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Who Needs a Box of Chocolates for Valentine’s Day: Sample These Library Books Instead

13 Feb

If you or your loved ones are chocoholics, then we have three sweet recommendations to check out this Valentine’s Day!

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes
by Maricel E. Presilla.
NewChocolate
Maricel Presilla has two Latin American Restaurants in Hoboken.  She did a chocolate presentation here at the library when her book on chocolate first came out and it is definitely worth checking out if you have not already.  The New Taste of Chocolate looks at everything from the early chocolate rituals of the Aztecs to the new discoveries and innovations surrounding many people’s favorite treat.  You’ll want to try out of some of the recipes with your sweet this Valentine’s Day.

The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate!
by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Rob McClurkan
hotchocolate

Of course Valentine’s Day isn’t just for adults.  It is fun to help my son get his Valentine’s ready for his class at school.  I remember how excited I was was each year as a kid to pick out the special card that was meant for all of my BFFs in my class.  My son enjoyed this look at the history of hot chocolate that covers the history of winter’s perfect beverage including facts like chocolate being part of the rations for Revolutionary soldiers. The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate! is best shared with a cup of warm cocoa with a sprinkling of marshmallows.  On Valentine’s Day the library is holding cookie decorating for kids; click here to learn more.  For healthy foodie fun for kids you also can check out our Cooks & Books Program.

The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg with Ann Krueger Spivack and Susie Heller
EssenceofChocolate
If – like me – you have enjoyed Scharffen Berger chocolates, then you will want to check out this cookbook, the first from the duo behind the gourmet treats. The Essence of Chocolate includes sweet desserts like White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache, but also savory dishes like vegetarian chili and a cocoa rub (perfect for a Valentine’s Day dinner). The book has three sections “Intensely Chocolate”, “Essentially Chocolate” and “A Hint of Chocolate”.  You will also learn useful tips and get a behind the scenes look at how chocolate is created.

If you are looking for some chocolatey fiction check out our previous blog post where I discuss a trio of novels where chocolate helps magic and romance happen.  You can also get some Valentine’s Day song recommendations from us!

Have a favorite book about chocolate or one with great Valentine’s Day recipes?  Share it with us in the comments!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: Numbering All the Bones and Chinese Cinderella (and Read Harder Task 11)

13 Sep

I realize that summer may be over as Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, but I am holding on to summer until Autumn Equinox on Friday September 22. That means I have a little more than a week to finish the last book of my three nieces’ summer reading assignments.

Click here to read about the books my eldest niece, a high school freshman, and I read over the summer.

Next up is my middle niece, who I introduced in this post about media inspired by Hurricane Katrina. Alyssa is now a seventh grader who loves Pokemon and designed her own video game that included her pet dachshund in summer camp.

Her summer reading assignment was Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi (fiction) and Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (nonfiction). The titles were assigned by her school for all rising seventh graders.

The books were similar in that the protagonists are young girls who have lost their mothers and are shunned by their fathers and face abuse. I thought these were horrifying themes to assign to twelve year olds to read over summer (says me, who likes to read about disaster and crime), but the books do offer much for children to learn and think about.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi

numbering-all-bones

The story follows thirteen-year-old Eulinda who is a house slave in Georgia in 1864. Her mother is deceased. Her father is the master of her plantation who won’t acknowledge her, and she is abused by his wife. Eulinda is separated from her two brothers–one was sold to another plantation and the other is a Union Soldier.

I believe this book was assigned because of the Civil War-era setting, and the discussion of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the dynamics between the Union and the Confederacy then. There is even a sly reference in the text to a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.

When assigning this book Alyssa’s teachers probably didn’t foresee last month’s violence in Charlottesville and the resultant discussion of whether or not statues of Confederate figures are still relevant in the twenty-first century. I feel these difficult current events can be connected to the book in a thoughtful class lesson and discussion.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this book. Historical fiction is not my cup of tea. Alyssa didn’t like it either. But it was a well-written book with an interesting heroine, and a good historical fiction choice for tweens.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

chinese-cinderella

This book starts off tragically: Adeline’s mother dies shortly after she is born in 1937. Her family blames her for her mother’s death, and she faces unspeakable abuse by her cruel stepmother, her siblings, and her father.

Her father remarried after Adeline’s mother passed, and had two children who were treated much better than Adeline and her other siblings. The step-mother, definitely wicked per the Cinderella trope, seemed to enjoy mistreating and tormenting young Adeline. There is one particularly awful scene that involves Adeline’s pet duckling.

Readers will learn about China’s history during and after World War II, which is relevant as the country’s profile has risen in recent years. There is an introduction to the Chinese language, with characters interspersed throughout the text. The Cinderella theme makes the book familiar to readers of all ages.

Despite the grimness, I did enjoy this book. It is written beautifully and the story is compelling. Alyssa said the book is “really sad”. Some lingering questions I have about this book are if Adeline forgave her siblings for the terrible way they treated her. She has a memoir called Falling Leaves that I will add to my to-read list.

Reading this book completed the Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location task for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. You can read more about my Read Harder journey at this link.

I have one more book to read with my little niece, and will report back once I finish it. Hopefully I can get it done before summer officially ends on September 22!

Has your summer reading extended into September? When does summer end for you?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

 

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