Meet Nicholas Benedict, a skinny nine-year-old orphan with a lumpy nose, an extraordinary intellect, and an inconvenient tendency to fall asleep when he is excited. Newly arrived at his latest orphanage, Nicholas quickly learns to avoid the Spiders (a gang of bullies) as best he can. Meanwhile, he secretly searches for the treasure rumored to be hidden in the run down mansion and finds a couple of steadfast friends. With courage and ingenuity, he solves the mystery at the heart of the orphanage and sets in motion a plan to defang the Spiders. This is a prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society (2007). Fans of the series will find here much that they loved in the first book: adventures, danger, cleverness, dry wit, and good-hearted characters at the center of the action. The novel is long but can stand on its own or start the reader out on the series. I recommend it for middle school and up.
Rain Reign is the story of twelve-year old Rose Howard. Rose is in the fifth grade and has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. She has three favorite things: words (especially homonyms), rules, and numbers (especially prime numbers). She tries to do her best in school, but has a very hard time, which her father doesn’t understand.
One day, Rose’s father comes home with a dog for her. She gives it the name Rain, since rain has a homonym (Reign). Rose takes good care of her dog and loves having Rain around. When a severe hurricane comes through her town, Rain ends up missing after her father lets her out during the storm. Rose is heartbroken and angry at her father. She looks everywhere she can think of to find Rain, but can’t find her anywhere nearby. She starts calling all the animal shelters both near and far to see if Rain has been found.
Just when Rose is about to give up hope, one of the animal shelters has found a dog matching Rain’s description. There is only one problem, the dog has a microchip and may belong to a different family. Find out what happens to Rose and her dog Rain in Rain Reign.
A book painted with blackberry juice sounded intriguing, and so it was. A Fine Dessert chronicles four centuries and four families who go about making blackberry fool. A sweet mix of berries, cream, vanilla and sugar, blackberry fool is an old dessert recipe that dates back to the 1500s. As the book begins, a mom and daughter make the blackberry fool in Lyme, England in 1710. It is hard work to make the treat using only a twig whisk, no running water, and ice buried in the ground for refrigeration.
In 1810, in Charleston, South Carolina, a slave girl and her mom pick the berries from a plantation garden and make the blackberry fool for the master and his family. The mom and daughter are able to hide in the kitchen later to sample some of the delicious sweet treat. In Boston, Massachusetts, in 1910, a mom and her daughter buy the berries from the market instead of harvesting the fruit themselves. It is still work to make the dessert though. They have to mash and strain the berries by hand and whip the cream with a rotary whisk.
Finally a little boy in San Diego, California in 2010, makes the blackberry fool with his Dad using modern equipment: an electric mixer, food processor, and modern refrigerator. Times have changed. A recipe for the blackberry fool is found at the back of A Fine Dessert, and a fascinating discussion about race, gender roles, and class is included as well. Plus, the illustrations are created in part with blackberry juice paint wash. Sounds yummy, but don’t lick the pages! For elementary age children on up.
Mary Hoppins and Page Turner, our Famous Frogs at Main, have this to say about Too Many Frogs:
“I have never heard of such a ridiculous idea for a book” ribbitted Mary Hoppins. She continued, “family always comes first in my pond.” Page Turner had this to say, “I was worried at the beginning when Granny started tossing out frogs, but by the end it had me singing and hopping!” That’s one frog thumb UP and one frog thumb DOWN from the Famous African Claw Frog book review duo.