Category Archives: General

A few cozy books for Fall

After a chilly weekend with lots of leaves blowing about outside, I’m feeling like it’s nearly the time of year when there’s nothing I like more than hanging out at home with my favourite people (and animals) and lots of good things to eat. Speaking of good things to eat, I made these muffins over the weekend, and you should too. I have to share a picture, then I promise we’ll get to book talk.

 

There’s something particularly cozy about fall, don’t you think? It has me thinking about cozy recipes, cozy sweaters, and cozy books. Also cozy blankets, like this one. (Ah Anthropologie… how I long for you).

I have been compiling a list of cozy books to put at the top of my TBR pile as fall settles in. Here are some of the ones I’m most looking forward to:

What is it about the end of the world that makes me want to cuddle up with a kitten and some hot cider? Weird, huh?

Deserves to be bought for the cover alone.

Supposed to be a little bit like The Graveyard Book with a some steampunk-y flair. Yes, please.

A little Shannon Hale fantasy + a cup of milky chai tea + a pumpkin cinnamon roll = Sunday morning perfection, I’d say.

1920s New York murder mystery, rave reviews, imagined by Libba Bray’s genius brain. I’m in.

Got any cozy book suggestions? Anything that really grabs hold of you and begs you to sit still on the couch for hours and hours wrapped up in a blanket?

Day 29, book 29: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Isn’t this exciting? Two picture book reviews in one day! The Elf is on fire! It’s easy to get pumped when I’ve made it all the way to Book 29 in my 30 Days, 30 Picture Books Challenge. (I’ve saved quite the book for my big finish tomorrow, so be sure to pop by).

Today’s title soars right off the charts on the cuteness scale. What else would you expect from the mega-talented, Caldecott Honor winner Patrick McDonnell? I imagine this one will be a favourite all year round, but I couldn’t think of a better book to buy for any little one you know this Halloween.

Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom n’ Doom may be little, but they are pretty serious about being Monsters. They huff and puff and get mad about everything. They smash and crash and bash and say NO a lot. So when they come up with a plan to create the baddest monster ever, you’d expect they’d be pretty good at it. As it turns out, their Monster is the worst monster possible. He is really nice. He’s polite. He likes jelly doughnuts and sunsets. He changes their lives, but not in the way they had expected.

It’s really hard to decide what I like the most about this book. The text is full of funny moments: “Big!” little Gloom squealed. “Bad!!” little Doom squeaked. “MONSTER!!!” they all cheered together. You just want to be reading it out loud to make the most of the jokes. The images are packed with sweet humour too, like when Monster goes all over the castle gently patting the bats and rats and spiders and snakes. In between laughs, the kids might think about the power of kindness, unexpected friendship, and what it means to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. The Monsters’ Monster proves that monsters can be awfully adorable, especially the kind who share their jelly doughnuts.

The Monsters’ Monster is published by Little, Brown.

Day 27, book 27: Toads on Toast by Linda Bailey

There’s nothing better than a good breakfast. I can celebrate any meal of the day, but breakfast is perhaps the best. All breakfast lovers have their perfect brekkie. Mine is a sit-down, knife and fork, sausage and eggs and toast and jam and roasted tomato and bottomless coffee, kind of breakfast. Recently I had all that with sautéed mushrooms and some delish maple baked beans too. Now that was a breakfast.

My ideal breakfast does not involve toads. EVER.

Linda Bailey’s new picture book, Toads on Toast, should make readers consider branching out into new breakfast territory, away from Rice Krispies and PB on toast and oatmeal, all the way to something they might never have considered before: Toad in the Hole.

Fox is tired of his usual recipe repertoire: “Catch a big fat toad. Bring it home. Skin it. Boil it. Eat it.” He needs a change. He finds inspiration at the cookbook store, in their extensive toad section. Apparently small, young, tender toads are where it’s at. One night, he captures some toadlets and brings them home. Just when things are about to get messy, Mamma toad arrives to save her babies and put a stop to Fox’s terrible plan. Mamma teaches Fox a secret family recipe for, you guessed it, Toad in a Hole. At first Fox is skeptical, but in the end, everything turns out deliciously. The book finishes off with a do-it-at-home recipe for Toad in a Hole (no toad required).

I am crazy about the cover. Colin Jack got it absolutely right with this image. Each one of the toadlets has a different expression, from pleading to clueless to terrified. The little details are really funny – one toad’s buck teeth, another’s wee baseball cap, and the bow in one girl toad’s hair. You know just by looking that the story is going to get you laughing. Kids will be hooting before they even make it to the first page, for sure. Those hilarious details continue throughout, particularly when Mamma toad arrives and all the little ones start creating chaos in Fox’s kitchen (buttery food fights, cupboard climbing using pieces of licorice tied together, using a gravy boat for a slide…).

Linda Bailey makes this one just as funny and sweet and kid friendly as her beloved Stanley books. Who knew toads could be so cute? I think I’ve mentioned before that a book gets immediate bonus points for me when it includes a recipe (or a whole stack of them). I like what the story suggests about the power of food to make friends of characters you’d never think could get along, let alone share a meal.

Toads on Toast is a delightfully silly, culinary romp that should, like all the best dishes, get better and better the more times it’s enjoyed. Best served with breakfast.

A final word on the glories of breakfast. Any breakfast fan should pop over to simply breakfast, the beautiful photography blog all about savouring the morning meal.

Toads on Toast is published by Kids Can Press.

My own little celebration: 30 days, 30 Picture Books

Are you as jazzed as I am about Candlewick’s awesome initiative, We Believe in Picture Books? 365 videos all in celebration of the fabulosity of picture books? This is going to make every day for the next… 363 days, that little bit sweeter.

Here’s the deal:

So today I thought I would begin my own little elfy celebration as my way of saying, “Candlewick, you’re speaking my language.” For 30 days, every day of September, I am going to be posting a review of a picture book that makes me happy and shows everyone why we should all believe in picture books.

Let the believing begin!

A hound, and a short mid-summer reading review…

You know how sometimes life chases what is really good and close to perfect with something that is terrible and close to the worst? That’s what it has sent my way the past couple of weeks. I had a beautiful trip up North. It was exactly everything I’d been looking forward to. Sadly, it was this little guy pictured above who brought me smashing back to reality with an awful scare. Serious sickness, major surgery, and a lotta bad news later and we are looking at a big fight up ahead.

I don’t know about you, but he sure looks like a fighter to me, yes? (That’s the tail caught mid-wag in the background).

So, deep breath, we are aiming for bravery around here, and with that spirit in mind, I thought I’d try sharing two little mini reviews of some of the books read so far this summer.

Bitterblue

Absolutely stunning, and a worthy companion to Graceling. This is the story of a young Queen who is faced with the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the kingdom that was shattered by her father’s evil reign. Not sure who she can trust and what is true, she tries to look ahead and make right what she can. You will love Cashore’s rich language and powerful imagery, but most of all, it’s the characters who will get into your head. I think that this book has more thematic complexity than Graceling, as it makes readers think about the cost of truth, the different faces of bravery, and whether or not it is possible to heal after devastating cruelty. Wonderful.

Wonder Show

If you like circus stories, and you like writing that makes you picture the characters and places in your mind the whole way through, then this book is going to be a treat for you. It’s the tale of Portia, who runs away from the Home for Wayward Girls and the awful Mister who runs it. Where better to run than a traveling sideshow? Portia is also looking for her father, who she thinks may have a connection to the circus. As with most coming of age stories, Portia finds something more and something different than what she expected. This book is very finely crafted, with a world that will sweep you in, and impressive creativity. It made me want to read everything else Hannah Barnaby writes.

Here’s hoping the end of the summer means some good healing for the hound, and some more stories worth remembering.

What’s on my bookshelf for the summer…

I’ve had my first lemonade. I’m on the listen for songs for my summer playlist. I’ve had a big ol’ BBQ in the backyard. My toes have been dipped into a chilly lake. I can feel it. Summer is nearly here. So I’m starting to daydream about all the books I’m going to have a chance to get to in a few weeks.

Absolutely at the top of my list is:

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. The only reason I haven’t read this yet is because I’ve been feeling kinda tired/grouchy and there was no way I was going to wreck this book by reading it from a tired/grouchy place. Cannot wait.

the story of us by Deb Caletti. Come on gang, that cover alone says summer, right? Deb Caletti is one of my surefire bet authors. I always love her characters and the way that her writing is loaded with so many sentences that beg you to stop and reread. Kirkus called it “chicklit for eggheads.” Yep, that’s it.

Pure by Julianna Baggott. Because it wouldn’t be summer without a good old postapocalyptic coming-of-age story. Besides, it’s pretty.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl. A crumbling castle, a heroine fit for an Austen novel, pending financial ruin, and reminiscent of one of my favourite novels of all, makes this just about irresistible.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Even though this one has had mixed reviews, it’s been on my list for such a long time, and summer when you can get to things you keep on saving for later. Plus, it’s about cake.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. A girl has to read something to make her smarter, and having heard Jonah Lehrer speak about Imagine, I’m excited to make it my nonfiction pick for the summer.

That’s my list so far. Can’t wait to get started!