Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Six and Nine

Do you ever come upon little things that just so perfectly capture who your children are at this exact moment? Like this cozy little scene on the kitchen floor:

Or this, after Ben's friend Ava had been over for a play date:

I knew this day would come. "vomitish turdling"! I also confess to loving "skinny pooping in the old swimming penis."

Meanwhile (excuse this dubious transition): chocolate pudding! A delicious recipe!

Enjoy the rest of your week.


Saturday, April 18, 2009


Okay, I am late to link over to, so let me start there. Whole-wheat Pasta with Chickpeas and Lemon. This is one of those recipes that takes a small assortment of humble, inexpensive ingredients and turns them into something quite fantastic. Plus, butt peas. Is all I'm saying.

Also, I have a piece about, of all things, rhubarb in this month's O magazine.

Meanwhile, you guys have been very actively recommending books back and forth for Suzannah's four-year-old--thank you so much--and it's so fun to see some old familiars and some new ones. I've been thinking about this all week, and am going to make a list here. Four is young, I think; I found very few books at that age that felt right, but then again my kids could really not handle any degree of suspense until a bit later.

Happy Little Family by Rebecca Caudill. Do you know this book? It is a very gentle story about a, uh, happy little family, set in the early 1900s. The main character is Bonnie, who'd four, and the most suspenseful thing that happens is she leaves her knit cap up on the mountain by mistake, and then goes back to retrieve it. Shiver me timbers!

Abel's Island by William Steig. This is an ideal first chapter book, especially if your kids are already huge William Steig picture book fans (Amos and Boris, Gorky Rises, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. . . ) like mine were (and are). A mouse Abel is separated from his wife and stranded on a island after a storm. He has a few adventures--full of Steig's characteristic descriptive flair and existential musings--and then returns safely home. (Dominic, another Steig chapter book, is not as gentle and has robbers in it.)

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. This is the original and it is so, so good and so fun to read--all the British quaintisms tumbling around in your mouth like pebbles--that I simply cannot recommend it enough. So, so different from the Pooh-branded crap that came later--all that "Pooh and his friends found the Easter egg and laughed and laughed and hugged each other and Rabbit said, 'Easter is always more fun with friends' and everybody cried a little from happiness" that makes you want to kill yourself.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children. This is the book we gave as a birthday gift to friends when the children were small. It's a beautifully illustrated hardcover collection of an English vet's animal stories--a rescued kitten, a lost lamb--and it's not technically a chapter book, but makes a good bridge over to them. Later, when the kids are ten, eleven, twelve, you can introduce them to the James Herriot adult books (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.), which I adored, and not only because he always had his hand up the coochie of some or other laboring ewe.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Full disclosure: I did not love, love, love reading this book for some reason--I found it strangely boring. However, the children loved hearing it, and I love the idea of it, and so I am including it here. The kids could simply not get over what a little independent badass Pippi was, and that alone was the price of admission. (Now, another lesser-known Astrid Lindgren book, The Brothers Lionheart, may be my all-time favorite kids' chapter book, but it's a book for ten-year-olds.)

Stuart Little by E.B. White. Many of you mentioned Charlotte's Web, which is a beautiful book, and the truth is that I plunged right ahead with it when Ben was little, forgetting all about how its main preoccupation is DEATH, with a capital d-e-a-t-h, and it went really badly. Stuart Little, about the tiny adventures of a mouse, was more everybody's speed until later.

For a little later--maybe five and six--I have a ton of recommendations: the Little House books (especially, as Cathy K mentioned, On the Banks of Plum Creek. Also Farmer Boy, which makes me hungry just thinking about it. A dish of baked beans with bacon melting into it. . . With some of the others, we had to do a lot of ad hoc editing, especially around the descriptions of Native Americans, which you can't discuss critically with them until they're older, I felt, and so need to be altered). The Moffats, and many other Eleanor Estes books, such as Ginger Pye and The Witch Family). All of the Roald Dahl books (BillyJoe: he was a nazi, like, literally?), but especially James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and the incomparably fantastic Danny the Champion of the World which occasioned more philosophical questions about good and bad than any other book we've read before or since. Also the All-of-a-kind Family series (until it gets too teenagery in the later books), about a family of Jewish sisters growing up in early-20th-century New York. Oh I really could go on an on. . .

But, speaking of great books: you should consider buying two books recently published by friends of mine!

Mabel One and Only
by my beloved friend Margaret Muirhead (with whom I worked in a sandwich restuarant 20 years ago in San Francisco) about a super-creative and stubborn girl (oh, maybe it's about *me*, ha ha) who gets her way in the best possible sense. It's fantastic.

And, for you baseball fans out there, The Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster

by Kevin Markey, who is fabulous in his own rights but is known around my house mostly for being the husband of my best friend from college. This is such a perfect book for sports-loving kids (I am told, not being the parent of one myself, but knowing lots and lots of them). Check it out.

And, finally, I can't help recommending this as a mother's day gift (Mom, don't look):

Because I Love Her edited by Andrea Richesin. And not just--but partly--because I have an essay in it.Link

Also, this little book always makes a great Mother's Day gift, even years and years after it was published since the author still hasn't gotten another book out there just yet:

Which is, actually, the same book as this:

So, it's kind of like two books, right?


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Happy Passover! Happy Easter! Recipe for one fabulous egg dish here, and another here.
Hope you have fun hiding the matzo or the eggs--or whatever else you do to celebrate with your family and friends.