Tag Archive for: cookbooks

Star Wars Fun

Titles Reviewed:

LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes by Daniel Lipkowitz

The Padawan Cookbook: Kid-Friendly Recipes From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Jenn Fujikawa and Liz Lee Heinecke

Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary–The Ultimate Guide to Characters and Creatures from the Entire Star Wars Saga by David West Reynolds and James Luceno

Star Wars Everyday: A Year of Activities, Recipes & Crafts From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Ashley Eckstein

Officially, Star Wars Day is observed on May 4, as in “May the Fourth be with you.” In my family, however, it’s Star Wars Day everyday–mostly because my brother is a superfan who can tie just about any day and any thing back to the world of Star Wars. Why limit yourself to one day when there is an epic space saga to explore!

While searching for resources to celebrate the ongoing holiday, I ran across several titles that go beyond the usual fiction and graphic novel rehashing of the movies. Here is a quartet of nonfiction books tied to the Star Wars universe.

I’m a big fan of the heavily illustrated, informational books published by Dorling Kindersley (DK). Known for their clean layout with a focus on bright, engaging illustrations accompanied by easily digested, explanatory text, DK books offer an accessible entry to a multitude of topics. Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary–The Ultimate Guide to Characters and Creatures from the Entire Star Wars Saga by David West Reynolds and James Luceno is a prime example. It offers the standard DK presentation of a 1-2 page spread on each entry consisting of full-color photos on white background, accompanied by informative summary paragraphs along with detailed captions and sidebars. The book provides comprehensive coverage of characters, creatures, and concepts from the films accompanied by a short glossary. What I like about the DK layout is that it accommodates whatever I have time or am in the mood for which can be anything from a targeted search to random browsing to a deep dive. I can treat it like a reference book or enjoy it as light reading. This title is great for both the casual and hard core Star Wars fan.

LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes by Daniel Lipkowitz, also a Dorling Kindersley publication, employs the same helpful visual focus. It is exactly what it claims–100 key scenes from Star Wars films (original and prequel trilogies) enacted in LEGOs. The book’s tagline is “six movies…a lot of LEGO bricks” for a reason. Full-color photos of LEGO sets and minifigures include speech bubbles of dialogue or self-referential text. Brick icons offer insight into LEGO sets related to the scene at hand. Sidebars offer commentary from C-3PO as an ongoing comedic bit. LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes is a fun title for elementary ages and up. There’s something here for everyone–LEGO builds, plenty of minifigs, and humorous, sarcastic asides (think family-friendly Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary). Lots of fun for LEGO or Star Wars buffs!

Another entertaining title for elementary age and up is The Padawan Cookbook: Kid-Friendly Recipes From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Jenn Fujikawa and Liz Lee Heinecke. It’s full of do-able recipes for a variety of ages with differing levels of kitchen experience and adult assistance. Both the content and presentation are enticing with colorful borders and line illustrations throughout along with jauntily displayed color photos for nearly every recipe. The book is divided into eight sections labeled to mimic Jedi Trials with a helpful glossary in the back. Each recipe lists prep time, cooking time, yield, and dietary consideration codes plus sidebars imparting a range of information about ingredients, techniques, culinary terms, food science, and tidbits from the Star Wars Universe. A handy measurement conversion chart and kitchen tools list round out the helps. The recipes themselves are colorful and entertaining whether it’s the frothy blue of the Bantha Milk Slushie (butterfly pea flower powder for the win) or the adorable Butter Chewies (butter mochi topped with toasted coconut and icing to resemble Chewbacca) or the bright Ahsoka’s Jelly Cubes (orange, blue, and white gelatin bound together and sliced) or the Sarlaac Shake (chocolate milkshake with a mouth and tentacles of pie dough rising from the top). The Padawan Cookbook has a positive, can-do vibe about it that encourages fun in the kitchen.

The Star Wars Universe has its share of hard core fans, and Ashley Eckstein, author of Star Wars Everyday: A Year of Activities, Recipes & Crafts From A Galaxy Far, Far Away, is no exception. A self-proclaimed superfan from childhood, Eckstein grew up to be the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. When she says, “Star Wars is truly a lifestyle,” she means it. Arranged by month over the course of a year, the book offers crafts, recipes, party ideas, and mindfulness activities in each chapter. Each entry includes a brief description tying it to the Star Wars Universe. Many of the entries seem conventional approaches such as Hoth Chocolate Snowballs (white chocolate hot chocolate bombs), Bantha Suprise Burger Bites (tempura meatballs), Carbonite Clay Masks (home spa facial masks), Ewok House (decorated bird house), Cardboard Box Podracer (for kids to drive and adults to make), Planet Paper Lanterns, and a felt Boba Fett helmet stuffie. However, some activities appear to be a bit out of the ordinary including the Cloud City Dinner Party featuring the recipe Betrayal With A Side of Rice. (This is why I love nonfiction–some things you just can’t make up.) This, along with the incorporation of lifestyle activities, is certainly a new take on the Star Wars Universe for many fans although it is likely to attract the attention of a new audience. While some entries may seem a reach–budgetary or otherwise–there are also neat possibilities. Like the movies themselves, this title is interesting fun that can take itself a tad too seriously on occasion. Star Wars Everyday lends itself to an adult audience due to its approach, presentation appeal, and difficulty level of several activities.

Whether Star Wars is your jam or it’s another fandom, the Library has you covered! May the Force be with you!

Ready, Set, Cook: How to Make Good Food with What’s on Hand by Dawn Perry

I usually leave reviewing cookbooks to the talented Lisa Brown, who has a much more worldly palate than I, but I have checked out “READY, SET, COOK: HOW TO MAKE GOOD FOOD WITH WHAT’S ON HAND” at least once a month since we added it to the collection in December, so I just had to share my enthusiasm for it.

DAWN PERRY, the creator of this cookbook, is a genius. Simple, delicious foods that you can make with items you have on hand. I have found only one other cookbook that I think accomplishes this well. I am sure there are more, but my pantry and refrigerator staples are usually pretty limited. I hate finding a new recipe I want to try, but I need to buy two new sauces and five new ingredients, all of which will sit in my pantry or in my refrigerator after I have made the new dish and just take up space. Not the case with “Ready, Set, Cook.”

Easily laid out and not overwhelming to new or less than enthusiastic cooks like me, the book has three sections. Part One: What to Buy; Part Two: What to Make; and Part Three: What to Cook. They are each colorful, with many pictures and large clear fonts that help draw the reader in. Perry has a casual way of writing that includes loads of tips and tricks.

In part one, she talks about where to start, what to stock and how to organize it. I had most of the items that she recommends as cupboard staples — oils, rice, onions, garlic, pasta, beans, dried spices and honey — and all but a couple of the refrigerator staples. She finishes the chapter talking about organization and equipment.

In part two, her focus is building a collection of homemade staples for your pantry and refrigerator. This includes how to make meatballs, flatbreads, pie dough, sauces and cooked vegetables.

I did not spend much time here — just read through quickly, as I wanted to move on to part three to see what I could manage to whip up for breakfast or dinner.

Part three is mapped out in this order: breakfast, salads and veggies, starchy sides (my favorite kind), main things, afterthoughts, snacks and a couple of drinks, and sweets. I love the versatility of Perry’s recipes. She gives you a recipe for things such as muffins, yogurt parfaits, salad, bread and boiled potatoes, but then provides five variations for each one to easily mix it up.

The Afterthoughts section is devoted to lessening food waste. According to Perry, “leftovers need to be made over.” I love this idea. I made the “Office Bowls” from this section. They are, at their simplest, grain or rice bowls with a few veggies and dressing, but so easy to put together that most anyone can handle it using leftovers and pantry or refrigerator items. Plus, there are six variations and the photographs are so helpful in visualizing what you are making.

Speaking of the photographs, this is my favorite element of the book. Large, colorful images that showcase the food. But unlike some cookbooks they do not feel overly staged or complicated. A simple white plate with food on it, sometimes arranged less than neatly, is the highlight.

I highly recommend this cookbook. Especially to anyone who is busy but still wants to put together a home-cooked meal. Perry has done much of the heavy lifting here. She has created and shared 125 recipes that will hopefully make your mealtime more streamlined and your palette happier.

Find in the Library’s Catalog.

“Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner” by Antoni Porowski; “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet

Summer’s intensely hot, humid days are on the way out, much to my relief. I’m an autumn person; I live for cooler temperatures, gentler sunlight, and the changing colors of leaves. Yet I find it bittersweet that the bountiful growing season is winding down. Still, there are goodies to be found at area farmer’s markets, which is convenient because I’m continuing to seek inspiration from the cookbooks that grace the shelves of the Joplin Public Library.

As a fan of the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” I was excited to see that the show’s food and wine expert, Antoni Porowski, has released a new book. “Antoni: let’s do dinner” is the second cookbook by the author. It’s brimming with dishes that come together easily, a handy trait during these busy fall days.

The chapter titles are fun – “Swim Team” is devoted to seafood – and contain recipes that appeal to an array of tastes.

My favorite chapter was “Break an Egg.” I tagged almost everything in it to try at some point. Cheesy Polenta with Eggs, Mushrooms and Thyme would make for a satisfying, fast dinner. The Masala Spinach Omelette intrigued me, with its use of mustard seeds and mango chutney. And who doesn’t love pizza? You might consider the Breakfast-for-dinner Pizza with Eggs, Zucchini and Spicy Salami.

Being a fan of pasta, I also gravitated toward the “Carb Comas” section. There was a Rigatoni alla Vodka dish that uses Greek yogurt instead of heavy cream for a healthier touch. And if you can find decent tomatoes this time of year, I’d give the Penne with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Burrata and Herbs a whirl; personally, I love a raw tomato sauce, and I’m crazy for burrata.

Craving meatier fare? Sink your teeth into the Strip Steak with Harissa Butter & Parsley Salad. Or try this spin on a classic dish, Lamb Lollies with Mint Gremolata. If poultry is more your thing, turn on the oven and throw together the Sheet Pan Chicken with Rosemary & Grapes.

I enjoyed flipping through “Antoni: let’s do dinner.” I appreciate the approachable nature of the recipes, which rely on easily acquired fresh ingredients and pantry staples. And the author pulls in flavors from other countries, from Vietnam to Turkey to Poland, so you have an opportunity to expand your palate.

But if you’re looking for a cookbook with a bit more depth, might I recommend “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet?

I realized this was a deeply personal work for “Top Chef” star Gourdet when I read the introduction, entitled “A Recipe for Change.” Across several emotional pages, he shares with readers his Haitian roots, details his battles with addiction and describes his journey to better health through diet and exercise.

This cookbook’s subtitle is “Global Recipes for Modern Health,” which clues you in to the fact that the author has created dishes free of gluten, dairy, soy, legumes and grains. Wait – don’t run away! You’re in for a treat, I promise. Within the pages of “Everyone’s Table” are tempting recipes. Whether you are vegan or follow a paleo diet, there is something here for you.

I consider myself well-versed in meatless, dairy-free cooking, but Gregory Gourdet taught me a few things. As a long-time vegetarian, I miss a classic Caesar salad, so I’m always on the hunt for flavorful, anchovy-free versions. Gourdet features a Power Greens and Herbs with Caesar-Style Pine Nut Dressing. Pine nuts! I never would have considered that! And I love the use of leafy greens such as spinach, collards, chard and kale.

Tomato soup is my jam, one of my favorite comfort foods. I have my old faithful recipe, but I’m forever on the lookout for new versions. “A Recipe for Change” offers up Tomato-Hazelnut Milk Soup with Garam Masala. I’m all about hazelnuts but had not thought of using hazelnut milk. And I love the addition of garam masala, which jazzes up a traditional soup.

Are you a snacker? Put down the Cheez-Its and try the Creamy Cashew Dip with Jalapeno and Seedy Seaweed Crackers. These homemade crackers feature such powerhouse seeds as chia and flax, along with sunflower seeds.

But, wait, I promised there was something for everyone here. Step away from the vegan dishes and get carnivorous, if you like. There are chapters that feature recipes such as Spicy Sauteed Shrimp with Scallions, Cashews and Pineapple; Chicken Roasted over Root Vegetables with Ginger and Rosemary; and Spice-Crusted Pork Chops with Cherries and Oregano.

I can’t say enough good things about “A Recipe for Change.” It’s inclusive, encompassing many types of diets, and contains diverse, healthy recipes that are far from boring. I admire the author’s honesty and willingness to share his personal story. And the photographs are gorgeous – beautifully framed, colorful, and appetizing.

Joplin Public Library has an amazing cookbook collection, with something for everyone. “Atoni: let’s do dinner” and “Everyone’s Table” are but a couple of the newer additions. Come by and explore what we have to offer!

Find in Catalog


Gardening At Any Age








The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease & Joy At Any Age by Toni Gattone

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig

Summer is upon us! Flowers are blooming, and so is this new crop of illustrated gardening books. It’s a great time for all ages to get outside and dig in the dirt!

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig encourages kids to explore edible crops in the garden and in the kitchen. The first half of the book walks readers through basic gardening concepts–plant parts, seed germination, soil preparation and amendment, starting plants, maintenance, and pest control–in clear, concise text with just enough information to engage without overwhelming. Brief sections, “Healthy Eating” and “Get Ready to Cook” bridge the gap between vegetable patch and plate by introducing food groups, cooking equipment, and kitchen safety and sanitation. The book’s second half pairs growing instructions with recipes for a variety of vegetables from beans to zucchini. Each featured crop gets a lively four-page spread to document the garden-to-table journey. Recipes range from entrees to sides to snacks to dessert and include a variety of techniques from stir frying to baking. Two recipes I can’t wait to try are the Chocolate Beet Cake and the Tomato, Feta, and Basil Pizza.

Inside and out, Plant, Cook, Eat! is a feast for the eyes, a riot of color that enhances the content. Pages are layered in color–a muted background, color photographs bordered by a contrasting shade, cheerful cut-paper veggies and kitchen utensils peppered among text and photos. The book provides a fun opportunity for families to make memories together and sneak in some life skills building at the same time. The kitchen tasks and some of the garden activities require adult supervision and are a better fit for middle-upper elementary students than for the younger set. A glossary and list of vegetable varieties round out the resources.

The beauty of gardening is that, like cooking (and reading), it’s a lifelong pursuit adaptable to a variety of circumstances. In her book The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease & Joy At Any Age, Toni Gattone offers strategies to keep gardening despite physical challenges. A certified Master Gardener with “a persistent bad back”, she writes knowledgeably from experience. Adaptive gardening provides approaches to greater safety and comfort for gardeners of all ages who may have a limited range of motion, use mobility aids, want to reduce stress on their joints, experience decreased strength, etc. The goal is “to identify what works for them in their garden according to their personal physical realities”.

Preferring to “focus on proactive solutions”, Gattone provides a variety of tips and techniques so that readers can choose what works best for their situations. In “You and Your Body”, she encourages self-examination (what chores or movements are easier or harder) then moves to acceptance of change (know your limits, expect ease) and resilience (change the way you operate, don’t be afraid to ask for help). She proposes modifications for challenges with balance, stamina, mobility, pain, strength, reaction time, eyesight, memory, and temperature sensitivity. Easy stretches and lifting techniques complete the section.

The remainder of the book focuses on specifics for adapting the garden space itself and the tools to work it. The goal is “a garden of ease” that provides comfort and safety without sacrificing enjoyment. Gattone’s suggestions are as wide ranging as gardens themselves: incorporate ADA standards for wheelchair access, consider downsizing the garden, add seating (or more seating), use contrasting colors for hardscapes and railings, try raised beds or square foot gardens or vertical gardens, remove gravel and wide gaps in paths, use drip irrigation instead of lugging heavy hoses, add a bike grip to tool handles, use long-reach handles on tools. “Toni’s Tips” and “Brand Loyalty” feature ideas and tools directly from the author’s experience.

Like Plant, Cook, Eat!, The Lifelong Gardener bursts with color–a multitude of color photographs (many Instagram-worthy) plus muted borders and information boxes. This book invites you in, effectively illustrates its message, and exudes congeniality while addressing a difficult topic. A helpful resources list and a form for an “Adaptive Gardening Action Plan” add to the package.

Gardens and books have something to offer all ages. I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy both this summer!

“Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking” (Einat Admony and Janna Gur) by Lisa E. Brown

Do you know what a shuk is?

I must admit that the term was new to me when I came across a cookbook here at the Joplin Public Library. Thankfully, the opening pages of Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking by Einat Admony and Janna Gur define the term in detail. Simply put, a shuk is an open-air marketplace in towns and cities where Israelis flock to buy produce, meats, spices, and so on.

Although I was previously unfamiliar with the term “shuk,” I’m no stranger to food from Israel and its neighbors. In fact, being fond of “appetizer” meals, I’ve been known to put together a platter of pita, labneh (a tangy, yogurt-based cheese), za’atar-spiced tomatoes, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) and hummus (chickpea dip) for dinner. Needless to say, I was eager to delve into this cookbook!

If you are new to Israeli cooking, never fear. Shuk is very user-friendly.

There are excellent glossaries that cover popular ingredients, from tahini (sesame paste), to preserved lemons, to the above-mentioned za’atar, a mixture of herbs, sesame seeds and the delightfully sour, beautifully colored sumac.

And if you are worried about where to find the more exotic ingredients in our area, never fear. Fox Farm Whole Foods carries many of them, and there’s always the Internet. Many of the vegetables can be found at area farmers markets such as Joplin Empire Market and Webb City Farmers Market – in season, of course.

The photographs are gorgeous, a feast for the eyes and a temptation to the stomach. So colorful and zesty, they leap off the page and invite you to try the dishes.

One of my favorite aspects of Shuk is how it highlights individual shuks, exploring them with images and words. It offers helpful hints on the story behind the shuks, the vibe and when to visit. As someone who loves to travel, it brings home the local flavors and colors of Israel.

And the recipes. I can’t neglect to mention the recipes!  So much yum and goodness for all palates.

I went through Shuk page by page, marking recipes that I wanted to try with little bits of paper. And there were many of them!

I was intrigued by the Israeli Salad. For years I have relied on the Israeli za’atar salad recipe from one of my old Moosewood cookbooks, but Shuk’s includes carrots, which I never would have thought of adding. I’m sure this particular vegetable brings a crunchy sweetness to counterbalance the tartness of the lemon juice and sumac.

And then there’s the Quinoa Tabbouleh with Kale and Dried Cranberries. I love traditional tabbouleh, in all its tomatoey, herby goodness. But it’s a summer salad, and I try to cook seasonally. However, making it with kale and cranberries makes it perfect for fall and winter.

Much to my delight, there were multiple pages covering that gorgeous nightshade vegetable known as eggplant. I adore eggplant. (It’s not for everyone, I agree, but I would contend that if you don’t like it, you just haven’t had it prepared the right way.) Here there are recipes for basic dips and spreads, as well as an intriguing Sweet and Sour Baked Eggplant.

And the humble chickpea gets its due, as well, along with its partner in sesame goodness, tahini. Did you know that if you soak and boil dried chickpeas with a little baking soda, it can transform your hummus into something especially silky and smooth?

Looking for meatier fare? There are dishes that utilize chicken, seafood, beef and lamb.

And we can’t forget the desserts! The tahini shortbread cookies sound delicious, and I also tagged a recipe for Fresh Orange Pound Cake that I fully intend to try.

I’ve just touched on a handful of reasons why Shuk is a terrific new addition to the world of cookbooks, but see for yourself. You can find it shelved with the new non-fiction at the Joplin Public Library.

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“The New Frontier: 112 Fantastic Favorites for Everyday Eating” (Ree Drummond), by Lisa E. Brown

Do you have any authors that seem like old friends? You read their works over and over, or eagerly await their next release. My oldest author friend is Jane Austen; I’ve been reading her since I was 12, and have yet to tire of her.

But my newest old author friend is blogger, Food Network personality, photographer and cookbook author Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman. I always look forward to her next cookbook, and it’s a pure pleasure poring over the colorful photographs, chatty introductions, and mouth-watering recipes. Her latest cookbook is entitled THE NEW FRONTIER: 112 FANTASTIC FAVORITES FOR EVERYDAY EATING.

Ree Drummond’s books are accessible to cooks of all levels. Before you even get to the recipes, she includes a list of equipment she uses in her food preparation. I know my way around a kitchen, so it seems pretty basic to me, but not everyone has experience with Dutch ovens or food processors. She also includes a section entitled Instant Pot 101, as well as labels she applies to her recipes, from “lower-carb,” to “freezes well,” to “indulgent.” And as she does in all her cookbooks, she includes step-by-step photographs that I find helpful.

THE NEW FRONTIER is also user-friendly in its organization, with chapters starting with “Breakfast” and ending with “Desserts.” In between you can find recipes for “Snacks and Starters,” “Drinks,” “Small Sweet Bites,” even “Meatless.”

I’m not big on breakfast food, but the prospect of her “Carrot Cake Baked French Toast,” made with multigrain bread, pecans and carrots and slathered with a cream cheese glaze, had me salivating. I’ll definitely be trying that one! And I liked her spin on a diner classic: “Bacon, Kale and Tomato Sandwich.” That would pair nicely with a steaming bowl of homemade tomato soup (which Drummond has a fantastic recipe for on her blog and, I believe, in one of her previous cookbooks), although I would substitute tempeh bacon to suit my vegetarian ways.

I’m always looking for something to make when I host parties or attend a potluck, and I think I found a new snack to offer guests: “Goat Cheese Truffles.” They seem super easy to make and add a touch of casual elegance to a gathering.

Like adult beverages? Drummond offers up a selection. I love a good Bloody Mary, and her “Caprese Bloody Mary,” set off with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and basil, then finished with a balsamic glaze, is right up my alley, combining one of my favorite drinks with my favorite salad. By the way, if you abstain from alcohol, the author frequently provides non-alcoholic variations of her drinks.

As someone who adheres to a meat-free diet, I’ll shy away from covering the chapters about chicken, beef and pork, and seafood. Suffice it to say, the recipes are varied and seem simple to make. If you eat meat, there should be something for you in THE NEW FRONTIER.

Bear with me while I review her section on meatless meals. The “Street Corn Soup” sounds deliciously flavorful, although it will probably have to wait until corn season rolls around next summer. Drummond is branching out with some of her ingredients, such as with the “Grilled Halloumi and Vegetables.” Halloumi is a briny, firm cheese that holds up well to heat, and I just happen to have some in my refrigerator, thanks to a trip to Trader Joe’s a while back. I see this recipe in my immediate future. Finally, there’s the “Kung Pao Cauliflower,” which gives me an excuse to use one of my favorite Asian ingredients, chili paste. And I will probably add some tofu to this dish for some protein.

Looking for something sweet to balance out the savory? THE NEW FRONTIER has that covered, with “Butterscotch Lava Cakes” and “Caramel Pecan Cheesecakes.” Me, I’m going to try the “Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Chunk Cookies” and the “Caramel Apple Quesadillas.” Yum!

If you’re seeking ideas to please the pickiest of eaters, you might check out the selection of Ree Drummond’s fun, friendly cookbooks that the Joplin Public Library has in its collection, including her latest. The title has a few holds on it, so you might want to jump on the list if you can’t wait for it to appear on the shelf.

And with that, I wish you happy times in the kitchen!

“Find in Catalog”


Teen Nonfiction Fun for Summer


Make: Minecraft for Makers by John Baichtal

Start to Stitch by Nancy Nicholson, Claire Buckley, and Miriam Edwards

Teens Cook Dessert by Megan and Jill Carle with Judi Carle

We’ve made it to the middle of May when life becomes a frenzy of pollen and exams and changes and celebrations, spinning faster every day only to explode into a three-day weekend that launches summer.  Here at the library that culminates in the summer reading program–two months of adventures in reading, learning, and fun for all ages.

Participants will have a chance to read for prizes and enjoy a variety of activities.  Most importantly, summer reading helps keep literacy skills sharp during weeks of downtime when many students are out of school.  Because adolescence is a time of self-discovery and learning how to move through the world, the Teen Department encourages personal growth as well as reading.  We call it the Teen Summer Challenge because teens can stretch themselves socially and developmentally in a supported environment. The library offers activities and resources to encourage them along the journey.

One way we do this is through gaming.  Games can sharpen mathematical, reasoning, literacy, and social skills and are fun!  They can also act as springboards to other pursuits. Popular computer game Minecraft has spawned an entire fandom.  In Make: Minecraft for Makers, John Baichtal uses the game as a stepping stone to maker activities.  His 9 projects take the blocky elements of the game “and introduce them to our world” using LEGOs, circuitry, 3D printing, woodworking, Arduino microcontrollers, and laser cutting.  Projects range from fairly simple (Emerald Ore Blocks made with LEGOs) to quite advanced (Redstone Lamp and a motorized Robot Creeper). Other than the LEGO designs, everything will involve some combination of power tools, circuitry, electronics, or spray paint.  Baichtal’s writing style is straightforward–utilitarian with clear explanations tying projects to the game. Color illustrations are throughout, and a final chapter gives a crash course on Arduino technology used in some projects.

The book is published by the folks behind Make: magazine and reflects the “serious fun” found there.  These projects are designed for heavy adult supervision with attention to safety and represent an investment of time and materials in some cases.  The designs are super cool–I’m considering trying the chess set with our chess group using the laser cutter in the library’s makerspace. Offer this book to high schoolers or mature middle schoolers (individuals or groups) working with experienced adults (a neat activity for a Scout troop).

Maker activities are a fantastic means of mastering a new skill or learning STEM concepts or fine tuning eye-hand coordination.  They can incorporate computers and robotics or be low-tech pursuits like crocheting and sewing. The Teen Department has a sewing machine, and we’ll experiment with it during June and July.

Teens learning to sew will find a fun start and engaging designs in Start to Stitch by Nancy Nicholson, Claire Buckley, and Miriam Edwards.  Colorful photos show step-by-step instructions for sewing by hand or machine as well as finished products.  The book introduces stitches and skills as needed in each design; some of the stitch photos can be small or basic, so some new sewers may benefit from initial instruction or additional resources (book or video) before tackling a project, particularly machine sewing.  Start to Stitch is divided into chapters based on technique: applique, embroidery, patchwork, quilting.  It’s full of vibrant, accessible designs ranging from beginner to moderate skill levels. The designs vary from accessories (applique brooch, patchwork belt) to bags (Heart Purse, Sashiko Bag) to decor items (a quilted cat wall hanging, a patchwork pillow).  The book’s designs skew feminine, and its illustrations are exclusively so. If desired, some projects can easily be made gender neutral with minimal changes. A brief glossary rounds things out. Give this title to teens who have the basics of hand or machine sewing.

Community building is a year-round goal of the Teen Department, and it’s wonderful to see teens make that connection.  One of our activities is to practice a random act of kindness–inspired by former patrons who were very excited to have done something nice for someone else.  Cooking offers many chances to build relationships, and Teens Cook Dessert is one great resource.  Written by sisters Megan and Jill Carle with their mother, Judi Carle, this title neither assumes gourmet-level experience nor insults the cook’s intelligence.  Using a realistic approach and clear language, the authors present a wide variety of family favorites (turtle brownies, pound cake) and interesting twists (nectarine ravioli, gingerbread & pumpkin trifle).  Recipes are gathered into chapters by type (cookies, cakes, custards, fancy, etc.); each recipe includes a color photo of the finished product and brief, lively anecdote. Short sidebars covering kitchen tips, terms, science, shortcuts, and history abound.  A handy ingredients discussion is included. Both the layout and the tone are inviting without trying too hard. This is a great book for teens ready to move beyond boxed mixes.

There’s lots of fun to be had and things to try during summer reading!  The adventures begin at the library on May 28. Watch our website for details: //www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/


Beth Snow is the Teen Department Librarian at the Joplin Public Library.

Cravings: Hungry for More (Chrissy Teigen), by Lisa E. Brown

I must admit that when I received Chrissy Teigen’s first cookbook, Cravings: Recipes for all the Food You Want to Eat, in a subscription gift box, I shook my head. I knew Teigen only as a model and the wife of singer John Legend. But could she cook? I had my doubts, but I dived in and, to my surprise, I enjoyed the book. There were actually recipes I wanted to try, and I became a fan of her chatty, breezy style of writing.

So when the Joplin Public Library recently acquired Teigen’s follow-up cookbook, Cravings: Hungry for More, I promptly put it on hold and eagerly checked it out. I got distracted by work and let it sit on my desk for a couple weeks, but when I finally opened it, I was delighted. And I found several recipes I want to try.

Like savory waffles? Teigen has a Crispy Parmesan Waffle Breakfast, featuring easily homemade waffles with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and served with a Spicy, Buttery Maple Syrup. She had me at cheese and buttery maple syrup. Yum. One note: The buttery maple syrup gets its heat from red pepper flakes, although I would probably use a smallish dollop of sriracha instead.

I plan to make the Cheesy Polenta with Mushrooms for dinner this week. It looks like a fast, simple after-work meal, with the fanciest ingredient being fresh thyme. The recipe calls for white button mushrooms, though I prefer baby portobellos, or creminis. Really, any mushroom would do. Who doesn’t love mushrooms?

Like Teigen, I love soup. She features a Creamy Tomato Soup with Peppery Parmesan Crisps. I’m always looking for a good tomato soup recipe, and although I think I prefer my old stand-by that uses tomatoes seasoned with garlic, basil and oregano, Teigen’s tomato soup is quick and basic. The Peppery Parmesan Crisps are a nicely elegant alternative to my favorite accompaniment, grilled cheese.

Speaking of grilled cheese, I’m most eager to try the Sweet & Spicy Peach & Brie Grilled Cheese. Ideally, I would have come across this recipe when peaches were in season and found at this summer’s farmers markets, but, alas, it’s November and I’ll have to settle for a store-bought peach. I can’t get enough of Brie lately, so this recipe really calls to me. It features a basic ingredient list of butter, bread, Thai sweet chili sauce (probably my favorite condiment), red onion, Brie and one peach. Put them all together, and throw in the skillet. Easy-peasy.

I could go on, but that would just make you and me hungrier.

Aside from the variety of recipes I’m looking forward to trying, there’s much I appreciate about Cravings: Hungry for More. I like Teigen’s conversational writing style, which she displays when she prefaces each recipe. Ingredients for her recipes are easily acquired; it’s all stuff you’d have in your refrigerator or pantry, or could find at your local supermarket or farmers market. This book is definitely a family affair: pictures feature Teigen’s mother and father, husband and children, and several recipes are inspired by her Thai mother. And the food photographs that partner with the recipes look scrumptious.

The Joplin Public Library has both of Teigen’s cookbooks in its collection, as well as an e-book version of Cravings: Hungry for More. If you’re looking for an accessible cookbook and some delightful inspiration in the kitchen, I suggest you check them out.