Book Report: A World Of Food by Carl Warner

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Before my daughter started kindergarten, we began a much more structured nighttime routine that involves watching a little TV with me while my wife puts our son to bed and then a few books in her room. We call this Books and Bed because we’re super creative. My daughter’s always been interested in books, but this new process has really boosted her interest, so I’m on the look out for new stories to dive into.

While perusing the aisles of the kids section at my local library I saw Carl Warner’s A World Of Food standing on top of the shelves and it immediately grabbed my attention. I mean, just look at this thing! I’d never heard of Warner, but I was super-impressed with his ability to craft these amazing landscapes out of food!

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The story itself consists of a series of poems about what the world would be like if it were made out of foods of a certain color (orange is above). The rhymes are nice but they really accentuate the images by partially explaining what kinds of foods are in there. When I read this book to both kids, we definitely spent more time pointing out the items than reading. As you might imagine pink, brown and white (candy, chocolate and vanilla ice cream) were all very popular with them, but I was particularly impressed with silver which features a whole sea made out of fish.

I definitely recommend checking out Warner’s work — you can read more about him on his site — and I’ve already requested another one of his books from the library (and will keep an eye out for them at book stores/online). World Of Food would be an even better pick for kids who have an interest in cooking or food. I was impressed with how many items my kids were able to spot, but now they’re interested in couscous (which they’ve had, but didn’t recognize). As the cook in the family, I’m all for further food curiosity.

Cooking Anne Burrell’s Pasta Fagioloi

anne-burrells-pasta-fagioliHey, look, a food post! For those of you who might not know, I used to have yet another blog called Monkeying Around The Kitchen where I chronicled my journeys with food. After a while — and a lack of posts — I realized two things: one, I just didn’t have time to keep it up and two, I cook for my family, so those posts could easily be shifted over here to Pop Poppa. Hence, the MATK archives can now be found here on PP. Continue reading

Celebrate Father’s Day With Speyburn

speyburnWhen I get an email asking if I’d like to sample alcohol for review purposes, I respond with a hearty, “Yes please!” In other ways, I was ecstatic when I got an email asking if I wanted to check out a pair of Scottish whiskies from a company called Speyburn. I actually came home from a trip to Disney World — from the sun of Florida to the grayness of New York — to find the package waiting on my doorstep welcoming me back. It was a nice way to ease back in to regular life!

For a bit of Speyburn history, the company takes its name from the River Spey nearby. When the distillery was built back in 1897, the stones came directly from the river. To find out the closest distributor, head to the official site and pop in your zip code.

Above you can see both bottles with a shot poured of each, but for my first taste of each I actually poured about two fingers in a glass over my whisky stones. Now, I’m far from an expert on tasting spirits and explaining what makes each of them wildly unique, but I know what I like and I like both of these for a a few reasons.

Speyburn-10YO-LOW-res_2_0Let’s start with the Speyburn 10 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. According to the information I was given, this $29 bottle is described as having a “fresh, clean and aromatic with a rich lemony fruitiness” smell to it. The flavor is also described as having notes of toffee and butterscotch. I’ll be honest, the specific sweet notes didn’t light up the toffee and butterscotch sections of my tongue, but this one definitely has a cleaner, easier taste to it. There is a sweetness to it as well, but I can’t quite place what the sweetness reminds me of (maybe like a sweet coffee, but only just barely).

SPEYBURN-ARRANTA-PACK--LOWresUp next I tasted the $40-a-bottle Speyburn Arranta Casks Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Only available in the U.S., this spirit is created by using “first fill ex-bourbon casks” and comes with a more complex flavor. I personally don’t pick up on the citrus or honey notes in the description, but it is one of the more robust, fiery scotchs I’ve ever had. I’ll admit, at first it was a bit much for me, but the more I’ve sipped, the more I’ve come to really enjoy this one.

So, if you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift — or gift for any Scotch drinker — you’ve got two solid choices here. I’d say the 10 Year Old works better as a smooth, clean sipping Scotch while the Arranta would be perfect for someone who’s a bit more adventurous and wants a wilder drinking experience.

Hey, Kids Comics! – Dance Class Volume 1: So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop?

Dance Class panelI’ve loved comic books since I was 9 years old. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to turn that affection into a career. As the parent of two kiddos, I want to have samplings of my hobby I can pass them when and if they show interest. Hey, Kids Comics! will chronicle my experience going through these offerings and not only evaluating my kids’ potential interest but also passing along any potential trouble spots for children and parents. As always, I encourage you to read these books first to see if you think your kid will enjoy them.

dance class vol 1As usual, I picked up Dance Class Volume 1: So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop? from the library. When my daughter checks out the computer games, I peruse the adjacent shelves of kid-oriented graphic novels. I’m trying to broaden my horizons in this arena by getting some books that might appeal more to her sensibilities. Since she’s taking a ballet/gymnastics class these days, Dance Class by French creators Beka and Crip from Papercutz seemed like a solid choice.

And it was actually pretty successful because she wanted to check this book out as soon as she saw it in the stack when we got home. I knew nothing about the comic, but we dove right in and she seemed to have a good time with it. The book actually has a lot of ties to the world of comic strips in that each page is a self contained gag or story, though some elements carry throughout like the performance of Sleeping Beauty and the dreamy new hip hop dance teacher (was this an Angelina Ballerina story too?). Like with Tiny Titans, I wasn’t sure if she would get the format or the gags, but she seemed to have a really good time with it.

dance class pageI must admit, I did find myself laughing at some of the jokes, which I wasn’t really expecting. I didn’t fully get into this book though because of a few characters and choices made in regards to them. First, there’s a young woman named Lucie who isn’t skinny as a rail (she looks like a normal kid, in other words) and she’s sometimes the butt of fat jokes. Many of those come from the mean girl character Carla. They’re far from the worst examples of either stereotype (as you can see in this panel), but I’m not super excited about presenting my kids with them, at least right now.

With that in mind, I planned on returning this book to the library and maybe not mentioning it again, but then I saw my daughter practicing her ballet movies with this book opened up to the page where they describe the different positions. I was blown away. So, I think I’ll maybe give these books a read-through ahead of time and note where some of the jokes I’m less comfortable with are so I can change or skip them when reading because she really seems to dig it right now.

Hey, Kids Comics! Scarygirl & The Creeps

adventures of scarygirlI had big plans for doing a series of Halloween-related posts here on the blog leading up to my favorite holiday, but it just didn’t happen thanks to that whole parenting thing and work getting in the way. I did, however, do some all-ages, Halloween themed reading that is worth posting about thanks to some books I picked up at the library.

The Adventures Of Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius grabbed my attention just from the cover. I love cartoony art styles in comics and this book has it all over the place. The story itself follows the misadventures of the title character who makes friends with a sea monster and a somewhat magical rabbit. She wants to find out why she was dumped in the woods, remembering the face of a specific man, and heads towards his location. The adventure is fraught with betrayal, threats and other dangers that eventually make Scarygirl realize that this man might not be the source of enlightenment she hoped for.

Here’s the thing, though, this book is presented without dialogue. There are some sound effects in here and there are speech bubbles, but they’re filled with images of people and places or a handful of symbols. Even as a 32 year old adult who’s read comic books for a third of his life, I had some trouble following a few of the details, so I’m not sure if that will make it better or worse for a younger reader. I showed my 4-year-old some of the pictures and she dug the style, but she wasn’t too interested. When I read her other comics, I know she can get a bit lost as to which panel I’m reading from and she should be focusing on, so this one might not be the best choice. On the other hand, though, a lack of words might break down some barriers for kids, so I’d recommend checking this one out and presenting it to your kids. If they don’t get too freaked out by some of the pages, they might be all up for this one.

Speaking of the pages, dang this artwork is just gorgeous. While reading the book I found myself wishing I could play it like a video game. I must not have been the only one because it is also a video game that I now very much want to play. Has anyone played it?

the creeps vol 1 night of the frankenfrogsI was also very quickly and easily drawn to Chris Schweizer’s The Creeps Volume 1 Night Of The Frankenfrogs. As I’ve mentioned more than once, I love the films of the 80s aimed at kids that put them in real danger like Monster Squad, The Goonies, Cloak & Dagger, E.T. and even The Gate. I got that vibe just from the cover of this book from Amulet Books and was not disappointed.

The Creeps centers around a quartet of outcasts each with a specific set of skills that helps them rid their town of supernatural and sci-fi threats. These kids try to save the world from frakenfrogs while avoiding the rest of their classmates who hate them and dealing with the bad guys behind the infestation.

Again, I showed this one to my daughter but she wasn’t ready to make the commitment to a graphic novel. Still, she seemed to like the look of the characters and was appropriately grossed out by the monsters. To my mind, this book feels like it would fit in with the first batch of original Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s like Doug, Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats. If that sounds like it might be up your kids’ alley (or yours) then go ahead and give this one a shot!

DC Super Hero Girls Looks Rad!

dc super hero girls 1DC Super Hero Girls is here and I’m already a big fan! The cross-platform initiative plans to take many of DC Entertainment’s popular female characters, re-envision them for a younger crowd and make them easily accessible to kids, specifically young girls. The general idea was announced in the past few months, but USA Today scored the first look at the roll out this afternoon. dc super hero girls cover

DCSHG will come to life in a variety of arenas. There’s a cartoon presented in webisode chunks (the first one is here) from WB Animation plus a line of toys from Mattel, comics from DC, books from Random House and a variety of other offerings that will presumably make themselves known through the official website.

As you can see in the aforementioned animation, the general conceit here is that all of these young heroes attend the same high school where they’re trained how to use their abilities for good. It sounds like a mix of Ultimate Spider-Man and Monster High or the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls movies. dc super hero girls 2

From checking out the character page of the official site, it looks like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl, Katana and Bumblebee will take center stage, but others like Catwoman, Cheetah, Hawkgirl, Star Sapphire, Beast Boy and Hal Jordan will also appear. Follow the link at the beginning of this paragraph to go through each of them, read through their bios and even click around to see their specific powers and abilities.

The characters will also make their way to toy aisles thanks to Mattel’s action dolls. USA Today got the first look at these. Above you can see the foot-tall versions of Wonder Woman and Supergirl alongside the 6-inch takes on Harley and Bumblebee!

As a lifelong fan of comic books — specifically the ones published by DC — I’m very excited about the track that DC and WB are taking with this concept. Ultimately, I wish we didn’t have to make such a big effort to create entertainment that doesn’t alienate girls from the world of super heroes, but this seems like a really solid move. My daughter already has a good deal of comic-related toys in her ever-growing collection, but the fact that more will be aimed specifically at her is aces in my book!