Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Niki Nakayama: A Chef's Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbie Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones

Niki Nakayama grew up in Los Angeles in a traditional Japanese family. As a child she loved creating her own recipes and trying new foods.  When she expressed a desire to go to culinary school and become a chef, she was told she was too small and delicate to work in a restaurant kitchen. It seemed like people at every turn were telling her that a woman couldn't be a professional chef. 

Not only did Niki prove the doubters wrong about her ability to stand toe-to-toe with the best Japanese sushi chefs, she eventually decided to fulfill her ultimate dream of becoming a kaiseki chef, which is a type of cuisine that focuses on quality ingredients, technique, and story-telling. 

This picture book biography is a feast for the senses. As I read the book I became more and more intrigued by the idea of kaiseki and even sought out the episode of Chef's Table that Nakayama was featured on so I could learn more about her and the type of cuisine in which she specializes. If you have a budding chef in your life or just want to learn more about badass women busting glass ceilings, I highly recommend this wonderful book. 

Niki Nakayama: A Chef's Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbie Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones
Published: September 14, 2021
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture book biography
Audience: Primary/middle grade
Disclosure: Library Copy
If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, October 18, 2021

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-18-21

t's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Hi friends! Over on TikTok, I am having fun making book and dog-related content. Sometimes at the same time:


“I see you have tacos (and dragons). I too, enjoy tacos.” –Hazel Grace ##StudentSectionSauce ##tacos ##fyp ##foryoupage ##booktok ##frenchiesoftiktok

♬ Taco Dragon Tango - Puppy Songs

Last week I had the honor of participating in the blog your for Anne Ursu's new book The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

I also recently read and enjoyed:
Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker
Recently there have been quite a few picture books to come out about the 9/11 Survivor Tree, so it takes a lot to make each one stand out. With this book, what stands out is when the single turn of a page makes you gasp and leave you speechless, you know you've experienced something special.

Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens by Elizabeth Lilly
A heartfelt and nostalgic celebration of family, diversity, and food

Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
A mouth-watering book about food, family, and tradition

Every Cake Has a Story by Christina Tosi, illustrated by Emily Balsley
I love that Christina Tosi of MILK BAR wrote a children's book about expanding your palate beyond just plain old vanilla cake. Not only did this book make me hungry, but it made me want to order a cake from MILK BAR as soon as humanly possible.

There's a Ghost in This House by Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers ingeniously uses vellum throughout this book as a way to overlay pages so that, in a brilliant use of dramatic irony, the reader sees the ghosts but the main character does not. I can’t wait to read this one to my students.

Currently reading: 

One Life: Young Readers Edition by Megan Rapinoe

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Blog Tour: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

 Today is the publication date for Anne Ursu's beautiful new novel The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy. Thank you to Walden Pond Press and HarperCollins for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy.  

I am going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. I normally have a major aversion to fantasy novels. I prefer reading books in this world because I know how to navigate it and fantasy always seems like so much work to me. We all have our biases as readers, right? However, I always make an exception to Anne Ursu's novels because I know that despite the fantasy world she has built, she is  making a social commentary on the world in which we are currently living. And The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is no different. Like Ursu's previous novels, this book deals with themes of feminism and girl power, this time with a particular focus on women and girls who have to follow along with the leadership of mediocre men (and women who want proximity to power) who gaslight them.

About the Book:

If no one notices Marya Lupu, it’s likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in Illyria may possess the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy — a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself — things that threaten the precarious balance upon which their country is built.

About the Author:

Anne Ursu is the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at


A wonderful and inspiring feminist fantasy.” – Kirkus

"An accessible, timely school story with a rather Transylvanian flavor to its fantasy setting. Ursu explores girls’ conditioning in timidity and shame in a male-dominated world and, ultimately, envisions a hopeful, female-determined future of magical ability." - Horn Book Magazine

“A suspenseful tale woven with secrets and magic, with a gasp-worthy twist at the end, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is everything I love about fantasy. Spell-binding.” - Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Wish in the Dark

“Anne Ursu practices her own brand of sorcery—the ability to craft wondrous, magical stories that are unlike anything you’ve ever read. Another extraordinary tale from a remarkably talented author.” - Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

"A thoughtful and incisive story of lies told to control people and the complicated girls who ask questions, push back, and keep fighting." - Tui Sutherland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series

“It’s no secret that Anne Ursu is a gifted storyteller. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is intricately plotted and compulsively readable, with characters who will stay with you long after you stop reading. I could not put it down.” - Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound

"The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy manages the particular magic of being both a true fantasy novel and a clear-eyed reflection of the here-and-now. Bighearted, generous, and outstandingly original, this is a story only Anne Ursu could write."- Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of The House That Wasn't There

Here are two upcoming virtual author events with Anne Ursu:

Tuesday October 13, 2021 at 7 pm CT Anne will launch her book in a virtual conversation with Laura Ruby, hosted by the RED BALLOON BOOKSHOP in St. Paul Minnesota.Click here for more information. We hope you will join us!

October 26, 2021 at 6 pm CT Anne will be in conversation with Kelly Barnhill, hosted by WILD RUMPUS BOOKS in Minneapolis.Please click here for more information. We hope you will join us then as well!


October 12 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

                     Unleashing Readers

October 13 Read Wonder

October 14 Nerdy Book Club

October 15 A Library Mama

October 16 Maria’s Mélange

October 17 By Singing Light

October 18 Bluestocking Thinking

October 20 Insatiable Readers