You’ve Got Great Taste!

As Thanksgiving nears and the weather turns colder, we want to highlight what brings us togetherwhat better combination than food and books? Please enjoy this delectable selection of food-inspired reads, many of which include recipes to share!

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Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Aladdin
Available now
Ages 4-8
Amy Wu loves bao, a filled dumpling with fluffy dough. But for Amy, even though her entire family makes excellent bao—she cannot. The picture book is an energetic run-through of a family coming together and preparing a treasured food. Charlene Chua’s images leap off the page—so much energy! Kat Zhang writes of a kiddo with an affinity for food and a resilient spirit. Zhang also includes pronunciation help for those unfamiliar with how to pronounce the word “bao” plus a recipe for them. Very delicious.

bilal-cooks-daal.jpgBilal Cooks Daal
Written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
Available now
Ages 4-8
This is a charming picture book introducing the South Asian dish daal to Bilal’s friends—and perhaps the reader. Illustrator Anoosha Syed depicts the children’s wide-eyed facial expressions—and her depiction of the pantry is excellent, featuring the traditional names for the types of lentils used in the daal. A very sweet and familiar portion of the picture book comes when Bilal’s two friends, speaking to themselves, confide to each other that daal looks and smells funny—it’s not familiar to them! Bilal overhears and worries. Aisha Saeed’s choice to include this moment is important and telling and helpful for any youngster to hear that those feelings are normal. In the end, though, the daal is delicious. Author Aisha Saeed included a contextual note about daal in South Asian, specifically Pakistani, cuisine—and includes a recipe for Chana Daal.

CookingWithBear.jpgCooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest
Written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press
Available now
Ages 4-7
Cooking with Bear is a combination picture book and cookbook populated with Lisa Cinar’s water-color illustrations. The pictures are accessible and curious, much like Bear’s woodland friends who want nothing more than to learn how to cook as Bear does. Deborah Hodge’s cookbook implicitly encourages eating whole, natural foods that are available seasonally. The recipes – a few include nuts and dairy – are nourishing and are a lovely opportunity for child-and-adult cooking. Many recipes call for food processors, chopping or dicing with knives, as well as simmering and sautéing on a stovetop. This cooperative cookbook is a lovely way to introduce children to eating seasonally.

FryBread.jpgFry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Book Press
Available now
Ages 3-6

Fry bread is community, history, and love. The work by Kevin Noble Maillard, with warm illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, tackles the history of indigenous people in what is now the United States. Fry bread is distilled to its emotional essence—art, time, place. The story invites the reader to learn about the history, both through its lyrical telling and through the author’s note at the book’s end; the note contains often-ignored, vital information about the history of Native Americans. Finally, Fry Bread concludes with an eponymous recipe that readers will be eager to try.

GrandpaCacao.jpgGrandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family
Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now
Ages 3-6
On a little girl’s birthday, a father and daughter bake a cake together, and he tells her the story of Grandpa Cacao, a farmer on the Ivory Coast. Zunon juxtaposes past with present, connecting the child to Grandpa Cacao despite their geographic distances.  After the cake is baked, there is a surprise at the door that truly connects the two. Zunon describes the difficult, community work of harvesting cacao, and her note on the current cacao trade is a thoughtful inclusion.  Also included is a Chocolate Celebration Cake Recipe.

WhatYouEat.jpegWhat You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind
Written and illustrated by Valorie Fisher
Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic
Available now
Ages 4-7
Creative photography with a mathematical twist details the complexity of what’s in everyday foods (vanilla ice cream, dill pickle, honey, apple, corn, peanut butter and jelly, pizza). Accessible language and photography diagram how basic food comes to fruition. The conclusion of the book uses MyPlate language and features a breakdown of the vitamins and minerals present in many foods. The back of the book also features a “words to know” vocabulary section. This nonfiction picture book is a nice investigation into how we get the foods we know so well.

LittleLunch.jpegLittle Lunch: Triple Treats
Written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane
Published by Candlewick
Available now
Ages 6-9
The latest from the Little Lunch series is a trio of snack-sized tales with jaunty illustrations. Oversized emotions and situation comedy rule these vignettes set during a typical elementary school day. Little Lunch: Triple Treats is an excellent entry into early chapter books, with simple storylines but plenty of action to keep momentum going. The book series is also the inspiration for a mockumentary-style television program now on Netflix.

PieintheSky.hpeg.jpgPie in the Sky
Written by Remy Lai
Published by Henry Holt
Available now
Ages 8-11
Jingwen is 12-year-old stuck in grief following his father’s death and a move to Australia, far away from his grandparents’ bakery. Isolated and lonely in a classroom where he doesn’t speak the language, Jingwen turns his attention to baking cakes, something he and his father did together. Now Jingwen does this alone—or almost alone, he includes his little brother while his mother works nights (it’s their secret). But Jingwen’s confectionery-focused mind ignores two big facts: 1) he’s not allowed to use the oven or stove unsupervised and 2) he has no money for fancy ingredients. What ensues is a bittersweet tale of a kid who’s hungry for something to assuage his sadness—and doesn’t always go in the best way to get it.

HungryHearts.jpgHungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now
Ages 12+
These thirteen interconnected stories tell about what happens on Hungry Heart Row, a street chock full of the best restaurants you can imagine. Familiar themes with some occasional supernatural elements populate this tremendous collection. The stories feature a mix of rom-com (a teenage love columnist decides to take her own advice in “The Grand Ishq Adventure” by Sandhya Menon), family and community lore (Charlie’s and his grandmother’s ghost-seeing burden in “The Slender One” by Caroline Tung Richmond), and true terror (Rebecca Roanhorse’s eerie tale “The Missing Ingredient” about a mother, daughter, and a middling restaurant). Whatever you do, don’t read this #OwnVoices anthology hungry—your mouth will soon be watering.

 

My Love Language is Snack Food: A Review of Permanent Record

Permanent Record
Written by Mary H. K. Choi
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages: 14+
Published: September 3, 2019

Nineteen-year-old Pablo Neruda Rind is a lot of things: snack food aficionado, NYU dropout, and deeply in debt. He’s working the night shift at a bodega when the stars align (or the pop stars align): superstar Leanna Smart comes in, picks out snacks, and sparks fly. Soon Pablo has two separate lives: the jet-setter life with Leanna and the one he’s avoiding back home. But you can only avoid debt collectors, parents, and roommates for so long.

Is this a love story? No. This is the story of a 19-year-old who simply cannot get it together. Pablo is whip-smart and talented and absolutely maddening. Why? Because author Mary H. K. Choi captures the haziness and frustration of almost-adulthood with perfect pitch. The romance between Pablo and Leanna isn’t that far-fetched on paper—her megastar life is paparazzi-ridden and exhausting, his life is debt-ridden and tiring.  This romance lets them both disconnect from what drains them. The difference is that Leanna is committed to her popstar life, whereas Pablo wants to check out of his. Which he does. It is not an easy feat, because, for all its complications, Pablo’s life is filled with people who love him. Watching him blow off his little brother or screen his mom’s calls aren’t easy for the reader. But it is possible for Pablo because he’s got his own script: his single mom is wedded to her work, she won’t even take them to Korea to visit their family; his dad is no role model, a Princeton engineer who now dabbles in playwriting? Please. And his little brother? Well, if his little brother knew about Leanna Smart, he would understand. The thing is, Pablo’s family and friends—heck, even his bosses at the bodega!—they do understand. But Pablo doesn’t hear it. At least, he doesn’t hear it, until finally, finally he does.

This is an excellent read for anyone who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

Spooky Stories If You Dare!

This fall season, Butler Center turns its attention to the things that go bump in the night. Ghosts, goblins, and the neighbors next door. We’ve handpicked some spooky tales for all ages and all scaredy-cat levels. We rated the books on a zero to five pumpkin scale (zero pumpkins means not scary at all; five pumpkins means prepare for the fright of your life). Grab some hot cider and settle down with one of our picks!

Click Clack Boo.jpg

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat
Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Published by Little Simon
Age range: 0-3 years
Available now
This board book has plenty of sound effects and emotive illustrations. This lighthearted Halloween tale is not scary, except for one mysterious and spooky character wearing a cape.
Scary Rating: Half a pumpkin out of five pumpkins

Pick a Pumpkin.jpg

Pick a Pumpkin
Written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis
Published by Candlewick
Age range: 3-8 years
Available now
This picture book is saturated with sunset colors and family outings. Not at all frightening, this is the book to read to get children in the mood for fall.
Scary Rating: zero pumpkins out of five pumpkins 

The Forgotten Girl.jpgThe Forgotten Girl
Written by India Hill Brown
Published by Scholastic Press
Ages 8-12 years
Available November 5, 2019
The Forgotten Girl is a tale about the ghosts of segregation and racism. When Iris happens upon an unmarked grave during the first snowfall of the season—her curiosity is sparked, but so is her imagination. Real-life ghosts and family peril are supplemented by disturbing historical accuracies. This book is not lighthearted, but it is meaningful and scary all at the same time.
Scary Rating: 4 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

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Guest: A Changeling Tale
Written by Mary Downing Hahn
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages 8-12 years
Available now
Veteran scary storyteller Mary Downing Hahn elicits frights and dread with her folkloric tale of switched infant boys. Mollie sings praises on her beautiful baby brother Thomas, a mistake if the Kinde Folke hear, which they do and soon enough her brother is stolen and replaced by a changeling child from another world. As Mollie and her family turn on this changeling, Mollie vows to return this “guest” and get her brother back. An eerie atmospheric tale, you can feel the fog and dread seep into your bones as Mollie traverses to the deep, deep wood. The cruelty in the book is not terrifying, but it is unsettling. This is a spooky book well-suited for reading under blankets.
Scary Rating: 3 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

Scary Stories for Young Foxes.jpgScary Stories for Young Foxes
Written by Christian McKay Heidicker and illustrated by Junyi Wu
Published by MacMillan/Henry Holt
Ages 8-12 years
This story-within-a-story is downright frightening. Family loss, turmoil, gore, with the backdrop of survival of the fittest make for a thrilling read. Young readers will grapple with death and consequences, but the affection throughout makes it downright endearing, too. This is a tale that begs to be read aloud.
Scary Rating: 3 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins 

The Okay Witch.jpg

The Okay Witch
Written and illustrated by Emma Steinkellner
Published by Aladdin
Age Range: 10-14 years
Available now
The Okay Witch is a fast-paced adventure that summons generational legacies and hurtful histories. Moth Hush takes on a lot for a thirteen year old: bullying at school, a complicated family life, and new witching abilities. Witch-hunting and execution are balanced by a charming cat and a budding friendship.
Scary Rating: 1 pumpkin out of 5 pumpkins 

Life Is Short And Then You Die.jpg

Life Is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Presents First Encounters with Murder
Edited by Kelley Armstrong
Published by Imprint
Ages 14+ years
What makes this collection of short stories so eerie is that many of these stories are too relatable— online message board run amok and the danger of “nice guys” to name a few.  This anthology blends contemporary fare with a few historical stories with very little paranormal activity. The collection’s main focus is the horror of the everyday. Teens can browse around to find stories that suit their mood.
Scary Rating: 4.5 pumpkins out of 5 pumpkins

Last Night at the Patch: A Review of Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads
Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Graphic novel
First Second Books, August 27, 2019
Ages 14-17

It’s the last night of their final pumpkin patch season before Deja and Josiah head off to college. As the weather turns, Deja cajoles her employee-of-the-month pal to leave the confines of the Succotash Hut and give their beloved pumpkin patch an epic sendoff. Author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park) teams up with author/writer Faith Erin Hicks (Comics Will Break Your Heart) to deliver a madcap adventure of two friends navigating their ways through love, friendship, and corn mazes.

Graphic novel Pumpkinheads combines a pithy humor with teenage self-reflection. The quirky pop culture references (there is a John Denver cover band called John Colorado Springs) are delightful, but more delightful is Deja, a pumpkin patch heartbreaker whose love of snacks is only surpassed by her affection for her friend Josiah. Josiah plays the rule-abider to Deja’s social butterfly and the two complement each other well. However, Rowell and Hicks do not let their characters stay stuck in their ways. When the pair’s discussion turns to fate, Josiah says his leave-it-up-to-fate attitude is a perfect match for Deja’s go-getter nature. Deja is quick to reply that his passive nature means that she is the one doing the work to makes things happen.

Rowell and Hicks alternate action sequences with emotional revelations. Despite great dialogue, some of the most powerful moments are close-ups of Deja’s face when her emotions shift. Near the end of their evening together, Deja’s face reacting to a plain but heartfelt admission from Josiah is familiar and priceless to any teenager or former teenager.

[[Following the story is a conversation between collaborators Rowell and Hicks, delving into plot ideas, character development, and the artistic design process.]]