Monday, February 27, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Adele Taylor

 Adele Taylor, Adele's Literacy Library

Adele Taylor believes not only that everyone should be able to read, but that they should all “also have access to a good book!” That’s why in 2008, at only 13 years old, she started her own business.

Adele’s Literacy Library has since donated thousands of books and bookmarks to schools, libraries, and other organizations in need. Adele also runs 2 special programs:

1. Storytelling with Adele, in which she visits various groups to read aloud and then then discuss with them the selection.

2. Read All You Can, which is pretty much exactly what the name implies: students are challenged to read as many books as they can in one month’s time, at the end of which surprises from Adele are awarded to the winner.

To take the challenge, visit Adele’s site:

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

FOODFIC: Ugly to Start With - John Michael Cummings

Jason Stevens, our 13-year-old protagonist, doesn’t eat much in this story, although that’s hardly surprising since his family’s home is the dilapidated one in town that of the more “upstanding” Harpers Ferry citizens is shocked to hear anyone actually lives in. His immediate family includes the father that he hoped was “gone for good,” the mother whom none of the other locals can understand having married crazy Bill Stevens in the first place, and the two older brothers who aren’t against him, but aren’t really for him, either. That being said, Jason’s probably better off within those walls, because beyond his front door Harpers Ferry boasts more than its fair share of characters. There’re very few folks to like between the neighbor-kid Mike, who acts as if “seeing [Jason] crying is the best thrill in the world,” to creepy Carter Randolph, who likes living on the mountain because “it’s lonelier than me.”

So there’s really no food of note until Jason goes to visit his somewhat-estranged grandfather in a nearby new gated community, which Jason knows is clearly better than his neighborhood because there’s “not even broken glass in the street.” Better, indeed; Granddad’s new lady-friend wheels out “a fancy cart full of the tiniest diamond-shaped sandwiches.” 

At this impromptu luncheon, Granddad empathizes with Jason’s situation, telling him, “We’ve got to get you out of this place;” yet his girlfriend (whose money is enabling Granddad to live this new high-life) is convinced that Jason will never be more than the small-in-size-and-mind town that is his “heritage.” As soon as she belittles him (in what she surely believes is a subtle and gracious way), Jason notes that “the ham spread [has] no taste, the bread [is] stale, and the iced tea [is] warm.” He sums it up perfectly, in fact, when Granddad tries to excuse Monica as simply “playing devil’s advocate,” while Jason thinks to himself, “She’s the devil alright.” 

And I have to agree. To make someone (actually two someones if you include Granddad) feel small – to crush the dreams of a child – is truly evil. Seems she’s the one who’s ugly to start with…and end with. 

Wait; back up. Ham spread? As in deviled ham? Nice touch, Cummings. ;)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Kyle & Garrett Weiss

Kyle & Garrett Weiss, FUNDaFIELD

When 13-year-old Kyle Weiss travelled to Germany with his family for the 2006 World Cup, he came home with much more than memories of exciting soccer games. After learning from Angola fans how impoverished their homeland was – how the people live for soccer but are so lacking in resources that most have to kick a makeshift ball of garbage bags around a dusty lot – Kyle found a mission. 

Along with older brother Garrett, he first thought of collecting soccer equipment to send to Africa, but when he realized what the kids needed most was a real space to play, they formed FUNDaFIELD – an organization to (you guessed it!) build soccer fields in developing countries.

$140,000 and 9 African fields later, FUNDaFIELD now boasts over 200 members doing not only outreach and fundraising, but also studying the benefits of organized sports and how they help kids stay in school and thrive under extremely difficult conditions. 

To find out more about Kyle’s mission, visit:

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Yvonne Hertzberger, Author of the Earth's Pendulum Trilogy



My trilogy, Earth’s Pendulum, takes place in an imaginary old world society. Think agrarian city state, on a large island isolated from other influences. The climate is temperate, akin to what Ireland might have, or England. 

Now when I create my world, while it is not a real place, I still want my readers to be able to place themselves there, to see it in their minds, to hear the speech of the characters. Both the setting and the characters must be believable. 

One device I use to help readers feel that my world is a possible place, one where they can feel at home, is to describe some of the more mundane, everyday parts of their lives. So, in Bargia, or Catania, Gharn or Lieth, I add elements of daily life that include hints of what the citizens eat, drink and use for remedies and healing. But these must be plausible. Since we are in a temperate climate, isolated from other societies, real tea would not be available. But tisanes would. So my characters drink tisanes, though they call them teas; sage for strength, raspberry leaf for pregnancy, chamomile for its calming effect, and white pine needle both for its pleasant taste and because it contains vitamin C. Mint tea, too, is common. They do drink ale, wine and mead as well, but these are less interesting to me.

Now what do we expect people in such a culture and environment to eat? Why wild meats such as venison, wild boar and rabbit, of course. As well they have domesticated some cattle, sheep and goats for milk and cheeses, as well as for meat. Chickens, ducks and geese add eggs and fill out the meat menu. So platters of cheese, cold meats and dark breads figure prominently in many of the ‘meetings’ that are held with the lord, his advisors, his lady and family.

The gardens on the One Isle are filled with beans, squashes, root vegetables and herbs. Grains such a maize, spelt and rye are grown. I leave out wheat as it is a more modern grain. Orchards provide apples and plums. Berries are picked in summer and preserved in honey. Mmmmm!

Breads are mostly dark and dense. Sweet buns may be filled with nuts and raisins, and baked with honey which make them highly prized at festival times or other special occasions. Honey cakes are another popular treat. Yum! Is your mouth watering yet? Imagine walking about the market, stopping by a local baker’s shop to sample his latest tarts, the new recipe with raisins, hazelnuts and honey. Now there is a treat fit for the lord’s table!

For their greens the people forage in the forests for cress, wild garlic and onions, mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns. These are a spring delicacy, much looked forward to after a winter of mostly root vegetable stews.

Honey does not only sweeten things; it also has natural antibiotic properties which when mixed with goldenseal makes a wonderful healing salve for minor wounds.

And if you need to sleep but can’t, try a tea laced with valerian. You’ll hate it, but it works. Just make sure you chase it with mint tea to get rid of the foul taste. You’ll sleep like a baby.

Come visit the One Isle with me and enjoy the fare it offers. You will eat and drink well. Back From Chaos will help you feel at home. Through Kestrel’s Eyes will welcome you back. The last book in the Earth’s pendulum trilogy, The Dreamt Child, is on the way.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing some food for thought, Yvonne!

You can find Yvonne at:


And purchase the Earth's Pendulum books here:

Back From Chaos (Book 1)                     Print Edition          Kindle Edition
Through Kestrel's Eyes (Book 2)           Print Edition          Kindle Edition

Monday, February 13, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Sami Stoner

Sami Stoner running with Chloe, her seeing-eye dog
16-year-old Sami Stoner loves running cross-country. So much so that, when in the 8th grade she began to succumb to Stargardt’s Disease (a hereditary form of macular degeneration that causes irreversible blindness), she refused to give up the sport. 

Sami now runs with Chloe, her golden retriever and the first-ever seeing-eye dog sanctioned to compete in Ohio. Sami’s coach welcomed Chloe to the team as member #49, purple jersey and all ;)

This super-girl, who says that her family’s faces are what she most misses being able to see, wisely says, If you care enough about [something], just try to find a way to do it, because I bet there is a way.

You bet there is!

See Sami and Chloe in action here:

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

FOODFIC: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Dai Sijie

“I’ve never seen anyone so poor in my life! Do you know what he takes with his liquor? Pebbles! I swear it’s true, on the head of my mother. He dips them in salty water, puts them in his mouth, rolls them around and spits them out again. He says this dish is called ‘jade dumplings with miller sauce.’”

So Four-Eyes tells Luo and the narrator (who remains nameless throughout the book) of his visits with the miller, from whom Four-Eyes must gather ancient songs to publish when he returns home from the mountains. Not only do Lou and Narrator then go to the miller’s house and witness his partakage for themselves; when their fellow “student” loses his trademark glasses and cannot see, they volunteer to carry his sixty kilos of rice up a treacherous mountain path to get there. They even go so far as to sample the “dumplings” – a vile experience made even worse when Luo accidentally refills a round with lamp oil instead of liquor.

What could possibly make these two teenage boys, whose “re-education” (as mandated for all children of intellectuals as part of Chairman Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution) in a village in “a lost corner of the mountains” includes hauling back-buckets of excrement up (yet another) treacherous mountainside, invite even further misery?

Books. They’re forbidden, but Four-Eyes has a secret stash that Narrator and Luo will clearly do anything to get their hands on.

Books? Really? you ask. Please indulge me this extended excerpt, as the narrator himself expresses his feelings far better than I could hope to paraphrase:

Let me tell you about Romain Rolland. Among the books in Four-Eyes’s suitcase there was only one by him: volume one of his four-volume masterpiece, Jean-Christophe…As the story was about a musician and I myself played pieces on the violin such as Mozart Is Thinking of Chairman Mao, I was naturally drawn to the book. I had intended only a brief flirtation, a skim read, but once I had opened the book I couldn’t put it down. Until then short stories had been my favourite reading: well wrought and sparkling with ideas, tales that made you laugh or took your breath away, that would stay with you for the rest of your days. I was more dubious about full-length novels. But Jean-Christophe, with is fierce individualism utterly untainted by malice, was a solitary revelation. Without him I would never have understood the splendour of taking free and independent action as an individual. Up until this stolen encounter with Romain Rolland’s hero, my poor education and re-educated brains had been incapable of grasping the notion of one man standing up against the whole world.

Now sucking a few pebbles seems a small price to pay for that.

*I listened to the audio version of this book and immediately recognized the reader as B.D. Wong, best known for his role as Dr. Wong on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I give him outstanding marks for his impressions of characters both male and female, his handling of different accents, and just the overall listen-ability of his voice. He’s the best audiobook reader I’ve heard since Jim Dale did the Harry Potter series.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Toastworthy Teens: Kevin Lunsmann

 Kevin Lunsmann, Jungle Escapist

It’s hard to imagine a more frightening situation than being kidnapped by Al Qaeda mercenaries while on vacation. That’s precisely what happened to Kevin Lunsmann last year in the Philippines, and the 14-year-old from Virginia not only survived, but in fact rescued himself. 

Kevin was taken hostage along with his mom and cousin by a dozen armed men who stormed their resort in the middle of the night and took them to a remote island. Held captive for 5 months – during which time his mother was released by paid ransom and his cousin escaped – Kevin somehow kept his wits and was ready when opportunity presented itself. He tricked his captors by saying he was going to bathe in a nearby stream, then took off, only to wander barefooted through the jungle for 2 days before being found by helpful villagers. 

Impressed? See Kevin’s story here:
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Follower Love GIVEAWAY HOP!

This hop, organized by Happy Endings and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, features almost 300 (!) participating blogs offering book-related giveaways! We're all linked up together so you can hop easily from one giveaway to another; see the full list here: Follower Love Giveaway Hop.

Winner here at BWATE? gets a Signed Copy of either:
 "Solid" (Solid Series Book #1) or "Settling" (Solid #2)

To enter to win, just follow this blog and leave a comment/question,
along with a way to contact you.

PLEASE NOTE: This hop is different than other previous giveaways!
Like the Gratitude Giveaway, I'd like to treat this as a way to thank followers
(not ask them to do stuff ;), so there is only
ONE entry per person, which you get by following this blog
(GFC or Networked Blogs), or liking my FB page or following me on Twitter.

AND to further show my thanks for your support, I will send a bookmark
to every person who follows this blog and enters the giveaway!

Giveaway runs from Feb. 7th to Feb. 14th; last day to enter is Tues., Feb. 14th.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

FOODFIC: The Entertainer and the Dybbuk - Sid Fleischman

Ventriloquist Freddie the Great finally finds himself living up to his title when he’s suddenly possessed by a Jewish spirit  known as dybbuk – “a scrappy demon who glows as if spray-painted by moonlight.” Avrom (the dybbuk) assures the Freddie that he’s as “harmless as a slice of rye bread,” which of course makes me wonder, How harmless is rye bread? Can it in any way be used as a weapon? A poison?

The only link I can find between rye and “harm” is ergot poisoning, which results when a fungus infects grain products like rye and other cereals. There’s also Agatha Christie’s “A Pocketful of Rye,” but the rye in one victim’s pocket is only a clue to the killer’s motive, not a cause of death. 

Okay, looks like we’re clear – rye does indeed seem to be harmless.  But is Avrom?

It doesn’t matter to Freddie; he just wants Avrom out. Now. So he goes to the church, where the priest tells him he needs an exorcism, but that the church can’t do Jewish demons. Then he finds a synagogue (not an easy feat in the aftermath of WWII) where the rabbi blasts a sacred horn in his ear to blow out the demon (and Freddie’s eardrum). When that doesn’t work, Freddie asks Avrom what it will take to make him go away. The demon answers, “Try chicken soup.” 

Yes, it’s a smartass answer (as intended by Fleischman, who says in the back flap: “The Jewish sense of humor miraculously survived the Holocaust”), and an old wives’ tale. It also represents a sense of hopefulness in that people believe chicken soup cures sickness – whether by steaming out the sinuses, providing nutrients to fortify the system, or just ‘cuz. But it’s not the how or the why that’s important – it’s the universality of the belief in it. Despite the hugely different backgrounds and goals of Freddie, the American stage presence, and Avrom, the spirit of the murdered Jewish child, the two find common ground in their universal feelings of horror against war, genocide, barbarism, and revenge, which, unlike chicken soup, is sometimes better served cold.