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October 1, 2008 > Footnotes


"The Pumpkin Goblin Makes Friends" by Aaron Taylor, illustrated by Gary Whitley, Emerald Book Co. hardcover, $16.95 (2008)

"The Pumpkin Goblin Makes Friends" is about a mean monster with a child's heart who is inspired to stop picking on neighborhood children and to start mending the relationships he had damaged. Children can relate to this story as they relate to the bully's loneliness and watch how the friendship of one boy with the support of the community helps him change. For a Halloween book about goblins, the spooky illustrations are not too scary for preschoolers.

An anti-bullying message for preschool might seem too advanced a notion, but a Columbia University study finds bullying now starts as young as pre-school and intensifies as the angry child ages. More girls bully than boys, but boys tend to be more physical in their attacks. The study goes on to suggest the reason for bullying is the same as the result of it: low self esteem and a lack of friends.

The author says, "I geared this book toward young children to show them how unhappy the Pumpkin Goblin is when he picks on the neighborhood children. A central message here is picking on others doesn't make your pain go away."

Recommended for preschoolers and kindergartners. Reviewed by jp.

A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley, National Geographic Society paperback, $7.95 (2006)

If you ever want to be gently reminded of the interconnectedness to people all over this planet, this book reminds you that we all need water for life. The photographs of people collecting, drinking and using water introduces the reader to all these different cultures (in the United States and elsewhere), yet binds us together because of this one basic need.

Recommended for kindergarten to 3rd grade. Reviewed by jp.

"Tahoe Deathfall," by Todd Borg, Thriller Presspaperback, $16.95.

Owen McKenna likes his life. After years as a San Francisco police officer, he now has his own private detective practice and his dog Spot, a very large Harlequin great Dane who loves sticking his head out of the car window and stopping traffic.

He has a lovely girlfriend named Street. Everything is going smoothly when a new prospective client walks in. She is only 14years old.

Eight years ago Jennifer's twin was killed by falling or being pushed off a cliff. Their grandmother has always assumed that Jennifer did it, and has never trusted her since. Jennifer is adamant that she didn't do the deed, but suspects that the murderer is back trying to kill her. The orphaned twins were heiresses to quite a fortune, and someone wants to make sure that the remaining sister doesn't live long enough to inherit.

Owen is not very convinced. The girl is, after all, only 14. He agrees to poke around a bit, without actually taking the case. As he watches her leave, he notices two adults shadowing her. His suspicions sharpening, the private investigator asks a few questions. Then he gets a frantic call - someone is in the house with Jennifer, and that someone is trying to find her. A short time later the murderer makes it clear that Owen's help is not appreciated. Now it's not just Jennifer hat's in trouble, but Owen as well!

This is a great mystery, with lots of closet skeletons and false trails. I was thrilled also to find that there is no gory violence or explicit sex scenes. A fun read from beginning to end!

Recommended for young adults. Reviewed by dh.

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, Harper paperback, $14.95. (2008)

Since I grew up in a city, I am fascinated with the connection between soil and food. As a child, I could only imagine such wonders. Now I can garden or visit local farms. After all these years in California, it still amazes me that the growing season is so long here that fresh fruits and vegetables are always available. But even in the midst of all this bounty, sometimes restaurants unbelievably still serve tasteless lettuce and the school lunch program in many districts don't serve "fresh" fruit.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver decided to document one year living completely off the land in rural Virginia. Her husband Steven provides a scientist's perspective and daughter Camille gives a teenager's eye view. Kingsolver and her family would only eat foods raised by people they knew personally. Or at least that they could trace the source locally. Everything had to be seasonal (or preserved) and locally grown. No California wine, no Maine lobsters, no sugar, etc. Kingsolver writes of canning tomatoes to last through the winter and slaughtering their livestock. This is the life of her Kentucky ancestors. The book is not an adventure tale but more a love story for the land and its seasons. Although I enjoyed reading about the planning and work it takes to feed a family off the land, I'm sure glad I have the option to go to the supermarket. The food is so beautifully described that it makes you want to develop a more personal relationship with your local grower.

Recommended for organic food enthusiasts. For recipes and updates see
Reviewed by jp.

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