Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages by Tanya Steel

Food FightNational Geographic Kids, 2018.

I really wanted to like this book. I love food and history, and I always have. I know this book would have just jumped into my hands from the bookstore shelf when I was a kid. I read merrily along at first, albeit briefly shaking my head at why the publisher would think a ten question multiple choice quiz was needed or desirable on every fifth spread. But soon I began to be slowed by the content itself.

The recipes are made with real, not processed, ingredients (beyond the occasional can of beans) and look to support both healthy eating and good cooking techniques, so I was eager to try some. Unfortunately, in the first recipe I decided to try “Barley Bread” I struck out on finding the barley flour required (and if Whole Foods doesn’t have it, I don’t know where to look except online). On the other hand, had I been a kid, I might have chosen one of the other recipes like hummus which have ingredients more likely to be found at a supermarket or at least at Whole Foods. So the recipes aren’t a deal breaker.

The format is one National Geographic Kids publications are known for: bright colorful pictures, enticing subtitles, and “chunked” text so kids can read a little or a lot. These pages are appealing to kids at a range of reading levels. The problem is that sometimes the pictures chosen don’t reflect the content. For example, in the medieval times chapter there’s a recipe for pork meatballs cooked in almond milk and served on a trencher. The recipe is for meatballs and the trencher is made from a baguette, but the picture above the recipe clearly shows a meatball sub. Nothing in the recipe makes red sauce with green herbs artfully sprinkled on top. This may seem like a niggling complaint, and yet, pictures pack a huge informational punch, especially with kids, and this picture makes it look as if people in medieval times ate tomato sauce–when tomatoes had not yet arrived in Europe at this time. That’s very misleading.

There were a number of problems I found with the text itself as well. I found the text to be culturally loaded more than once. The game played with pig knuckles was called a “primitive” form of jacks–I’m not sure why that label was used–the game is pretty much the same whether you use a ball and machine-made jacks or pig knuckles. In addition, sometimes the text seemed simply to be written too quickly without editing or reflection as is the case in this sentence:  “Wild animals ran freely through city streets, so sometimes it was hard to get to the market because a cow was in the way!” I’m pretty sure there weren’t wild cows in medieval Europe.

But I read on, hoping I would be won over. I gave up on the book entirely when I reached the chapter on Mongols and the Silk Road. In Menus of the Rich and Famished, it speaks of a traditional dish for the wealthy in the 1400s made by filling a goat’s stomach with hot rocks vegetables, water, and potatoes–there’s a lovely photo of a potato and a cabbage above the section. Sorry folks, no potatoes in Mongolia in the 15th century, they’re still in South America. I can’t imagine where the author got this information or why it made through to publication.

I’m so sorry I can’t recommend this book to kids and families. Food and history are fun subjects, and together with good recipes they’re really fabulous. But only if you can trust them to be correct.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy

Motor GirlsNational Geographic, 2017

Beyond the occasional “Hey look at that cool old car!” I never thought much about the history of cars—that is until I received a review copy of Motor Girls. This gorgeous book about the rise of the automobile industry and its relation to women and women’s rights is filled with primary source material, fabulous period photographs and advertisements, and information that makes a long ago blossoming of technology relevant to today.

Motor Girls relates the way women took to driving from the very first, starting with socialites and actresses and moving on into the middle class. Cars allowed women to get out of the home more, and so women’s driving was controversial. Roads were rough and trips of any great length required skills at tire changing and repairs—skills many women proved themselves amply capable of. World War I allowed even more women to learn to drive as they supported the war effort, sometimes under dangerous conditions. In addition, public cross country drives became an important part of the women’s suffrage movement.

Interesting facts, anecdotes, and historical figures abound in this book. Sidebars include manners for motorists, fashion tips, race accounts, and many mini biographies.

An utterly delightful read, Motor Girls not only contains interesting historical content, but a message of women’s resistance that is very relevant today. Young readers may easily dip into sections or sidebars or read cover to cover. I’d recommend this for classroom, school, and home libraries, and for anyone who needs a feminist boost.

Want to Read Wednesday

It’s Wednesday again! Here are the books I added to my Want to Read List last week.

girl-mans-up

 

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

I’m always looking for books with transgender characters. I can’t remember where I saw this first, but I’ve included a link to the Goodreads page.

 

hidden-figuresHidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

We went to see the movie based upon this book this weekend and loved it, but movies sometimes have to make concessions to the facts in order to make the story work in a short, on screen format. Now I want to read the book and see how they match up!

truthwitch

 

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Thrice Read’s account of the Susan Dennard signing was enough to get me interested in this witchy series.

 

dream-things-truethe-radius-of-us 

This Nerdy Book Club post featured Marie Marquardt, the author of two books that feature the experience of undocumented and asylum-seeking immigrants in the United States: Dream Things True and The Radius of Us

 

Bonus: Here’s a great post full of LGBT book suggestions.

 

Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater by Kathryn J. Atwood

15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

women-wwii-pacific-heroes-bigKathryn Atwood has written another fascinating book in her series covering women heroes of the world wars. From Claire Phillips who ran a Manila nightclub to get funds to feed American prisoners of war to Jane Kendleigh, who ministered to wounded soldiers in the air as one of the first Navy flight nurses, Atwood presents compelling stories of real women in the thick of the war.

Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater begins and ends with general information on the war in the Pacific Theater and then moves to focus in on the stories of specific women, presenting an excellent mix of information about the women’s lives before the war, their actions during the conflict, and a brief description of their post-war life.

Though I know a fair amount about the war in Europe, my knowledge of the war in the Pacific Theater is more limited. Because of this, I learned a good deal about what was happening in Asia before the war and the cultural practices that led to the efficiency and brutality of the Japanese forces.

This book will be a useful resource for biography projects, though depending on the class, this one might need to be used with caution. No stories of war are pleasant, but some of these stories are particularly dark, including the torture and starvation of prisoners and the use of imprisoned women as “comfort women” for the Japanese troops. Each eight to eleven page biography includes pictures of the woman covered, sidebar information about the war that directly relates to the story, and sources to use to find more information. The study guide in the book will be especially helpful for teachers wishing to use the book in their classrooms. It provides discussion questions and also suggestions for further, more in-depth projects using additional resources.

Atwood has published three previous books about women during the World Wars with Chicago Review Press:  Women Heroes of World War I, Women Heroes of World War II, and Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent.

I received a complementary copy of Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.