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Sunday Evening Book Review: “Zero is the Leaves on the Tree,” “The Big Sibling Book: A Journal,” “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vols. 1 & 2”

October 4th, 2009

Reviewed today:

Really great books tonight. None of them match up with each other, so much, but that’s okay by me, if it’s okay by you? OK!

The new picture book “Zero is the Leaves on the Tree,” was written by Betsy Franco, with illustrations by Shino Arihara (Tricycle Press, 2009, $15.99). The book begins:

“Zero is…
the shape of an egg.
Zero is a number.”

The book goes on to illustrate zero, with colorful, almost old-fashioned art and lilting words. (“…the balls in the bin at recess time,” “…the bikes in the bike rack on the last day of school,” “…the ripples in the pool before the first swimmer jumps in.”) I can see why the littles like number books so much — they provide the reader with a sense of rhythm and order. Nice.

We all know that things sometimes get very much out of rhythm when a new baby arrives. Especially if you’re an older sibling who feels left out. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s blank journal, “The Big Sibling Book: A Journal” (Potter Style, 2009, $16.99, pages) is aimed at those siblings, and will be a keepsake for the babies, once they’re older. How about… 1) stickers 2) lots of room for photos 3) funny, funny writing “prompts,” including “If you could ask your little brother or sister anything — and he or she could talk back — what would you ask? I am fond of journals and scrapbooks, and they don’t intimidate me (hello, I write and like to make collages) but I know that a lot of people freeze up when “expected” to fill a book. (Even if that “expectation” is coming from within, and is not required by law or anything, for pete’s sake.) This is a nice format, nice layout, and cries out to be scribbled on, filled in and stickered. Same author also published “The Belly Book: A Nine-Month Journal for You and Your Growing Belly” and “Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake Journal.”

One of the most precious things I found after we lost Dear Granny was a puffy pink “This Is My Life” journal that honestly was not her style at all. Not one bit. I opened it expecting to find blank pages. (As an artist friend of mine told me, when she changed the styles of blank books she was creating, “They were just too precious. People weren’t writing in them.” Once she made them shaggier, and not as fancy, then people started scribbling.) Dear Granny had written not just one or two pages, but page after page. Books like this can really mean a lot to someone else, later on. Maybe even to you. (Smiles.)

Now on to cooking. Did I ever tell you that I hate a vegetarian lifestyle? Hate. I tell my kids, That is such a strong word, do you really hate it? Or just dislike it?

I hate that I am a lazy vegetarian cook, let’s say that. And I happen to be a woman who is married to a vegetarian man and we are parents to two vegetarian children. I refuse to do vegetable croquettes with a variety of dipping sauces, a selection of salads, beans on the side for protein, limit the cheese but don’t get all crazy vegan and… It is not my thing, I’m sorry. If I did go to all that trouble, the kids wouldn’t eat it. They live on mac and cheese, peanut butter and… air. Luft und liebe. That’s right — love and air. Steve would be happy, but I wouldn’t be. I have struggled with this whole thing for years, as those of you who are regular readers know good and well.

Here is how things typically go when I cook.

Remember my son’s infamous quote? “You are the kind of bad mommy who never cooks for her kids”??? Which he said to me at the exact moment I was midway through cooking him a delicious homemade meal? (To his credit, he also told me another time, “You are a goody-good Mommy, I love you!”) Freakin’ kids, what are you gonna do, y’know?

It’s a little ridiculous. We Americans are the fattest people in the fattest nation on Earth, and I’m sweating this? (I don’t really know if we are the fattest people on Earth, I’m just making things up now.)

My point (and I do have one) is that today I decided to cook for me. Just me. I made a delicious pot roast with cipollini onions, baby carrots, potatoes, red wine, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. I’ve decide that if I want to retain what small amount of sanity I have left, I must do this occasionally.


It. Was. Delicious. And I didn’t have to share with anyone. Steve made homemade pesto last week, and the kids gobbled that up with spaghetti. What did Steve eat? Hmm. I think he had a shot of vodka. Poor thing. Maybe I should fix him a Pop-Tart or something?

Thank you, Julia Child, for inspiring me, you Amazon temptress. I bought volumes 1 & 2 of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and I am in heaven. (There are vegetable, egg, cheese, bread and DESSERT items for my family, do not worry they will not waste away.) Really wonderful cookbooks. I can’t wait until they’re splattered with sauce stains and chocolate smudges. Ahhh…

Happy Sunday, y’all. BON APPETIT!

— wm


  1. Nan says

    As my friend Sharon says “Your cookbooks are scratch ‘n’ sniff. No, they’re lick ‘n’ taste. Every page has a splodge of …. something.”

    I stupidly left my recipe “collection” at home. Why??? I thought it would fall apart en route. I thought, oh, I’ll get stuff online. But all of my faves are stuck between the broken ring bindings and masking tape, thousands of miles away. Weeeep!

    October 5th, 2009 | #

  2. WackyMommy says

    Honey, just buy a few new ones! You’re in the land of Nigella and the Naked Chef. Or maybe check them out FROM THE LIBRARY!!! xo nancy

    October 5th, 2009 | #

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