YAY! Wednesday! And it actually is this time!

Oooh, delight! The NYT Dining section is full of glorious stuff today: cities I love, recipes I want to try, and restaurants I might actually hire a babysitter to go to with my cute husband.

The main article was about a city near and dear to my heart: Portland, Oregon. Portland is the city I desperately wish I was able to live in. I really wish I could. But I lived in the Pacific Northwest for about 8 years and it nearly killed me. I just couldn't take that gray drizzle. Constant drizzle. Adam said I was "unbearable" to live with. When I complained about his statement to my best friend, looking for some back-up from her, you know what she said? "He's right, Laura. You were awful." So, needless to say, I won't be moving back anytime soon. Nevertheless, this article was so much fun to read and made me wish so desperately I could be back there. If you can stand the rain, I highly recommend living there at some point in your life. Or living there forever.

There was also a super-duper cool little blurbie about Niagara grapes at the Greenmarket. Particularly, they have a recipe entrenched in the blurbie for simmering the grapes with chicken, thyme, and shallots. Wow. Salivating, salivating...

There's another recipe for Scallops with Cream and Basil that sounds and looks simple and beautiful. However, I've had a difficult time finding good basil lately - I got a bunch of stalks at the market about 2 weeks ago but, upon closer inspection, there were an awful lot of blackened leaves. Best try this recipe quick before autumn permanently settles in!

There was also a recipe for cornbread cake with bacon and maple ice cream, courtesy of Le Pigeon in Portland. YOWZA! I'm aching to try it. But honestly, am I really going to make my own maple ice cream? I think we all know the answer to that one...

There's a small review on a new restaurant in Inwood, Mamajuana Cafe, and I want to go there immediately. Seriously. How do plates of puerquito sound to you? "Pork shoulder marinated in wine, bitter oranges and spices, then roasted for 10 hours..." Yeah? Sound good? But wait - there's more! How about the mamajuana? "It's a blend of rum, wine and honey steeped with roots and herbs, and was brewed long before Columbus turned up in this hemisphere." Awwwww yeaaaaaaaah. That's the stuff. I'm thinking two things: 1.) Can I get the babysitter this weekend, and 2) how long does it take to get from Queens to Inwood anyway?

Go forth, eat well.

Fall Fever!

The summer seemed so languid and calm...but autumn craziness has arrived! This is going to be a long round-up! Here's all the news:

  • Educating Alice has a brilliant post on her blog about teaching with blogs. Truly, it was glorious to read – why the hell isn’t this sort of philosophy incorporated into our public schools? Why do you have to teach in a private school to create such innovative activities in your classroom? I’m frustrated for our public school teachers – being so bound by standards. I want to immediately transfer my daughter to her school – only I’m guessing that 1) I could never afford it, and 2) my daughter probably wouldn’t get accepted to a school that boasts Adam Gopnik’s children as students. Alas! Nevertheless, I love reading about what is out there, about all the wonderful possibilities.

  • Anne Schwartz, of Schwartz & Wade Books, was on a panel and shared a fun anecdote about Ian Falconer. Thank goodness he’s so talented! In this same article, David Levithan talks about the “curse of Goodnight Moon.” In grad school, my mentor talked about a similar curse – the curse of James Marshall.

  • Not Your Mother’s Bookclub is advertising their event with Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier, and they’ve put the poster up on the blog. I love the picture – Justine looks all literary and gorgeous, Scott looks dead sexy. Why can’t Adam and I be friends with them?! They’re completely brilliant, and it would be a dream to make them dinner, drink wine, and talk all things literature. But what would I possibly make for them?

  • Again, I have to talk about Sarah Miller and her lovely blog. Which is embarrassing because I’m guessing that, since I’m linking to her site, she’ll see that I’m all gushy over her. Check out the story of her signing at Pooh’s Corner (I want to go there NOW) and her post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine yesterday (appropriately simple – let the picture speak for itself). Not to mention that she regularly lists the books she hand-sells in her bookshop, and I swoon over the quality of them. Lastly, she has The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield listed as a “Book of the Moment”. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a great read. And if the kids’ books she hand-sells are any indication, Thirteenth Tale will be a fantastic read. (All these bloggers work in children’s bookstores – it’s making me wish I did too!)

  • Lastly, and probably most importantly, MotherReader has put up the MEGALIST of 2007 “Best of…” books. Fantastic list. But god, why is there so little time in the day?! I haven’t read Emily and the Incredible Shrinking Rat! I haven’t read Emma-Jean Lazarus! I haven’t read Aurora County All-Stars! I haven’t read Leepike Ridge!


    *collapses in a state of complete overstimulation and exhaustion*


Random House Spring 2008 Preview 9.20.07

Last Thursday was the Random House Spring 2008 preview for librarians and reviewers. What fun! I loooove going to Random House. First off, the library marketing people are sweet as can be – yay Tracy and Adrienne! And Tracy always wears the cutest dresses to these things. Secondly, Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade are two of the most fun editors you’ll ever meet. They’re a hoot! Lastly, they always bring wildly entertaining, fantastic authors: Robin Brande, Jerry Spinelli and, on Thursday, Frank Portman. As usual, I had a grand time!

They started the presentation off with a bang, showing us Eric Rohmann’s A Kitten Tale (1/08). I’m a big fan of Rohmann’s Pumpkinhead so, compartively, Kitten Tale seems awfully tame. Nevertheless, it’s just as sweet as can be. I think it’ll fly off the shelves.

The second book was Grace Lin’s Bringing in the New Year (1/08). It looked gorgeous, and I enjoyed the editor pointing out that Grace’s work is “more kid-friendly than Demi.”

They also talked about Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman and illustrated by Meilo So (3/08). I’ve seen the review copy and it’s a lovely book, but I do feel like the market for Pale Male is getting a bit saturated – this is the third I’ve seen this year (Meghan McCarthy and Jeanette Winter authoring the other two). Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this one.

Schwartz & Wade shot out of the gate with Tad Hills’ new original board book, What’s Up Duck? A Book of Opposites (1/08). It looks DARLING, and I can’t wait to get it on the shelf.

Robin Corey Books presented Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who Pop-up! by David A. Carter (1/08). Some purists may be freaking out, but I thought the book looked like a blast. All the original text is there, along with the original artwork – it’s just been 3-D-ified.

Random House Golden Books talked up Little Boy with a Big Horn, a reillustrated Golden Book (1/08). Guess who the new illustrator is? Think. Who has that retro-yet-modern style with the brilliant colors? Dan Yaccarino! I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to see this one in its entirety.

There’s also a wonderful board book Baby, Baby! by Vicky Ceelen (1/08), who is a Parisian photographer. Again, I can’t wait for this one. It’s very frustrating to have to keep purchasing board books that are just recycled picture books so I was happy to see a couple new ones here.

David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim are also coming out with an Uglydoll original paperback series (4/08). My favorite part was that Kate Klimo said the books were “edgy without being cynical.” I thought that was an insightful comment.

N.D. Wilson is coming out with a multiple world fantasy, 100 Cupboards (12/07), that the editor compared to Diana Wynne Jones. The sequel, Dandelion Fire, is already planned. (Cool cover, eh?)

Lastly, Frank Portman was the featured author presentation, promoting his new book Andromeda Klein (4/08). Frank seemed rather nervous talking in front of the group in that why-would-they-want-to-hear-me? sort of way. But then he picked up his guitar to play some songs – seriously! – and it was just too much fun for words. The first song was “King Dork” – “I’m King Dork and I want you to be my queen.” It was brilliant. Then he sang a song about a certain cell phone company, explaining that it was one of his band’s most popular songs, perhaps because more than any of his other songs, this one came from his heart. Then he launched into a musical diatribe about said company. He had us all in stitches and now I have a big ol’ crush on him, much like the rest of the room.

Good times, good times.

Lunch with Melissa Marr 9.17.07

So last week, Monday, I went a lovely lunch hosted by HarperCollins. It was an opportunity to meet Melissa Marr, author of the young adult novel Wicked Lovely. I was eager to go because I had heard that Melissa was super nice and I also wanted to hang out with the HarperCollins folks, who I previously have not had a chance to get to know.

It was a very small group – Melissa, Dina Sherman (HC publicity), Melissa’s editor (whose name, unfortunately, has escaped me), LuAnn Toth (of School Library Journal), and me. So five of us. I was initially intimidated – small groups means that I have to keep up my end of the conversation a little better – but I had no need to worry.

We talked about Wicked Lovely and Melissa’s next book in the series, Ink Exchange. The good news is that Ink Exchange is not really a sequel but, rather, it’s a companion novel about two of the less major characters in WL. She's also working on a manga book as well. We also talked about Melissa’s kids and the types of books they’re reading. And we talked a lot about MySpace and the up-and-coming generations that would rather chat with friends over the computer…and will not have the ability to hold a conversation with an actual person. Oh, and of course, we talked about tattoos. Melissa is fond of piercings and tattoos – I think she has an ink guy in every major U.S. city and maybe even some in Europe – so it was fun to talk about those. Often publishers will have these lunches because they know their author represents themselves so well and makes a wonderful impression. That was the case with Melissa. She's wicked smart - pardon the play on "wicked" - and really fascinating to talk to.

The food was very good, of course. LuAnn somehow scored a different menu than the rest of us and was able to order a gnocchi that really wasn’t supposed to be served. Lucky gal!

Overall, it was a wonderful jaunt into the city, and I enjoyed the conversation. I can recommend Wicked Lovely, particularly to all you Stephenie Meyer fans. WL is like Twilight, but with really evil fairies instead of vampires. Enjoy!


YAY! Friday?!

Oh, for god's sake! This week has kicked my arse! Apologies for the tardiness!

I'll get to the Dining section first and then I'll post later about yesterday's Spring 2008 preview at Random House and my lovely lunch with Melissa Marr this past Monday.

I was all flushed and happy when I saw Alice Waters on the front of my Dining section - Alice Waters! - and excited to read more. I've had Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee on my bookshelf for awhile, but I haven't read it yet. So I felt like the Alice Waters article in the Times gave me a sneak preview without the time commitment. If you're a fan of hers, check out the article yourself. Otherwise, I don't know if it'll appeal to you. But I do have to share that Alice Waters is a woman who travels with her own olive oil, capers, and homemade vinegar. Seriously. Now that is hard-core. On one hand, I feel like dismissing it as pretension, rigidity, and hard-headedness. And yet...you have admire that sort of dedication to the experience of food, you know?

In less happy news (because it makes me wicked jealous), there was a tidbit about the new coffee bar in Chelsea Market, Ninth Street Espresso. Why am I jealous? Because right now Adam works across the street from the Market and can run across anytime he wants. Why am I super duper jealous? Because by the end of the year he'll be working in the Chelsea Market building, rather than across the street, in a space that looks like Jennifer Beals' apartment in Flashdance. Not. Fair.

There's a recipe for poached plums. But I don't know how I feel about that. I'm a purist when it comes to my plums - I just want to take a yummy bite of them, unadorned, swoon-worthy in all its simplicity. Everything else just seems pretentious.

There's also a little review of a book, Knife Skills Illustrated: A User's Manual by Peter Hertzmann (W.W. Norton, 2007). The review is, overall , positive...but I have to wonder how much you can really learn from a book about using your knife. I'll absolutely have to check this out from the library and see what I can get out of it. (Note: apparently the book gives all directions in right-hand and left-hand. Pretty cool, n'est-ce pas? I'm not left-handed, but still...)

Tucked away in a corner is a recipe for Skirt Steak with Rainbow Peppers, under the headline "A Colorful Salute to Summer's End." But, you know, I just can't get into that. Summer? Whatever. That was so yesterday. I'm moving on to gourds, sage, and fennel. And duck breasts and buffalo steaks. It was 82 degrees and sunny today but there was still this wispy breeze that had a bit of a chill to it. God, I love the promise of fall.


I Want to Go on Tour with Deborah!

I hadn't planned on posting again until after the weekend!

However, I was poking around and discovered Deborah Wiles' blog, which made me so happy because I was beginning to feel like it was only YA authors who blogged. Thank goodness I'm wrong! Her blog is wonderful - it gives you a real sense of what kind of person she is. She almoooost makes me want to live in the South. But not really. Nevertheless, I enjoy living vicariously through her.

In particular, I enjoyed her photos while sharing what she did with her summer. Check out this beautiful one:

Lovely, isn't it? Now go forth and enjoy your weekend!

Bliss List

Here I go again with more author blogs. Which is unintentional, in this case. It’s just that Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely (one of the coolest covers of the year), writes a blog and she wrote a “bliss list” – a list of things that make you smile. And she invited others to share theirs. I thought it was such a lovely idea on a sunny Friday that I decided to jump on board. Here’s mine:

  • Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, Heartland Brewery’s Smilin’ Pumpkin Ale, homemade pumpkin ice cream at the Mushroom Festival last weekend…all things pumpkin being available.

  • Having friends over for dinner tonight, going out to dinner with friends tomorrow night, having friends over for dinner next Saturday night. We finally have made some friends, and NYC is starting to feel more and more like home.

  • My daughter playing at the park yesterday with a friend…when her friend hit another kid, Isabell promptly told him to apologize to the victim. And he did.

  • Indigo Girls’ "Power of Two". This song has a hundred memories for me, and I was just reminded of that yesterday.

  • The hydrangeas sitting on the kitchen table that Adam and Isabell bought for me yesterday because they’re one of my absolute favorite flowers.

  • The Union Square Farmer’s Market. I’m going there tomorrow and I’m blissfully happy about it.

Best weekend to all! See you next week when I’ll report on a lunch with Melissa Marr and the Random House Spring 2008 preview event. And of course, my usual coverage of the Wednesday NYT Dining section!


This is a difficult list because, again, I find myself entrenched in the age-old debate of “best” versus “favorite”. And, yes, there is a difference and I’ll take on anyone who says different. So for my “best” list, I considered kid appeal much more than I did for my “favorites.” These are books for children, after all, and kid appeal needs to be high up the criteria list for “best.” As an example, I thought Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg was one of the best of the year. But I think most people agree that it’s lacking in kid appeal. Likewise, The Short and Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s not really for kids either. So with that in mind, here’s my list of picture books:


Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt and Tricia Tusa

A quiet book so easily underestimated. The warm colors and simple illustrations just bring you in and comfort you like a fuzzy blanket. This book makes you feel safe; it makes you feel that, even though there is badness in the world, everything will be fine…as long as you have Fred.

At Night by Jonathan Bean

I can’t speak to Apple Pie that Papa Baked because I haven’t seen the darned book yet. But this book has all the same qualities as Fred Stays With Me. At Night is the equivalent of a cup of hot cocoa.

Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan

Let It Shine embodies qualities that the first 2 books on my list don’t: it’s bold, it’s colorful, it’s large. The spread with the outstretched hands? I’m gonna say it…yep, I’m going to use the word…here it comes….Genius.

On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole

Oh, I’ve loved Henry Cole for so long. Why Do Kittens Purr? is one of my faves. But it all really comes together in this book. It’s the ideal way to do a “message book”. Authors and illustrators, take note.

Knuffle Bunny, Too by Mo Willems

Of course. The dads looking all strung-out and tired the next morning? Hilarious. Brilliant.

Naturally, there are a ton I loved but left off the list. Here they are:

Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
Old Penn Station by William Low
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, ill by Kadir Nelson
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
Cherry Time by Daniela Bunge
Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong, ill by David Roberts

It was a great year for picture books but I don't see one standing above and beyond the rest. Can't wait to see what the Caldecott committee makes of it all.



Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Matt Phelan

I may be crossing too much into my “favorite” category, but I just adore this book. I read it at ALA and just cried with the Penguin sales rep. It’s so beautifully illustrated and the theme is handled so sensitively and poignantly. My heart broke reading it…yet my head knew that everything would be right in the end.

Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I love her. I do. (Clemtine, that is) I just wish that every adult in my world was as sensitive as understanding as they all are in Clementine’s world.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Innovative and fascinating. Wanna know how film and literature combine almost flawlessly into a single package? Read this book.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

This has made lots of “best of” lists. You know why.

And I'm only listing four titles on this list, for a couple of reasons. First, I couldn't find a fifth that I liked more than the others. Here's the list I was operating from:

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg
Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

None of those really stood out from the rest for me. Second, I haven't read Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis yet. I have a sneaking suspicion that would be on my list, if I had read it.


Bits and Pieces

I'll launch right in. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can keep working on my Best of 2007 (so far) list...

  • First, the kidlit blogsphere comes through again. Grace Lin’s husband Robert passed away recently, and the wonderful ladies over at Seven Impossible Things are rallying kidlit bloggers to bring attention to Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure. Get involved for a great cause!

  • Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Illinois has a conversation with a space station. A 10-year-old boy was quoted as saying “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event!” Now that is a cool programming idea!

  • Some workman – some poor schmuck who will never live this down – broke a sprinkler pipe in the National Library of Scotland. Luckily, no irreplaceable, valuable books were damaged. The original manuscript of Origin of the Species? Phew! It’s safe. Nevertheless, my heart did a thump-thump while reading this article, asking, “What if? What if? What if the books hadn't been saved?”

  • The Online Education Database listed the top 25 librarian bloggers, by the numbers. The bad news is that Fuse #8 isn’t on there, which is criminal in my eyes. The good news is that MotherReader is (#27). Huzzah!

  • Roger posted a Newsweek article about the over-diagnosing of disorders in children. I’ve known so many of these “quirky” kids in my lifetime – I was one, my daughter is one, and countless kids we see in the library are quirky. It makes me that much more grateful we have just a few characters in children’s literature to guide us through: Ramona, Harriet, Olivia, Lily… But why am I drawing a complete blank on boy characters? I know they're out there. I'll mull that over...

  • Not Your Mother’s Book Club has a lovely summary of an author event with Jerry Spinelli. I’ve had the honor of meeting him a couple times now, and they described his charm and warmth so well. With his gentleness, smile, and eyes, you can’t help but blush when you’re talking to him. And oddly enough, every time I’ve talked to him, I seem to end up talking about his wife’s books more. And, of course, he never seems to mind.

  • Neil Gaiman’s online journal is another one of my new favorite author blogs as well.

    However, I have a confession to make.

    Come closer.

    I don’t want everyone to know this.

    Okay, ready?

    *I have never read a Neil Gaiman book.*

    It’s just a weird fluke-y sort of thing, but I haven’t (well, unless you count Wolves in the Walls. But everyone has read that). My initial impression is that his stuff is sort of "out there". Not to mention that the cover of Coraline scares the stuffing out of me. But oh, how I love his online journal. I’m developing quite the crush on him. Particularly since he just changed the picture of himself and he’s looking cuter than ever. I know, I know. What a rotten way to go about evaluating children’s literature and its creators. But I’m just being honest.

  • Speaking of being honest, check out Justine’s rejection letter for Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. Oh, if only she really had been an editor at the time and rejected it then. It would have saved me so much trouble in college.



This week's section was a nice improvement from last week's (read: I found more interesting stuff in this week's...and it's all about me).

Needless to say, there were a couple articles relating to Jewish cooking, thanks to Rosh Hashanah. I have to admit that I only skimmed these. I rarely venture into Chinese or Indian cooking...and I guess now I have to add Jewish cuisine to that list. It's not that I'm nervous about it or anything. But European cuisine is so vast and varied that I feel stretched pretty thin as it is. Alas. So much good food, so little...

There's an intriguing recipe for Red Wine Risotto with Grilled Mushrooms. It sounds like it was crafted specifically with autumn in mind. On the other hand, sadly, I've really given up on risotto. I enjoy the meditative act of stirring, sipping wine, stirring, sipping wine... But there's still that part of me that keeps watching the clock, wondering when I can get some other stuff done. We are such a stressed, clock-watching society. And I'm proof-positive. I can't even take 20 minutes for a fabulous risotto. I suck.

Frank Bruni included his usual brutal restaurant reviews, which are like train wrecks for me. I cringe as I read them, feeling oh-so-sorry for the proprietors of the place, especially in the insanely competitive NYC restaurant world. But, on the other hand, I can't stop reading, can't help looking at the carnage. Anyhoo, he ripped apart Bar Stuzzichini on Broadway and 22nd...except for a couple of dishes. In particular, he mentioned an "orecchiette mixed with gorgeously carmelized cauliflower, bread crumbs and salty, jagged bits of pecorino." Wow. I won't go to Bar Stuzzichini to eat it, but I'm already thinking of how to make it myself...

P.S. I'm writing this from home, wistfully thinking of Betsy's KidLit Drink Night. On one hand, I'm glad I took the time to stay home, write a blog post, make lobster fettuccine later tonight. And yet...I find myself pining for that patio at Sweet & Vicious. It'll probably be the last time this season we'll be able to hang outside.

We're Gonna Party Like It's 1993!

A few bloggers are posting the whole list of 100 songs from their high school graduation year, but I like Mitali’s idea of only posting the songs that still get air time. I was actually surprised at how many songs I still listen to. At first glance, I thought I loathed most of the songs (“Oh, hell, NO! I do not listen to ‘I’m Every Woman’ anymore!”*). But as I started looking at my iTunes music library, here’s what I found still getting rotation on my iPod:

That's the Way Love Goes - Janet Jackson
Whoomp (There It Is!) – Tag Team
Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap
River of Dreams – Billy Joel
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
Two Princes – Spin Doctors
What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes
Cryin’ – Aerosmith
7 – Prince
Fields of Gold – Sting
Break It Down – Tears for Fears
Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms
Livin’ on the Edge – Aerosmith

Quite a few songs, dontchya think?

*I’ll be honest here – since I don’t have to see a lot of you face-to-face – I actually owned The Bodyguard soundtrack in high school. “I Will Always Love You” is the ultimate yelling-at-the-top-of-your-lungs song while driving the country backroads in your 1970-something Pontiac LeMans….not that I would know anything about that…I’m just sayin’…

Ban all the fat!

L.A. proposes fast food ban. I don’t think it’ll go through – it’s just a proposal – which is all well and good because it doesn’t address the real issues anyway. We’re so wrapped up in non-fat, low-fat, trans-fat, high fat…goodness gracious, stop with the fat! Fat is not the problem! Well, at least not one of the major problems. The biggest problem is with all the hidden additives in those fast frozen foods. The corn syrup and all the corn derivatives. The salt. The hormone-laden, disease-prone CAFO meat. The ridiculously large portions of all these foods. How about we start there?

Speaking of which, I read an article yesterday – heaven help me, I have no idea where I read it – that discussed Starbucks' appeal to children and teens. Starbucks has been clear that they’re not marketing to these groups but, in the midst of parents visiting, children and teens have also become fans. First, it was good to know that, previously, Starbucks hasn’t marketed to these groups. Like they need any more external stimuli! Second, the article had particular appeal to me since my 6-year-old daughter goes for a vanilla crème frappuccino about once a month. Lastly, the article mentioned offering drinks in an 8-ounce version more regularly, which apparently some of them already do (you just have to ask). Amen! I would love to have an 8-ounce version of the pumpkin spice latte – that “tall” size is waaaay too much for me. How anyone ever drinks a venti size of anything is beyond me. And given the obesity epidemic in our country, I don’t know that anyone should.

I’ve got A LOT more to blog about. Coming up:

1) YAY! WEDNESDAY! NYT Dining Out section round-up
2) My response to the Top 100 Songs of High School meme circulating around
3) My list of the top children’s books of the year. I’m jumping on the bandwagon.
4) Various tidbits and ramblings
5) A few reviews of some picture book F&Gs I recently received. Not to mention I got a galley of Babymouse #8: Puppy Love! Woo hoo!


Moment of Silence

Madeleine L'Engle has passed away, says the NYT.

Drowning in a Sea of Blogs

I so thoroughly enjoy my daily blog-checking routine. I have a gigant-o list of blogs under my “Favorites” tab, but I broke out my favorite “Favorites” into their own space. So I check Read Roger, Fuse #8, Chicken Spaghetti, Tiny Little Librarian (who I wish posted more – I love her stuff)…and all the other usual suspects. I check all those without fail. Then there are a few outlying blogs that I check once or twice a week.

So what’s my point? I've branched out to author blogs now! Which makes sense. They’re writers by trade. Why wouldn’t they write fabulously articulate, routinely hilarious blogs?

Obviously, there’s westerblog. I swoon over Scott Westerfeld’s books.

I love Sarah Miller’s blog, too. I have to confess that Miss Spitfire wasn’t previously on my radar, even though I read the reviews and put it on a selection list for the librarians. It just flowed quietly right by me. But I just checked it out from the library because I started reading her blog first and knew I had to continue reading her stuff. She reviewed Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, which was one of my favorite books as a kid. And she mentioned that most everything she knows about King Arthur she found out from Anne of Green Gables when Anne recited “The Lady of Shalott.” And I thought I was the only one! I’m convinced that Sarah Miller is a kindred spirit. I swoon over her blog, and I’m sure to swoon over Miss Spitfire soon.

My other favorite author blog is Justine Larbalestier’s. In particular, check out her post about “the worst book ever written.” It’s a fantastic blog entry, and you have to read the comments as well (Return to the Secret Garden?!). What is the book Justine is referring to?!?! Enquiring minds are dying to know! I’d take a stab that it’s Latawnya the Naughty Horse* (posted by Alison) but, unless it has a message about abstinence too, it doesn’t fit the description.

And let’s not forget Robin Brande and Mitali.

So now you have more blogs to check daily, too. If I’m going down, I’m taking you all with me.

*For real laughs, check out the readers’ reviews for Latawnya on Amazon. Classic stuff. The stuff of cult classics. This is the Manos: Hands of Fate of children’s literature.



Popover Cafe
551 Amsterdam Avenue
Corner of 86th Street
New York, New York 10024

So we went to the Popover Café because my dad had heard about it on the Food Network, and he suggested that we go there on his next visit. When I looked up the café, though, I was bummed to find out that it was located on the Upper West Side. And those of you familiar with the NYC area will know what a pain in the arse it is to get from Queens to the UWS. But no worries! It ends up that the café is really close to the Museum of Natural History, which we were already planning to visit, thus making it a perfect place to stop after a day of dinosaur bone viewing.

We stopped in on Labor Day around 1:30 p.m., and we had to wait for about 25 minutes. Which wasn’t bad. When our names were called, we were led through a complete labyrinth of chairs, tables, bodies, booths… It was crazy. But the windows are huge and the brick walls are painted white so it still had a very airy, open feel. My dad made some comments about the crowdedness – he tends to be claustrophobic – but he quickly became at home once we settled in. Because even with the place being so crowded, once you’re in your booth or at your table, this sort of warm, cozy feeling comes over you. It’s that kind of place.

It's super casual. We were all wearing shorts and jeans. The crowd ranged from beautiful people who had just clearly woke up, to families, to people dining alone and reading books. It ran the gamut. Because, again, it's a very neighborhood-oriented, comfortable space.

So the idea is that this place serves some sandwiches and desserts on popovers but, otherwise, it’s a normal café with the usual café fare, for the most part. You can get a basket of 3 popovers as an appetizer and it comes with some dee-lish strawberry butter. Unfortunately, it’s been three days since we went so I’m completely blanking on what my parents ate. But I had an omelette with cranberry, bacon, and cheddar. It was unusual and really wonderful. The eggs weren’t dry, and I loved the play of sweet and salty together. Adam had lemon pancakes with lemon syrup. Sound weird? I assure you, it was special. Again, the tart and sweet played together in a wonderful way that alternately left you feeling satisfied and refreshed. Even Isabell’s French toast rocked with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. For dessert, we had a popover stuffed with ice cream – it was okay, but I don’t know if I’d waste the calories next time. I also ordered Mexican hot chocolate, which came in a mug but should have been served in an espresso cup. It was rich and dark and thick. The best part, though? It had chili powder in it so it just warmed your body and made your throat burn just slightly – a very interesting and unique experience. You can also order the hot chocolate sans chili powder.

The service was good – water glasses stayed full and the meal came in a timely manner – and included a quirky story from our server about the origins of the number 13. Apparently, in non-Christian societies, it’s generally considered a lucky number. But Christianity, in its indoctrination process, decided to preach that it was unlucky. Of course, none of this is substantiated. It came from our server.

It wasn’t a cheap meal, but I also felt like we weren’t just paying for the meal. We were paying for cute ambiance on the UWS on a gorgeous holiday after visiting a museum. I gladly paid the bill and told my parents I loved showing them a good time in my city. I can strongly recommend the Popover Café to others. And for those of you not in the NYC vicinity, the café has a mail-order gift service.

YAY! WEDNESDAY! (Sort of...)

So, I know, I’m reporting a day late on the NYT Dining section. But it was a crazy day yesterday and today, in addition to the fact that the section wasn’t all that inspiring to me. The emphasis was on restaurants in the city and which ones are opening soon. But restaurants aren’t that big a deal to me. By the time I pay the babysitter and head into Manhattan, a night out to dinner can cost us some $300. Ouch! So I choose my moments carefully and don’t pay too much attention to the movements of celebrity chefs or overcrowded, overhyped restaurant openings.

However, there was an intriguing ad for the De Gustibus School, which is a culinary school in the city. My impression from their website is that less experienced cooks can attend classes there. They have a fantastic selection of classes and, while I was intrigued by most of them, there was one series that caught my attention: Strictly Seasonal and Farmer Friendly. One session features a “late-summer-harvest menu that is innovative, seasonal, and full of culinary surprises.” The second session teaches French technique and uses New England ingredients. The last session – yum! – includes “a plethora of seafood dishes all good in the fall and winter: lobster, oysters, scallops, etc.” WOW. And all for the bargain price of $255 per person for all three sessions. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t just spent $700 on my NYU French class. Alas. I’ll be able to spell and pronounce bouillabaisse, but I won’t be able to cook it myself this year.

Lastly, they also offer a class on knife skills, which Adam will attest I need desperately.


As if you needed another reason!

As if you needed another reason to love Ashley Bryan! Nevertheless, Alison over at PW gives us many more reasons. If you do anything today, go over to her blog and check out her wonderful pictures. Stained glass, puppets, toys suspended from the ceiling, dolls, hearts drawn by children, whimsy, comfort, happiness: Ashley Bryan's home has it all. And to welcome all these people into his home and let Alison take such lovely pictures of his private space. Wow. I'm overwhelmed. It's rare to get an intimate glimpse of a person's personality in just a few pictures, but Alison managed to give us one.

I can't say enough about it. Go check out her blog post now.


Whoa! Whoa! I Gotta Go...Back to Schoool...Again!

Whoever knows which musical movie that blog title comes from is my new best friend...

Welcome back to me! For three days, I have barely logged on to my gmail, let alone my blog. It was a lovely weekend of wine and antipasti in Central Park, shopping with my mom, and discovering a new favorite restaurant, The Popover Café. Overall, one of the best spent 3-day weekends in ages. Now I’ll be counting down the days until Columbus Day which, thanks to my public sector job, I get off work.

I posted two reviews so I’m feeling all productive.

The kiddo is back in school today – here’s hoping for a good school year. It’s going well already, I suppose, since we got a letter from the principal yesterday that informed us that 1) the first grade students have a dedicated reading specialist to help with those struggling, which is good news for us because, contrary to popular belief, children of librarians are not automatically strong readers, and 2) the school got its own full-time music teacher! How many modern-day public schools can say that anymore? We’re very fortunate. And in honor of that, you have to check out this article, “Teachers: Be Subversive” from Salon. I love the rallying cry for teachers to rise above and beyond No Child Left Behind and thank Fuse #8 for the link, thus giving me such great motivation on the first day of school. Here’s a quote from the article that had me practically cheering at my cubicle:

Francesca once said to me, "I'm damned if I'm going to" -- I don't think she said "damned," because she's too polite; maybe "darned" -- "treat these little babies as commodities or products. Why should they care about global markets? They care about bellybuttons, and wobbly teeth, and beautiful books about caterpillars." I think we have to protect those qualities.

YES! Now let’s all go forth and promote in children all things free-thinking and creative!

REVIEWS: Helen Keller and Gennifer Choldenko's new one

Why, oh why, can’t I seem to gather the patience to write a review lately ?! I’ve read some fine books that I’d love to promote and talk about here but I just can’t seem to find the motivation. But it’s like a band-aid: I’ll pull it off really quick and then it’ll be over:

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko (Harcourt, 2007)

I really loved this one, and I won’t be surprised if it gets some Newbery love. However, I also had quite a few problems with it. Choldenko successfully crafts a character-driven story that still manages to move quickly and entertain. The teenage experience is captured well, particularly when Kirsten’s lifelong best friend suddenly ditches her for the popular Mean Girl. Nearly every middle school student can relate to that. I also enjoyed the relationship between Walk and his mom – I found it was a realistic depiction of the relationship between a single mother and her child. Lastly, the book does leave some plot points unresolved, and I appreciated that. So often authors feel that they need to tie every last thing up, and I've never been a fan of that. I prefer some open-endedness, giving one the impression that these characters' stories are going on long after you close the book.

There are some problems with the book too. First, the chapters are told in alternating perspectives between Kirsten and Walk. Kirsten’s chapters are told in first person, but Walk’s are told in third person. It seems to be a very odd choice, and it was very distracting and often jarring. There’s also a sort of plot twist in the middle, which doesn’t come as any surprise. It almost made Choldenko seem insecure and unsure of herself because the story didn’t need it – it would have been successful without it. I think the twist was supposed to be some sort of climax to brewing tensions, but it wasn’t enough of a shocker to actually have that effect. My last problem with this book is its child-friendliness. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a real hard time talking Al Capone Does My Shirts off the shelf. It hardly circulated at the library I worked in previously. That’s my concern with this one. And the cover doesn’t help it either. I like the tree falling picture…but it doesn’t let you know anything about the book. Nor does the title. I do love the different colored lettering, though –it gives it some pop.

Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures by George Sullivan (Scholastic, 2007)

First off, let me say that I loved this book. Second, let me say that I loathed this cover. The book is largely made up of stunning photos that most kids will not have seen before, yet there’s still enough text to provide lots of report information. I can’t say enough of the beautiful pictures…I already used “stunning” and “beautiful”…breathtaking…eye candy…gorgeous…riveting. Get the idea? So that’s why I’m so puzzled over the photo on the front of the book. Why this close-up, blurry, indistinctive photo? It just seems like a confusing, odd choice. Add to that the little half-page book jacket, and you wonder if they’re out to get librarians. But when it comes down to it, who cares? Buy this book for the content. Open up the book for a child – doesn’t matter which page, any page – and they’ll snatch it out of your hands and check it out.