Gordy and the Magic Diet

November 16th, 2014 · Books


I bought this book during an author meet-and-greet with April Runge in late 2013, and though I had read about Gordy and the Magic Diet by Kim Diersen & April Runge (illustrated by Carrie Hartman), I had been skeptical to check it out. It can be hard in children’s books to navigate something being “magic” without seeming condescending or inaccurate. This book actually does a fantastic job of explaining a concept to children without leaving anyone out with a particular example, which is where the “magic” element comes in. I don’t think magic is a stand-in for science here, it is just a variable for kids to fill in their own unique restrictive diet circumstance.


Gordy experiences discomfort when he eats certain foods, and though he is tempted (and gives in at one point), he faces his greatest challenge on Halloween. He misses the candy and treats of days gone by but as the reader already knows, if Gordy eats the offending food(s), he will be sad and in pain. The notes at the end of the book feature each of the book’s contributors sharing what their “monsters” are – and what they avoid as a result. Kim Diersen’s son avoids gluten and artificial foods. April Runge’s daughter had a diagnosis of catastrophic pediatric epilepsy that subjected her to substantial medications until the ketogenic diet lent assistance. And Carrie Hartman, the illustrator, has one daughter that cannot have gluten while the other avoids preservatives. Getting that window into their unique circumstances highlights the need for a book such as this to explain to children that whatever “monster” is making their relationship with food and themselves difficult, if a special diet is what the doctor ordered, they too can be brave and stick with it like Gordy.

The illustrations are soft and colorful while the prose is relatable. A major scene involves Gordy, dressed for Halloween as a pirate, returning all his candy from trick or treating to his mother and affirming that the “pirate treasure” he discovered is a commitment to his restrictive diet, saying, “You can have my candy. I found the real pirate treasure.”

Every day after, Gordy fought his Monster. Except some days were harder than others. For instance, on Christmas, when cookies showed up at every party, on Valentine’s Day, when candy hearts appeared everywhere and on Easter, when every Easter basket, except his, held chocolate bunnies. Still, Gordy was absolutely, positively certain that his Monster would stay quiet now… thanks to his Magic Diet.

Vegetarian and vegan families that are ethics-based in their dietary and lifestyle choices will still find something useful here, not just in having compassion for people on restrictive diets, but also because Gordy must navigate food based holidays just as veg families do. In one illustration, Gordy is eating what looks like steak for dinner and he remarks that his meal “smells like dirty socks,” most likely referring to the steamed broccoli on his fork. It makes sense to include that because many kids would have that reaction to a new way of eating, but in the book Gordy not only gets used to his food, he embraces feeling well wholeheartedly.

Certainly a special book for a special audience, but thoughtfully written and beautifully illustrated. My kids really enjoy the story at ages 4 and 6.

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Book of Life (2014)

November 14th, 2014 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By HUYEN MACMICHAEL

The movie “Book of Life” lived up to my expectations and then some. I absolutely loved the clever and detailed animation as well as the story within a story (within a story!). All the characters looked like marionettes and the colors were varied and vivid. Black and white was used beautifully for emphasis. Not only was the imagery delightful, but the movie was packed full of life lessons; lessons about friendship, death, honoring family, staying true to yourself, forgiveness, and even touched on some animal rights! Yet, it was not overdone and I felt it added to the storyline. Some of the analogies were trite, but bits of humor or music helped liven up the predictability.

I enjoyed the cultural elements in this movie and felt they could have been played up more with the music selection. Instead, the music was more pop tunes altered to add a little Latino flavor and I believe it was meant to add humor.

The story revolves around the Day of the Dead and a bet the Gods make using two boys and a girl. There is love and lots of fast-paced action (which should keep those with short attention spans entertained) and ancestors as well as a trip to the two worlds after death. The characters emphasize keeping our loved ones alive by honoring and remembering them. Those that are not honored, disappear in the Land of the Forgotten. Our hero, Manolo, travels through the worlds on a quest to return to his love and save his town. There are some malevolent bad guys which may scare the young ‘uns but that’s probably why it’s recommended for ages 8 and up. If you haven’t seen it, go take a journey through a this colorful legend.

Rated PG.

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Tracks Count

November 3rd, 2014 · Books


I’ve been reviewing for Vegbooks for over three years so I’ve seen a fair share of standard books – ABC books (All the Asleep AnimalsClick, Clack, ABC, and Letters of the West) and song books (Jo MacDonald Had a GardenOver in the Jungleand Over in the Forest), but this is the first dedicated counting book (though not the first I’ve reviewed to feature animal tracks).

Tracks-Review-VegbooksTracks Count depicts animals, their tracks, and a short line of explanatory text. The illustrations are all done in a sepia tone. Each animal is in the wild except for the corresponding animal/track for the number one. The horse’s hoof is accompanied with text indicating the horse is in the corral. Later numbers include multiple animals to reach the requisite number of toes needed, for example, the number eight features the track of a tapir and a coatimundi. The tapir has three toes, the coatimundi has five. The book wraps up with facts about each animal featured and information about the book’s author, a nature program supervisor at a wetland preserve and the illustrator who teaches children with Art4Life.

Geared a little older than a typical counting book, the accurate illustrations of tracks were an invitation for my kids to wonder what their own tracks would look like. Great science read from Craigmore Creations’ “Little Naturalist” line.

Review copy from Craigmore Creations

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Forest Fire Mystery

November 1st, 2014 · Books

Forest-Fire-Mystery-Review-VegbooksReview By ANDREA ZOLLMAN

Originally published in 1962, the Forest Fire Mystery is a fast-paced story that tells the story of 15-year-old Art Mills, who moves with his parents and younger sister from Denver, Colorado, to a small southern Colorado town bordered by a national forest.

Art gets off to a rough start with the local boys, who trick him into hunting for an animal they tell him is called a snipe. While searching for it, Art discovers Fittelson’s Folly, an abandoned mine. He notices one man spying on another man who marks a nearby rock face with crayon. Curious about this, Art returns to the mine and finds pieces of perlite, a valuable rock, and puts a sample of it in the window of his parents’ diner.

Soon, mysterious fires start on the mountain, and Art suspects that one two men he saw near the mine is starting them. One man is a prospector and the other runs a timber company. When Art’s sample of perlite disappears from the store window, he replaces it. After it vanishes again, he starts to suspect one of the men of the theft.

Art longs to solve both mysteries and asks an older boy to join him in spying on one of the men, who threatens Art when he discovers them following him. Art and his friend deduce who the arsonist is and how he started the fires.

According to the back cover of the book, Troy Nesbit was a pseudonym for Franklin Folsom, who wrote more than 80 books, including the Wilderness Mystery Series, a seven-part series that includes the Forest Fire Mystery. While Folsom’s concern about the environment comes through as a theme of this book, the dialogue is somewhat dated but should be enjoyable for children who enjoy the books similar to the Boxcar Children mysteries or reading about stories that take place in wilderness settings.

The publisher sent a copy of the book for review.

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