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50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 288 pgs.
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50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is a gorgeous guide to the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Each section breaks down the state or province into cities and landscapes, offers tourist information, provides a background on capitalism, and offers highlights of local favorite foods and drinks and festivals or other events. Some states have hidden treasures, while others include road trip suggestions or trivia about movies, art, or music that came from that location. Yogerst also includes little known facts in some states as well, which could be fun to test on a road trip with family or friends. Rounding out the book are gorgeous, full-color photographs of landscapes, local hubs, monuments, and animals. These provide users with a sense of what to expect when visiting these locations.

My family and I have looked through this book several times, and I took extra care in revisiting some of the states we’ve already visited, just to see what Yogerst recommended. We also checked out what he recommended within our immediate area — Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. For D.C., there is the typical Smithsonian and government buildings listed, as well as our personal favorite The National Zoo, but there were no local flavors listed such as the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl. I also noted that the National Arboretum, the Maine Avenue Fish Market, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and others were not included. Each section is probably kept minimal, but there are some great hidden treasures that shouldn’t be missed.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to notice my favorite museum as a kid, the Worcester Art Museum, made it into the list for Massachusetts. But again, here there were no mentions for the EcoTarium or the Blackstone Valley River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which has a series of trails and more for exploring the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. My hometown is the home of the Asa Waters Mansion, which was part of the Underground Railroad. Maybe I’m just being a bit too picky.

50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is not as comprehensive in finding some hidden treasures as I would prefer, but when visiting new places, the treasures he points out are just what most people would like to see. I think as a beginners guide to traveling the 50 states, this works well. There is enough within each state to occupy those interested in culture, history, and nature. I’ve had the travel bug since I was younger, and while I dreamed of visiting all 50 states someday, I’ve only seen about 19. Wish us luck as we try to tick other states off the list!

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

During three decades as an editor, writer, and photographer, Joe Yogerst has lived and worked on four continents—Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. His writing has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Islands magazine, The New York Times (Paris), and numerous National Geographic books. During that time, he has won four Lowell Thomas Awards, including one for Long Road South, his National Geographic book about driving the Pan American Highway from Texas to Argentina. Buy the book at the National Geographic Store.

Animal Adventures: Sharks

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle is a box full of undersea wonder, with 6 plastic sharks, 20 fact cards about different species, a diorama to create, and four 3D puzzles. This was another activity that my daughter snatched up the minute it came and opened it right away. The box is eye-catching and full of sharks and other activities. Stickers complete the package.

We worked on the diorama of coral and other life together as she wasn’t sure how to get them to stand up in the cardboard base. Other than that, she put together the 3D sharks herself and set about telling her own sea stories with the diorama once we’d finished.

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She did ask about some of the sharks and I read some of the information on the cards to her. We enjoyed Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle. We’ll likely get back to playing and learning soon.

RATING: Cinquain

Make and Move: Shark

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 28 pgs.
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Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green includes a 28-page book and 20 pieces to build a 37-inch shark floor puzzle. The puzzle is easy enough for a Kindergartner to put together on their own with little help. My daughter set to work on the puzzle the moment it arrived on the doorstep. She loved how there were pieces that moved like joints and fins that moved as if the shark could swim. We talked about the jaw and the internal organs we put together.

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The book itself is attached to the box with the puzzle pieces, and it explains what sharks are, how they swim, what senses they have, and how they breathe underwater. There were many different types of sharks in the book, and each has a different body shape. My daughter was fascinated that there were sharks that hunted food by spiraling.

Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green provides kids with educational material and a fun activity. My daughter was eager to do the puzzle again after the first time.

RATING: Quatrain

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho has stickers, pop-out characters to dress up, and patterned paper and stencils to create clothes and accessories. The paper patterns are mostly flowers and other embellishments, though there are a couple that are geometric or have animals. The stickers you can use to make belts and other accessories are a wider variety. The book also contains several scenes that kids can use to create their own stories, such as going to shopping or going on a trip to outer space.

Here’s some of the fun creations we made (she made them; I was just the assistant):

The book tells you what materials are available inside and what additional materials you’ll need, such as scissors and glue. You can also add your own pom poms and glitter if you have those on hand. There are other project ideas inside as well. This book could offer kids hours of fun, especially if they like to create their own characters. We really liked that there were a variety of characters, including an alien. One draw back for us was that you couldn’t remove the stencils from the book, unless you cut the cardboard to take them out. It makes it hard to trace the clothing patterns inside the book because of how many stencils are inside.

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho is a great book to use on a rainy or wintry day with kids. Have a blast; get creative.

RATING: Quatrain

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is more than just a cookbook, it’s family dinner or a gathering of friends in which Green shares not only where her recipes come from, but some of the stories behind them or that churn up in her memory. The narrative accompanying each recipe is like sitting across the table from Green. Readers will picture her dinner parties and family gatherings happening in much the same way — Green mixing ingredients across the kitchen island while her guests munch, chat, and help out. These are the family and friend gatherings that are the most fun because everyone is not only enjoying the food but the company of one another.

“I realized quickly that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love.” (pg. ix)

I particularly loved her early advice about putting out nuts and cheese and fruit, rather than hors d’oeuvres that can make people full before the meal is even served. Many of my own family gatherings were this way, and we were all very hungry when the meal was served. And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh baked bread — Potato, Gorgonzola, and Sage Bread is one recipe I’ll be trying when I have more time.

What I did make from the cookbook was dessert — you knew it had to be dessert, didn’t you? Warm chocolate and Banana Cake, a recipe that was her mother’s special dessert, and like her mother, my grandmother kept many of her recipes in her head and what was written down is in some kind of code that needs a key to unlock. Despite these encryption techniques, Green has recreated a delicious and moist dessert that people will want seconds and thirds of! I know I did, even though our Confectioners’ sugar has somehow vanished!

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is a wonderful cookbook and my family enjoyed the chocolate cake. My daughter gobbled it up every chance she got, which is unusual as she generally doesn’t prefer sweets. For this cake, she made an exception.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Review and Giveaway: Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay

Source: Sterling Publishing
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a gorgeous coloring book that perfectly illustrates the beauty and sadness of Poe’s work, with quotes from various stories interspersed throughout. Begay is a talented artist who carefully weaves in beauty with each horrifying image — from skulls to pestilence personified. Many of these designs are very intricate and will require a steady hand to keep within the lines, but that’s half the fun of achieving calm through coloring. It’s almost meditative to follow the curves of her images and think about how to complement each color to make an overall pleasing image.

Aren’t those images gorgeous? This book is perfect for those who love Edgar Allan Poe, participating in the fall R.I.P. challenge, or those who just want to color some horrifyingly beautiful illustrations. Edgar Allan Poe: An Adult Coloring Book by Odessa Begay is a wonderful tribute to the macabre Poe and his darkly beautiful work.

Here’s one of my pictures — it’s not very good:

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RATING: Cinquain

About the Author/Illustrator:

Odessa Begay resides in Philadelphia, PA. She is a graduate of NYU/The Tisch School of the Arts where she studied photography and imaging. She has licensed her work widely in the children’s/baby markets, as well as botanicals for home décor, paper, and fabric. Learn more about her at Website.

Want a copy of your own? Live in the United States or Canada?

Leave a comment on this post by Sept. 29, 2016, 11:59 PM EST, about which story or poem by Edgar Allan Poe is your favorite.

***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!***

Make Your Own Zoo by Tracey Radford

Source: Cico Books
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford helps parents and kids turn recyclable materials into fun jungle animals and habitats.  My daughter had a babysitter, Anna‘s daughter, for a week, and they attempted to do more of these than the sad-looking lion that she and I did before or the unfinished animal she started with daddy.

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Our sad lion, who is apparently missing his tail.

When my daughter and the girl were working on their projects, we discovered that I somehow missed a step…I forgot to cut out the templates for the lion parts that are included in the back of the book. So the poor looking parts are my poor drawing skills at work. They decided not to cut out the templates either, but their stuff looks better than mine — probably because my daughter used some old stencils my parents gave her from my attic savings at their house.

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Hard a work on their own version of a jellyfish

Trying to make her own animal.

Trying to make her own animal.

You need the templates unless you’re more confident in your drawing skills, glue, scissors, paint, pens, cardboard tubes, egg cartons (cardboard and Styrofoam), old newspaper, and cereal boxes. Animals range from giraffes to parrots, and you can made ice floes, tree houses, and more.

Their giraffe without paint

Their giraffe without paint

The girl's jellyfish in water.

The girl’s jellyfish in water.

Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford is an adaptable book that can be used by all ages to create animals and fun dioramas on a rainy afternoon. Some of the directions are a bit complicated for the age 5 group, but with a little help, they can have fun putting these animals together. Make it a group activity and see their creativity become unleashed.

RATING: Quatrain

Sweets & Treats With Six Sisters’ Stuff

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family is a fun book for the sweet-tooth in your family or for those gatherings, like book club, where you’re sick of making the same old treats.  The Six Sisters are masters at combining ready-made products in the grocery store with original recipes, as well as creating recipes from scratch.

When I got this book out of the library, we went through and selected recipes we all wanted to try.  My husband chose Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches for a gather we had with several kids, and the kids loved making them.  I’d recommend this for hot summer days when you have cookies and ice cream on hand or you could make your own cookies.  I chose to make Oatmeal Scotchie Blondies, which we shared with our daughter’s preschool class, since it made more than a dozen.  These were more like bars and something happened with the recipe that made these harder than expected.  Perhaps it was because I had to substitute some brown sugar for white sugar.  I’m not a culinary expert.

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The final recipe we made, and one we’ll likely make again, was shared with book club in June.  Mint Oreo Brownies were easy to make, using brownie mixes and Oreo cookies, as well as marshmallow creme.  The recipe called for food coloring and mint extract to make a light green colored marshmallow and frosting.  These were such a hit with book club that we only had two left, and I also cut the recipe down to one box of brownie mix.

Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family has recipes that are so easy to use, and as long as, users know how many people they are feeding, the recipes can be adjusted.  The cookbook includes recipes for other brownies, cakes, cookies, and bars, as well as pies, no-bake treats, and ice cream.  It’s definitely a cookbook to keep on hand.

RATING: Cinquain

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Fingerprint Monsters and Dragons: Fun Art with Fingers Thumbs and Paint – And 100 Other Adventurous Creatures – Amazing Art for Hands-on Fun by Ilona Molnar

Source: Quarry Books
Paperback, 160 pgs.
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Fingerprint Monsters and Dragons: Fun Art with Fingers Thumbs and Paint – And 100 Other Adventurous Creatures – Amazing Art for Hands-on Fun by Ilona Molnar will keep the little artists in your family very busy in the book and outside of it making monsters, trolls, bandits, dinosaurs, and more all with just their fingers and paint.  The quick instructions at the beginning make it clear that this is a book to set kids on their creative way, although they can reference the book if they choose to make something specific and don’t know where to begin.

From one of the pages in the book: The Monster Closet

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Using an ink pad or finger paints, kids can color one or all of their fingers to make a multitude of characters in the scenes within the book or on their own art supplies.  Once the fingerprints are dried, they can then use their markers, pens, pencils, and stickers to create even more hilarious situations and actors.  My daughter loved creating these fingerprint monsters, but we had to make a number of them at one time so that the first ones would dry enough for her to decorate them.  It’s hard for kids her age to wait, but creating more makes it even more fun when they are all dry.

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In this one, you can see some of her faces are hilarious, and there’s even a disabled spider (her words, not mine).  My guess is that he had a run in with the person who owns this closet.

Fingerprint Monsters and Dragons: Fun Art with Fingers Thumbs and Paint – And 100 Other Adventurous Creatures – Amazing Art for Hands-on Fun by Ilona Molnar is a book that we’ll use more and more as she takes time over the summer to have fun before her fresh start in Kindergarten.  I cannot wait to see what creations she comes up with next.  These are even fun for adults, and would be a great addition to classrooms, preschools, and summer camps.

The Tao of Book Publicity by Paula Margulies

Source: Paula Margulies
Paperback, 156 pgs.
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The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner’s Guide to Book Promotion by Paula Margulies uses the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu as a loose framework for this beginning guide to book publicity, reminding new authors that grasping for things that are not in the cards is folly.  “The clients who end up having the most success are often those who listen to suggestions about how to proceed, embrace the process we agree to undertake, and open their hearts to new ideas and ways of doing things,” she says.

Margulies carefully outlines what an author platform is and how to best utilize the back cover space, which can be especially helpful for self-published authors.  As the world of book publishing evolves in light of social media’s pervasiveness, some of the advice is timeless, such as the need to promote a new book in the first 6-8 months after its release and the best times for book signings in book stores and other locations.  For social media, she provides a rough guide on the times posts are most effective in Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs.  However, blog readership may be waning, as least there are less comments than there have been in the past.  Busy lives often lead to less time for blog interaction.

The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner’s Guide to Book Promotion by Paula Margulies is a good beginners guide for authors who know very little about publicity or social media and blogging.  It offers great tips about maintaining a “living” biography, how to interact with bloggers and offer giveaways — as well as why they are important — and tips on how to best utilize social media tools without becoming overwhelmed.  While there is little discussion of the overwhelming changes in the publicity space, there are good tips for navigating changes and many can be adapted over time, if authors become savvy enough and know their own platforms well.

***This book provides information about a range of publicity methods, both traditional and online, but Fauzia Burke‘s focuses on online marketing only and offers a step-by-step guide for that.  Depending on what you need, either of these books would be helpful for those starting out or in need of a little more help.***

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Paula Margulies is the owner of Paula Margulies Communications, a public relations firm for authors and artists. She has received numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and novels, including her nonfiction handbook, The Tao of Book Publicity, her historical novel, Favorite Daughter, Part One, her debut novel, Coyote Heart, and her short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories. Paula is a contributor to Author Magazine, the San Diego Examiner, and The Writers Edge.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 400 pgs.
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The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond is another great cookbook with easy to follow ingredient lists and steps.  My favorite part of these cookbooks is the step-by-step photos she adds for each part of the process.  One thing I would love, that doesn’t seem to be in these cookbooks, is a guide on how to pare down the ingredients and recipes to meet the food needs of a smaller family.  While my family will eat leftovers, there is a limit to how long they will keep and how much my family can eat.

For this cookbook, we had our daughter choose the recipes of what looked good to her, and we tried them out.  Among the recipes we tried were the Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (a dish similar to a spicy Portuguese soup I make and the Oliver Garden Zuppa Toscana soup); the Red, White, and Green Stuffed Shells; Shrimp Scampi; and the Pasta Puttanesca.

The soup was the easiest to make and the leftovers went quickly, mostly because I love soup.  Her recipe was very close to the Olive Garden version, so if you love that soup, this is a recipe for you to try at home.  The stuffed shells are also easy to make, though they can take a lot of time because the stuffing process will depend on the flexibility of your shells — which you don’t want too flexible because they’ll be mushy.  My daughter and husband really enjoyed these, which is a win for me since they both hate spinach.

Shrimp Scampi is probably the easiest of the recipes, next to the soup, but this one was not liked by either my husband or daughter for some reason.  Since eating this, which has wine in it and a lot of garlic, my daughter has refused to eat shrimp, something she normally loves.  In my case, I had to eat all the leftovers, but got sick of eating them because there was just too much.  Pasta Puttanesca is another recipe that did not go over as well as the first two, even though I eliminated the anchovies and olives, both of which are not liked here.  I love olives, but the other family members do not.  To me, without those ingredients, or at least something to replace them, the pasta was bland tasting.  My daughter, however, loved the tomatoes.  She ate those right up.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond is another cookbook I’ll have to buy at some point to try the recipes, since this one has to head back to the library.  I could just take it out again, but I like to make notations in my cookbooks about changes I make or things I substitute.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Author:

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

National Geographic Kids: Farm Animals and Rascally Rabbits!

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Board Book, Paperback, 24 pgs., 112 pgs.
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National Geographic Kids: Farm Animals Look & Learn and National Geographic Kids: Rascally Rabbits! are two books focused on animals. In the board book, the authors are teaching younger readers about animals, their sounds, and their habitats. In the paperback, chapter book, kids will learn about animal behaviors — some good, some not so good.

The Farm Animals book has photographs of real animals, like cows and chickens, and the text explains the sounds they make and what role they play.  Mostly that cows give us milk and stuff of that nature, and it tells you some interesting trivia facts about each.  What’s sad, however, is that these animals are only talked about in terms of what they are used for by humans.

Rascally Rabbits!, on the other hand, includes stories of rabbits that run away, escape to the great outdoors, leaving their owners — usually kids — wondering where their pets have gone.  Some have been found in the barnyard, while others are found by others and returned.  There are some great facts included about the animals, as well as how to protect them — such as the microchip system.

These books offer something for kids of all ages, and parents will enjoy reading the funny tales of escaping pets to their younger readers.

Rating for Farm Animals: Quatrain

Rating for Rascally Rabbits: Tercet