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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Medallion of Murder by B. R. Meyers

Medallion of MurderBlue Moon Publishers, 2018.

Daughter of Egyptologists and superpower wielding Nefertari Hughes is at it again. Halfway through her senior year in high school, Terry’s got some major life decisions ahead of her. The rest of her life is looming and Terry and her best friend Maude must decide what they’re going to do next. Unfortunately, their choices aren’t exactly what their parents had in mind for them, and they’re both avoiding that reveal.

Soon, mind a jumble of thoughts and emotions about the future, Terry’s wrapped up in another big mystery involving Cleopatra’s legacy. Is it right for Terry to involve her friends and boyfriend in the danger that seems to follow her? Is she taking foolish risks because of her powers or is she simply a victim of circumstance?

I enjoyed this next installment of the mysteries–I especially loved the way Maude seems to be coming into her own as the series continues. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in the next installment of the Nefertari Hughes mysteries.

The Diadem of Death by B. R. Myers

diadem of deathBook Two of the Nefertari Hughes Mystery Series

Blue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Nefertari Hughes is at it again. She’s recovered from her escapades, and her injuries, from the high jinks in The Asp of Ascention. In fact, she’s finally starting to feel at home in her new town of Devonshire. She’s got a boyfriend and two other good friends, and it’s the summer before senior year. Terry’s got big plans for the summer and the year ahead.

Unfortunately, those comfortable plans are not to be. Terry and her dad are called back to Egypt to the dig at the site of Cleopatra’s tomb—the dig where Terry was injured and her mother was killed only a year ago. Terry’s dad is convinced that Terry has the key to finding the Cleopatra, and she wants to finish her mother’s life’s work. But will she be strong enough to enter the tomb again? And how will she shake the strangers that want to keep her away from the search for Cleopatra?

The Diadem of Death is a strong sequel to The Asp of Ascension. It’s every bit as action-packed as the first book in the series, and the Egyptian setting can’t be beat.

These books will keep readers entertained and engaged. They are at a good reading and content level for upper middle grade or lower young adult readers.

I enjoyed reading The Diadem of Death immensely. I’ll definitely be looking for more books in this series by B. R. Myers.

ASP of Ascension by B. R. Myers

asp-of-ascensionBlue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Sixteen-year –old Nefertari (Terry) Hughes is stuck in another new high school in a town where her dad’s got yet another temporary job. It’s been that way since Terry recovered from the terrible accident took her mother’s life and almost took hers. But Terry doesn’t want to be in this high school. She may officially be American, but as the daughter of two Egyptologists, Egypt is truly home to Terry.

Terry’s managed to escape the notice of the other students at the last few schools she’s attended, but somehow that’s proving impossible in Devonshire, especially since her dad’s in charge of the big new Cleopatra exhibit at the museum, and the history teacher’s acting like a Nefertari groupie. When Terry catches the attention of Zach, the star basketball player, she’s really in trouble. His cheerleader girlfriend tends to be jealous, and she’s got a mean streak a mile long.

Before she knows it, Terry’s got more than social problems on her plate. There’s a snag in the opening of the exhibit, and it looks like Terry’s going to have to be the one to solve it before it’s too late and her life changes forever.

This was such a fun read! The mystery’s intriguing and there’s plenty of room in the story for heartwarming friendships, nefarious motives, and a tingly romance. It looks like there are more Nefertari Hughes mysteries coming up, and I’ll definitely be looking for them. This is one sleuth I’ll be glad to follow!

I received an electronic review copy of ASP of Ascension from NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers.