Genre: Middle Grade

A Middle Grade Delight: The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd

by Júlia Sardà, Natalie Lloyd
Published by Katherine Tegen Books Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade

What I Loved:

So much to say about The Problim Children! After reading and adoring Natalie Lloyd’s first two books, A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, I can say she never fails to awe and astound me with her delightful prose and meaningful narratives.

The Problim Children is a fantastic story! I was immediately enamored with the seven Problim children from the very first pages of the novel, and each character carries a unique and vibrant personality, infusing the story with color and delight.

“thea believe in signs. wendell believed in wonders. He’s always felt sorry for people who didn’t believe in miracles. How could anybody live in such a weirdly wonderful world and not see magic tangled inside it?”

Transition arrives with a boom for the seven children when their home in the Swampy Woods is no longer fit for habitation. While the children’s parents are on an archaeological expedition, the seven head out of their familiar territory to claim their grandfather’s mysterious mansion in Lost Cove.

“I know your grandpa was a good man, though. He was a dreamer. He was a wild adventurer. He believed in living all the days of his life. And if tha’ts what folks claim is mad, well–then I think madness is a fine way to be remembered, don’t you?”

Upon arrival they face a fierce foe in the form of Desdemona D’Opinion, a woman who has her eye on discovering a treasure she thinks is hidden within the grand house. She possesses evil plans to farm the children out to various places so she can perform her dastardly deed and claim a treasure that rightfully belongs to the Problims.

However, the Problim Children and their faithful pig, Ichabod, have other plans! They set out to connect with the community around the house and to investigate their grandfather’s abode for clues and insight. At first it seems the surrounding families are slightly scared of the children and their unique ways. But the children persist in sharing themselves, of their joys and giftings, and humorous antics prevail!

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Like Natalie’s other two novels, which feature rich and multi-layered spiritual geographies, this one is no exception. One of the relationships often mentioned in terms of children’s spirituality is that of the very deep and transformative connections we can have with other people. That aspect of spirituality emerges in this text, specifically through the relationships among the children. Their connections with one another drive the narrative, and also serve as a catalyst for multiple events within the story.

“Look at someone heart-first,” mama problim always said. “there’s never an excuse to be cruel. when you meet someone new, think first about all the good and the sad and wonder and worry that’s probably blooming in their heart. just like yours.”

Another spiritual aspect is what I would call “profound courage”—the manifestation of courage in a character who must overcome some huge, almost insurmountable challenge. Perhaps this courage arrives through the character’s relationship with another character or through the emergency of some tremendous inner strength. That notion of “profound courage” is certainly present in the problim children, and I appreciated following the inner journeys of multiple characters in the story. i don’t want to give too much away so will leave you to uncover which characters I’m talking about.

Who Should Read This Book:

Young readers will love this book! Older readers will adore it! I recommend snatching up the beginning of what is certain to be a delightful series to most everyone.

Now I just have to settle down and wait for the next installment!

What Katie Read

#TopTenTuesday: Top Ten Foodie Passages

Genres: Middle Grade

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a blog post but what a better opportunity than a Tuesday when the theme is Food in Books! As you may know, I adore all things culinary, and as a child, I even dreamed of being a culinary queen one day. No, I don’t have my own restaurant or bakery yet, but I cook and bake as often as I can, and my dreams of one day opening a coffee shop and bakery/bookstore combo continue to be stirred…

But first, here are some titles whose passages featuring food are deliciously enjoyable!

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their blog and join in any week you like.

Here’s what they have to say about Top Ten Tuesday: “Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly link-up in the community where we provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in on it with their own top ten list. Feel free to have less than 10 or more if you need to at times and put a spin on the topic if you need to! Just please link back to us if you are participating :)”

ALL FOUR STARS

And there was the moment when the desserts began to arrive, carried by a procession of servers in black and yellow. Creamy-looking custards were followed by beautifully decorated slices of cake. Crisp-shelled pastries were set down next to gooey-centered pies. Dainty little goblets featuring ice cream and sorbet came out on a silver tray, and a pungent aroma rose off a long wooden board that was dotted with more kinds of cheese than Gladys had ever seen, even in Mr. Eng’s special fridge.

A TANGLE OF KNOTS

“Your perfect cake,” she said by way of an explanation.

“Usually I can tell as soon as I meet someone. Like, Amy’s mom there is a pineapple upside down cake, and her dad is a sour cream coffee cake with a crumbly blueberry center.”

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

“Everything is ready, Diana, except my cake which I’m to make in the morning, and the baking-powder biscuits which Marilla will make just before teatime. I assure you, Diana, that Marilla and I have had a busy two days of it. It’s such a responsibility having a minister’s family to tea. I never went through such an experience before. You should just see our pantry. It’s a sight to behold. We’re going to have jellied chicken and cold tongue. We’re to have two kinds of jelly, red and yellow, and whipped cream and lemon pie, and cherry pie, and three kinds of cookies, and fruit cake, and Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers, and pound cake and layer cake, and biscuits as aforesaid; and new bread and old both, in case the minister is dyspeptic and can’t eat new.”

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity. “There’s cold chicken inside it,” replied the Rat briefly; ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater—”

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE

You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.” Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers’ house except for Mrs Beaver’s own special rocking chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought – and I agree with them – that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

FARMER BOY

There was oatmeal with plenty of thick cream and maple sugar. There were fried potatoes, and the golden buckwheat cakes, as many as Almanzo wanted to eat, with sausages and gravy or with butter and maple syrup. There were preserves and jams and jellies and doughnuts. But best of all Almanzo liked the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie.

FARMER BOY (X2)

The big blue platter on the stove’s hearth was full of plump sausage cakes; Eliza Jane was cutting apple pies and Alice was dishing up the oatmeal, as usual. But the little blue platter stood hot on the back of the stove, and ten stacks of pancakes rose in tall towers on it. Ten pancakes cooked on the smoking griddle, and as fast as they were done Mother added another cake to each stack and buttered it lavishly and covered it with maple sugar. Butter and sugar melted together and soaked the fluffy pancakes and dripped all down their crisp edges. That was stacked pancakes. Almanzo liked them better than any other kind of pancakes.

BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES

“I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup,” she said. “And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.’

That’s a good lunch,” said Albert.

PADDINGTON

“A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of emergency.”

A SNICKER OF MAGIC

I saw an old couple with matching sun visors. They were eating ice-cream cones full of rainbow-colored scoops. I watched a girl with red hair hold a novel in one hand and a waffle cone in the other. She was mumbling the words of her story, so happy to be reading that she didn’t notice the pink dollop of ice cream on her chin.

I don’t know about you, but these passages are making me hungry! There are probably many other children’s books featuring delightful food-filled passages, but these are the ten I chose for today. What foodie books did you choose? Children’s? Young Adult? Adult? Cookbooks? I would love to read your posts so do share your links here!

What Katie Read

STAR SO SWEET Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Delicious Finale!

STAR SO SWEET Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Delicious Finale!Stars So Sweet (All Four Stars, #3) by Tara Dairman
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on July 19th 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Realistic
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars


Joan Bauer meets Ruth Reichl in this charming middle grade foodie series.

As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Gladys Gatsby is back! And this time it’s in the final installment of the ALL FOUR STARS foodie Middle Grade trilogy by Tara Dairman. You know I (and many others) adored the first two books, ALL FOUR STARS and A SUMMER OF STARS. July 19th, 2016 will see the publication of STARS SO SWEET, and let me tell you, you will not disappointed! You can expect more hilarious antics from Gladys and her friends, as well as challenges and adventures that inevitably come her way. Gladys is starting Middle School, and she is also being offered an amazing new opportunity at her top secret job for The New York Standard as a restaurant reviewer. The surprise arrival of a family member also has Gladys working on yet another project, and then you might remember the famous Hamilton from A SUMMER OF STARS. I won’t give too much away, but it’s possible the child literary star also makes an appearance. To sum up, you can expect more mouthwatering treats from Gladys as well as her creative and interesting attempts to navigate various foodie scrapes and challenges.

Now onto some of the highlights of this Middle Grade treat.

What I Loved

-Gladys’s passion for cooking and all things foodie is front and center in the narrative, as it has been in the last two books.

-Her diverse group of friends and their differing personalities and quirks are part of the action as welll—you’ll find appearances by Parm, Charissa, and Sandy. I assure you—you’ll definitely be laughing throughout the book, just as you probably were with the first two.

-The story features different cuisines and ingredients some readers may have never heard of before! Whether Gladys is browsing Mr. Eng’s specialty food shop or creating Salvadoran pancakes, she is sure to introduce readers to something new in the culinary world. At one point Gladys, Aunt Lydia, and Charissa attend a foodie trade show and sample foods such as biltong (South African beef jerky), antelope meats, yak meat, and even horse-meat bites!

-The rich themes of friendship and becoming comfortable in your own identity (something that can be quite challenging in Middle School) are appreciated and embedded in the narrative without being preachy. I love the way Tara illuminates important and relevant aspects of friendship in her storyline.

-The resolution of all the loose ends, especially regarding Gladys’s top secret job of restaurant reviewer for The New York Standard. The conclusion of STARS SO SWEET is stunning, and everything I had hoped for in the ending to this fantastic trilogy. I know this series will continue to be a popular one in my school library. I already have many students who have been waiting avidly for the last installment in the series. It’s true: Young readers love these foodie books!

-I always love the fact that each chapter features its own title. I especially enjoy that Chapter 21 is called “Irrational Doughnuts.”

Some Foodie Connections

-Gladys receives an assignment from her job: Distinguish between Salvadoran, Peruvian, and Cuban food by visiting restaurants with these cuisines. I decided to bring a few links for you to check out, so that you can do your own investigation of these three different cuisines.

10 FOODS FROM EL SALVADOR YOU NEED TO TRY RIGHT NOW: http://www.theflama.com/10-foods-from-el-salvador-you-need-to-try-right-now-1592974846.html

ESSENTIAL PERU: 10 MUST-EAT DISHES TO SEEK OUT: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/essential-peruvian-cuisine.html

9 DISHES TO MAKE YOU FALL FOR CUBAN CUISINE: http://www.saveur.com/article/-/Cuban-Recipes

FINALLY

I can imagine that yet another reason you would want to purchase the book once it’s out in the world on July 19th is that the cover is as gorgeous as its predecessors and that the trilogy presented together on the bookshelf will be absolutely stunning.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 8.52.46 PM

I’m in denial that this is the last installment of Gladys’s adventures, and I’m hoping that one day maybe we’ll get another book….or a novella, even. I just don’t want to say goodbye…

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Would you like to win a complete set of the ALL FOUR STARS books? I’m running a giveaway, courtesy of Penguin, and one winner (USA only) will receive a complete set of the trilogy. To enter, all you have to do is leave a thoughtful comment about why you are excited to read STARS SO SWEET (or any of the other All Four Stars books)!

If you missed my first interview with Tara, you can explore it here. Also, if you aren’t familiar with All Four Stars, you can read about that here. My thoughts on the second book, The Stars of Summer, can be found here.

REVIEWS OF TARA’S BOOKS

ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, 2014)

*An Amazon Best Book of the Month*

 

THE STARS OF SUMMER (Putnam/Penguin, 2015)

“Hilarious.” – School Library Journal

 

STARS SO SWEET (Putnam/Penguin, coming 7.19.16)

“A tasty dish that series fans should eat up.” -Kirkus

Tara Dairman’s Bio

Tara Dairman is the author of the middle-grade foodie novel ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin) which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. THE STARS OF SUMMER followed in 2015, and STARS SO SWEET (6/19/16) completes the series. Tara grew up in New York and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world’s longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her family.

Tara Dairman headshot

Links to Find Tara

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Are you excited about STARS SO SWEET? What are some of your favorite memories of Gladys from the first two books?

five-stars
What Katie Read
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