Happy Summer

This may show up twice because I’m having trouble getting this blog to load on my site.  So just read it once, unless it thrills you so much you just have to read it again.

Anyway, I do hope everyone is having a happy summer and not getting flooded out, dried out, blown away, or burned out.  Time on the beach or in the pool or in the garden or on the golf course or paddling up the river is a good thing, so do try to get some of that in. Ride a horse in the woods and cool off your soul with the beauty of the woods and the serenity of being with a special companion.  Take the dog for a long walk and a swim in the river.  Wherever you are, be sure to have at least on book along for company. 

For this post I included books that take place in the summer or include summer time activities.   Hope you enjoy them.

I do not recommend this first book except as a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t let your daughters spend time in ritzy resort towns without supervision.

Beach Lane: Summer Fun in the Hamptons!

Melissa de la Cruz

      If you like books about “Barbie Doll” spoiled brat, teenage girls, this is the book for you. Originally published as The Au Pairs, it is told from the points of view of three girls who take jobs as Au Pairs to a family of wealthy children whose parents really can’t be bothered with them. Eliza Thompson is used to summer in the Hamptons, but only as a member of the elite. Now, thanks to her father’s bank fraud disgrace, she has to take the bus from her new home in Buffalo to be the hired help. Her parents wouldn’t even buy her a plane ticket. Mara Waters is used to scrimping and thrilled to be out of Sturbridge for the summer, even if her boyfriend, Jim, was scalding mad that she was going. Jacarei (Jacqui) Velasco is from São Paolo and is quite used to picking up older men to help her on her journey. The girls get to the Hamptons and meet at their employers’ house. Although the girls do adjust their views of the world a bit during the summer, Eliza and Jacqui stay pretty much the same throughout the book—obsessed with pretty clothes and pretty boys. Mara learns to salivate over the same things. She and Eliza do try to take care of their four charges, but Jacqui conveniently comes up missing when any real work is to be done. This book will do nicely if you want to encourage your teen daughters to drink, smoke and have sex.

BIBLIO: 2013 (orig. 2004,) Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc., Ages 14 +, $9/99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7409-3

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0765-2


The second book has to do with scuba diving and treasure hunting, which many people do on vacation.

In Too Deep

Coert Voorhees

      Annie Fleet loves scuba diving, history and searching for treasure, which makes her feel even more out of place at the fancy private school she attends in Los Angeles, California. She’s surrounded by very wealthy kids, who, if not actors themselves, are the children of actors. Annie goes there because her father teaches there. She is going on a community service/treasure hunt to Mexico and the hottest guy in school, Josh Rebstock, is also going. The community service bit is hardly worth mentioning as far as Annie’s concerned and since she’s not much of a party girl, she’s bored with the after-work-hours drinking. Finally, they’re done with the community service part of their trip and on to the treasure hunt. Unfortunately, Annie is left for dead by her diving partner after she recovers a clue to the famed Golden Dragon, but makes it to the surface in tact. The rest of the story follows Annie and Josh trying to find the treasure and out wit the bad guys. It’s a rollicking good story with well drawn characters and lots of excitement. Teachers can use it as a jumping off point for history, social values or science.

BIBLIO: 2013, Hyperion/Disney Book Group, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4035-1


The last book is a good tale of learning to stand up for yourself and why it’s good not to lie.

The League

Thatcher Heldring

      Eighth-grader, Wyatt Parker, wishes he was macho enough to not be picked on. Plus, he wishes the girl next door, Evan Robinson, would get romantic feelings towards him instead of the hulky quarterback, who seems to be all muscles and self-assurance. Still Wyatt’s at the movies with Evan and the quarterback isn’t. But Wyatt decides he’ll go out for summer football, so he can toughen up. Only problem, his dad has signed him up for golf camp, so they can play golf more often. Wyatt doesn’t even really like golf, but he’s not used to going behind his parents’ backs. And his best friend, Francis, is psyched about going to the golf camp also and hanging out with Wyatt. Wyatt’s younger sister, Katie, is also very excited about going to the camp. Older brother Aaron, introduces Wyatt to the “League of Pain,” a no holds barred, tackle football league that plays in a secluded part of the community’s sports park. His father won’t let him out of the golf camp, so he lies about it, telling the camp he’s going to a space camp instead. Then he hurts Francis’ feelings by not even calling to say he won’t be going to the professional golf tournament they have tickets for. Wyatt does get more muscular and more respected by the end of the two-week long league. Along the way, he discovers that telling lies and being deceptive really aren’t cool. He also learns that he can stand up for himself without giving in or being a bully. This is an engaging story, with good characters and could be useful in classroom discussions about bullying and self-esteem. There could have been a bit more effort to explain why the parents don’t seem to want much to do with their older son.

BIBLIO: 2013. Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 13 to 17, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-385-74181-1

ISBN: 978-0-375-99025-0

ISBN: 978-0-375-98713-7

Whatever you do this summer have a good time and wear sunblock.  Talk to you soon.  Sarah




2 thoughts on “Happy Summer

  1. Tim J. Myers
    229 Kit Carson Court
    Santa Clara, CA 95050
    (408) 261-1145 tmyers@scu.edu

    Dear Sarah:

    Hope you’re doing well! And I hope you don’t mind my trying to reach you via your comment feature–forgive me if you do! My new children’s book Rude Dude’s Book of Food is just out. Would you kindly consider reviewing or mentioning it on your blog?

    Rude Dude is a funny, fast-paced, anecdote-filled history of popular foods (hamburgers, chocolate, etc.) tied to the Common Core and intended for upper-elementary/middle-school students. It includes lesson ideas for teachers and a list of the Core standards the book meets. I’ll include a sample chapter below.

    For what it’s worth, I have 12 children’s books out with three new ones on the way. Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe (Sterling) earned great reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and SLJ, and I won the 2012 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Fiction. My Basho and the River Stones (Cavendish ‘04), one of three finalists for a 2007 California Young Readers medal, got excellent reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, Booklist, and a starred review in SLJ. Tanuki’s Gift (Cavendish ‘03) got an excellent boxed review with art in the New York Times, won an Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award, and was a Nick Jr. Magazine “Best Book of the Year.” Basho and the Fox (Cavendish ‘00) was read aloud on NPR, made the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books, and was chosen as a Smithsonian Notable Children’s Book, among other honors. And Let’s Call Him Humuhumu…(Bess Press, ’93) is out in a new edition with accompanying CD. I’ve placed 18 pieces with the Carus Group (one nominated for a Paul Wittey Short Story Award), two with Storyworks, others with Highlights, AppleSeeds, Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul, and others—won a first prize in a national poetry contest judged by John Updike—have two books of adult poetry out—have been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize–have a book on fatherhood that won the IBPA’s Ben Franklin Digital Award–and have published much other fiction, non-fiction and poetry for kids and adults.

    I’ve included a sample chapter below, and you can see the cover here: http://www.timmyersstorysong.com/TM_Website/Rude_Dudes_Book_of_Food.html.

    I’d be happy to email a pdf of the book if you’re interested, but please let me know if you’d prefer hardcopy.

    I appreciate your consideration!

    Tim Myers

    Chapter 2:

    Choc Rocks

    All right, cats and kittens, let’s talk about something SO delicious even modern science calls it Theobroma—”Food of the Gods.” We just call it
    And luckily, the gods seem okay with us eating it. Because when I think about chocolate, all I can say is—Whoa.
    And I’m not the only one. Chocolate is one of the best loved foods on Earth. In 1998, for example, Americans alone ate 3.3 billion pounds—that’s BILLIONS, Uncle Scrooge! Americans buy $1 billion worth of chocolate every Valentine’s Day—I kid you not! Nine out of ten people like chocolate (and some say the tenth is probably lying). There’s even a group of chocolate-lovers called “Chocoholics Unanimous” (Get it? Instead of “anonymous”?). Sometimes I think I could go off “chocolateering”—you know, like a pirate, also known as a “buccaneer.” I’d rig out a ship and steal other people’s chocolate. But I couldn’t have a crew—I wouldn’t want to share.
    But while I tell you about chocolate, I’ll tell another story too—a smaller but, to me, equally important one. Pay attention—there will be a quiz.
    Once there was this kid named Chocolate who stayed in his house all the time. He thought he was too pure to mix with anything else. So he just hung out, looking in the mirror or watching the Food Network…
    Okay, more on that later. Now, about chocolate.
    Chocolate historians have tracked the story down. (What—you think being a “chocolate historian” is weird? Beats being a bean-dip historian, if you ask me). For thousands of years, wild cacao trees were growing in the jungles of what’s now Venezuela. (It’s pronounced “kuh KOW”—sounds like a little explosion, eh?). Cacao trees grow these pineapple-sized pods right from their trunks and branches—and people in what’s now Ecuador were the first to open them, get the beans out, then roast and grind the beans. Humans have been growing cacao for at least 3000 years.
    But no one was making chocolate from cacao yet. Still, the love of cacao spread to the Olmec people of Central America, then the Mayans, then the Aztecs. People mixed it in water, hot or cold, adding things like vanilla or chilies—a long way from our hot cocoa with whipped cream! (The Mayans would add corn before going to war, for extra calories). And “chocolate” meant liquid; nobody’d even dreamed of making chocolate for eating. So sad!
    The Aztecs even used cacao beans for money. (I’m glad we don’t; I’d eat my change before I could spend it). And they believed chocolate was consumed by the gods in Paradise, so they also drank it during their religious ceremonies (wish we followed that custom!). Moctezuma, Aztec Emperor when the Spanish first came to Mexico, is said to have taken 50 shots a day, in solid-gold cups. Though he probably didn’t drink them all—I hate to think what that much would do to someone’s digestion. (And check it out: After Cortez, the Spaniard who conquered the Aztecs, went back to Spain, he always keep a full pot of chocolate on his writing table). The Aztecs even made human sacrifices to the goddesses involved with chocolate—and what do you think they gave the victims as a last meal? Yep. So maybe we can conclude they died happy?
    Okay—back to our little story:
    So Chocolate stays inside all the time. (Which would drive me BONKERS! But then, I’m not a food. Though maybe to lions or whatever…). But Chocolate’s getting bored. And one day his parents say,” You know, you could step outside now and then—you won’t melt!” (Well, actually…)
    At first, Europeans didn’t realize what chocolate could be—poor guys! Columbus saw cacao beans in 1503, but he didn’t have a clue. (No surprise—dude thought he was in India!). They say that in 1579 some English pirates captured a ship full of cacao beans, but thought it was sheep droppings—so they burned it! A Spanish priest in Peru called chocolate “loathsome” and “scum.” These mixed-up tourists just didn’t get it! Cortez tasted “cacahuatl,” as the Aztecs called it, and the Aztecs gave him whole plantations of it—but he saw it mainly as just a way to make money. Literally. Growing your own money is pretty cool (despite how people say it doesn’t grow on trees)—but he really missed the boat on chocolate as a drink, at least for a while.
    But he didn’t miss the boat back to Spain, and soon foamy chocolate was the style among Spanish royalty. For a century, Spain seems to have kept chocolate secret. And around this time something happened that set chocolate on the path to world fame.
    The thing is, humans have this funny tendency: We like to mix all kinds of different stuff together. Someone—we don’t really know who, though legend says it was some monks—decided against chili and added something that just, well, really clicked:
    Which, by the way, was also an expensive and “foreign” food from the New World.

    One of the biggest problems when it comes to food is “dumb dieting.” Many diets are just fads and aren’t good for you, and many people lose weight then just gain it right back. A good “diet” should always include exercise and healthy foods!

    Okay, choc crocs (that means you people who totally chomp chocolate)—more on our little story:
    Chocolate finally left his house. There he was, walking down the street. “I’ll go downtown,” he told himself, “so everyone can admire my purity.” But at the same moment, on the other side of town, another dude was leaving his house. He decided to go downtown too…
    Now when chocolate turned sweet—and when the secret got out of Spain—it basically took off across Europe. And why not, right? Marie Antoinette, the queen who got her head chopped off during the French Revolution, also lost her head for chocolate—she had her own “chocolatier” to make it for her, with stuff like orchids, orange blossoms and almonds mixed in. Soon “chocolate houses” were a huge fad; the first one opened in London in 1657. (No, not houses made of chocolate, you brainless twits! They were like coffee houses).
    Then an English doctor named Sir Hans Sloane added something else great: cow’s milk. Maybe we should call him the Choc Doc. He also started the amazing British Museum—but I’m not sure which of these two ideas was the coolest.
    So there’s Chocolate just trucking along. It’s a warm day; he’s starting to feel soft. But he figures it’s no big deal. On the other side of town, Mystery Dude is also strutting along thinking how great he is—(which he is)…
    Chocolate, however, was still really expensive. And not just money-wise. There are horrible, sad parts to the story too. Because everybody loved it so much, Europeans set up chocolate plantations in tropical countries—and some of their workers were slaves. At first these were Native Americans. But when many of them died from European diseases, landowners started buying Africans. And although cacao farming is no longer done by slaves, it’s important of course that people in such jobs are paid fairly for their work, and have decent working conditions. And that isn’t always the case.
    But there’s happier news as well. Because over time, chocolate got much cheaper—and even tastier!
    We don’t know for sure who made the first solid chocolate. I’ve seen one book that says Spaniards made solid chocolate rolls and cakes back in 1674, but these were for transport, not for munching. The Frys, an English family, say they sold the first chocolate for eating in 1846. (Shouldn’t we have a holiday for that or something?). Even then, though, chocolate was rough and grainy. But during the Industrial Revolution and afterwards, experts soon learned to make it smoother, creamier, even moldable—so we can have things like chocolate Easter Bunnies. (On Valentine’s Day in Japan, I once got a small chocolate motorcycle and a chocolate pistol; I ate the pistol first, just to be safe). And then, around 1900, the prices of cacao and sugar dropped really low.
    Oh, am I boring you? Does all this talk about inventions and prices leave you cold? Well, think about it, dudes—when you’re craving a candy bar, you can usually scratch that itch pretty fast. But all kinds of stuff had to happen in history, or else you couldn’t! Before World War I most people only got chocolate at Christmas or on their birthdays. Bummer! Is that the kind of world you want to live in?!
    I didn’t think so.
    On with our story:
    Chocolate’s walking down First Street. Mystery Dude’s walking down First Avenue. Neither is paying attention to where he’s going. Closer, closer—both heading toward the same corner, on the same side of the street…
    As chocolate got cheaper and better, there was a chocolate explosion. (Well, not literally—sorry!). The love of chocolate spread across the globe.
    Not everybody’s nuts about it, of course. In much of Africa, for example, it’s not super-popular—which may have something to do with African heat and the fact that chocolate begins to melt at about 93 degrees (in other words, “melts in your mouth”—we’re all about 98.6, remember?). And sometimes chocolate’s worth so much that people sell it rather than eat it—they need the money.
    But overall chocolate tends to bring the world together. And people can get pretty intense about it. Some examples:

    — How many festivals are held for, say, green beans? But
    I know of at least seven chocolate festivals in my part of
    the country—just in February! “Chocolate Weekend”—
    “Feast of Chocolate”—”Chocolate Lovers Fling”—you get
    the picture. (Hey! Why not a Chocolate and Green Bean
    Festival? That’d be funky…)

    –By 1930, forty thousand different kinds of chocolate
    candy bars existed. So hurry up and make your choice

    –If you’ve got sixty bucks, you can buy a chocolate
    waterfall machine; it sits on a table pumping melted
    chocolate down over three ledges, like a fountain.
    You can dip stuff in the flow. I’m not making this up.

    –The biggest chocolate bar ever made was an Italian monster
    over 5,000 pounds. (That’s one monster I’d LIKE to meet!).

    –The most expensive chocolate I’ve heard about goes for
    $2,600—a pound! It has French truffles in it, a special and
    expensive kind of mushroom. But holy moneybags—that’s
    quite a chunk of change!

    My favorite “chocolate insanity” story, though, comes from a book published in 1656. Thomas Gage tells how Mexican Indian women of that time would drink chocolate during church, since the Catholic rule was that you couldn’t eat anything for three hours before the service. The bishop tried to stop the chocolate drinking—he thought it was cheating (and he had a point!) But he turned up dead—some say from poisoned chocolate the women sent him! The whole disagreement was so important the Pope himself finally declared that “liquids” (which included chocolate) didn’t “break the fast,” so people could go on drinking it. Surprise, surprise.

    The thing is–your body was made to move! So get out there and walk or run or play or swim or bike or anything else that puts you in motion on your own. Pick things that are fun to do. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Exercise is INCREDIBLY good for you!

    And here’s a fun fact: In Japan, Valentine’s Day is different. The girls give chocolate to the boys. Whoa—maybe I should move there. Actually, maybe I should try to figure out why my wife gave me a chocolate pistol and a chocolate motorcycle that time. Was she trying to tell me something?
    All right—we’ve arrived at the climax of our little tale:
    Suddenly—WHAM! Chocolate and Mystery Dude crash right into each other! And because it’s hot out, and they’re both so soft—they just kind of mush all together…
    But this isn’t sad—it’s stupendous! Because Mystery Dude is…
    Can you guess?
    I’ll give you some hints. Chocolate and Mystery Dude have been deliciously together since 1922.
    A guy named Reese was the first one to mix them.
    And together they make one of the best-selling candy “bars” of all time!
    Give up?
    The peanut-butter cup!!
    Which is IMPORTANT, people! For one thing, it’s Rude Dude’s favorite. But it also shows what can happen when human beings put different things together in new ways. I mean, you gotta feel sorry for those people who lived before 1922!
    Imagine if Moctezuma could taste a peanut-butter cup. If he’d had those, he probably wouldn’t have needed 50 cups of chocolate a day, eh?
    And of course this just shows, again, how much people love chocolate.
    So choc on, amigos!

    When you become a godzillionaire and want to thank Rude Dude for all the wonderful things he’s done, what are you going to send him five boxcars full of?

    (The answer is at the back of the book. Hint: It’s not just plain chocolate!)

    Dude, these are amazing times—you know it, I know it, and the babies in their strollers know it. But historians a thousand years from now won’t talk about computers or space shuttles or cable TV. They’ll call our time the Age of the Hamburger. Because it’s for dang sure that’s one of the coolest things to happen in the last couple centuries.
    The average American eats three burgers a week. I guess that makes me two or three average Americans. I’m like, run a burger up the flagpole and I’ll salute. Then I’ll climb up after it. Gajillions of people feel the same. Hamburgers appear on American menus more than any other food. There was even a French chef in the White House—French, I’m saying, the gourmets of the world—who specialized in milk shakes and hamburgers. And at any time, one out of three Americans has downed a burger in the past 24 hours. I’ve read that all the burgers McDonald’s has sold add up to 16 for every person on the planet today.
    Wicked lot of ground beef, eh?
    As you might expect, the popularity of hamburgers is causing some problems too. I’ll talk about that in the final chapter. For now, let’s just see how the whole thing happened.
    I figure the sacred evolution of the hamburger began back when ancient cave-people knocked on animals with clubs and became meat-eaters. And somewhere along the line, some all-thumbs guy dropped his zebra haunch in the fire. Then he started crying and blubbering, then was dumb enough to snatch it out, and burned his fingers, and stuck them in his mouth to cool them off—and realized his fingertips tasted really, really delicious. (Let’s hope he didn’t get confused and accidentally invent cannibalism). So people learned to cook their meat…

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