Getting Ready for KidLitCon 2020

Dear friends,

I know I have been writing less than usual here – but I have had some big news that I’ve been waiting to share with you.  Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in some more review writing time soon as well!

I will be running KidLitCon 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with my friends Nakenya Yarbrough (whom you’ve seen mentioned here before, as we’ve presented together at Detroit Allied Media and Michigan Library Association’s Spring Institute in the past), and my friend Maggi Rohde, who, like me, works on the Cybils Awards.

KidLitCon 2020 - Seeing Clearly - Ann Arbor, March 27-28

Take a look at my blog post about it on the KidLitCon website – and please do contact us if you have any session ideas!  Hoping to see you in Ann Arbor in March of 2020!


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Starring Kids with Hearing Loss: You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! and The Collectors

My daughter wears hearing aids, which has shone a light for me on how difficult it is to find mainstream books whose main characters are Deaf or hard of hearing.  There’s El Deafo, which is great, but not a lot else either in picture books (the only one I could find when she was in first grade was told from the point of view of the family dog rather than the child) or in middle grade.  So I was excited to see these two recent books starring children with hearing loss.  

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex GinoYou Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino. Scholastic, 2018.
When Jilly’s new baby sister, Emma, is born with hearing loss, she naturally reaches out to her crush on the boards for her favorite book series, the Magically Mysterious Vidalia trilogy.  “Profoundinoakland” identifies as Deaf, but to Jilly’s surprise, doesn’t enjoy being treated as Jilly’s personal guide to the world of hearing loss. Even so, Jilly and Derek manage to meet and become friends in real life, despite several missteps on Jilly’s part.  Derek is African-American, as is Jilly’s Aunt Joanne’s wife, Aunt Alicia, whom Jilly adores. Just from the cover and title, I was expecting Jilly to learn a lot about hearing loss. But as the book opens with a Black kid being shot on TV, it’s clear from early on that it’s going to be dealing with racism, and how white and hearing people can be effective allies for people of color and those with hearing loss.  

With so many big issues like this packed into a book, I always worry that the characters will feel like puppets in service to the message.  Happily, Jilly and her family and Derek all felt like real people, with issues coinciding messily as they would in real life. Things like Jilly’s realizing that she has a crush, an audiologist who’s prejudiced against sign language, the running word games Jilly’s best friend plays with Jilly’s dad, and the importance Jilly places on being able to teach her baby sister how to make a PB&J the correct Jilly way all made Jilly someone I was happy to get to know, faults and all.  Yes, I did cry. And now I really, really need to go back and read Gino’s first book, George.  

The Collectors by Jacqueline WestThe Collectors by Jacqueline West. HarperCollins, 2018.
Van has always felt a little bit isolated.  His hearing loss makes it difficult to hear people who aren’t looking at him when they talk, and he’s grown up moving frequently because of living with his opera singer mother, who regularly tours famous opera houses.  Then, a birthday party for a boy he barely knows, Peter, turns strange. He sees the smoke from the birthday candle wafting up and being collected by a strange girl with eyes like mossy pennies and her squirrel. The mystery of who they are and what they’re doing leads Van down the path to a secret world, filled with danger and moral dilemmas…

Jacqueline West won the 2010 Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Cybils Award for the first book of her Books of Elsewhere series, The ShadowsThis book, while it had some lovely descriptions of the magical world, felt solid but not outstanding to me as far as the magic goes.  It shines, though, in its depiction of Van and his hearing loss – the difficulty in interacting with people who don’t get it, the relief of being able to take them out at the end of the day and retreat to his own world.  Though the author doesn’t have hearing loss herself, she credits a whole class of DHH children for helping her get the experience right, and it really shows. (She does have opera experience, though!) That in itself lifted this book out of the ordinary and makes it one I’d recommend.  

Other  books I’ve read about kids with hearing loss:

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Print, Realistic, Reviews | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

2019 Newberys: Merci Suárez Changes Gears and The Night Diary

Here are reviews of this year’s Newbery and Newbery honor books.  I had read just one of these when it first came out, The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  And shout-out to my blogging friend Sondy at Sonderbooks, whose Newbery committee journey I’ve been following the past couple of years. 

mercisuarezchangesgearsMerci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. Candlewick, 2018.
I really enjoyed Meg Medina’s picture book Mango, Abuela and Me, and had heard great things about her teen books as well, so this book had been on my radar even before it won the Newbury Medal.  I had to double-check, too, when I first read it – sure enough, I had already met Merci back in 2017, when she appeared in a short story in the Flying Lessons anthology.  

Merci is just starting sixth grade at a private school, where she’s on scholarship.  Things get off to a bad start when she’s forced to “volunteer” as a Sunshine Buddy to a boy, Michael, from Minnesota.  She’d rather not be stuck with a boy, while her rival Edna Santos immediately develops a crush on him. Her parents, grandparents, and aunt own a trio of pink houses, which makes it easy for Merci to get stuck with child care for her younger twin cousins, though she also has a close relationship with her grandfather, Lolo.  He’s having new difficulties with routine things – falling off his bike, or accidentally picking the wrong twins up from school. But if Merci notices his accidents, should she speak up or do as he asks and keep it a secret?  

I really enjoyed spending time with Merci and her family.  Medina does a great job creating well-rounded characters – Merci does some absolutely cringe-worthy things, but with a lot of effort and some humiliation, finds a balance between standing up for herself and learning how to be friends at school, at the same time as she’s dealing with a family that’s simultaneously supportive and smothering, and her grandfather’s worsening mental state.  And even though these are heavy issues, there’s enough humor and spirit to keep this overall a happy book.  

nightdiaryThe Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Narrated by Priya Ayyar. Listening Library, 2018. B079RN5YLT. Print edition by Kokila, 2018, 978-0735228511.
Twelve-year-old Nisha’s mother may have died giving birth to her and her twin brother Amil, but other than that, her life has been relatively calm.  She’s able to go to school, sneaking to the kitchen for cooking lessons after school. Her father and grandmother may not be very affectionate, but life is relatively peaceful.  

But it’s India in 1947.  Nisha learns that her part of India is about to become Pakistan, and only Muslims are allowed to stay.  Though her mother was Muslim, her father is Hindu, and the mixed marriage a secret from the village. They must leave their house, and Nisha’s beloved cook, who is Muslim.  Nisha writes secret letters to her mother in her diary at night to keep her company as they make the grueling journey to safety and a new start. Priya Ayyar reads in slightly accented English – enough to know that Nisha is Indian, but not so much as to make it hard to understand.  Her generally whispery tones suit the secret diary theme.  

There are many things to like about this book.  Nisha is a sweet girl, who understands implicitly that religion shouldn’t be used to divide people.  The journey also helps their emotionally distant father come to value both Nisha and Amil, who has difficulty with reading and schoolwork but excels at drawing.  It was fascinating to learn more about the partition of India, something I knew next to nothing about. At the same time, the central story-telling device of having Nisha write sorrowful letters to her dead mother felt emotionally manipulative to me, especially in a story where just having to leave her home was emotional upheaval enough for poor Nisha, and that makes me more angry than sympathetic.  I’m in the minority on this, though – everyone else seems to love this book. It has won many accolades in addition to the Newbery honor. But both child and adult readers generally know if this kind of device works for them, so readers for whom the description sounds appealing will probably enjoy the book.  

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Diversity Update

I was full of optimism at the beginning of the year, when I posted about participating in a diversity read-along.  I haven’t linked a single review, nor am I sure that I’m reading the right topic in the right month. But if I keep up my pace, I am still on track to reach my personal goal of reading 60 books by authors of color – so far I’m at 32 books by authors of color, plus 9 with LGBTQ main characters.  


Picture Book

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

  • Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Middle Grade

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott. Illustrated by Geneva B.

  • So Done by Paula Chase
  • Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft


On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 


Picture Book

Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

  • Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Middle Grade

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee


The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

  • Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang


Early Chapter

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Hears it All by Jacqueline Jules and Miguel Benitez

  • Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina

Middle Grade

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez


Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderso

Middle East


Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram



The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

  • Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

South Asian

Middle Grade

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman


Middle Grade

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell et al


Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee



  • Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Looking at this list, I see some missions for myself: finish writing reviews for many of the books here, and keep reading, including filling in gaps, like middle grade from Middle Eastern authors, and trans books.  Any suggestions for middle grade or teen fiction – preferable fantasy or science fiction with trans protagonists?  or any other diverse books you want to share with me?

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Asian-American Graphic Novels 2019

A few years back, I went to put together a simple end panel display for my graphic novels for Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. There was not much in the way of easily available bibliographies on-line, so I started with a list put together by Dr. Stephen Hong Sohn (with his permission).  I have done two version of this (first version, second version) adding new titles as they come out, and trying to stick to books that are readily available from libraries.  Titles out this year are in bold, and links go to my reviews when available.  This year it’s felt particularly hard to find new titles, so I would be thrilled if you, Dear Reader, have some more suggestions of books from this year or last that would fit on this list.


Ascender vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Ascender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (2019-)

The Best We Could Do by Thi BuiThe Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (2017)

blamethisontheboogieBlame This on the Boogie by Rina Ayuyang (2018)

Boundless by Jillian TamakiBoundless by Jillian Tamaki (2017)

Cook Korean by Robin HaCook Korean by Robin Ha (2016)

Dear Scarlet by Teresa Wong

Dear Scarlet by Teresa Wong (2019)

Descender Vol % by Lemire and NguyenDescender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (2015-2018)

Empire StateEmpire State by Jason Shiga (2011)

4immigrantsFour Immigrants Manga by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama (1999)

getjiroGet Jiro! By Anthony Bourdain (2012)


I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (2019)

Killing and Dying by Adrian TomineKilling and Dying by Adrian Tomine (2016)

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (2016)

Nanjing: the Burning City by Ethan YoungNanjing: the Burning City by Ethan Young (2015)

100demonsOne! Hundred! Demons! By Lynda Barry (2002)

samedifferenceSame Difference by Derek Kirk Kim (2011)

secretidentitiesSecret Identities by Jeff Yang et al (2009)

shortcomingsShortcomings by Adrian Tomine (2007)

summerblondeSummer Blonde by Adrian Tomine (2003)

vietnamericaVietnamerica by G.B. Tran (2007)


American Born ChineseAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2006)

arrivalThe Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006)

Brain Camp by Susan KimBrain Camp by Susan Kim (2010)

Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari InzerDiary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer (2016)

eternalsmileEternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim (2009)

johnnyhiroJohnny Hiro! By Fred Chao (2012)

kokobegoodKoko Be Good by Jen Wang (2010)

LauraDeanKeepsBreakingUpWithMeLaura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me by Mariko Tamaki (2019)

levelupLevel Up by Gene Luen Yang (2011)

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy XuMooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (Fall 2019)

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen WangThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (2018)

regiftersRe-Gifters by Mike Carey (2007)

Scott PilgrimScott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley (2004 and on)

The Shadow Hero

Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew (2014)

skimSkim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (2008)

Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’MalleySnotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley (2017)

sumoSumo by Thien Pham (2012)

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian TamakiSuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (2015)

tinasmouthTina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap (2011)

TheyCalledUsEnemyThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei et al (2019)

This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (2014)

whatitisWhat It Is by Lynda Barry (2008)


amuletAmulet series by Kazu Kibuishi (2008 and on)

avatarpromise1Avatar: the Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang (2012 and on)

Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods by J. Torres and Faith Erin HicksBigfoot Boy series by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks (2012-2014)

Lola by J. Torres and Elbert OrLola by J. Torres and Elbert Or (2009)


Newsprints (2017) and Endgames (2019) by Ru Xu

Pashmina by Nidhi ChananiPashmina by Nidhi Chanani (2017)

Secret Coders series by Gene Luen YangSecret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang (2015 and on)

SeaSirensSea Sirens by Amy Chu (June 2019)

[Edited 7/9/19 to add some more youth titles.]

[Edited 7/15/19 to add Ascender.]

Posted in Books, Graphic Novel, Lists | Tagged , | 8 Comments

A Week of Reading

Today I looked at the pages of review notes I have and decided to just give you shorter reviews of the books I read this week.  It’s a big mix of styles – two realistic fiction (one teen and one middle grade), one adult memoir, and one middle grade fantasy.  Enjoy!

Kid Gloves by Lucy KnisleyKid Gloves by Lucy Knisley. First Second, 2019.
I got to meet Lucy Knisley at A2CAF this year!  And though I’ve been buying her graphic memoirs for my adult graphic novel collection at the library all these years, I entertained my daughter during longer panel discussions by showing her Lucy’s Instagram account, so that she now really wants to read this book.  This is not really a book for children, though it might be good for teens and up. Knisley follows her journey from trying not to get pregnant as a young adult to the miscarriages she had after she and her husband decided to try for a baby, as well as her difficult pregnancy and nearly fatal birth.  Every chapter of the journey is interspersed with relevant background information, from the “wandering uterus” theories held from the Greeks through the Victorian era, to the many failures in the modern birthing experience, both medicalized and natural. Though a lot of this information is quite frankly horrifying, she keeps a sense of humor about most things, especially with illustrations of women through the ages rolling their eyes at the idiotic theories that have come up.  Content warning: miscarriages, and near death from medical incompetence. Still recommended.  

York Book 2: The Clockwork Ghost by Laura RubyYork Book 2: The Clockwork Ghost by Laura Ruby. HarperCollins Children’s, 2019.
The story begun in York: the Shadow Cipher continues!  The Biedermann twins, Tess and Theo, are now living with their super-cool and adventurous aunt, while Jaime and his grandmother are living in a soulless new apartment in New Jersey.  They’re still trying to get together to make progress with the cipher, finding a cute little robot made by Ada Lovelace who helps them along the way. Cricket, the fierce and perceptive younger girl, makes a reappearance, with her pet raccoon Karl.  We also meet a new villain, Duke Goodson, a fixer who has a crew of former cheerleaders in identically dyed blond hair and red dresses working for him. This is such a great combination of puzzles, adventure and characters, and had a twist at the end that I did not see coming.  I’m going to limit how much I say here because of spoilers, but I’m enjoying this series a lot and very much hope that the final book will be out soon.  

pieintheskyPie in the Sky by Remy Lai. Henry Holt, 2019.
Jingwen and his little brother Yanghao have immigrated to Australia with their mother following their father’s death.  Yanghao is young enough to pick up English easily, but Jingwen is floundering and still feeling extremely guilty for his father’s death, though he wasn’t actually at fault.  He decides to bake all the cakes that his father was going to make at the fancy bakery they dreamed of opening in Australia with Yanghao. But since their mother is working an evening shift and they’re forbidden to use the oven on their own, they have to do it all in secret.  This is a hybrid novel, with cartoon panels beautifully illustrating how out-of-place Jingwen feels. Sometimes he feels like they’re on Mars, with all the people around him shown as aliens with strange characters coming out of their mouths. Other times, he’s more self-conscious, and shows himself as the alien surrounded by confused on-lookers.  I was not super impressed with the mother here, who kept just forbidding Jingwen to do the only thing that helped him feel competent and grounded in a strange place, and it took Jingwen such a long time to find a place of acceptance. Still, I think we often forget how very hard it is for both kids and adults to adapt to a new culture, and this is a very good portrayal of that, with bonus yummy cakes.  

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib KhorramDarius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Read by Michael Levi Harris. Penguin Random House, 2018.
Teenage Darius considers himself a fractional Persian – his mother grew up in Iran, but his father is a blond American – Darius calls him a “Teutonic Ubermensch” and feels he’ll never live up to his standards. Unlike little sister Laleh, Darius doesn’t speak Farsi, so when they make their first trip to Iran to visit his dying grandfather, Darius is adrift.  It’s hard to explain his depression to people who think he should just think happier thoughts instead of taking medication. But he makes his first friend, Sohrab, also mostly friendless because of being a minority Baha’i, and learns a lot about himself and his mother’s culture. It looks like the book has gotten LGBT kudos, but there’s only the tiniest hint of this – mostly it’s a portrait of two boys, both outcasts, learning how to be friends.   There’s also a love of good tea and so, so many great Tolkein and Star Trek references – things like “Laleh saw the silent tension between us like a cloaked Klingon battleship.” (paraphrasing from my memory of the audio here.) And on the subject of the audio – I also don’t speak Farsi, but I couldn’t detect any American or random other accents in Michael Levi Harris’s reading, and he was able to give good and mostly distinct voices to the many characters, making it a good audiobook.  I cried multiple times, and am trying to convince my son to listen to it, even if it isn’t actual science fiction.  

Posted in Adult, Audiobook, Books, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, nonfiction, Print, Realistic, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Teen/Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everything I Know about You and Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

Here are some more books I read for my KidLitCon panel on taboo topics in middle grade this year.  I’d previously read and very much enjoyed her Star Crossed, but she has written a lot of books, all with very real-feeling kids facing serious issues.  I was also privileged to read a very early version of her upcoming book, Maybe He Just Likes You, which she was talking about at KidLitCon.  It was such an early version, though, that I’m not going to review it here.  I’ll refer you to her column about it at the Nerdy Book Club, and say that E-ARCs are now available from Edelweiss if reading ARCs is your thing.  

Everything I Know about You by Barbara DeeEverything I Know about You by Barbara Dee. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2018.
Tally and her 7th grade class are going on their big trip to DC.  It should be exciting – but things aren’t going the way Tally had thought.  She’d wanted to room with her two best friends, Spider (a boy) and Sonnet. But she’s assigned to room with Ava, the lead “clonegirl” and Tally’s enemy.  Spider is assigned to room with Marcus, a boy who bullied him a few years ago. Tally is horribly worried that Spider will be victimized again, and, like Tai in So Done, hurt that he feels he’s outgrown the nickname she gave him.  Who is she if she isn’t her friends’ protector?  

Tally herself is the opposite of fashion- and body-conscious, enjoying her strength, her squishy belly, and not-fashionable fashion statements, such as decorative cat-eye glasses with bowling shirts.  But rooming with Ava makes it clear that Ava isn’t the perfect person she always appeared to be, struggling with her mother, one of the chaperones, and not eating at meals, going so far as to take uneaten food back to her room to throw away.  What can or should Tally do for her, especially when there’s such a long history of dislike?  

Halfway Normal by Barbara DeeHalfway Normal by Barbara Dee. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2017.
Norah is returning to seventh grade after 2 years of leukemia treatments.  She’s ahead in school from her years of nothing but tutoring, but her physical growth and social development are behind. (The flat chest and short post-chemo hair lead to some unwelcome misgendering.)  It’s hard for people to figure out if she’s broken and needs to be treated with extreme care, or so well that she shouldn’t be asking for special treatment, when the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Her former best friend Silas won’t talk to her, while her other best friend, Harper, tries and fails to understand her, and has new friends at school.  When Norah herself makes a new friend, Griffin, in her 8th grade math class, she struggles with how much and what to tell him.  

My own daughter has spent enough time in the hospital for me to recognize the details of children’s hospitals depicted here – solidarity with hospital kids and their families!  Norah’s separated parents and her step-mother all try their best to work together to take care of Norah as she moves between needing lots of hands-on care and more independence.  Norah’s drawing and doodling help her to understand herself better, and a project on Greek myths leads her to the central metaphor of the book, as Norah, like Persephone, moves between two very different worlds.  It is so very welcome and needed to read a book about a kid with serious health issues that avoids both the tragic and unwarranted rainbows.  

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Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

Here’s a magical midsummer book for the summer solstice!  I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book at KidLitCon, and waited to read it until closer to its release date.

Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRoccaMidsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca. Yellow Jacket, 2019.

Mimi is the youngest in her family, and feels that the major talents of her three older siblings – good at sports and drama, and all able to effortlessly play music together –  have all passed over her. We as readers, of course, can tell that this isn’t really true as she is an excellent and dedicated baker, whipping up different favorite treats for each of her family members for different occasions.  But she’s still missing her best friend, who recently moved away.

Many more changes come all at once – she hears a mysterious flute playing in the woods near her house and sees a strange, colorful bird.  A new bakery, the While Away, run by the glamorous Mrs. T. has opened up in town, advertising a contest for young bakers with the prize of a lesson with former hometown celebrity baker and Mimi’s personal idol Puffy Fay. It’s pretty obvious from early on that Mrs. T is Titania, especially as the cafe is staffed by Peaseblossom and Cobweb, and Mimi’s brother is involved in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  ( I’d wondered whether or not kids would recognize the Shakespeare connection, but my nine-year-old looked at the cover and commented right away that it looked like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) Much as in Star-Crossed, the plot here echoes that of the play, with a crazily enchanted person – in this case, Mimi’s food writer dad, who just starts eating everything in sight and is no longer able to distinguish the tastes – as well as some young love and a contest between Oberon and Titania.

There’s depth, though, along with the hilarity of magically induced crushes, as Mimi tries to figure out what’s wrong, makes friends with a mysterious boy, and pushes herself to excel and to learn from failures. Mimi’s mixed Indian-American heritage is even tied nicely into the plot, without it being a story focused just on that aspect of who she is.  What with the magic, the relationships, the humor, and the delicious-sounding treats, this has lots to appeal to a wide range of readers.

For more delicious treats paired with magic, try The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, the Love Sugar Magic books by Anna Meriano, or Baking Magic by Diane Zahler.  Those more interested in Indian-inspired fantasy could also read The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta or Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshiboth with sequels out this year.

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Print | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Sequels: Fated Sky, Exit Strategy, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Sometimes I read the first book in a series and never go on.  Other times I keep up in fits and starts. Here’s me trying to keep up.  All of these deserve longer reviews, but here’s to living with reality.

fatedskyThe Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Tor, 2018.
The sequel to The Calculating Stars, as mentioned in Books I Missed in 2018 for Top Ten Tuesday.  It’s 1961. The moon base has been established. Elma is flying shuttles on the moon in three month rotations and missing her husband Nathaniel.  Complete climate collapse on Earth is still in the near future, but as progress towards establishing a colony on Mars slows down, so does government and popular support.  Elma’s shuttle, returning to Earth, is held up by angry Earth First people who are convinced that Mars will be just for wealthy white people. Elma’s response puts her in the headlights she hates so much and leads the way for another alternate history science fiction adventure.  It’s filled with authentically disgusting space details, personality clashes, confronting racism, tragedy – and still includes plenty of math, science, and headlines lifted and barely altered from real history. Continue reading

Posted in Adult, Audiobook, Books, Historical, Print, Sci-Fi, Teen/Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Baker’s Half Dozen of Gluten Free Cookbooks

I was diagnosed with celiac disease just before Christmas last year, so as a break from my usual fiction, here are some of the cookbooks I’ve been reading. The first one arrived in the mail as a gift, and all the rest are from the library.

Gluten Free Cookbook for Families by Pamela Ellgen. Rockridge Press, 2016. – This book turned up on my doorstep a few days after I was diagnosed.  So much good stuff here! Ellgen has her own mostly whole grain blend of gluten-free flour – a rarity in a field where most blends focus on replicating white flour.  We’ve made her coffee cake and beef and broccoli stir-fry multiple times. I appreciate having many dinner recipes that are naturally gluten free, not trying to replicate wheat-based recipes. The only flaw is that she gives the prep time as 10 minutes for everything, even things like chicken pot pie that took my love and I two hours to prep working together.  Still, we use this every week.

Cooking for your Gluten-Free Teen by Carlyn Berghof. Andrews McMeel, 2013. Berghof is a chef whose recipes are written for her daughter.  She also worked with a pediatric gastroenterologist to find out the foods teens missed most – which is why you’ll find a “recipe” for a grilled cheese sandwich, along with recipes for donuts, pizza, and hot dog buns.  A downside is a reliance on powdered egg whites, which I have a hard time finding and am not too excited about using in the first place. I did take her suggestion of investing in a bread machine with a gluten-free cycle, for easy, delicious and cost-saving bread.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread by Jennifer Katzinger. Sasquatch Books, 2012.
I have friends who’ve given up baking because they can’t do gluten, dairy, or eggs.  Katzinger to the rescue – this is one of three books of hers my library has. I made two recipes from here, the millet sandwich bread and the fougasse.  Most recipes rely entirely on oven spring for their rise, which means you can just mix the bread up and pop it in the oven . I didn’t try her sourdough recipes, though I was pleased to see them.  It’s not the perfect cookbook for me, because like most vegan cooking, it uses a lot of tree nuts (here in the form of almond or hazelnut flour), to which I am allergic. But if you can’t do gluten, dairy, or eggs and can do nuts, this could be a great cookbook for you.  

Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. Thomas Dunn Books, 2014.
This is great in concept, but the execution fell a little flat for me.  The recipes aren’t engineered for nutrition, first of all, and secondly, we don’t eat enough bread or have the refrigerator space to store the large amounts of dough the recipes make to be baked up a loaf at a time.  Still, if you’re a bread lover with lots of refrigerator space, this might be the book for you.

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, 2014.
My love is a big fan of Cook’s Illustrated.  If you know the magazine, you already know that the Test Kitchen will walk you through all the mistakes they made in getting to the perfect version of a recipe.  They’ve discovered, for instance, that gluten-free muffins and cookies will turn out much better if you let the batter rest for a half hour before baking. Well, that makes it much harder to make muffins for Sunday breakfast – but at least we know they’ll turn out well.  We made several of the baking recipes from here, but left the dinner recipes alone as we just don’t have the time most nights.

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2 by America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, 2015.
The big addition here is a whole grain flour blend based on teff.  We made the whole grain sandwich bread, both by hand and adapted for the new bread machine, and it was delicious both times.  I also made the brown sugar cookies based on the whole grain flour blend – a hit with everyone in my house.

No-Fail Gluten-Free Bread Baking by Pamela Ellgen. Rockridge Press, 2018.
This cookbook looks good, though I have yet to try any of the recipes.  After a discussion of ingredients and techniques, they move to easy basic breads and proceed on through more advanced baking, including yeasted, quick, and sourdough breads, as well as muffins, scones, and even croissants and pain au chocolat.  Yum!

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