Monday, May 27, 2013

Kids in the Kitchen and House of Secrets

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts.  It's also Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Prose and Kahn.Also, Middle Grade May! Some times I have coordinated posts, and today... I don't. Happy First Day of Summer Vacation! (Not to taunt those of you who still have time to go-- we start up again August 13!)

TIME for Kids Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook: Fun recipes for kids to make!
Jordan, Sandy. Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook
2 April 2013, Time For Kids
Copy provided by Time, Inc. 

I have such a weakness for cookbooks, and this one was one of my favorites. It not only had decent recipes with lots of information for children on how to do things and what equipment to use, but it also had tons of fun facts on the side of the pages. This is graphically pleasing, includes nutrional information (which I'm still not used to!) and has facts from around the world. This would make a great gift for a budding cook; it reminds me a little of the old Betty Crocker NEW Boys' and Girls' Cookbook. My only objection is that it is spiral bound, which holds up poorly, but which is much handier for cooking at home.

Mr. Vizzini is very kindly giving away lots of copies of this book until October 2013 if one Tweets about it and is chosen; find details at

House of Secrets (House of Secrets, #1)Vizzini, Ned and Columbus, Chris. House of Secrets (House of Secrets #1) 
23 April 2013, Balzer and Bray.

The Walker family has fallen on hard times since their father, a surgeon, blacked out and carved a symbol into a patient's skin. Dr. Walker hopes he can be rehired so that the family can afford a new place to live. They happen upon a most fortuitous place-- Kristoff House, a fully furnished, enormous mansion available at a discount price, but only to the right people. The Walkers, including teenagers Cordelia and Brendan and eight-year-old dyslexic Eleanor (Nell), are apparently the right family. The house had been owned by writer Denver Kristoff, and his daughter lives next door. Before they can figure out much about the mysterious circumstances of the daughter, Dahlia (who would be over 100 and sometimes appears in the guise of the Wind Witch), the house is swept away into an alternate world where the characters of Kristoff's books have come to life. Luckily, one of these characters, British World War I pilot Will, is very helpful and assists the children in their survival, since their parents have disappeared. The Wind Witch pursues them in order to obtain The Book of Doom and Desire that her father made sure she could never touch, and the house is buffeted by all manner of attacks by pirates and savages. It takes Nell's ingenuity to solve the situation in a rather grandiose manner which paves the way for the next adventure.
Strengths: Lots of action and adventure, very well-developed and likable characters, convincing fantasy mechanisms. Mr. Vizzini makes a nice transition to middle grades by dumping the bad language he favors and adding more action, and Mr. Columbus' influence is clear in the vivid, cinematic style of the scenes. This will be a huge hit with fifth graders who "read above grade level", since it is 496 pages long AND blurbed by none other than J.K. Rowling. Bonus points for using the name Eleanor and the nickname Nell, just like my own Picky Reader!
Weaknesses: Shall we make a list of the middle grade fantasy novels that are about children getting hurled into fantasy realms without their parents and put in a position where only they can save the world from certain destruction? There are any number, so this is no longer a fresh idea.The ending was also filled with several improbable dei ex machinis. I'm glad that Eleanor could save the day by working hard to overcome her dyslexia, but it was all a bit too neat.

There were problems with the Latin. When will authors learn they should ask, and I'll consult my sources so they don't put gobbledygook in their books? I may be the only former Latin teacher who is also a middle grade librarian, so improper Latin in novels bothers me. There are Latin professors who will no doubt translate for a low, low price.


  1. I love to find great cookbooks too, but am annoyed by the spiral bindings. It's hard to keep those together with library use. I do buy them in spite of the spirals sometimes when they are excellent, so I may just spring for it. :)

    My Monday post is at

  2. Anonymous12:53 PM EDT

    Enjoy your first day of Summer Vacation! Happy running, reading, writing and....relaxing.

    I am looking forward to the novel...not so much the dei ex machinis there-in. But will confess that if the rest of the book works I can be pretty forgiving.

    Will not attempt any latin around you, lol! Only took one semester of it in University and that was a long, long time ago.

  3. Latin? Wow. That's unusual. I would not recognize mix ups. But I agree with you ... wouldn't have cost much to FIX that. I have been wanting to read this book.

  4. Anonymous7:11 PM EDT

    Enjoy your Summer.
    I'm kind of disappointed about that latin thing. I would've expected them to make sure about stuff like that.

  5. Anonymous8:33 PM EDT

    The cookbook looks great! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about House of Secrets. It looks interesting, but I'm pretty sure I won't get to it this summer.

  6. Hmm. It does seem odd that the author and/or editor didn't consult a Latin expert.

    Your reviews always make me smile. Amen to a list of middle grade fantasy novels where children are hurled into another realm and have to save the world! I do get a tad annoyed after a while that there are SO MANY. But the blurb alone will ensure lots of readers. :)

  7. I like the cover of the cookbook!

  8. Do the cookbooks get much circulation? I like the idea of bringing them in but ours don't get much action. One of those cyclical things - old books don't go out, quit buying new ones. Nothing new, so old ones get passed over.
    Just curious.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  9. Thanks for the feedback. Building in a component into the curriculum could certainly help with the circulation issue. I do love trying new recipes and have tried many over the years that come from kids books (recipe and nonrecipe books). Good luck.
    Apples with Many Seeds