Itty bitty librarian’s book review: Trenton Lee Stewart’s the Mysterious Benedict Society

We read Alice books that are far beyond toddler appropriate. In part I do this because my own parents read me whatever they were reading (and let me read whatever I found on the attic shelves, for better or worse). As a result, I grew up as a lover of books and never felt there was much difference between age-appropriate or not. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” scared me. “The Scarlet Letter” made for a lot of lingering questions, but I definitely got a healthy dose of vocabulary and literature.

IMG_5558We also read chapter books to Alice so we can enjoy more complex plot lines as a family. Alice has recently started to ask questions about various characters and to draw pictures of them doing various things–so the effect seems positive.

jpegThe Mysterious Benedict Society was fun, clever and very long. It was nice to find a mystery, since it’s by far my favorite genre personally. I also love to read aloud and the multiple characters made for great opportunities. (My dream is to read books on tape).

The basic plot is: a group of “gifted” and diverse orphan/runaway children are chosen to make a “team” of spies to her tithe bottom of some disturbing disappearances and a secretive school on an island. After some training they’re dispatched to be enrolled at the school, all the while uncovering secrets and reporting (via morse code) back to their leader, Mr. Benedict.

I was telling a fellow mommy friend I’ve always wondered if Alice is even paying attention or retaining any information from our novel-time. During this book she actually started to single out characters and ask me to see “a picture of Kate” or “why did Rainey do that?”

It’s obviously getting through, so we’ll keep it up, despite the fact that she often plays or runs in and out of the room during story-time.

Oh-and Moses and I likes this one too. We can’t wait to start the next one in the series, but we have a few new ones to read first. Next review is “Flora and Ulysses.”




Flowering Coriander

As I know I’ve mentioned, this month has been insane.  As a result of that “craziness” my father’s day gift is late, which is quite unlike me.  Typically I’m ahead of the game and take pride in being the only member of my immediate family who seems to understand the importance of a timely gift (though it is fun to get a Christmas gift in May, long after you’ve stopped expecting Christmas gifts).

My father’s a little tricky to shop for, mostly because he thinks I’m the bees knees, so I could get him 9 cans of dog food (he doesn’t have a dog) and he’d call me up, thrilled I thought of him.  Traditionally I do plants, because he loves to garden, or Civil War books/DVDS and the like–which he also loves.  This year I thought a little outside of the box.  He’s a huge coffee drinker–the variety that starts drinking it at around 7 and goes all day, stopping around 4.30 or 5.  My gift?  A coffee mug.  All that worrying and it was right there the whole time!

I had this picture put on a mug.  The mug also says, “Hey, this is Daddy’s coffee!”

I feel there will be a number of things he’ll enjoy: the cup, the gentle humor, the personification of an animal, me crouching in the background, the individuality of it…you get the idea.

On a downer note, this gloomy gray weather is killing our plants.  Here were a few in happier, sunnier times:

RIP little cilantro babies…RIP.  In memorial to these little babies, I found a bouquet of flowering coriander–the sweet little delicate daisy-looking big sisters of tender cilantro once it goes to seed, and made a huge, beautiful bouquet.  I frequently made bouquets from our veggies gone to seed in L.A. and really miss the sublty of it.  Flowering veggies make beautiful arrangements, the curling sprouts and shoots of cucurbits in particular (the pretty yellow flowers die in a few hours).

We had intricately arranged our little seedlings here, on a shelf Moses constructed from some cheap shelving we bought at Target and cinched with zip-ties (because the connectors were very, very ugly and bulky), then mounted on the wall.  (We have another on the opposite wall that is not on a mount but instead makes a buffet and has a salvaged wooden top Moses constructed with a table saw in our basement)–I don’t want to make you too sad, but these little guys didn’t make it, either.

I’ve spent the afternoon working on gathering a tedious collection of library materials…and listening to  this:

Strangely, this book is about a Russian man who falls in love as a 10 year old and writes a book about his lost love he never got over…but he’s from this small town in Russia/Poland, that changes rule every few years.  What’s weird is that I did a reference course and had to find information all about this weird town I was sure I’d never hear of again.

And here are some things I want:

both images from

Back of my neck getting burned and pretty.

Now that it’s officially summer the weather’s decided to take a spring-ish nose dive and we’re back in April showers.  I’ve also been incredibly busy (and will be until classes end later this month) and spend every day wanting SO badly to post but feeling compelled to do school work in any downtime.

Here are a few summer photos from a few weeks back mixed with some recent pictures, giving the illusion it is still warm here (as I type this the rain has stopped and a late afternoon/early evening sunshine is coming through the windows).

Moses works in SoHo now.  My first “real” job was in publishing (at Scholastic), which is down a block from his office now.  It’s always strange to be there since I instantly slip into nostalgia and remember the interior of the building, rushed lunch breaks and “Harry Potter” fanfare.

Old Greg and Rion (Ryan) in SoHo.  They were walking behind me and it seemed cool to have them as members of the crowd.

Another summer thing that weirds me out is babies in sunglasses.  I guess there’s no reason why they shouldn’t wear them, and there are probably lots of good reasons why they should, but it still seems hilarious.  They all look so sophisticated and cool.

My self-portrait in the window of a closed Pret-a-Manger.  One of my internships (Sports Illustrated) requires that I work on Sunday.  It’s actually not so bad, since Sunday was always a day spent dreading the week ahead anyway.  Why not just work and be done with it?  The coolest thing, however; is that when I get off the Q at 9 am Times Square is EMPTY.  It was also rainy, so that probably had something to do with it, too.  But I was very impressed.  (I could do that thing where I tell you everything I’m wearing and where I got it, but it’s pretty much all H&M, except my shoes, which are Repetto flats with new ribbons I sewed in).

Ol’ Greg, Rion and Mandy in Williamsburg.  We had rushed from East Village to go to a (not kidding) “Vampire Murder Mystery Dinner Party,” which was being held at some bar.  As soon as we came in and saw the other “players” we excused ourselves and found another bar.  It looked way less like the “Clue” set up than I’d hoped (it was three other people eating french fries and drinking coke…I’d def need a little wine to do a dinner party murder theme).

I made a galette for a bbq our friend Sean had.  This one was strawberry rhubarb.  I’ve since done another that was creme fraiche and peach.  Because I moved without a pie pan (or tart pan or the millions of other fun kitchen things I thought I wouldn’t care if I left in LA for a bit), all my pies are now galettes, which the oxford defines as: a free form pie crust.  Every always asks me what it is.

Ol’Greg, Rion and Mandy relaxing at our house after their long LA flights.

And then all at once, it was summer.

I’ve spent the last month excitedly anticipating Memorial Day Weekend: our friends from LA came to visit, I had a week off classes and I start TWO internships (one at the MET in the Costume Library, another at Sports Illustrated’s Research Library) next week.

Now our friends have come and gone and I wound up with the worst cold/flu I’ve had in years.  Case/point: I was unable to finish Indian take out last night and spent close to 24 solid hours in bed then STILL slept the night through.  Poor sick body!

However, to celebrate the new warm weather and try to keep up postings, here’s a few things I like!

My pal Rion spent the whole time he was here quoting faux Chloë Sevigny quotes.  One was “sprrah-ing,” instead of spring.  This lovely collage from Once Wed makes me think of Sprrah-ing.

I love the flowing dress in particular, and the kitty in repose, of course.

Other neat things:

Rad ideas for more fun braided hair styles, a bridge I’d love to see in person and new book ideas for summer (Rion gave me “The Imperfectionists,” which I’m enjoying, but until classes are over in July it’s doubtful I’ll have much free reading room.  The very WORST thing about being in graduate school.  If I HAD time, Bowie’s bio would be my next pick).





Sunday in the Park.

I spent most of mother’s day trying to call my mother to talk with her, but she is apparently SO in demand these days she didn’t call back until late that night.  While I was waiting for our mother-daughter time with baited breath, Moses and I decided to have a lovely day in the new, fabulous spring weather.

It’s so warm and sunlight saturated in Brooklyn these days, it’s hard to remember the terrible winter…

See, even our clothing is summer-oriented these days (kidding.  Moses wears white pants year-round.  Inès de la Fressange condones this choice, but she also says that velour pants for plane travel are okay, so I suppose she and I will agree to disagree on a few fashion points in her new book, “Parisian Chic: A Guide,” which I’m reading along with Joan Didion’s “Where I Was From,” which is all about living in California and growing up in Sacramento).

I grew up LOVING Frances Hodges Burnette–“The Secret Graden” being my favorite.  I spent hours in Sunday school dresses in the backyard pretending to be Mary Lenox, so the Brooklyn Botanical Garden presents a much better alternative.  It’s not nearly the stretch of the imagination to pretend to be Mary that it was when I was running around in our dog pen and behind our garage as a kid.

Flowers, next to books, are my favorite “things” in the world.  I never, ever, ever get tired of them.  It’s amazing to me they exist naturally, and, while the Botanical Garden isn’t as lovely as my California favorite, The Huntington Garden’s in Pasadena, it’s pretty rad.

And on a closing note, while I was sitting in the gardens, this exchange was going on.  Typically I shy away from shooting photos of strangers children, but they were far enough away I didn’t look too creepy, and just…their varying emotions were SO intense.

Cats Reading and Cat’s Supervising.

Yoko Tanji

Art by Yoko Tanji

I’ve been working on a new children’s book.  Because I’m spending so much time at school (I’m getting my master’s in Library Science just in case somebody doesn’t know that), the information I’m taught on a daily basis is seeping in.  So, my book is turning out to be a mystery about a library with a 11 year-old girl as the heroine.  Louisa is looking for a librarian who’s gone missing from the New York Public Library…

Anyway, my friend Christine (of everythingblog) this to me yesterday and it reminded me of Louisa…and me and Kitty Viv, because we like to read together.

And while I get my story cogs going, here’s a few other fun things:

Best Tag Ever.

At dinner last night my friend Allison showed us a new/old baby dress someone had re-gifted her for her baby.  Unfortunately for this dress but fortunately for us all, Finn is a boy and probably won’t be wearing a dress (even an adorable one with a deer on the front…well, maybe just once to see what it looks like), but this is the awesome tag.  ”Cat supervised,” people.

Last but not least, sometimes Anthropologie sometimes frustrates me because of prices and/or one too many doo-dads; but I think they got swimsuits JUST right this time around.

(Borrowed from whowhatwear)

Now I’m going to enjoy the rain storm (Kitty Viv is hiding in the inner-most deep of our closet) and have some dinner.