Reviews

Book Review: What We See in the Stars

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!
description of the book from the publisher:

A richly illustrated guide to the myths, histories, and science of the celestial bodies of our solar system, with stories and information about constellations, planets, comets, the northern lights, and more. 

Combining art, mythology, and science, What We See in the Stars gives readers a tour of the night sky through more than 100 magical pieces of original art, all accompanied by text that weaves related legends and lore with scientific facts.

This beautifully packaged book covers the night sky’s most brilliant features–such as the constellations, the moon, the bright stars, and the visible planets–as well as less familiar celestial phenomena like the outer planets, nebulae, and deep space. Adults seeking to recapture the magic of youthful stargazing, younger readers interested in learning about natural history and outer space, and those who appreciate beautiful, hand-painted art will all delight in this charming book.

As usual, my five point review:

  • I requested this book to review because my husband loves mythology and science, and I thought it would be fun to look at together… and equally enjoyable for him to be able to take to use in his classroom at school. He teaches eighth grade science, and this book is just perfect! When you open it up, it’s immediately obvious that it’s a very high quality book. The artwork is gorgeous, the paper is thick, and it just feels nice in your hands, almost like a gift book.
  • The book is well organized, with chapters dedicated to various constellations, the Milky Way, the moon, the sun, the planets, asteroids, and deep space. The organization makes sense, especially for science-focused readers. It is so comprehensive, yet very manageable.
  • I appreciated the layout of the book–a good mix of text and (beautiful) images. The author, Kelsey Oseid, seamlessly integrated history, science, and mythology in an approachable fashion. Sometimes discussions of mythology can seem outdated with science and present-day knowledge, but it did not appear that way in this book which was awesome.
  • Oseid’s writing and content was approachable for a variety of ages and knowledge levels. Reading this book made me reminisce about Star Lab in my fourth grade classroom–the first time science was really interesting to me. I think this book would be great for kids interested in any of the subjects mentioned in this book (mythology, science, and history), especially if they want to learn more about another field. Younger kids may need help understanding some of the words and concepts, but it’s accessible for middle school and up.
  • Whether you’re looking for an actually interesting coffee table book that your guests will want to flip through, a gift for a young scientist, a book to use alongside homeschool curriculum, or just an accessible book about the stars (and so much more), give this book a shot! I know you’ll like it too.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Blogging for Books for the chance to read this book!

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When God Made You - a book review on thepajamachef.com #bloggingforbooks #bookreview
Reviews

Book Review: When God Made You

Read on to learn about a wonderful children’s book, When God Made You. I know we’ll read this over and over and over again to our little one! I received a complementary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

When God Made You - a book review on thepajamachef.com #bloggingforbooks #bookreview

description of the book from the publisher:

YOU, you… God thinks about you.
God was thinking of you long before your debut.

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.

‘Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knew
That the world needed someone exactly like you!

When God Made You - a book review on thepajamachef.com #bloggingforbooks #bookreview

As usual, my five point review:

  • What a QUALITY book. Christian kids’ books are always a toss up in terms of quality and imagination… sometimes they try too hard to incorporate scripture and therefore lose their audience–but the quality of the story here is just great. Obviously from the title you can tell that it’s a faith-based story… but that doesn’t mean you lose anything. The story as well as the construction of the book means it’ll be appreciated and read for years to come.
  • What a BEAUTIFUL book. You’re always told to “not just a book by the cover.” But we’re human–we do. Oops! The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and really engaging with kids–you can find samples on the Amazon page (p.s. not an affiliate link). David Catrow did a great job! Even though my son doesn’t have the attention span (yet) to read/listen to every word on every page, he loves looking at the beautiful drawings. Pointing to the little girl dancing is his favorite so far.
  • What a FUN book. The rhymes, the illustrations, everything just draws you in. My son is one and while he loves books, whether he will enjoy reading a book that I won’t let him eat, wave in the air, or otherwise play with (aka anything that’s not a board book!) is a toss up. When we’ve read this book, he’s engaged and interested. Sure, we sometimes skip ahead a few pages to find his favorite pictures, but that’s to be expected. I’m just impressed that he stays engaged with as much of it as he does. Kudos to Matthew Paul Turner!
  • My only complaint about this book is how repetitive it is. Some parts seem almost word for word identical. I guess that’s the style though. A few of the rhymes seem awkward to read aloud too, but that’s not a huge deal for me.
  • All in all, this is a great book that families will enjoy reading again and again. It has a wonderful message and great illustrations. This would be a great gift–baby showers, birthdays, Christmas, you name it!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!

When God Made You - a book review on thepajamachef.com #bloggingforbooks #bookreview

What children’s books are you loving lately?

Reviews

Book Review: Newton and Polly

I’m excited to share my review of Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund with you today! I received a complementary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

Newton and Polly... a book review of Jody Hedlund's epic book!

description of the book from the publisher:

Acclaimed novelist Jody Hedlund brings the real story of “Amazing Grace” to page in a thrilling tale of the love story of John Newton and Polly Catlett.

John Newton fell in love with Polly Catlett at first sight. But Polly was unable to return the affections of the rebellious, worldly young man and her father ordered the aimless John away from her. Not long after, John was pressed into serving in the Navy. He saw Polly one last time before leaving England but Polly couldn’t promise any future to him.

After four years away, John is called back to England on family matters. But John was heavily, blindly involved in the slave trade and had no desire to return. John Sr. used his son’s undying love for Polly to lure him home. On that treacherous voyage back to England, in the midst of a terrible storm, John finally experienced salvation and began moving towards, eventually, crusading against slavery. Back at home, John must work hard to convince wise-beyond-her-years Polly Catlett that he is a changed man and worthy of her.

As usual, my five point review:

  • This story–this true love story–is incredible. I couldn’t put it down! As you can tell if you’ve read the description above, this is a love story between John Newton (the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and his (eventual) wife, Polly. As I’ve said time and time again, Christian fiction is very, very, VERY hit or miss with me. I’m so picky about what I like and what I don’t. This isn’t a love story of the cheesy, “Jesus brought us together” coincidental variety… but rather one that is realistic, involved family/work/religion/faith conflicts, and one that ACTUALLY happened. I know we all think our love stories are pretty cool (and they are) but this one is phenomenal. It is a story that needs to be told, so I’m glad Jody did!
  • What made this story so powerful was the author’s thorough research and commitment to keeping the story true to the historical events of the time, even though it is fiction. This made for some uncomfortable scenes (not inappropriate, but tough to read/think about) relating to the slave trade, male-female interactions, etc. These scenes, as far as I know from my own reading and history background, seem very true to the era. Anyone interested in life in the 1700s, the slave trade, or the crusade against slavery would enjoy this book for just these reasons. The love story would just be a bonus. 🙂
  • I loved all the emotion in this novel. You could feel Polly’s change of heart towards John over time… from their early moments to the tough middle and to the wonderful ending. The author did such a great job with Polly’s character! It’s like she’s your friend (or yourself). Absolutely lovely!
  • At the same time, Jody Hedlund did an amazing job capturing John Newton. At the beginning of the story, he was only seventeen and rather aimless. It was a different time period and his freedoms were different then as opposed to most seventeen year olds now. The author’s portrayal of John in good times and bad–experiencing pain, tragedy, joy, heartache, and more–was so rich! Before reading this novel, I only had a cursory understanding of the background of the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” But now, the words of his hymn make SO MUCH SENSE.
  • All in all, this book is wonderful. You’ll want to savor it, you’ll want to rush through it to see how it ends (even though some of that is spoiled for you in this review… they do get together! Haha!)… but in this case, the joy is in the journey. And grace is captured so, so well. Read this book! You won’t regret it.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!

 

A book review about a topic that is recently near & dear to my heart... how to feed my baby!
Reviews

Book Review: The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers

Now that #BabyVolde has been eating solids for about a month, this is the perfect time to share my review of the book The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers by Anthony Porto, MD and Dina DiMaggio, MD. I received a complementary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

A book review about a topic that is recently near & dear to my heart... how to feed my baby!

A description of the book from the publisher:

A comprehensive manual for feeding babies and toddlers during the crucial first years of life, written by a team of medical experts who are also parents.

All Your Questions about Feeding, Answered.

The choices of when, how, and what to feed your baby can be overwhelming. With The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, you have the expertise of a team of pediatric medical and nutritional experts—who also happen to be parents—in a comprehensive manual that takes the guesswork out of feeding. This first-of-its-kind guide provides practical, easy-to-follow advice to help you navigate the nutrition issues, medical conditions, and parenting concerns that accompany feeding. With recipes, parenting stories, and recommendations based on the latest pediatric guidelines, this book will allow you to approach mealtime with confidence so you can spend more time enjoying your new family.

#BabyVolde making short work of some butternut squash!
As usual, my five point review:

  • From the first time I opened this book, the format drew me in. Each chapter discusses a specific age group: 0-3 months, 4-6 months, etc. And, the chapters are broken up by sub-headings in the table of contents so it is REALLY easy to find what you need. Topics include developmental milestones, medical concerns, and nutritional needs… as well as healthy recipes for you and your baby/toddler [once they are in the solid food stage, that is]. I also appreciated the length of the book: at 256 pages long, it’s a good size to share a lot of information but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
  • My overall favorite part of the book was the perspective from which it was written: a team of pediatricians, a dietitian, a lactation consultant, and two family chefs who all happen to be parents. The result is a wonderful evidence-based yet realistic perspective about how you can feed your child at different stages AND how to deal with tricky situations like picky eating. You can read more about their goals here. As a librarian and a new mom, the evidence-based perspective was particularly important to me. There’s so much information available online that it can be hard to sift through, and this book took care of some of the legwork for me. I haven’t read it cover-to-cover [and it’s not really a book that you would do that with, anyway] but so far it is pretty unbiased especially about hot button issues like breastfeeding vs. formula feeding or when to start solids. I’m breastfeeding my baby, and didn’t start solids until he turned six months old but even if your baby eats formula and started solids at four months, this book will still be useful because it is not biased or judgy.
  • Also, the book is such an easy read, even if the medical field is unfamiliar and/or scary to you. There isn’t any medical jargon or technical details, and there is even a section about what to expect if you have to visit a specialist and how to prepare for that visit. Including details like that makes the book even more accessible and useful. I also appreciated the section on food allergies: what reactions to look for, what to do if a reaction DOES take place, etc. Calmed my nerves before giving my baby his first taste of solid food: sweet potatoes!
  • The recipes are simple and use real ingredients–I appreciate that so much and think other busy parents will too. I’ve only tried one recipe so far–the zucarrot puree [zucchini + carrots, roasted and pureed] but look forward to trying more as #BabyVolde expands his food horizons. 🙂 Right now, aside from his favorite mama milk, he eats: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocado, zucchini, carrots, oatmeal, some herbs and spices, and on Thanksgiving he tried turkey! While I know I can’t control whether my son will become a healthy, adventurous eater or not, I can introduce him to a variety of real foods to encourage him towards that end as much as possible. Some of the recipes for older babies/toddlers may seem a little too “adult” for them, but I think it’s always worth a shot introducing new foods to kids. If all we give kids is chicken nuggets, that’s all they will know and want. Some of you experienced parents might be laughing at me [and maybe I will laugh at myself in the future too], but I am pretty set on this. And I’m not going to be a short order cook, so this baby better learn to like a variety of foods. Ha! 🙂 Just kidding, but really…
  • Overall, this book is a great addition to any baby book and/or cookbook libraries. It includes a wide variety of information on nutritional needs, child development, as well as providing easy recipes that are realistic for busy parents to make for their kiddos. Since I love food and cooking so much, and value healthy eating for myself and my family, I want my son to grow up with that mindset as well. This book will surely help in that quest! I definitely recommend it to anyone who has or works with babies and toddlers.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!

Reviews

Book Review: Kitchen Matrix

Check out one of Mark Bittman’s latest cookbooks, Kitchen Matrix. It’s a great visual cookbook that fans of Bittman will enjoy.

Check out one of Mark Bittman's latest cookbooks, Kitchen Matrix. It's a great visual cookbook that fans of Bittman will enjoy.

A description of the book from the publisher:

Bestselling author Mark Bittman anthologizes his popular Matrix series in a boldly graphic new cookbook that emphasizes creativity, improvisation, and simplicity as the keys to varied cooking.

For years, Mark Bittman has shared his formulas, recipes, and kitchen improvisations in his popular New York Times Eat column, in which an ingredient or essential technique is presented in different variations in a bold matrix. Accompanied by striking photographs and brief, straightforward instructions, these thematic matrices show how simple changes in preparation and ingredient swaps in a master recipe can yield dishes that are each completely different from the original, and equally delicious. In Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix, Mark’s matrices come together to create a collection of over 400 flexible recipes covering vegetables, fruits, meats and chicken, and even desserts. Whether you’re cooking up soup (creamy, brothy, earthy, or hearty), freezing ice pops (in fruity, savory, creamy, or boozy varieties), or preparing asparagus (steamed, roasted, stir-fried, or grilled), following Mark’s approach to culinary improvisation will deliver stand-out results.

As usual, my five point review:

  • I have been a fan of Mark Bittman for awhile. I enjoyed his column in The New York Times, and of course his How to Cook Everything series is great. His views [along with Michael Pollan’s] on the American diet, processed food, and cooking have shaped my food philosophy quite a bit over the past seven years. I like Bittman’s approachable style, and the flexibility he gives to home cooks. For those of you not familiar with his cookbooks, they are recipes that contain lots of suggestions [i.e. for this rice dish, use these ingredients to make it Asian style, these to make it Italian, etc.]. I know newer cooks [or those who don’t like to be told what to do] really benefit from that approach. Kitchen Matrix is no different.
  • Kitchen Matrix is only about 300 pages long, but it has over 700 simple recipes in it that everyone, no matter their food style [paleo, omnivore, vegetarian, etc.] will love. Wow! The size, like all his cookbooks, is a little overwhelming but he breaks down the categories of recipes well–appetizers, vegetables, meat, fruit, etc. In many ways, this could be a replacement “bridal shower” cookbook for creative types instead of the typical Betty Crocker title.
  • This cookbook is by far the prettiest of any of his books. It looks more like a blog than a cookbook, with tons of full color illustrations, recipes, and commentary. It is so fun to just look at, even if you don’t plan to cook anything! You also can learn quite a bit about flavor pairings, ingredients, and basic cooking skills within this book as well. Bittman generally provides flavor profiles beyond just the “American” palate, including profile options for Mediterranean, East Asian, South Asian, and Latin American cuisine.
  • The layout of Kitchen Matrix does take some getting used to. Pages are oriented both ways [left to right and top to bottom]. Some recipes aren’t given in typical recipe format, but rather in paragraphs. But neither of these elements are deal breakers for me!
  • Overall, this is a great cookbook. I pull it out when I want to get creative in the kitchen, or when I have basic ingredients on hand and don’t know what I should make for dinner or for a side dish. For me, it’s not the best cookbook to go to when I don’t have any inspiration at all because it definitely is a bit open ended, but it’s a fun cookbook to have on hand.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!