Leslie Patricelli didn’t keep junk food in the house when her three kids were toddlers, but the goofy, bald baby in her board book “Yummy Yucky” grins from ear to ear over chocolate sauce and cookies. The prolific picture book writer also included pepperoni pizza as a positive, acknowledging in a recent interview that some of her empty calorie imagery for kids too young to seek out sugary and fatty foods on their own have earned her a kvetch or two from parents. “If I were to do it again I would probably make a few different choices, but I don’t think I would leave everything out,” said Patricelli, in Hailey, Idaho. “All you have to do is watch a kid eat a piece of cake to know that they’re in heaven.” Heaven, indeed, especially when it comes to an abundance of frothy pink cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and candy in books aimed squarely at babies, toddlers and preschoolers who may not be intimate with the meaning of moderation. But some authors and publishers are focused on creating alternatives to c-is-for-cupcake picture books for parents struggling to promote broccoli. Even Cookie Monster sometimes eats smarter, chowing down on celery and demonstrating smaller portions of his namesake treats in “Ding Dong, Elmo’s Here!” and other books from the folks on “Sesame Street.” “Food is everywhere kids turn,” said Betsy Loredo, executive editor for Sesame Workshop’s publishing group. “So it’s natural for us to want to think of ways we can integrate that and make choices that are healthier. We try to go for at least equity.” “Sesame Street,” with an appearance by obesity fighter and first lady Michelle Obama, took on nutrition and exercise as an initiative back in 2004. The effort expanded to other divisions and special projects that included distribution of kits to six million families and child care centers offering ways to eat healthy on a budget and educate parents on the difference between “sometime food” and “anytime food.” With the childhood obesity rate tripling in the past 30 years to 1 in 3 children in the United States overweight or obese, books with healthy eating pictures and messages may not be everything, but they’re something, advocates said. Sesame Workshop, for instance, concluded in a 2010 study that when children are shown fruits and vegetables linked with favorite characters from the show they choose those foods at a much higher rate and eat more of them, according to Sesame researcher Jennifer Kotler. Even broccoli, she laughed. “Something happens between 3 and 5 where there’s a growing awareness of what healthy means. Where 3-year-olds like the foods they like, 5-year-olds know things they might choose might not always be the healthiest,” Kotler said. David Goldbeck in Woodstock, N.Y., isn’t an absolutist, but he does care about what kids see in their books when it comes to food. He wants more of them to eat fruits and vegetables, so he co-wrote an alphabet book that puts broccoli and yams in equally healthy company. The Michigan Fitness Foundation, which is home to that state’s Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, uses Goldbeck’s “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond” in take-home book bags that are part of a health literacy program in more than 400 public elementary schools, said Marci Kelly Scott, the organization’s vice president for health programs. The book includes an alphabet format with illustrations (E is for eggplant!) but also history, fun facts and recipes for older kids. Scott ordered 500 of the books in 2008 and routinely reorders to keep up her supplies. In this alphabet world, C is for carrots, D is for date, as in the “desert fruit found in Kuwait,” and O is for organic.
The adage “truth is stranger than fiction” is proven in “The Lost Wife,” by Alyson Richman. She has succeeded in blending both for an unforgettable reading experience.
I have read so many good books lately I couldn’t decide which one to review. It was a toss up between “The Obituary Writer,” by Ann Hood and “The Secret Keeper,” by Kate Norton (I don’t know about you but any title that contains the word “secret” draws me like a magnet — maybe it was that early Nancy Drew conditioning).
February is the month we glorify “love” and “The Fault In Our Stars,” by John Green, is a glorious love story. A love story not just between a boy and a girl, but with life itself. You’ll find this book in the Young Adult section, but don’t let that keep you from reading it; its message is universal to all ages because it is about living each day to the fullest, as if your days were limited.
January means resolutions. My guess is that at least one of your resolutions falls under the category of being happier in some area of your life. If so, you might want to take a look at Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “Happier at Home” (2012). Her previous book, “The Happiness Project,” was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for months. Although I hadn’t read that one, I bought her next book as the “perfect” gift for someone. Before I wrapped it I skimmed it a little further than in the bookstore. Soon I was reading each page and knew I had to have my own copy. This is a valuable and inspirational reference for any individual, family or home — the kind of book you might not read at one sitting or from beginning to end, but snippets on a daily or weekly basis. With a highlighter.
"The Beautiful Ruins” started off as a little frivolous and fun — a nice break from a serious novel. How wrong could I be.
Edward Rutherford has been writing historical sagas for more than 20 years but I just discovered him this summer with “New York, the Novel (2009).” After a passionate reading, I wanted heartily to recommend but hesitated — would most readers consider it “old news?” However, when Hurricane Sandy recently ravaged the East Coast, I felt compelled to do the review as it certainly wrote another chapter in the history of this amazing American city from 1664 to the year 2009.
As the country prepares to enjoy the 108th Baseball World Series, even those who may not be true baseball fans are often caught up in the spirit of America’s national sport. If you are indeed a die-hard baseball fan, “The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach might be just the book for you. But don’t discount it even if you don’t know first base from a knuckle-ball pitch. Described by one critic as the “greatest baseball novel in a generation,” the sports theme is metaphorically much grander — that of the human condition.
When you see the photo of Ann Patchett on the book jacket of her latest book, “State of Wonder,” it’s hard to believe someone so lovely and feminine could write a book describing some horrific images. I guess that is the power of imagination and skillful writing which she has proven in her previous books, most notably “Bel Canto” (2001 Winner of PEN/Faulkner Award).
Last month I highlighted Jacqueline Winspear’s “Maise Dobbs” series and this month is dedicated to Canadian author Louise Penny and the wonderful world she has created in the fictional setting of Three Pines, a rural Canadian village south of Montreal, just kilometers from the Vermont border.
© Copyright 2011, Ahwatukee Foothills News, Phoenix, AZ