Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bookish: The Omnivore's Dilemma

So, I read the Young Reader's Edition of Michael Pollan's much-lauded manifesto on the state of food. Why? Because I got a free ARC at a conference, and the information is the same as the adult version; it's just written on a lower level. The book was great--compelling, interesting, and truthful. It didn't read like propaganda; rather, like Pollan had set out to find the truth, and he found it. Agriculture in America is not a pretty thing these days. It is extremely unusual to find Ma and Pa Farmer working their land, raising animals and different crops--it just doesn't work that way anymore. These days, with government subsidies and the insane dependence on corn, it doesn't pay off to grow multiple crops or raise multiple animals. Pollan visits big corn farms, big cow farms, big organic farms--which are better because of the lack of pesticide, but still not as great as you might imagine--an industrial farm raising "free range" chickens that never leave the coop, and a small, local farm that works the way farms used to work--the way they SHOULD work. Pollan even hunts and gathers his own food, to get the full picture of how food can be obtained.

Warning to parents: your kids may want you to change the way you shop after reading this book. But if you read it too, you may want to change the way you eat. An interested, eye-opening read. Recommended, in either version.

Bookish for Kids: Battle of the Labyrinth

This the the 4th book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan. It is the summer before Percy turns 15 and he has yet another school orientation before heading off to camp. Again, monsters disrupt his orientation and the school is left believing he firebombed a cheerleader. Percy and Annabeth return to camp, only to find that Kronos is growing stronger and the Titans' revolt is imminent, Grover is about to lose his searchers' license, Clarisse is capable of being almost nice, and Annabeth must lead the others on a quest through the labyrinth if they are to have any hope of saving the camp from Luke's invasion. So, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson head into the labyrinth, but they soon find they can't find their way without a mortal guide, so Percy calls on his friend Rachel Elizabeth Dare, which does not make Annabeth happy. Also, there is still the problem of Nico, son of Hades, who still blames Percy for the death of his sister. Nico could be an ally to the camp or he could be a very powerful enemy, and he is being influenced by a dangerous spirit.

Lives are at stake, as usual, and there is the added "girl drama" with both Annabeth and Rachel possibly wanting to be more than friends with Percy, not to mention an encounter with Calypso.

Yet again, the allusions to Greek mythology add to the fun. The big battle fulfilling the prophecy will happen in the fifth and final book in the series, available now, though I have not yet read it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bookish for Kids: Fortune's Folly

Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan is a new book recommended for ages 12 & up. Ever since Fortunata's mother died, the magic has left her father and though he once made beautiful shoes, his creations are now hideous and nearly impossible to sell. Fortunata does not believe in magic and tries to convince her father that he can make the same shoes he did before, but he cannot even see the difference.

In trying to save her father and herself, Fortunata gets mixed up with a band of fortune tellers and she soon finds herself in the unenviable position of creating a prophecy to help a prince find his bride...and being forced to make it come true.

As she goes on the quest with the prince, she soon falls in love with him herself. But, if she doesn't find him the princess her invented prophecy predicts, her father will be put to death. What's a girl to do?

The story is fun, sweet, and well-written. Not completely original, but what story is. A good read for fairy-tale fans.

Uncookish: Kashi Frozen Dinners

Ok, so I am generally an advocate of homemade meals, or at least semi-homemade. But sometimes you have been up since before 5 am and riding on planes all day to try to get home and you are hungry. And there is little in the fridge. And a trip to the store sounds like death. So, what to do?

You could do far worse than Kashi's Lemongrass Cocnut Chicken.
Find it in your frozen section. I really wasn't expecting much from this, I'll be honest. It's "all-natural." It has whole grains, 18 g of protein, and 7 g of fiber. I was expecting cardboard covered in dirt. But, it was actually...good. Delicious, even. Or maybe I was just sleep-deprived and desperate for nourishment. Seriously, though, it was well-seasoned, with a bit of spice, some tang from the lemongrass, and sweetness from the coconut. I didn't even need to add salt. (Probably because of the 680 mg of sodium--it is processed food, people.) It really did have good flavor, and it's relatively good for you. I think the price is around $5.00--sorry, I don't know for sure. You could definitely do worse when shopping for a frozen dinner.