Blue Moon Soup Illustrations ©1999, 2013 by Jane Dyer All Rights Reserved.

“Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook,” Recipes by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer; Sky Pony Press, $16.95, 72 pages, ages 6-10.

Cooking together is a wonderful way for parents to interact with youngsters, and Blue Moon Soup presents thirty delicious recipes, grouped by season, plus recipes for bread, salad and snacks for the whole family to enjoy.

The book is written to engage sous-chefs of all ages. Small children will happily collect the “Stuff” (ingredients) for each recipe, while older children can advance to tasks such as sorting, whisking and peeling. Everyone in the kitchen will relish the quirky and charming names of each dish: “Mary had a Little Lamb Stew,” “Sob Soup” (an onion-based preparation), there’s even “Bisque in the Sun.” 

Blue Moon Soup is more than just a cookbook; it’s a primer on proper cooking techniques. There’s a kitchen tools checklist, soup kitchen rules, even a diagram for properly setting the table. Before cooking anything, be sure to read aloud Lewis Carroll’s slurpy homage to potage “Turtle Soup” on the first page. 

Cooks can rest assured that these recipes have been thoroughly tested before publication: Chef Gary Goss is an expert soup maker.  In 1997 he founded the successful Soup Kitchen in Northampton, Massachusetts. The proof of his dedication is in the pudding: Since it’s original publication in 1999, Blue Moon Soup has won numerous accolades, including the Smithsonian Notable Books for Children Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, and Parents’ Choice Award.

Legendary children’s book illustrator (and fellow Northampton resident) Jane Dyer renders 14 full-page watercolor illustrations of sunbathing vegetables, dancing ducks and sobbing onions in her trademark whimsical style. Children will love pouring over the images of dancing utensils and piano-playing animals while indulging in a bowl of happiness that they helped make.  This book is a visual and gustatory delight to be enjoyed all year long.  

“Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” by Abraham Lincoln, illustrated by James Daugherty; Albert Whitman & Company, $19.99, 48 pages, ages 6-12.

On November 19th, America commemorates the Sesquicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s immortal speech at the battlefields of Gettysburg.  In recognition, Albert Whitman & Company re-issued Newbery medalist James Daugherty’s 1947 pictoral commemoration of that day.   Daugherty’s sweeping, heroic images accompany the 272-word oration. Lincoln’s address dedicated part of the bloody fields as a sacred burial ground – a testament to those who fought for equality and freedom.  

In the afterword is an image by image explanation of how Daugherty chose to interpret various sections of the text. There’s also a facsimile of the address in Lincoln’s own handwriting and an afterword by Civil War professor Gabor Boritt.  

This is a book meant to be read and shared by generations of Americans, and it’s a superb reminder that despite our current troubles, America will always stand for liberty and equality.  


“ABC,” by Damien Hirst; Harry Abrams, $16.99, 58 pages, ages 15 and up.

Describe the achievements of contemporary artist Damien Hirst, and children’s book author is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. Controversial and divisive, the unofficial leader of the Young British Artists group has scaled his art to board book dimensions. 

Let’s be clear: ABC is not for children, despite the back copy saying it’s “Fun for all the family.” Children should not be given this book. It is for collectors who enjoy or appreciate Hirst’s fascination with death, religion and medicine.  

This alphabet book is a retrospective of sorts – each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a piece of Hirst’s art. If an ignorant parent offers this book to a child, it won’t help young readers learn the alphabet because the images don’t always correspond to the letters they represent. For example, opposite the letter J is a close-up photograph of the artist’s 1991 installation of a dead tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde called The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Here the J refers to “Jaws.” Other creepy images of dead animals, as well as Hirst’s infamous diamond encrusted skull, show up throughout the book. 

That being said, the images are fascinating, and that the artist even produced a book nominally geared towards child-age readers will no doubt provoke discussion among readers. This is an excellent book to consider giving as a holiday gift to anyone who adores modern and contentious artists and would appreciate Hirst’s latest attempt to provoke the viewing public. 

“Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History,” by Gregory Farshtey and Daniel Lipkowitz; DK Publishing, $40, 256 pages, ages 8 and up.  

Budding architects and lifelong LEGO® collectors will have Lego® Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History, at the top of their gift lists this holiday season. Published by DK, this comprehensive volume chronicles the thirty-five year history of LEGO® minifigures. The company has been in the business of manufacturing plastic blocks since 1949, but minifigures didn’t appear until 1978, and they have covered bedroom floors and tripped unwitting parents worldwide ever since. Every minifigure ever created is cataloged here, and the book also includes significant details about particularly rare and sought after pieces. Author and LEGO® authority Daniel Lipkowitz is a story developer for the company and has authored other books dedicated to the iconic wedges. This hefty tome (weighing just under four pounds) will be a welcome addition in any collector’s reference library and likely encourage die-hard enthusiasts to expand their own ranks of tiny, molded figurines.  For the truly devoted, LEGO® created a complete miniature replica of the book on a 1:15 scale and can be gripped by minifigures’ claw-like hands.  


“Flo & Wendell,” by William Wegman; Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-5.

After a decade-long hiatus, William Wegman and his loveable, huggable Weimeraners are back in print.  In this story, we meet little Flo and her brother Wendell, and aside from their adorable faces, these puppies have very little in common. Flo likes dressing up and baking delicious cupcakes, while her younger brother is more interested in playing sports and causing mischief.  Their hopeful parents encourage them to try and find something to do together, but with each page it seems less and less likely. Wegman playfully dissects the intricacies of sibling rivalry through simple text and engaging images. In previous Wegman books, the dogs are pictured in actual clothing; here the author departs from tradition and mixes photographs of the dogs with painted costumes and backgrounds.  This book is so cute parents may find themselves suddenly besieged with requests to bring home actual puppies.  (Full disclosure: our family recently brought home a pair of pups after reading this book.) Cave canem amabilem.  

Who stole all the books?


© 2013 Thomas Docherty. Published in The Snatchabook by Sourcebooks. All Rights Reserved.

“The Snatchabook,” by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99, ages 3-6.

            “In every house,

                        in every bed,            

                                    a bedtime book

                                                 was being read.”

The story starts innocently enough; all the critters in the arboreal hamlet of Burrow Down complete their days with a delightful bedtime tale. All is well until an unwelcome stranger flies into town one night and steals the books quicker than a bolt of lightening. Who is the book thief? (Readers can rule out Stephen Blumberg.) After all the books disappear, a brave bunny named Eliza Brown is determined to catch the crook.  Once collared, the aptly-named Snatchabook confesses his crimes, and Eliza decides to help the creature find redemption in a most appropriate and caring manner.  Helen Docherty’s jaunty rhymes keep pace with husband Thomas Docherty’s loveable renditions of badgers, bunnies and porcupines. Children will love acting this book out – sometimes as the sneaky Snatchabook, other times as the wise Eliza Brown. While fun to read, The Snatchabook also teaches
 an important lesson about the power of reading to stir young minds.


© 2013 Thomas Docherty. Published in The Snatchabook by Sourcebooks. All Rights Reserved.