Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Amazing Dessert I Always Make at Christmas

Take one bite and you will be like all the others:  you will be begging for the recipe. But you will never make it. No one ever does. It's too hard. And when I see you again, in October, when we are starting to talk about what to bring for Thanksgiving, you'll plead with me to make a loaf. Or two. Just for you. 

Cream Cheese Braid

  • (8-ounce) container sour cream 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut into pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
  • large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 
  1. Heat first 4 ingredients in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Cool to 105° to 115°.
  2. Combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream mixture and eggs; gradually stir in flour (dough will be soft). Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
  3. Divide dough into fourths. Turn out each portion onto a heavily floured surface, and knead 4 or 5 times.
  4. Roll each portion into a 12- x 8-inch rectangle, and spread each rectangle with one-fourth of Cream Cheese Filling, leaving a 1-inch border around edges. Carefully roll up, starting at a long side; press seam, and fold ends under to seal. Place, seam side down, on lightly greased baking sheets. Cut 6 equally spaced Xs across top of each loaf; cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
  5. Bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Drizzle warm loaves with Powdered Sugar Glaze.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A 365 Project

I like to set goals. I like to plan projects. Love New Year's resolutions. I'm that kind of person.

One of my happiest years was the year (2003) that I decided to try to read 100 books. I've kept that resolution every year since and it continues to be a source of happiness.

I have, unexpectedly, become a blogger. That brings with it another set of goals. I love writing a good post and seeing people visit my blog and share their thoughts about the post. Very nice.

So, what next? I ran across a blog post this morning that has inspired me. Elsie at A Beautiful Mess proposes that we try a 365 project in 2013. She has decided to attempt to make 365 self-portraits, one-a-day. She writes, "That's the cool thing about the project: it's completely overwhelming in the big picture, yet every individual day is totally doable!"

Love Marcie Scudder's Daily Practice. She posts a photo each day and writes a few lines about it. Not sure I could keep up with that, but I'd like to give it a try.

So here's my plan: Each day I will photograph a Small Moment. I can do that (I think) at Instagram. Once a week (or once a month...let me give myself a little breathing room here...) I'll post my favorite  at Saturday Snapshot or Wordless Wednesday.

How about you? Do you want to join me? Would you like to take on a 365 project? What will your project be?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Alien Tanning Beds?

Delta, Utah
June, 2009

For more wordless photos,

Ten Wonderful Christmas Stories

I'm a primary school librarian, so perhaps I can be excused for urging you, over and over, to read and re-read and re-re-read the same wonderful Christmas stories. You know How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol, of course. The Little Match Girl. And O. Henry's Gift of the Magi, too.

This year, let me share some others. All four of these are memoirs. All of them are short, just a few pages, but they are all powerful stories. All four reflect those wise words from the Grinch:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more! 

Francisco Jiménez's The Christmas Gift / El regalo de Navidad

A first grade teacher returned this book to my library last week. Her eyes were still wet and she asked, "Have you read this one?" When I admitted that I had not, she pushed it into my hands, saying, "Well, you must!"

And so I did. What a story. Whew. Based on events from his childhood, Jiménez tells the story of a migrant family who, yet again, are on the move. The family has nothing. They often must make supper out of what they can scrounge from a garbage can. And then the family meets another family that has even less than they have. Beautiful story.

Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory

Truman Capote is a little boy and he and his relative make fruitcakes during the Depression and mail them off to all their friends, including President Roosevelt. Here's a little:

"Buddy, are you awake!" It is my friend, calling from her room, which is next to mine; and an instant later she is sitting on my bed holding a candle. "Well, I can't sleep a hoot," she declares. "My mind's jumping like a jack rabbit. Buddy, do you think Mrs. Roosevelt will serve our cake at dinner?" We huddle in the bed, and she squeezes my hand I-love-you. "Seems like your hand used to be so much smaller. I guess I hate to see you grow up. When you're grown up, will we still be friends?" I say always. "But I feel so bad, Buddy. I wanted so bad to give you a bike. I tried to sell my cameo Papa gave me. Buddy"—she hesitates, as though embarrassed—"I made you another kite." Then I confess that I made her one, too; and we laugh.  

Here it is online, in all its glory. Go read it now.

Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales

Not only is this little poem of a story online, but it is online in an audio version, with author Dylan Thomas reading to us. This story is little bits and pieces from Dylan Thomas' childhood Christmas, beautifully told, sparkling, rich:

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen."

Leon Hale's Miracles Out of a '22 Chevy (from One Man's Christmas)

Do you know Leon Hale? He's a long-time Houston newspaper columnist. He's ninety-something and he's still sharing stories of his life. This little Christmas story comes from his childhood, during the Great Depression. His dad is a traveling salesman and he and his mom and his sister are living in a bleak house in the middle of nowhere in Texas. It's Christmas and his dad is away:

"One thing that came clear to us all, in that house: There wouldn't be any Christmas. So as December wore along you could almost feel the sinking of spirits on that lonely hill. Then suddenly one day they said he was coming. To me it was like he was returning from the dead. I can hear him now, coming, chugging up that road in his 1922-model Chevy. I can still get the first glimpse of that shivering old car when it came curving out of the timber. I can see the steam trailing out of the radiator cap. I'm running to the road and he's turning in and I can see the gray boot showing through the hole in the left from tire. I can see the twist in the wire that holds the door shut on the driver's side. He's waiting for me to open the gate and I can see him grinning and his eyes are all wet and his Adam's apple is bobbing in his long old neck and his skinny arm is out the window and hanging there curved, waiting to grab me. That's the day I discovered you can cry about happy things, that tears can rise out of gladness and they can be hard to stop."

What are your favorite Christmas stories? Share them with me.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Virtual Advent: Uff da! Norwegian Fattigmands!

Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader are very pleased to be hosting the Virtual Advent Tour for the 7th year, inviting book bloggers to participate by sharing a tradition or treat with their readers. 

Here's a long Christmas tradition in our family:  Fattigmands.

That's right. Fattigmands.

What, you might ask, are fattigmands?

Fattigmands (pronounced FAH-tee-mans) are Norwegian Christmas cookies. They are made by combining flour and cream and egg yolk with whiskey. Fattigmands are rolled out paper thin, cut into diamonds, rolled into a little curl, and flipped into oil and fried very quickly. Then they are rolled in confectioner's sugar. Yum!

For many years, my husband and his two cousins hosted an annual Fattigmand Festival at our homes. (Thank goodness, this was long before Facebook and Instagram or you would be able to zip right over to see some pretty silly photos of my husband and his relatives at the many festivals we held!) We thought we were quite clever, Photoshopping (before there was a Photoshop) faces of our friends and relatives on top of celebrity photos and sharing these in a slide show (back when we used real slides) each year at the festival. We held talent contests, one of which my husband served as lead singer for a girl group. And we had fattigmands. Quite the event in my little town.

So, now that you are suitably intrigued, here's Grandma Rooth's recipe for fattigmands:

Simple, really. Just four ingredients.

Well, four ingredients and 
one secret ingredient Grandma Rooth never wrote down.

Mix everything together.

Roll out the dough very thin.
Use the special fattigmand maker cutting tool.

The tool makes rows of diamond shaped fattigmands.

Pull one end of the diamond through the cut in the center.

Fry quickly in hot oil.

And...Voilà!  Uff da!  Fattigmands!

What Christmas traditions do you celebrate?

I hope you will stop by the others on the tour today:

Hannah at Word Lily
Heather at Capricious Reader

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best of 2012

Best of 2012
It's that happy time of year when everyone is writing lists of their favorite books of the year. I've read and reviewed 181 books this year (and that doesn't even include the other seventy-five children's nonfiction picture books that I read but haven't yet reviewed.) That's probably more books than that silly Michiko Kakutani of New York Times fame read (though I should acknowledge that she undoubted reads more carefully than I do.)

Here are some random thoughts about my 2012 reading.

Travel narratives.   Let me tell you, I read a lot of travel narratives last year. A lot. Some of my memorable travel narrative reads were Sahara, a fun adventure across the African desert with Michael Palin; The Voluntourist, in which we follow author Ken Budd as he helps out and travels at the same time; Visit Sunny Chernobyl, as author Andrew Blackwell leads us to the parts of the world man has done a pretty good job (bad job?) of destroying; Sideways on a Scooter, where Miranda Kennedy takes us up close and personal into the lives of Indian women; as well as Turn Right at Machu Picchu; Trip of the Tongue; Lost City of Z; and, of course, the trip that led to life change for Cheryl Strayed, Wild; and an intense look at Indian poverty, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

YA.   Typically, I don't read a lot of YA, but this year I read some brilliant YA books, including A Monster Calls, The Fault in Our Stars, Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight; Why We Broke Up; Across the Universe, and I Am the Messenger.

History.   This was a great year for reading history. I found a lot of wonderful history books out there and this year I happily devoured Berlin 1961, In the Garden of the Beasts, Lost in Shangri-La, Floor of Heaven, Eight Pieces of Empire, and Eat the City

Happiness.   Reading about happiness...well, it makes me happy. Anne Lamott came out with her thin but thoughtful Help Thanks Wow. I ran across a fabulous book on mindfulness that I find myself browsing a little almost every day, How to Train a Wild Elephant. And Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin came out with a new happiness project, Happiness at Home.

Education.   I'm always eager to read anything I can find on education. This year, I learned a lot from Readicide, Fire in the Ashes, and Saving the School

Poetry.   Love, love, love the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry. I've had it for months now, but it still remains in an honored spot on my nightstand. And the clever How to Be Perfect.

Map-pish Books.  Oddly, I read two excellent books that focused on maps, Maphead and On the Map.  A little worried that I may be turning into a map geek. 

France.    If a book comes out about France, Amazon knows to alert me immediately. This year I spent July in Paris reading Sweet Life in Paris, Le Road Trip, and Paris in Love.

Foodie Books.    The Table Comes First and Beaten, Seared, and Sauced were the only two great foodie books this year. I see I've definitely slowed down in this category. Must do better in 2013.

Children's Books.   We are right in the middle of some hot and heavy discussions about the Cybils nonfiction picture books, so I hope you will excuse me from talking about these until the shortlist is announced in a few weeks. I also read some wonderful children's chapter books this year, including Kate DiCamillo's Magician's Elephant; the very sad Inside Out & Back Again; Spindlers, TIME for Kids Big Book of What, and Order of Odd Fish; and four great stories from the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read List: The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, Parvana's Journey, Artemis Fowl, The Adventures of Polly and the Wolf

Essays.   I spent many happy hours reading essays this year, especially Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and Marilynne Robinson's When I Was a Child I Read Books

Fiction.    Lots of good fiction reads this year, including Shoemaker's Wife; Where'd You Go, Bernadette; Forgotten Country; Maine; Safe Within; How It All Began; Buddha in the Attic; 1Q84; Sara Levine's funny Treasure Island!; Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes; Light Between Oceans; Wife 22; Smokin' Seventeen; and The Dog Stars

Enough rambling.

Without further ado, here is my official Best of 2012 (in no particular order):

1. 1Q84

2. Le Road Trip

3. How to Be Perfect

4. Buddha in the Attic

5. Physics of the Future

6. Treasure Island!!!

7. Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

8. A Room with a View

9. Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry

10. We Sinners

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? 

What were your favorites of 2012?

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Museum Guard at Musée du Louvre

Summer 2010

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee, 
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
--Emily Dickinson

For more wordless photos,

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?!


What I Read and Reviewed Last Week
(Cybils Books)

I reread all 98 of the Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees this weekend.
That's a lot of reading.

What I've Read and Reviewed 
(Books Other than Cybils Books)

What I'm Reading Now

I got the "enhanced edition" e-book for this reread.
Is there really a substantive difference?


What are you reading today?!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! As part of this weekly meme Book Journey loves to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme. Book Journey offers a weekly contest for those who visit 10 or more of the Monday Meme participants and leave a comment telling BJ how many you visited.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bird By Bird: 25 of My Favorite Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nominees

Thank goodness I'm not a professional book reviewer. I would have starved the last six weeks. Never have I been so slow to write up my book reviews.

It's not my fault.

The Cybils nominees are too good. They are too good for me. I can't possibly write words that will tell you how wonderful they are.

I've been stuck.

But no more. I vow to spend the day here at my laptop writing, writing, writing. Alas, I cannot really tell you how wonderful these books are, but I must try. Book by book, or bird by bird, as Anne Lamott would say. I've got my Sun & Sand candle going. Still, Still, Still channel on Pandora. My lucky moose puppet here at the ready.

Here we no particular order...

Bon Appétit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland

Julia Child is a wonder to us in America. She somehow managed to break every cultural norm for women of her time (she worked and lived independently for many years before marrying, she married yet never had children, and she created a fabulous career for herself as a chef and a tv personality) and still was able to captivate her audience of (mostly) middle-class American stay-at-home wives and mothers. She was odd for a tv personality (very, very tall and gawky and somewhat plain) but she also had that wonderful quality of self-consciouslessness that endeared her to her readers and her viewers of the time and endears her to her readers and her viewers even today.

This little children's picture book captures that charming essence of Julia Child. The book is a comic book, told in clever text (with fun asides to the reader) and child-like illustrations. In this little book the author/illustrator somehow shares all the disappointments and surprising successes of this woman's life in a way that is captivating to both children and adult readers.

This was the first Cybils nominee I read and it immediately wooed me and won me. 

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why written and illustrated by Lita Judge

Yes, there have been many books about birds for children (there are at least three in this batch of Cybils nominees) but this book is the definitive children's book for one aspect of birds: bird talk. Lita Judge shares all the quirky little-known information she could find with us, her readers, about where and when and how and why birds communicate. Add to the fascinating information big bold drawings of birds and you have a book that children will linger over. Wonderful book.

Looking at Lincoln written and illustrated by Maira Kalman

I admit it. I'm a Maira Kalman fan. When I saw she was coming to the Texas Book Festival last year, I purposefully walked out of another great session early just to ensure an upfront seat at her talk. I was so thrilled to listen to her share bits of her life and her writing with us that I never got around to taking a photo.

So, I'm a Maira Kalman fan, but, even if you don't know her work, try one of her books and I promise that she will captivate you. 

Looking at Lincoln is a great Kalman book. Kalman takes a worthy subject, a big subject, and talks and draws around and around it, telling more about the subject when she doesn't tell about it that you can get from most books about the subject. She looks at Lincoln by sharing little things about Lincoln that she loves so much that you can't help but loving them, too.

Utterly captivating.

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived written by Matt Tavares

I know nothing about baseball. I grew up in Alvin, Texas in the sixties. When I grew up, I went to work teaching out-of-town and the first thing people said to me when I introduced myself was whether I knew Nolan Ryan. "Who is Nolan Ryan?" I asked.

So don't think that I adore this book just because I adore baseball. I am still clueless about baseball.

Even if you are like me, don't let that stop you from reading this book. Matt Tavares shows his adoration of Ted Williams on every page. You can't help starting to love Ted, too, as you read along, learning that Ted grew up always swinging something, becoming one of the best hitters ever by the time he was twenty-two when he was unexpectedly drafted in World War II, coming back from the war and picking up right where he left off in baseball, and then being sent off again for combat missions in Korea this time, crash landing his plane, somehow okay, and then going on to play for seven more baseball seasons. 

Amazing how much this story made me love Ted Williams and baseball. Just think how much you will like this book if you already love Ted and baseball.

Dolphin Baby written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Brita Granstrom

I'm a school librarian but I really didn't know much about Nicola Davies until the literacy coordinator at my school started raving about what a great writer she is. With all that, I still never took the time to read one of her books until Dolphin Baby appeared at my door as one of the Cybils nominees.

Wow. What a great story. How did the author do it? Page one and suddenly I was a baby dolphin, swimming along with my mother. 

Davies tells the story just right, mixing cool facts ("Every dolphin has one whistle that's its own....") as sidebars to the story of the day-by-day life of a little dolphin. The dolphin is enough like the child reader that he can identify with the dolphin and yet different enough to intrigue him with his other-ness. 

I love the voice of Davies in this book, a voice that sounds like she is right here with the child as he reads along, sharing info that will help the child read through all the hard parts. 


Just Ducks! written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

I discovered the amazing Nicola Davies for the first time this year when I read her Cybils nominee Dolphin Baby. Davies wows me with her writing. Dolphin Baby is wonderful.

Then what do I learn? Not one Nicola Davies title is up for the Cybils nonfiction picture book award but two! How can they do this to me? Pitting Wonderful against Equally Wonderful. 

And Just Ducks is wonderful. Davies brings you into the world of ducks with a "Quack-quuuack, quack-quaack, quack" that begins the book. And you are there. With ducks. A nonfiction story every big as mesmerizing as any fiction tale and it's just about ducks. Just ducks. 

Love this book.

Island: A Story of the Galápagos written and illustrated by Jason Chin

Redwoods was my introduction to the wonderful Jason Chin a couple of years back, but it was a bit too fiction-y for the other Cybils panelists back then. Times have changed, though, and we readers are more open to a whisk here and there of fiction elements in our nonfiction. And (at least I think) it makes for a better world.

So then Island. Let's look at Island. Chin, panel by panel, takes us through the birth, growth, and eventually disappearance of an island in the Galápagos. We see the island and its inhabitants change, over years and years, in little ways that, as time passes, become big and helpful modifications. Chin pulls his characters, all the creatures who begin to populate the island, right to the center of his drawings, posing for us, where we can look closely at all the curious developments, and slowly, reading along, we are pulled into the story of this intriguing spot in the world. Perhaps for the first time,  like the first people who visited the islands, we see the inevitability of slow evolution and change in our world. Beautiful.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno

I'm not a sports girl. I know nothing about football despite the fact that I have lived my entire life here in Texas where football is the national sport. 

Why then, you might ask, do you love not one but two Cybils nominees that are sports stories? 

It's the power of the story. This story is every baseball dad's dream: a baseball team composed of twelve brothers. That's enough boys to populate the whole field with three left on the bench. And not only did this team of brothers play together, but they played together nicely. 

You just can't help but being captivated by the little stories about all the brothers, as they form their own semi-pro team and draw crowds, as they disband for the duration of the war and fight for their country, as they return home from war safely and once again do what they do best, play ball. 

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

There's something that is especially compelling to me about a book that is both written and illustrated by one person. Balloons Over Broadway is such a story and Melissa Sweet is such an author/illustrator.

Sweet uses scraps to make her book, scraps of stories and scraps of real objects and even scraps of words, and these add an extra fun layer of realism to her gentle illustrations and tale. Sweet takes charge of the book, always surprising the reader by flipping the perspective and adding real maps and marionettes to the margins. 

A wonderful book.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

When you have read a lot of children's nonfiction as I have, you might start to think you've heard all the  good stories. Then a book like Mrs. Harkness and the Panda arrives at your door and you happily learn there are many more amazing stories to tell.

Ruth Harkness never expected to venture very far away from her comfortable home. But then her husband died and she felt a need to carry on his work, to find and bring a panda home to America. 

The reader will love following Mrs. Harkness' difficult journey, beautifully illustrated with cartoon panels of conversations and actual photographs of Mrs. Harkness and her panda, maps of the journey and real postcards of old China.

Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin

Who needs to travel when there are authors like Ted and Betsy Lewin? This time the Lewins take us to a group of islands off the coast of Iceland where thousands of puffins spend their summer raising their chicks. In August the chicks, called pufflings, must go to sea and the children of the islands go to work to help the pufflings. 

The illustrations are a perfect mix of large startlingly realistic paintings (Ted, I think) and quick friendly small sketches (Betsy?). Who could not be charmed by this small story of courage and patience with these brilliant illustrations? 

Nic Bishop Snakes by Nic Bishop

Not many would dare to title their book not just an enormous broad subject name (Snakes) but would actually be bold enough to include their own name to describe the subject of the book (Nic Bishop Snakes). And to do so with our blessing, because he has done it before (Nic Bishop Spiders, Nic Bishop Frogs, Nic Bishop Lizards) and we have loved it.

And this is another bell ringer of a book. Bishop is a great photographer whose photos of snakes surprise and startle us on every page. You can't help yourself from saying, "Look at this! Oh, and this! And this!" as you turn the pages. But he is not just a good photographer; he shares all the cool things in the text you never knew about snakes, too. Bishop somehow captures the very essence of snake-ness without being pedantic or stereotypical. We don't know how he does it, but we ask him to please please keep going, on to Nic Bishop Owls and Nic Bishop Ants and Nic Bishop Bats. We are eagerly waiting.

Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Amy Bates

Not only have I fallen in love with two baseball books among this year's Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees, but I am enamored of two books about Julia Child. This one tells the story of Julia's journey to become the premier American chef, from the point of view of a little stray French cat. Author Reich and illustrator Bates push all my happy buttons, with Julia Child and amazing food and Paris and cats. Wonderful.

How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers written by Andrea Menotti and illustrated by Yancey Labat

Big numbers are hard for children. This is a big book to help with big numbers.

You can see five things. You can hold five things (probably) in your hand. But what about five hundred things? Five thousand? A hundred thousand? A million?

This big book (librarians should be warned that it will not fit in a child's backpack and has foldout pages that will tear easily, but please don't let that stop you from acquiring it for your collection) uses a competitive brother and sister to allow children to visualize big numbers. With jelly beans. This amazing illustrator (how long did it take Labat?!) actually draws, on an enormous foldout page, one million jelly beans. 

Love this one.

Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure written by Shana Corey and illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Why wasn't this book around when I was a little Girl Scout? Sadly, I rarely ran across stories of strong girls who grew up to be strong women. I wish I'd heard Daisy's story when I was young. I'm happy that girls of today can get to know her through this great book. 

Daisy, despite becoming deaf in one ear, lived an adventurous life, learning blacksmithing and riding elephants in India, in a time when women rarely left their homes. Then she discovered Boy Scouts and she was determined to create something like it for girls in America. 

The author and illustrator work together to create a book that reminds us that girls were not always free to explore as they are today and to create the inspiring story of a courageous and daring woman that has given girls today bigger lives. 

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World written and illustrated by Giles Laroche

So many houses in the world! Giles Laroche shares dogtrot log houses and chalets and cave dwellings and chateaus and yurts and other houses with us in this beautiful book. 

Laroche tells us what life would be like if we lived in these homes and shares details of the homes that we've always wanted to know. The illustrations are of the detailed cut paper that children loved to explore. 

I hope Laroche is now working on a followup book about clothes or pets or transportation of cultures around the world. Delightful.

A Rock is Lively written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

If you want Astonishingly Amazingly Beautiful in a children's book, look no further than the writing/illustrating team of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. A Rock is Lively is Aston and Long's fourth joint effort following the success of An Egg is Quiet, A Seed is Sleepy, and A Butterfly is Patient. 

I knew this would be a lovely book, but I'd almost despaired of obtaining a copy in time to evaluate it for the Cybils when my librarian friend surprised me with the book last week. 

I hope you'll forgive me for loving this book best of the series as my husband is a longtime rockhound and gem cutter. I've seen a lot of beautiful rocks and a lot of beautiful rock books, but I must say that I've never seen more beautiful rocks in a more beautiful rock book. And not only is it beautiful, but it explains rocks better than any other rock book for children that I've read.

Fabulous. It will not disappoint.

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman written by Esme Raji Codell and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins

Do we really need another book about Johnny Appleseed? In my primary library I have seventeen different books about Johnny Appleseed. 

Now I have eighteen. And I am very happy with this new look at Johnny. Before I even saw the book, I knew I'd love it; how can you go wrong with a collaboration between the amazing Esme Raji Codell and the wonderful Lynne Rae Perkins?

This is a magnificent book. The story carries us from present day America into life at the time of John Chapman. We spend time with Chapman and come to know him by the legacy he left for us: use what you have, share what you have, respect nature, try to make peace where there is war, and you can reach your destination by taking small steps. 


Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy

Sadly I was born with a Word Brain not a Math Brain. Math was a loathsome task when I was young. It would have helped me so much, me with my Word Brain, to have understood math had I had books like this new wonderful book, Seeing Symmetry, by Loreen Leedy. The title page with, on one side, the title, author's name, publisher, and half an owl, and on the other side, a reflection of the left, immediately alerted me to the Leedy's whimsy. 

You will understand symmetry after reading this clever and colorful book, whether you are fifty or five. 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

We see tiny windows into the Muslim world in this little book, color by color. Khan leads us through all the distinctive vocabulary of Muslims---henna and Ramadan and zakat and mosque---with gentle rhyming explanations while Amini reveals us the beauty of the Muslim world. 

A radiant and simple look at the Muslim experience.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw written by Don Tate and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Bill Traylor was eighty-one years old when, out of the blue, he began to draw. He'd saved up memories of a lifetime, memories of Sunday morning church services and swimming in the river with his friends and picking cotton on the farm, and he suddenly began to draw little pictures of fighting cats and men in tall hats and hunters on horses. A show was arranged for Bill and he had a chance to share his memories with the world.

I love this beautifully written story of a simple man who suddenly became an artist at an age that most people are starting to wind down, a man who almost compulsively drew and drew, a person who created simple beautiful art.

Monsieur Marceau written by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Gerard Dubois

This year was the year for fantastic picture book biographies and Monsieur Marceau was one of my favorites. Leda Schubert tells, in simple words, and Gerard Dubois depicts, in quiet pictures, the story of a man with no words. It's all the details of the story---how Marceau loved to talk when he was not performing, the story of Marceau leading Jewish children to safety during the war---that the book draws its strength.

Noah Webster & His Words written by Jeri Chase Ferris and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

This book barely made it in under the wire, but I'm happy it did arrive in time for me to read it for the Cybils. The charm of this book is the novel way Ferris tells Webster's story, using big words that are written like dictionary entries. Absolutely Absolutely cap·ti·vating [kap-tuh-veyt] 1. to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence; enchant.

Eggs 123: Who Will the Babies Be? written by Janet Halfmann with illustrations by Betsy Thompson

This is one of those books that draws big Oooo's and Ahhh's from the young children in my school. Halfmann recites a number alphabet for eggs, with just enough rhyme to charm but not so much that the rhyming becomes annoying. Thompson created fun lift-the-flap pictures to accompany the number alphabet. A delightfully fun interactive book.

I Have a Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I shared this book with a group of kids at the recent book fair and they haven't stopped bugging me about readying this book for checkout. It's a beautiful book. Kadir Nelson, with his starkly realistic paintings, brings us up close to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech. Mesmerizing.

That's it for now. Twenty-five of my favorite Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees, in no particular order. I hope to share more nonfiction picture book nominees that I loved before the end of the year.

What do you think about these? Have you read any of these? Any thoughts you'd like to share about these?