavor. With fresh-ground pepper, of course. The kiddo loved it and ate an apple with it. Adam will be home soon and he’s bringing fennel, portabellas, and monkfish for “adult dinner”. I’m going to roast the fennel with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan. Then I’ll make a balsamic butter sauce to put over the grilled monkfish and mushrooms. Simple, elegant, and adults-only. Purrrrrrfect!

FRIDAY NIGHT: We are having some friends over at the last minute for a casual dinner. So I’m doing make-your-own pizzas. Adam will stop by the Chelsea Market on his way home tomorrow and pick up pizza dough, olives, pepperoni, basil, buffalo mozzarella (of course! Once you have buffalo, you can’t go back), roasted peppers, mushrooms, salame, and proscuitto. I have canned fire-roasted tomatoes I’ll use for a sauce. Presto! Instant fabulous dinner! And my friend apparently makes cinnamon fudge and she’s bringing some. I have NO doubt that I will swoon with the heavenliness of it all.

SATURDAY: We have a Halloween party at the kiddo’s school from 6-8 so we have to do a quickie meal. Which always translates to breakfast for me. I’m making poached local eggs, roasted local fingerling potatoes, grilled bread, and bacon. When time is short, go back to the basics, n’est-ce pas?

SUNDAY: Yay autumn! I’m doing Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine, courtesy of Cooking Light mag. I assure you, nothing about this meal tastes low in fat. The flavors will knock you off your feet. Yep, it’s that good. And can you think of another meal that captures autumnal flavors as well as this one? If you can, then I INSIST you send me the recipe. Otherwise, shhhhhh!

MONDAY: I’m bringing a breakfast-y dinner to the table again: Chestnut Pancakes with Bacon and Crème Fraîche, courtesy of Bon Appetit. The kiddo will put syrup over them, as will Adam too, but I like to sprinkle chives over it and call it good. I’ve only made it once before this, and I’m looking forward to giving it another go.

Anyone want to come over to join us? All we ask of our guests is a bottle of wine. If you knock on our door with a sangiovese in hand, you’re golden.

Drug-Dealing Children's Librarians and Sinister Wednesdays in Brooklyn

This comes courtesy of my American Libraries Direct email: “A Vision of Students Today," created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. This was truly brilliant and, even though it’s centered around the college experience, it absolutely has relevance to modern-day elementary and high school education. Everything has to change.

This is also courtesy of my American Libraries Direct email. It’s a short preview for the new series, The Librarians, in Australia. Check out the children’s librarian! LOVE IT! I’d look like that too if my bra size was bigger. I’m just so giddy that someone finally realized that libraries are a comedic gold mine. The series debuts on October 31st and apparently you can download shows from the ABC website (unless you somehow subscribe to Australian TV).

Also, Your Neighborhood Librarian reviewed What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins. I have to admit that I see her point. This was not my initial impression of the book. My first impression was that the book was, indeed, about “happy, hip parents escorting their, hm, 4 year old? daughter through their adorable Brooklyn neighborhood.” I didn’t see the sinister side of it until YNL pointed it out. Wow. I don’t think I’ll be able to look at that book the same way again. Which isn’t a bad thing. That’s why I’m such a blog-whore: I enjoy getting a fresh perspective on the books I’ve read. And for the record, YNL, there’s no way they can afford Brooklyn Heights. Yeah, Carroll Gardens. Or Bed-Stuy. Also, for the record, I do buy scarves still. I buy them from “the crafty neo-post-feminist” selling them in Columbus Circle around the holidays.

Last but not least, I have to direct you to this post on Sarah Miller’s blog. She did a visit to a school classroom, and it just sounds like it was the most wonderful experience. And as I said to Sarah, it is stories like this that renew my faith in the state of the world. As clichéd as it sounds, literature and reading do have the power to enact change and inspire children. It’s our job, as librarians, authors, teachers, and parents, to help children make that meaningful connection. (To put an even bigger smile on your face, check out the comments in response to Sarah's blog posts. The kids from the class posted on her blog to thank her for visiting!)


HarperCollins Spring 2008 Preview

It’s that time of year! Publisher events galore! Autumn is like Christmas for us book loving people! I went to the HarperCollins Spring 2008 preview last Wednesday, and I just RSVP’d for an event with Shaun Tan and a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Redwall. And I have nothing to wear to any of them. And I believe I’m one of the few librarians who actually worries about such things. Don’t believe me? Check out the fashion at an ALA conference. I rest my case.

So…the HarperCollins preview. First off, it was the first publisher event I’ve been to since I started this job where I felt completely comfortable. I don’t feel like the new person anymore who knows no one or nothing. Instead, I got to single-cheek-kiss Michael Santangelo and have Kate McClelland tell me how beautiful I am (*blush*). I got to congratulate Patty Rosati on her new baby and talk about the cover of Melissa Marr’s next book with Anne Hoppe. Needless to say, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

So what goodies did I see? So many, soooooo many. This is going to be a long post.

1. The next Septimus Heap book, Queste. Unfortunately, I don’t have a cover but, nevertheless, this is going to make lots of kids (and librarians) happy come April 2008.

2. Roscoe Riley Rules, a new intermediate series by Katherine Applegate, promoted as “Junie B. Jones for boys”. We’re always in need of more “boy books” so I’m thrilled with this one. (June 2008)

3. You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! by Andy Stanton, described by Michael Stearns as Monty Python-esque. I don’t know if that’ll help its kid appeal, but I know I’m excited for it! Check out the link for an excerpt. (March 2008)

4. A new picture book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly: The Dangerous Alphabet. Unlike Wolves in the Walls, the editor says this will be a “true picture book”, in that it will actually be appropriate for the younger crowd. (May 2008)

5. Erin Hunter is also coming out with a new series: Seekers. The first book is The Quest Begins. It’ll be huge, of course. (June 2008)

6. I got goosebumps over the cover of the sequel to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck: Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories. The plot sounds awesome – lots of strong female characters, per the editor – and the cover is super dark and foreboding. Chills! (June 2008)

7. Kevin Henkes has a new novel coming out: Bird Lake Moon. I don’t have a pic of the cover for you, but I thought it was a bit too subdued. Nevertheless, I expect greatness inside. (May 2008)
8. I got really excited about a debut author, Jody Feldman, and her book The Gollywhopper Games, which was described as “Encyclopedia Brown goes to Charlie’s chocolate factory.” Ooooh, intriguing! I have the galley and can't wait to read it. (February 2008)

9. The pièce de resistance! Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly! I’m such a Fancy Nancy geek and this one does not disappoint. It’s trés magnifique! That’s a fancy way of saying it’s wonderful. (February 2008)

10. And I’m just at the tip of the iceberg! I didn’t talk about Gail Carson Levine’s Ever, the Kanns’ Purplicious (sequel to Pinkalicious), Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis, or Laurence Yep’s Dragon’s Child. Not to mention an adorable picture book called Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski and illustrated by Lee Harper. Keep your eyes open because you will no doubt see Woolbur with face-out placement on B&N’s ubiquitous wall o’ picture books.

Phew! I’m exhausted. I still didn’t tell you about everything, but I think this is enough for now.

Note: A big thank you to HarperCollins for all these links and photos!


This Week's Menu

So I’m a single parent for 6 days while the husband is in Seattle, soaking up all that Pacific Northwest beauty. Though he’d argue that he’s not soaking up anything since he is on a business trip. Whatever. All I know is that he has temporarily broken free of the routine and I’m in it up to my eyeballs.

So what’s the point? Well, a little self-congratulations, of course! Despite all the insanity that comes with single-handedly running a household consisting of myself and a 6-year-old spirited child, I have to say that I whipped up a pretty good menu for the week:

LAST NIGHT, FRIDAY: It was “Kid Dinner Night.” So she got Annie’s Homegrown mac and cheese, while I made myself pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, sage, pine nuts, and parmesan. As a little extra finish, I lightly grated bittersweet chocolate over it. It may sound strange, but I assure that this gives the meal that little extra thing. You know, the thing.

TONIGHT: ABC sandwiches and fingerling potatoes. What are ABC sandwiches? Apple, bacon, and cheddar. Put it on rye or wheat bread with some Dijon. Dang! Simple, healthy, and really dee-lish. I just boiled the fingerlings then drizzled my brand-new awesome olive oil over them with some salt and pepper.

TOMORROW NIGHT: Yukon Gold potatoes with Gorgonzola and Pancetta. This is a new recipe so we’ll see how it goes. How can I go wrong with gorgonzola and pancetta, right? Then I’ll grill some shrimp for the kiddo and I’m grilling myself filet mignon, rare, of course.

MONDAY: Grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade applesauce. Last weekend we went apple-picking upstate so I’ve got apples coming out my ears. Hence, the applesauce. And I ain’t making no ordinary grilled cheese, oh no. Brie and proscuitto are going on mine.

TUESDAY: We’re doing antipasti. I know, this is my “lazy” meal. I’ve got sopressata and Serrano ham for the meat. For the cheese, I have a Ossau Iraty Paradou, Tome Fermier d’Alsace, and a local triple cream goat cheese. If you have access to Fresh Direct, you can try these cheeses yourself. The creamy goat cheese is going to pair well with the slightly salty Ossau Iraty. I have some really buttery crackers that cost a small fortune…but it doesn’t matter because they’re amazing. And lastly, I’ll do some roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, and olives. It’ll be super good and super easy.

Lastly, this is sort of related. Have you heard about this whole bike thing in France? Vélib? Apparently it’s really popular in other European cities. I love it. Again, it makes me suspect that I could be very happy living in Europe. I don’t know, though. Clearly I have a romanticized view of it all. It’s probably just like New York. Where you ride your bike around, risking life and limb, getting honked at, flipping people off, and lots of swearing in multiple languages. Right? But it’s still a nice idea…

Last Week's Dining Section Round-Up

I know my coverage of the Dining section has been spotty lately. I have no excuse. Well, other than the usual clichés: work, family, work. And I like to squeeze in the occasional “me time”. As it is, I’m multi-tasking right now, watching Sleepless in Seattle* as I type and sipping a really oaky chardonnay. And for the record, I love big oaky wines. Am I the only one left out there?

This is going to be fairly short coverage: I didn’t find too many intriguing things in this past week’s section, which also accounts for the delay. There was an article about the difficulty of getting local carrots to NYC schools, but it just made me frustrated and powerless to create any positive changes. That article combined with the drought one in today’s Times Magazine just make me want to throw in the towel.

Anyhoo, there was a sorta fun article about curing your own olives, even in NYC. I would never do that – I don’t like olives – but it’s always fun to read about others who are so passionate about food and will go through great trouble to make the good stuff.

But other than that, there really wasn’t anything else noteworthy. Seriously. Oh well. The Dining section seems to be on an every-other-week rotation so I’m hoping for BIG things this coming week.

*For the record, I haven’t watched Sleepless in Seattle in 3 years. It’s fun to see Rosie before she got all belligerent and Meg before she tried to be edgy.


I'll Eat You Up!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Excited for the Where the Wild Things Are movie? Yeah, me too. Educating Alice linked to an article about the movie's screenplay.

And let me tell you this: reading the article, I peed in my pants a little bit with excitement. Like a puppy.

Drooling much?

I just returned to work after a lovely morning at the HarperCollins' preview - I'll write about that later - and opened up my gmail. Saveur sent me their e-newsletter, including the recipe you'll find below. I want to leave work immediately, go home and make this - doesn't it seem like the perfect thing to sip while reading a book?

Venezuelan Chocolate–Rum Drink


At the raucous late-night parties called parrandas, dancers need a pick-me-up. This one, from food author Maricel Presilla, fits the bill nicely.

1⁄2 gallon milk
3 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange
5 whole allspice berries
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1⁄2 lb. bittersweet chocolate
1 cup aged dark rum
Whipped cream

1. Combine milk, star anise, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, allspice berries and brown sugar in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. Scald milk, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat; steep 10 minutes. Strain into a large pot.
3. Heat gently, then add bittersweet chocolate and dark rum. Whisk briskly until chocolate dissolves, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with whipped cream.

First published in Saveur, Issue #8


REVIEW: Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller

I finally read Miss Spitfire! As those of you who read my blog know, I’m a big fan of Sarah Miller’s blog. And even though I have read lots of great reviews for Miss Spitfire, it slipped off my radar. Then I got a review copy of Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures and I started on a whole Helen Keller kick (I reviewed the book here). Which inspired me to read Miss Spitfire.

Whoever over at Atheneum got the blurbie from Richard Peck needs to be commended. He’s quoted on the cover: “Miss Spitfire is high drama about how language unlocks the world.” That sums it up so concisely and eloquently. However, while I do believe that the book is about language, I connected with it on a more personal level. Specifically, I connected with Annie Sullivan’s character: strong, willful, intelligent, stubborn, sensitive, determined. Given her history at Tewksbury and with her family’s dysfunction, could you even call Annie Sullivan damaged? I was caught up in the human struggle for connection and communication, the need for love, acceptance, and family.

Miller does a masterful job here because she takes those timeless, universal human struggles and puts them in the context of Annie Sullivan trying to teach Helen Keller. So even though I am far removed from that world and that time period, I still felt such a deep connection with everything and everyone in the story. Miller creates delicious tension in holding back that moment where Helen has her breakthrough at the water pump. I’m a novice when it comes to this story, but I do know all about that water pump moment, as most people do. So by holding back that one recognizable moment, Miller keeps you turning pages in anticipation for the happy ending we all know so well.

Sarah Miller has a really beautiful writing style:

By nightfall my body thrums with exhilaration. If I'd ever seen a child born, it couldn't compare to what happened at the pump today. Helen opened before my eyes, and whatever it is that makes us human flowed into her as if I'd poured it from my own hands.

I just loved that passage. Annie Sullivan's anger, frustration, and love become such palpable things to the extent that sometimes you feel like you're banging your own head against the wall. Which is a good thing.

I’ve always loved the quote “A life well-lived is the best revenge.” And I found myself thinking of that as I read Miss Spitfire. For Annie to survive everything she went through, to thrive amidst the struggle and fight, to have success and love and family in her life…that always makes for a dramatic and passionate story. And Sarah Miller has told it skillfully and eloquently.

Note: Just make sure that you have Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures in hand after you read this one - you'll want to look at the real life pictures of all these marvelous characters.

Other reviews of Miss Spitfire: Fuse #8, Becky's Book Reviews, Greetings from Nowhere, and read an interview with the author at Miss Erin.

REVIEW: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

I’ve been soooooo happy with my reading lately. It seemed I hit a dry spell for awhile, and I just wasn’t enjoying anything I opened up. I’m glad to report that this is not the case anymore.

First up was 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. I’ll admit now that I haven’t read Leepike Ridge yet. However, nearly every review I’ve read of 100 Cupboards so far has said that it’s good…but not as good as Leepike Ridge. Which is great news because I really liked 100 Cupboards. So I’m sure I’ll love Leepike Ridge!

This is just the perfect boy book. The cover (of the ARC, anyway) is all dark and mysterious and foreboding; I adore the cover. The plot is fast-moving and interesting. The antagonist is appropriately creepy and evil. The descriptions of the different worlds are thorough – I got a real sense of place. There’s some clever dialogue and some really cool characters (the cats!). The length is good too. See? Good multiple-world fantasy doesn’t have to be 500 pages!

That said, there are some problems. There are plot holes all over the place (i.e. there wasn’t a better solution to closing off the cupboards than plaster?!) and the character development is not nearly what it could or should be. I didn’t emotionally connect with anyone or anything in the book.

But I’m being nitpicky by pointing these things out because the kids that are looking for a fun and fast read most likely won’t care about these things. This is the fantasy book for kids who don’t like fantasy. Or for those kids who do like fantasy, but need to give their little muscles a rest from the thick tomes they normally lug around.

Check out N.D. Wilson's website, in particular his hilarious bio where he shares with us that he was born to "a couple of Jesus People hippies" and that "not everything I write is for children, but all of it is childish." I sense a crush developing...

COMING UP: My Miss Spitfire review and some other stuff.

On the Outskirts of the Kidlitosphere

I’m okay with missing the Kidlitosphere conference. Mostly because I’m too new to feel like part of the Kidlitosphere - I’ve only been posting for a couple of months now. But I do have to extend a huge thanks to MotherReader for putting up a summary of her session on blog promotion. This is exactly the sort of information I need, being a newbie and all. The problem, of course, is that I don’t know if I have anything important enough to say about children’s literature and food. At least, nothing important enough to warrant blog creation. So the jury is still out on that. Nevertheless, I found MotherReader’s stuff enormously helpful.

One question, though: will I be completely ostracized for not taking part in Poetry Friday? I really don’t like poetry, for the most part. Shel Silverstein, Pablo Neruda, and Walt Whitman are about it. And everybody likes them, right? And I’m not posting Whitman every week – his poems can be damn long. Is posting only excerpts from his poems completely blasphemous? Hmmm…I’ll have to think more on this.

COMING UP: I swear, I really am going to post reviews of Miss Spitfire and 100 Cupboards. Seriously. I will.


YAY! WEDNESDAY! NYT Dining Section!

I know, it's been awhile. I thought things were supposed to slow down after summer reading, but I feel like I'm in the thick of it now. Not surprisingly, I've become completely run down and am home sick today. Which sucks, on one hand. On the other hand, I have time to blog now. Woo hoo! So here's the Dining section round-up:

  • Studies have just revealed that picky eating is in the genes, not the cooking! Seriously! On one hand, I think it’s fantastic to hear – it’ s no wonder my girl is so picky because I was up for the award as Pickiest Eater as a kid. She can’t help it – it’s hereditary. I shouldn't take it so personally that she won't eat the food I cook.

    On the other hand, doesn’t it seem a little bit like Convenient-Theories-4-U? Well, I guess I’ll keep making Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese because…well…my daughter has a hereditary condition. That doesn’t seem quite right either, you know?

    For me, I'll keep trying. The key is to give lots of healthy, delicious options...and hope that she zeroes in on one.

  • I loved this little article about making pesto. This is how I make pesto…at least how I used to make it before I moved to an apartment that gets only three hours of sun a day, thus making basil nearly impossible to grow. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who would never use a mortar and pestle to make my pesto. My mortar and pestle is right where it belongs…at the top shelf of my pantry.

  • Corn’s effect on our environment, our country’s economy, and our health is getting more press in a new documentary coming out, King Corn. It’s being advertised as a cross between Super Size Me and Sicko, but the article in the Times makes it sound like the film is a little less sensationalistic than that. The point isn’t necessarily about corn’s evils but, rather, on why we should be more aware of what goes into our bodies. Obviously, Michael Pollan was an early adviser on the movie. I’ll probably check this out on Netflix, but I’m sure it won’t tell me anything I don’t know already: we are all made of corn!

  • And this article isn’t actually from today’s Dining section; it’s from Sunday’s Week in Review section. But it’s written by Frank Bruni so it counts. He talks about sidewalk cafes in NYC. The city just approved the use of more natural-gas heaters in sidewalk cafes, thus extending the café season all the way through “late October”. The article really nails NYC culture – for one, I think Bruni’s theory that NYC wants to be a European city is right on the money – but it hints at a bigger issue. Prolonging the sidewalk café season goes hand in hand with the issue of seasonal food and cooking. Why should I only be able to enjoy tomatoes in the summer? If I can get them from Mexico in November, I can prolong the tomato season. It’s the same idea with the cafes. Part of the joy in them is the anticipation of their season. Not to mention that there’s something special about a glass of light wine, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil outside on a gorgeous summer day. But butternut squash, steak, fennel? Not so much. Put me by a cozy fireplace for that meal, thanks.

And that's the round-up. At some point, I plan on posting another menu of what we're eating in our house...except that Adam is giving me a break this week and he's cooking. So Lemon Spaghetti (courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis) and Brodetto di Mare (courtesy of Michael Chiarello) are on the menu. Delicious and simple. And I'm not cooking it. Huzzah!

COMING UP: Reviews of Sarah Miller's Miss Spitfire and N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards.


Movin' on Up to a Deluxe Apartment in Skyyyyy!

Guess who just got selected to participate in ALA's 2008 Emerging Leaders program.

Just guess.

Who could it be?

Guess. Come on.


Does that give it away? If you haven't guessed now then there's no hope for you. Seriously.

Wait, should an emerging leader heckle her readers? Probably not. I'll have to change my ways.

"Anal retentive"? Me?

My daily Shelf Awareness email was particularly fun this morning. It talked about a website I was previously unfamiliar with: Urban Dictionary. It works kind of like a wiki (at least my novice understanding of a wiki): people can log in and define the word any way they want. So Shelf Awareness mentioned Urban Dictionary’s definitions of “librarian”. They range from complimentary: “aspire to make a difference in a constantly changing world, are some of the most interesting individuals you will ever meet, are more excited about technology then you think.” Some are just outrageous: “an overly anal retentive bitch that glares over your shoulder while you’re typing on the computer making sure the little 10 year old next to you doesn’t see the porn you’re watching.”* And then there’s the ambiguous: “A chick who seems really sweet and nice and shy when out. But, once you get her alone turns into a raging sexual freak.”** It depends on whether or not you think being a “sexual freak” is a good thing…

But I think this one was my favorite: “A person who is so anal that they have sought a job to define their compulsive tendencies. As librarians, these 'overly enthusiastic' individuals can not only revel in their compulvieness, they can force it on other people too.” Some people may find this one mean too…but in my experience, what this man speaks is absolutely true.

* and ** I fixed the spelling and grammatical errors in the entries. I couldn’t keep them there and let you all think they were mistakes I had made. So these quotes have been altered from the original works.


REVIEW: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (Harcourt, 2007)

I’ve had to wait a couple days before writing this review because, otherwise, I would have just come here and gushed mindlessly. I’ll still gush, but just not mindlessly.

Zoe wants nothing more than to own a grand piano, play in Carnegie Hall, and be a prodigy like her hero, Vladimir Horowitz. What does she actually get? A "wheezy, wood-grain Perfectone D-60...organ." Not only that, but her dad is agoraphobic, her mom is constantly working, and Wheeler Diggs follows her home everyday. Zoe enters the annual Perfect-O-Rama competition, at the urging of her organ teacher, and finds that sometimes when you don't get what you want, your life begins to take shape.

I don’t think I’m overstating it by calling this a near-perfect novel. I appreciate its subtlety and gentleness and, yet, it’s interesting and complex enough to keep you turning pages. Zoe is a funny, smart character who has some trouble fitting in, and Urban’s skill shows here because she never has to blatantly state that this is the case. Through events and conversations, Zoe’s social status is revealed in a quiet way. Aspects about Zoe's life come to light slowly, to the point where you don’t actually realize how much you’ve learned about her. And this is true of the supporting characters as well - you'll be surprised by how much character development is hidden in the short little chapters. Little snippets gel into a larger portrait. Zoe’s father is agoraphobic, but that’s never forced upon you as you’re reading. Events unfold and you realize that he is crippled by his phobia. It’s never melodramatic, it just is.

Additionally, Zoe’s voice is right on. She is introspective, but appropriately so for her age. She acts out, but never too much. Some books, recent and otherwise, would have you think tweens are ticking time bombs, mean and whiny and temperamental all the time. Is this the case sometimes? Absolutely. But I appreciate that Zoe isn’t in that mode all the time, which is more true to life. She’s a marvelously sympathetic character. Zoe is the typical underdog and you cheer both her and her family on, knowing that good people with strong hearts will triumph in the end. This story is the epitome of hopeful.

I liked this book better than any of the other Newbery contenders I’ve read this year. Remember I couldn’t come up with a fifth book for my Best of Fiction 2007 list? This one has filled that spot. Even if it is yet another girly protagonist book.

Best passage:

I turn on the Perfectone D-60 and flip the switch for piano. I press a key. I press two keys.

I am not excited.

I am the opposite of excited.

Never trust an exclamation point.

Which made me laugh out loud. I use exclamation points without restraint. Does this make me untrustworthy? It doesn’t matter – get a hold of this book now. Trust me (!!!!).


Banned Books Week? Really?

Thanks to the Unshelved guys, of course. How perfectly does this fit into the much-discussed Galleycat article about Banned Books Week?


Seckle Pears from Red Jacket Orchards

How precious are these? I told you they were pretty! They're just small enough that two pears will fit in your hand at a time. And the taste is really versatile - you can eat them crisp, like an apple, but they still taste like a pear. Or, if you wait for a few days, they treat you with that soft, rounded pear texture that almost melts in your mouth. Either way, I'm in love - this is my second pound in four days. And they're from New York state so I get that whole local thing going. Barbara Kingsolver would be proud.

For all you FreshDirect devotees, I highly recommend them.

Short Round-up

Oy. I've been so behind in my blogging. I don't have time at work - and I think it might against company policy, maybe? - and I'm too busy with, you know, life when I'm at home. Better late than never, n'est-ce pas?

  • I recently read a fantastic quote from John Constant of Elliott Bay Book Company – unfortunately, it completely escapes me where I read it (perhaps my daily Shelf Awareness email?). Everyone, meaning non-librarian types, asks me for the name of my favorite book. And I could never ever name just one. Well, Mr. Constant phrases it in such a way that I feel he understands me:

    "Does anyone over the age of 16 even have a favorite book? Claiming a favorite is only indicative of the fact that you haven't read enough: Out of the thousands of books that I've read, with the enormous palette of ideas and emotions they've represented, how could I choose only, say, five? Why not ask for a favorite orgasm, or laugh, or grain of sand?"

  • These are about the coolest tribute to Halloween ever! Cannibal pumpkins, puking pumpkins, and the most disturbing – pumpkin giving birth. Check it out and get in the mood! Thanks to Your Neighborhood Librarian for the link.

  • Thought the midnight book parties were a thing of the past once Harry graduated from Hogwarts? Not so. Powell’s Books in Portland is throwing a midnight party for Stephen Colbert’s new book I Am America (And So Can You!). The party is in a bar across the street from Powell’s and they’re decorating in red, white, and blue. Not to mention shooting “Truthiness” Tequila. See, NYC isn’t the only place with really, really cool stuff. Again, if you can handle that rain, move to Portland now. While you can still afford to do so.

I know, I know. This is a short post. Coming up? The NYT Dining section tomorrow, a photo of some local succulent mini-pears from New York, and a review of A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (Hint: I loved it).