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D E C E M B E R 3 , 2 0 10 H A P P Y H O L I D AY S

The magic of cooking and reading If you’re together with children or grandchildren for the holidays, there’s nothing like cuddling up to read good books together, while enjoying tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen. The children’s books and cookbooks reviewed here can help show you how.

❉ Plucky kids abound in these books for young readers

by Debbie Duncan Children who are read to reap numerous benefits. And cold winter nights are a perfect time to curl up on the couch with a child and a book to read aloud. Remember, books make the best gifts!

Let’s

read

aloud this

winter!

“The Christmas Eve Ghost” by Shirley Hughes; Candlewick, 2010; 30 pp., $16; ages 2-8. This heartwarming tale by a master British storyteller and illustrator is historical and also relevant to families today. After her husband is killed in a coalmining accident, Mam moves with young Bronwen and Dylan to Liverpool, where she supports the family by taking in laundry and painstakingly cleaning it in the washhouse out back. Mam warns her children not to speak to the O’Rileys next door, who go to a church “for a different sort of people.” Yet it’s Mrs. O’Riley who comes to the rescue when Bronwen and Dylan need help solving a scary Christmas Eve mystery. (continued on page 34)

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“The Boss Babyâ€? by Marla Frazee; Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, 2010; 32 pp.; $17; ages 4-8. Here’s a laugh-out-loud book starring a baby who’s the boss of the household from the day he arrives. “He put Mom and Dad on a round-theclock schedule, with no time off.â€? He makes demands. He holds meetings, “many in the middle of the night.â€? All of this without saying a word — until he does. Frazee’s illustrations are reminiscent of classic 1950s and 1960s picture books, but the narrative is thoroughly modern. “The Dreamerâ€? by Pam MuĂąoz Ryan, drawings by Peter SĂ­s; Scholastic Press, 2010; 372 pp.; $18; ages 8 and up. Prose, poetry and illustrations sing off the green ink adorning the pages of this fictionalized account of the troubled childhood of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda changes his name from NeftalĂ­ Perez “to save Father the humiliation of having a son who was a poet.â€? NeftalĂ­ finds allies in his younger sister, a newspaper editor uncle and a sympathetic stepmother and to a lesser extent his older brother, also a talented artist but who bows to their father’s bullying and his demands.

That young NeftalĂ­ is able to find beauty in his world is testament to the triumph of the human spirit, and makes “The Dreamerâ€? a hopeful and inspiring work in itself. “Penny Dreadfulâ€? by Laurel Snyder, drawings by Abigail Halpin; Random House, 2010; 304 pp.; $17; ages 9-12. Penelope Grey is a bored big-city rich girl with an active imagination fueled by a healthy diet of children’s literature. She wishes “something interesting would happen ... just like in a book.â€? Soon her father quits his job and the mansion falls into disarray. That isn’t what she meant! So she wishes again, and her mother inherits a run-down house in Thrush Junction, Tenn., with attached cottages that are home to an assortment of colorful, quirky characters. Penelope is so thrilled with her new home and new friend that she changes her name. Penny’s father also discovers he can cook, her mother becomes a garbagewoman, and all is hunky dory — well, except for a family money problem that Penny takes it upon herself to fix. Will she find the treasure? Or has she already? The conclusion will surprise and delight readers of all ages. “Doodlebugâ€? by Karen Romano Young; Feiwel & Friends, 2010; 100 pp.; $15; ages 9-12. Twelve-year-old Dodo, AKA the Doodlebug, figures out — after being expelled from her school in L.A. for innocently selling the Ritalin she didn’t want to take — that she can keep her A.D.D. under control by doodling. She quickly establishes a new identity and makes friends


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in her much larger San Francisco middle school. The entire family loves S.F., in fact, but Mom, Dad and younger sister Momo all have to overcome personal obstacles to be able to stay. This impressive graphic novel with a local touch is filled with humor, as well as insight into the impulses and learning style of kids who simply cannot sit still.

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        “Turtle in Paradiseâ€? by Jennifer L. Holm; Random House, 2010; $17; ages 9-12. Family history inspired Newbery Honor author Holm, who lives in Foster City, to tell the story of a spirited girl sent to live with relatives on Key West during the Depression. Turtle has a hard shell and a level head. Most people she meets seem to be related to her (except for a certain writer named Papa). She hangs out with her cousin and his friends who run a babysitting business they call the Diaper Gang. She says they’re “a bunch of dumb boys.â€? In Turtle’s world, kids find their own entertainment, make do with little to nothing and search for pirate treasure. Historical references, including the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, add authenticity and flavor to this charmer, perfect for reading aloud. “Forgeâ€? by Laurie Halse Anderson; Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2010; $17; ages 10 and up. Multi award-winning author Anderson told a Peninsula audience recently that she walked barefoot in

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snow to get a feel for the extreme cold her characters would have experienced as soldiers camped in Valley Forge, Penn., in the winter of 177778. As a result, I recommend readers have a blanket — and a warm snack — handy while reading this phenomenal historical novel. You will

H A P P Y H O L I D AY S feel the cold, and be grateful not to have to subsist on a diet of firecake with a side of squirrel. “Forge� begins with one escape and ends with another race toward freedom for a 15-year-old former slave, Curzon, who’s stubborn, smart and loyal. He enlists in the Continental army, as was allowed by the Patriots. Still, he’s far from free and indeed is enslaved again by his former master, also in Valley Forge and working for the young Congress. There he re-unites with Isabel, a fellow slave and friend from New York. Isabel is even forced to wear an iron collar around her neck. With a little help from Curzon’s army buddies, the pair use their wits once again to escape the chains that bind them. “Bamboo People� by Mitali Perkins; Charlesbridge, 2010; $17, ages 12 and up. The teen soldiers in this gripping novel are fighting in a contemporary conflict, in the troubled country of Burma. When book-smart Chiko thinks he’s applying for a teaching job, he’s forced to join the army and

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its ethnic cleansing campaign along the Thai border. Chiko makes friends with wily, street-smart Tai, who teaches Chiko how to handle beatings. Chiko, in turn, teaches Tai to read and write. They are separated, with Chiko sent into the jungle to be a land-mine clearer for a group of soldiers spying on the Karenni rebels. One of those rebels, Tu Reh, a teen seething from having his village burned by the Burmese army, finds a badly injured Chiko. Tu Reh acts, but he also struggles for the rest of this thought-provoking book with whether he made the right decision for himself or for his people. N Stanford resident Debbie Duncan has been the Weekly’s children’s books reviewer since 1997. Her latest publication is an essay in the new book, “Filled with Glee.�


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Cookbooks for all Tea lovers, vegetarians, men, Californians targeted in holiday selection by Anne Sturmthal Bergman

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his year I have chosen no fancy coffee-table books, just two new cookbooks as well as three older reissued books. I don’t think anyone can outdo “A Day at El Bulli” for coffee-table display, and many people are using the Internet to get immediate gratification when looking for recipes to actually make. The books chosen represent some tried-and-true authors, a book about the history of tea, a small book for the male chef, and a broad selection of types of food: vegetarian, Indian and some iconic California recipes. There is something to be said for books written by experienced chefs, which include more information than a recipe obtained online, and of course, there is comfort in actually having the book to refer to again and again. “Recipes Every Man Should Know” by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen, Quirk Books, 143 pp., 2010, $9.95 This book is a great idea: a small, fit-in-your-pocket guide to what a man (adult, since it includes recipes for cocktails) should be able to cook. Alas, it doesn’t live up to expectations. It starts out with the assumption that women find men who cook sexy, which, by and large, is true (and these days more likely necessary). It then goes on to define all the tools that a man should have in his kitchen. More than 50 items are included — most of which are either redundant (as in four or five pots that can be used for the same things) making it simultaneously too inclusive, and not basic enough. Apparently, silverware is assumed, but two wire cooling racks are indispensable. The recipes range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some require three ingredients and some require

15. There are no chicken recipes (sexy men don’t eat chicken?) There is a section on carving a turkey, but no recipe for making a turkey — it seems that someone else is supposed to make the turkey. Wonder who that would be? There is a large section on “Hearty Breakfast Classics” (maybe for the morning after?), some other basics (sandwiches, burgers, meat-andpotato dinners) followed by a dessert section that includes “Six Classic Cocktails.” I made the “Sexy Strawberries Zabaglione” (p. 136), which was in fact delicious. Alas, this would not be a cookbook I would give to a man to learn how and what to cook for women. The recipes are for very heavy foods. Some may appreciate this little book, but I would have preferred some recipes for salads and lighter foods. “The Sunset Cookbook” edited by Margo True, Oxmoor House, 816 pp., 2010, $34.95 The Sunset Cookbook includes “over 1,000” recipes that clearly reflect the philosophy of the Sunset organization. There are some classics, as well as some very contemporary recipes. It includes 24 “iconic” Western dishes: guacamole, fish tacos, barbecued oysters, plank-roasted salmon and others.

The book has all the main sections that one would expect — from soup to puddings, preserves and even cocktails. There are vegetarian dishes, pastas, poultry and meats included. Since I think a true test of a cook book is a nice, simple but delicious chicken recipe, I made Dijon Chicken with Panko Crust and a Dijon Sauce (p. 363). It was easy to put together and tasted wonderful. I also made “ Spicy Baked Penne with Sausage and Chard (p. 221), which was uncomplicated and a good hearty winter dish. The directions are easy to follow, there are some mouth-watering photos, and useful nutritional information after each recipe (calories, fat, proteins and carbs) for people who need to watch what they eat. This is a good all-around cookbook, comprehensive, using fresh ingredients where possible. It reflects the experience of the Sunset people in presenting creative recipes in a way that is easily understood while reflecting the shift to fresh, local ingredients wherever possible.

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pers, ginger, ground coriander, fresh cilantro and mustard seeds, most of which are now available at the local grocery store. I made Caramelized Cardamom Apples with Pistachio Cream (p. 126), which was a good seasonal recipe. Not only did this recipe surpass the usual baked apple, but it was a visual treat. Instead of making the pistachio cream, one could easily buy pistachio ice cream, thereby saving a bit of time. The Spicy Grilled Tomatoes (p.99) took seconds to put together, and instead of the usual Italian spices and bread crumbs, uses garam masala, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is an excellent book for people who want to venture gently into the realm of Indian cooking. “Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen” by Deborah Madison, Broadway Books, 228 pp., 2005, $19.95 Deborah Madison is well-known in the vegetarian food world, hav-

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ing written five cookbooks about vegetarian food. This is a good, comprehensive vegetarian cookbook, which is easy to use. I made the Cabbage and Leek Gratin with Mustard Cream (p.18), which was easy to put together, but somewhat bland in taste, even with the mustard sauce. The picture next to the recipe made it look mouthwatering, and it looked very good when it came out of the oven, but it lacked any distinctive taste. The Yellow Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta Cheese (p. 177), however, were both attractive to look at and delicious to eat. The mixture of the grain and feta cheese with added scallions, chiles and cilantro add a zing that made it much more interesting and could constitute an entire meal.

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“The Empire of Tea” by Alan Macfarlane and Iris Macfarlane, The Overlook Press, 308 pp., 2009, $14.95 This 308-page book is a good history of tea, written by the widow and son of a tea planter. The initial section, “memoirs of a memsahib,” is a glimpse into the life of a rebel colonial wife who tries to improve the life of the workers on her husband’s tea plantation in Assam, but is thwarted at every turn. Her sweet, somewhat naïve view of the British system is nicely written and evocative of the time. Her son then takes over and writes an occasionally dry, but comprehensive history of the development of tea as an industry in India, China and the world beyond. It is a story full of violence, social change — and a testament to drink that conquers the world. Recommended for tea aficionados. N Anne Sturmthal Bergman is a freelance writer in Menlo Park.


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Local faith leaders suggest ways to add joy, reduce stress, in holiday celebrations by Chris Kenrick or local clergy, the December holidays — whether spent in secular, Christian, Jewish or other traditions — are all about reflecting on what’s most meaningful in people’s lives, and finding ways to celebrate that. “A lot of people feel this tension because they realize what they’re doing for the holidays doesn’t match up with what’s actually important to them,” the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, leader of Palo Alto’s Unitarian Universalist congregation. “Once you’ve answered that question for yourself — and the answers are different for everybody — you have some clear implications about how you should spend your time and your money.” The quest for holiday simplicity is timeless newsstand staple: “Feel Organized for the Holidays,” beckons the cover of “Real Simple” magazine, with tips for table decorations, budget skin care and avoiding the common cold. Countless books with titles like “Hundred Dollar Holiday” and “Unplug the Christmas Machine” have been published on the theme. In interviews with the Weekly, local faith leaders suggested that families have a conversation no later than early December to narrow down what each member thinks is important to celebrate — and then try to sustain focus on those specific observances through the busy season. “Everybody wants the same thing, yet often in the end we end up consuming too much, stressed out and feeling sad about a holiday that should be about getting together as a family, having rest and celebration, renewing ourselves and sharing,” said the Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick senior associate rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Menlo Park. “We try to be more intentional — sitting down with family and saying, ‘What are the three things about Christmas you really love the most?’

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Madison Simonian, 9, examines banana-bark angels made by a Congolese refugee at the Heavenly Treasures gift market held at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in late November. “Kids will talk about toys, but usually it has to do with time spent with each other and some rituals — whether it’s visiting Santa or whatever that might be ,” she said. So she recommends going deeper with a question such as, “What are the main things you care about and want to continue doing?” Kieschnick reassures people, “You don’t have to create all the memories in one year — you have your whole life.”

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or some local congregations the impulse for greater meaning at Christmas has taken the form of craft fairs or “alternative gift markets.” Trinity Parish, at 330 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park, invites the public to theirs, to be held Sunday Dec. 5 and Sunday Dec. 12 from 11 a.m. to noon. Shoppers will be able to buy gifts that support causes ranging from mosquito nets to prevent malaria in Africa to micro-loans for village entrepreneurs across the globe. They can buy hand-made orna-

ments made by potter Kate Dutton-Gillett, wife of Holy Trinity’s Rector, the Rev. Matthew DuttonGillett, with a portion of proceeds going to the parish’s outreach ministry, which makes grants to nonprofit agencies. Or they may contribute — and purchase — “orphan ornaments,” tree decorations from church members that are cleaned up and sold. “The alternative gift market feels like an antidote to much of the holiday stress,” Kieschnick said. “There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘the story of stuff,’ materialism, reduce, re-use, recycling, being sensitive to the environment. “The alternative gift market is a way to respond to our desire to be more environmentally considerate, intentional, being generous, thinking about others besides ourselves, modeling a way of giving more than receiving, which are all themes we raise up at Christmas.” The nonprofit organization Heavenly Treasures, which brings handi-

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crafts from developing countries to market in the United States, sponsored an alternative gift market for the large congregation of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Nov. 20 and 21. Shoppers could choose from Kenyan rag dolls, coconut jewelry from the Philippines, handbags from Guangzhou, silk scarves from Thailand, and much more. Shopper Robert James of Redwood City admired wood-carved tree ornaments with his 8- and 5-year-old children. “My wife and I have been coming here every year,” James said. “We can buy stuff for the kids’ teachers — something that’s unique and you’re not going to find anywhere else, and it’s always fun to shop here.” Sorting through a display of colorful Thai scarves, Signy Johnson of Menlo Park, a member of Menlo Park Presbyterian, said she shops at the alternative gift market every year. “I love the fact that I can buy gifts here and know the money will go to people in Third World countries, and still buy gifts that people will value,” Johnson said.

F

or Jews, Muslims and others, the winter holiday season easily can be overwhelmed by the ubiquity of American-style Christmas, with its emphasis on gift-giving. “The biggest thing when you talk to a Jew, especially an educated Jew, is that Hanukkah has never been, until America, a big gift holiday,” said Rabbi Ari Cartun of Palo Alto’s Congregation Etz Chayim, which blends traditions of Reform and Conservative Judaism. “So all of the celebration aspects that involve presents are just American copies of Christmas. The more we do the big present stuff, the less Jewish it really is — but we lost that battle 150 years ago. “When I had kids, I lost that battle too. You cannot get away from it; your kids will just think you’re a piker.” Cartun suggests parents reserve at least one Hanukkah night’s gift for charity — “instead of giving the kids things they can play with or wear, give a donation to a worthy cause in their name, and that’s their present for the night.” He also finds it helpful to focus, as much as possible, on the inspirational aspects behind the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah. “We light the candles, sing a song and hang out for awhile just with the candles,” he said. “We celebrate that a little bit of light lasted longer than anybody thought it would, and the second half is just adding light to the darkness.” Recalling his childhood in a secular Jewish home, Cartun said, “For people who are not religious, the holidays have a totally different meaning. “Not being secular anymore and not having been for 50 years, I don’t remember exactly what it meant. “But most of it that has a signifi-

H A P P Y H O L I D AY S cant spiritual dimension has to do with good friends and close family. What’s really meaningful in this world is good friends and close family, and everything else is ephemeral.” When Muslim Samina Sundas of Palo Alto moved to the United States from Pakistan at age 23, she fell in love with Christmas. “It was a novelty for me — the decorations and Christmas and all. I was impressed. I didn’t even think of all the commercialism behind it,” said Sundas, reached by phone in Pakistan where she was visiting her father. “It was a festivity, similar to how we celebrate our Eids (festivals marking sacrifice, and the conclusion of Ramadan fasting). But as you grow older, your perspective changes, especially when you’re away from family.” Sundas represents American Muslim Voice, a group aiming to “foster friendship among all Americans by bridging cultural and religious gaps.”

As a family day care provider in Palo Alto for decades, Sundas habitually exchanged holiday gifts with the families and children she cared for. “I bought gifts for the kids and the parents bought gifts for us. I don’t mind doing that, because we believe Jesus was one of the prophets, like many other prophets, so I have no problem celebrating his birthday. “But with this economy and the war going on, Christmas is an opportunity to teach kids the spirit of giving, sharing and caring. “There are so many natural and man-made disasters in the world right now, and we don’t have to go far. If we just go to East Palo Alto we’ll see poverty, misery, helplessness. If we could relieve that, that would be the true spirit of Christmas.”

customize holiday traditions to provide meaning and fit their circumstances. Following family tradition, Julie Reis of Palo Alto, a teacher of English and a Second Language, for years baked 10 different varieties of Christmas cookies to share with friends and family. A few years ago she decided there could be a better way. She asked her husband and two sons each to name their favorite kind of cookie, and has narrowed down her Christmas cookie-baking to just four varieties. In their own special holiday spirit, Kieschnick, her husband, Michael, and their two now-grown children for years have made a traditional Christmas Day pilgrimage San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Wearing Santa hats and armed with brownies, dozens of pairs of new socks, wool hats, umbrellas and pop-top cans of soup, tuna fish and fruit cups, they drive around and stop wherever they see homeless

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hether it’s a family hike, volunteering in a soup kitchen or going to the movies on Christmas Day, people



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panhandlers. “We’ll go up to a group and give them socks and they’ll say, ‘How long can you stay? I’ve got a friend down the road who needs a pair of socks,” Kieschnick said. “It’s such an education for the kids to realize how human it is. People ask, ‘Do these brownies have walnuts? I can’t eat walnuts.’ They’re so polite. “Every year the kids feel shy. They say, ‘You go first.’ But wearing the hats helps, and after the first approach, everybody wants to jump out of the car and have these conversations with people. “We’ve done this throughout their childhood, and we did it last year,” she said. “The thing that’s so amazing is that they’re 20 and 23 and they’re driving their own cars, but they still want to do it. “It’s only for one day, but our idea is, ‘We’re not going to drive by these people on this day.’” N Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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Page 44ÊUÊ iVi“LiÀÊÎ]ÊÓä£äÊUÊ*>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞ


Palo Alto Weekly 12.03.2010 - Section 2