Sunday, October 21, 2007

To Get You in the Mood...

Here's one to get you (and your charges) into the spooky October mood, if it isn't happening naturally for you. I'm a Jersey girl by birth, but living in Cali I sometimes lose track of the seasons. Here's one of my favorites for when the leaves start (or should start) falling...

For Tweens and Teens: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I picked this up a few years ago and LOVED it. I thought it was the best thing I'd read in ages. Deliciously creepy and wonderful. Coraline is a young girl who moves into a new flat with her preoccupied techie parents. She is bored and her Father suggests exploring her new digs. Coraline finds a key and unlocks the door that separates her flat from another apartment. She meets a woman there who looks just like her mother, except for big, black button eyes. The woman says she is Coraline's "Other Mother". Things turn sinister quickly when Coraline realizes her parents have been trapped by the Other Mother, and it is up to her to save them.

I played the audio book (read by the author) for my fifth graders and they LOVED it. It was edgy, spooky, and they clamored for it after we came back from lunch. They were significantly bummed when it was over. An awesome pick for this otherworldly month.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Twilight Series

I just finished Eclipse, the latest book in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I stumbled upon Twilight, the first book in the series, at The Flying Pig Bookstore while vacationing in Shelburne, Vermont last October. This is a very cool children’s bookstore that I felt lucky to find on my trip. But, I digress. Anyway, I treated myself to a stack of books and Twilight was among them. It’s a young adult novel about high school kids falling in love. But it’s not so simple when one of the kids is a mortal girl and the other is a vampire posing as a high school boy.

Well, I loved it, and I’m not the only one apparently. Twilight made the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults list in 2006 and their Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list as well. Other awards include:

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Decade…So Far

I loved the second book, New Moon, as well, and as I mentioned just finished the third, Eclipse (it was released this past summer 2007). Now I’m just bummed that I have to wait for the continuing story of Bella and Edward for another year or so. If you’re looking for a good October read for you, or that teen you know check out this series!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pumpkin Soup

We’re well into October and as my three-year-old, Sammy, keeps saying, “It’s almost Halloween!” I hit the bookstore a few days ago and returned with these two books. They have Sammy’s seal of approval.

The first, Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, is a rollicking tale of three friends: Cat, Squirrel, and Duck. They live together happily in a little white cabin and every day they make pumpkin soup, the best you’ve every tasted! The Cat slices the pumpkin, the Squirrel stirs the soup, and the Duck measures out the salt. One day Duck decides to mix things up (literally) when he demands to stir the soup instead of doing his regular job. Cat and Squirrel are mad and Duck moves out. Will they ever make pumpkin soup together again? The curious preschooler will want to know.

This book is also a great springboard to cooking with kids. After I read the book to Sammy, we made pumpkin soup together (okay, it was really butternut squash soup, but who’s gonna know?). Sammy really enjoyed slicing up the pumpkin (like the Cat), stirring (like the Squirrel), and measuring the salt (like the Duck). And the soup? Well, it was the best you ever tasted, of course!

The School Library Tiger’s recipe for Pumpkin Soup (aka Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan and Sage)

1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 - 8 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 large piece of Parmesan cheese rind
2 bay leaves
3 or 4 fresh sage leaves, diced fine
1/8 ts cayenne
1/4 ts freshly ground nutmeg
4 tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 ts freshly ground black pepper
1 ts kosher or sea salt

  1. Quarter the butternut squash and scrape out seeds. Place on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil (See Sammy demonstrating in the picture above). Roast squash at 400 degrees for an hour. Remove and let cool. Remove skin, chop into large chunks (2 in.) and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat and saute celery and onions for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add veggie stock, Parmesan cheese rind, squash, and Bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Partially cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove rind and Bay leaves.
  5. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to pot. Warning: If you do this while the soup is hot, cover the blender with a towel instead of the lid or remove the center piece in the blender top to allow stem to escape. If you don’t do this it will explode! (I know from personal experience).
  6. Add grated Parmesan, sage, salt, and spices. Simmer until heated through.
  7. Optional: Garnish with chopped toasted walnuts, creme fraiche, or Tabasco sauce, depending on your tastes. For color, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley on top.