Sunday, March 29, 2009

Toby Alone

Do you absolutely love adventure books? What about fantasy-adventure books?
Ohhh, boy do I have a book for you!

Thrilling chase scenes, terrible secrets, having the whole world looking for you and wanting you dead, living every day in survival mode: These are the elements of Toby Alone, a fantasy/adventure that will leave you so far on the edge of your seat that you may find yourself on the floor without even noticing.
Toby Lolness, the main character, is a twelve-year-old boy who is 1 ½ millimeters tall.

Yes, millimeters. Meaning one-thousandth of a meter. One-tenth of a centimeter. Tiny. Miniscule. Infinitesimal.

Toby lives in the High Branches of the Great Oak Tree with his loving, devoted parents. His father, a brilliant scientist, makes an incredible discovery about the tree which turns their world upside down. Overnight, Toby is separated from his parents and begins a desperate escape for survival that sends him all over the massive tree. Along the way he learns meets many people, among them the lovely and mysterious Elisha, who immediately befriends him, and Joe Mitch (aka enemy number one), the fat weevil farmer whose rise to power banishes the Lolnesses to the Lower Branches and turns the entire tree against them. Toby must escape the powerful Joe Mitch and his nasty cronies and save his parents from being executed. Quite a large task for such a small person! This story is full of flashbacks so you have to pay close attention to what is going. However, it's completely worth the extra brain power.
Warning: The ending will leave you hanging, but don't get angry--there is more to come. (This is only the first of a 2-part series.)

After reading this book, I found myself staring at the shady oak tree in my backyard with newfound curiosity. Was there an entire world of microscopic people living in this oak without my knowing it? As if my dog, Kendall, knew what I was thinking, she began sniffing the grass and lower branches for signs of life. Perhaps it was a bug, or a feather, or a bit of squirrel poo that caught her attention and made her begin to pant and claw. I like to think otherwise…
Hey, adults can have imaginations too, right?

Recipe to Read By: Tree Bark

Don't gag yet--this is not the brown cardboard stuff that tastes like dirt many of you ate as small children (don't deny it--we've all tried it one time or another). This is the chocolate/Oreo variety of tree bark that tastes 100 times better than the real thing. In fact, it's so good, you may find yourself telling people that it's tree bark just so they'll stay away from it.

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 oz white chocolate
2 tbsp peanut butter
10 Oreo sandwich cookies
Place semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate in separate medium microwaveable bowls. Microwave until completely melted, following directions on package.
Add peanut butter to white chocolate; stir until well blended.
Crumble half the cookies over chocolate in each bowl; mix well.
Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate mixtures onto wax paper-covered baking sheet, alternating the colors of the chocolates.
Cut through chocolate mixtures several times with knife for marble effect.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm.
Break into 14 pieces.
Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
Label the container "Tree Bark" and no one will touch it.

*Recipe courtesy of: Kraft Foods
Watch the video of how to make this yummy concoction here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are You Up For a Challenge?

Kids, grab your parents!!!
For a second year, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and US Airways are working together to help children nationwide discover the joy of reading. Starting April, adults are invited to join the 2009 Read with Kids Challenge and help collectively log five million minutes spent reading with kids. You’ll have the chance of winning a family vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort® and more great prizes. Get on board! Visit today.

I love, love, LOVE this website, especially the Book Search feature. Be sure to download a copy of The World's Grossest Books List to bring to the library.

Recipe to Read By: Super Easy, Fun, and Delicious Candy Cookies
While you're perusing (looking at) the RIF webpage, munch on this sugary snack. You may even get away with crumbs on the keyboard and chocolate smudges on the desk when your mom realizes how incredibly easy (and relatively mess-free!) these little treasures are.
One roll of slice and bake cookie dough. Any flavor will work. (Try to convince mom to buy the chocolate chip, the sugar, AND the peanut butter--trust me, one batch will not be enough.)
Bags of assorted chocolate candy. (Think Hershey's kisses, Reese's PB Cups, Bite-Size Milky Ways...go a little crazy here...)
First, slice the cookie dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices. (Time to break out the ruler, people!)
Next, lay the slices on their sides and cut them into quarters (that means 4 equal pieces).
Place each quarter into a greased mini-muffin tin.
Next, peel the wrapper from the candy. (One piece for every cookie you are making.)
Throw away the trash before mom does and score some major brownie points.
Bake the cookie dough at 350 degrees for just a few minutes—6 to 8 at the most.
*Important* Almost as soon as you pull the warm cookies from the oven, you’ll want to begin lightly pressing one piece of candy into each cookie. The warmer and softer the cookies, the better!
Try all kids of combinations! Here are my faves:
Peanut butter cookie dough with Hershey's Hugs
Sugar Cookie dough with Snickers
Peanut butter dough with Rolos
Chocolate Chip dough with bite-size Milky Ways
Recipe courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. Watch how to make this recipe step-by-step by clicking the link:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lincoln and His Boys

When you hear the name Abraham Lincoln, which words pop into your head?

President. Tall. Beard. Civil War. Slavery. Log cabin. Honest.

Allow me to read your mind: The words “children” or “father” probably didn’t make it onto your list. Am I right? Did you even know that our 16th president had children? Don’t be ashamed. I didn’t either.
Honest Abe had four sons, and Lincoln and His Boys introduces you to three of them. This enthralling story is written from the point-of-view of Willie, the next to youngest, who gets to tag along on his father’s campaign trail, and noisy Tad, the baby of the family, who uses the White House as his playground.

Spoken by Willie:

The president’s house has as many rooms as a good sized hotel. The green room
has disgusting moldy chairs and sofas. We bounce on them, but clouds of dust and
mold come up and make us sneeze. Some rooms are filled with boring old statues
and paintings in flaking gold frames. But there are secret attics above our
living rooms. In them, we found boxes left over from other presidents. There was
a pile of rusted swords and guns left over in an old wardrobe labeled Jackson.
We found a minuteman’s uniform from the time of George Washington.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?
The book begins with Willie, Tad, and their parents at home in Springfield, Illinois. Their father, a lawyer, is thinking about running for president against his rival, Mr. Douglas. Through Willie’s eyes, we follow his family all the way to the White House. About three-fourths of the way through the book, we start to see the family through Taddie’s point of view. Through a miserable war filled with death and despair, family tragedy, and the crumbling of the South, we witness Abraham Lincoln as a devoted father; always kind, always gentle, and never losing track of what is important.

For those of you who think biographies are boring, I strongly suggest you give this book a chance. Although it reads like historical fiction, it’s really a biography in disguise.

*Recipe to Read By: Union Hardtack
Click here to read about the history of hardtack.


2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
6 pinches of salt

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff batter, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/2 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet.
Bake for one-half an hour at 400 degrees.
Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough.
Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another one-half hour.
Turn oven off and leave the door closed.
Leave the hardtack in the oven until cool.
Remove and enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Gettysburg National Military Park

More About Lincoln:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles

Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles by Rupert Kingfisher is not just a delicious read, but a delicious experience for the senses. As you know, here at Sweet Reads we are all about incredible edibles, so this title was bumped to the top of my To-Read-Right-This-Very-Instant List before even cracking open the cover. (FYI: That doesn’t happen very often. I’m very stingy with my TRRTVI List.)

The edibles referred to in the title are NOT the type of edibles you will find on this blog. You will not find a wholesome banana bread or a crumbly sugar cookie or any type of normal food item within the pages of this book. Ohhh, no sir. These edibles are the kind you may find on Fear Factor, except with a gourmet twist. For instance, have you ever tried Salt-Cured Raptor Tails or Scorpion Tails in Smoked Garlic Oil. Or how about Crocodile Kidneys in Blueberry Wine and Giant Squid Tentacles in Jasmine-Scented Jelly? Yeah, me neither.

Madame Pamplemousse is the woman responsible for creating these eerie, yet intriguing delicacies in her tiny shop with the help of her one-eyed cat, Camembert.

Inside, the shop is cool and musty-smelling, lit only by candlelight. In the flickering shadows, great bunches of sausages and dried herbs, strings of garlic and chilli peppers, and giant salted meats hang from the ceiling. Rows of cheeses are laid out on beds of dark green leaves and all around there are shelves winding up to the ceiling, crammed with bottles and strangely shaped jars.

Madeleine is sent by her parents to work in her uncle Lard’s restaurant, The Squealing Pig, for the summer. Uncle Lard (whose outfits are as horrendous as his food) serves foods that are greasy, fried, and full of fat. Madeleine is an aspiring (meaning aiming for) chef who loves to experiment in the kitchen, often creating delicious and unique dishes to the surprise of the Head Chef and a jealous Uncle Lard. Once Uncle Lard realizes Madeleine’s potential, he banishes her from the kitchen and forces her to scrub the pots and pans that are covered with slimy fat. When he finds out about Madame Pamplemousse’s incredible edibles, he sends Madeleine to work in her shop and act as a spy to gain the secrets to her recipes.
Madeleine flourishes under the watchful eye of Madame Pamplemousse and is taught many culinary skills, all the while keeping her word to her uncle that she would find the secret ingredients in the incredible edibles. One day, Madame Pamplemousse catches Madeleine spying on her during a clandestine (meaning secret) cooking operation and Madeleine, racked with guilt, confesses her intentions. Surprisingly, Madame Pamplemousse is not the least bit angry and gladly hands over the recipe to an ashamed, yet grateful, Madeleine. What she discovers on the yellowed piece of paper written in ink is a list of ingredients that is anything but incredible. In fact, they were quite ordinary. It is at this moment that Madeleine realizes that the reason Madame Pamplemousse's incredible edibles are so extraordinary is because of the cook--not the ingredients. One of my favorite lines in the entire book comes during this realization and I loved it so much that I wrote it in my NN (Nightstand Notebook) and highlighted it. The ending is a tad predictable, but completely worth reading. If anything, it will have you asking your mom for something a little more zesty than the usual mac n' cheese or chicken fingers. Roast Piranha with Raspberry Coulis anyone???
Recipe to Read By: Crusty French Bread
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Add the sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups flour. Beat until blended. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down; return to bowl.
Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface.
Shape into a loaf 16 in. long x 2-1/2 in. wide with tapered ends.
Sprinkle a greased baking sheet with cornmeal; place loaf on baking sheet.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Beat egg white and cold water; brush over dough.
With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes 2 in. apart across top of loaf.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
When the bread comes out of the oven and smells like heaven on a baking sheet, spread the warm, crusty goodness with pate of North Atlantic Sea Serpent with Green Peppercorn Mustard. If it is a special occasion, serve the fresh bread with Velociraptor Heart in Red Wine. (Unfortunately, you will have to find these recipes elsewhere.)
Recipe courtesy of