A Children’s Bible By Lydia Millet
In Millet’s latest novel, a bevy of kids and their middle-aged parents convene for the summer at a country house in America’s Northeast. While the grown-ups indulge (pills, benders, bed-hopping), the kids, disaffected teenagers and their parentally neglected younger siblings, look on with mounting disgust. But what begins as generational comedy soon takes a darker turn, as climate collapse and societal breakdown encroach. The ensuing chaos is underscored by scenes and symbols repurposed from the Bible — a man on a blowup raft among the reeds, animals rescued from a deluge into the back of a van, a baby born in a manger. With an unfailingly light touch, Millet delivers a wry fable about climate change, imbuing foundational myths with new meaning and, finally, hope.
Deacon King Kong By James McBride
A mystery story, a crime novel, an urban farce, a sociological portrait of late-1960s Brooklyn: McBride’s novel contains multitudes. At its rollicking heart is Deacon Cuffy Lambkin, a.k.a. Sportcoat, veteran resident of the Causeway Housing Projects, widower, churchgoer, odd-jobber, home brew-tippler and, now, after inexplicably shooting an ear clean off a local drug dealer, a wanted man. The elastic plot expands to encompass rival drug crews, an Italian smuggler, buried treasure, church sisters and Sportcoat’s long-dead wife, still nagging from beyond the grave. McBride, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird” and the memoir “The Color of Water,” among other books, conducts his antic symphony with deep feeling, never losing sight of the suffering and inequity within the merriment.
Hamnet By Maggie O’Farrell
A bold feat of imagination and empathy, this novel gives flesh and feeling to a historical mystery: how the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son, Hamnet, in 1596, may have shaped his play “Hamlet,” written a few years later. O’Farrell, an Irish-born novelist, conjures with sensual vividness the world of the playwright’s hometown: the tang of new leather in his cantankerous father’s glove shop; the scent of apples in the storage shed where he first kisses Agnes, the farmer’s daughter and gifted healer who becomes his wife; and, not least, the devastation that befalls her when she cannot save her son from the plague. The novel is a portrait of unspeakable grief wreathed in great beauty.
Homeland Elegies By Ayad Akhtar
At once personal and political, Akhtar’s second novel can read like a collection of pitch-perfect essays that give shape to a prismatic identity. We begin with Walt Whitman, with a soaring overture to America and a dream of national belonging — which the narrator methodically dismantles in the virtuosic chapters that follow. The lure and ruin of capital, the wounds of 9/11, the bitter pill of cultural rejection: Akhtar pulls no punches critiquing the country’s most dominant narratives. He returns frequently to the subject of his father, a Pakistani immigrant and onetime doctor to Donald Trump, seeking in his life the answer to a burning question: What, after all, does it take to be an American?
The Vanishing Half By Brit Bennett
Beneath the polished surface and enthralling plotlines of Bennett’s second novel, after her much admired “The Mothers,” lies a provocative meditation on the possibilities and limits of self-definition. Alternating sections recount the separate fates of Stella and Desiree, twin sisters from a Black Louisiana town during Jim Crow, whose residents pride themselves on their light skin. When Stella decides to pass for white, the sisters’ lives diverge, only to intersect unexpectedly, years later. Bennett has constructed her novel with great care, populating it with characters, including a trans man and an actress, who invite us to consider how identity is both chosen and imposed, and the degree to which “passing” may describe a phenomenon more common than we think.
Hidden Valley Road By Robert Kolker
Don and Mimi Galvin had the first of their 12 children in 1945. Intelligence and good looks ran in the family, but so, it turns out, did mental illness: By the mid-1970s, six of the 10 Galvin sons had developed schizophrenia. “For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted,” Kolker writes. His is a feat of narrative journalism but also a study in empathy; he unspools the stories of the Galvin siblings with enormous compassion while tracing the scientific advances in treating the illness.
A Promised Land By Barack Obama
Presidential memoirs are meant to inform, to burnish reputations and, to a certain extent, to shape the course of history, and Obama’s is no exception. What sets it apart from his predecessors’ books is the remarkable degree of introspection. He invites the reader inside his head as he ponders life-or-death issues of national security, examining every detail of his decision-making; he describes what it’s like to endure the bruising legislative process and lays out his thinking on health care reform and the economic crisis. An easy, elegant writer, he studs his narrative with affectionate family anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of world leaders and colleagues. “A Promised Land” is the first of two volumes — it ends in 2011 — and it is as contemplative and measured as the former president himself.
Shakespeare in a Divided America By James Shapiro
In his latest book, the author of “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?” and “1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare” has outdone himself. He takes two huge cultural hyper-objects — Shakespeare and America — and dissects the effects of their collision. Each chapter centers on a year with a different thematic focus. The first chapter, “1833: Miscegenation,” revolves around John Quincy Adams and his obsessive hatred of Desdemona. The last chapter, “2017: Left | Right,” where Shapiro truly soars, analyzes the notorious Central Park production of “Julius Caesar.” By this point it is clear that the real subject of the book is not Shakespeare plays, but us, the U.S.
Uncanny Valley By Anna Wiener
Wiener’s stylish memoir is an uncommonly literary chronicle of tech-world disillusionment. Soured on her job as an underpaid assistant at a literary agency in New York, Wiener, then in her mid-20s, heads west, heeding the siren call of Bay Area start-ups aglow with optimism, vitality and cash. A series of unglamorous jobs — in various customer support positions — follow. But Wiener’s unobtrusive perch turns out to be a boon, providing an unparalleled vantage point from which to scrutinize her field. The result is a scrupulously observed and quietly damning exposé of the yawning gap between an industry’s public idealism and its internal iniquities.
War By Margaret MacMillan
This is a short book but a rich one with a profound theme. MacMillan argues that war — fighting and killing — is so intimately bound up with what it means to be human that viewing it as an aberration misses the point. War has led to many of civilization’s great disasters but also to many of civilization’s greatest achievements. It’s all around us, influencing everything we see and do; it’s in our bones. MacMillan writes with impressive ease. Practically every page of her book is interesting and, despite the grimness of its argument, even entertaining.
Source: New York Times; A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 13, 2020, Page 14 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: The 10 Best Books of 2020.
Decorating sugar cookies always seems like a good idea, but they never quite turn out like the ones baked by the professionals. Even if you stick to the recipe you've been baking for decades, there are a handful of tips to keep in mind to make sure your cookies don’t crumble. Follow these tips—which span from dough to delivery—to make the best sugar cookies of all time, and get ready for Christmas cookie success.
1.) Make the Dough Ahead of Time
Get the Recipe: Basic Sugar Cookie Dough
Trying to roll out freshly made sugar cookie dough is nearly impossible. It’s too soft, too sticky, and totally unwieldy. It can be tempting to just stick the soft dough in the freezer to speed things up, but that won’t work either: The dough will be frozen on the outside and too soft on the inside. The verdict? It’s a good idea to make it at least a day before you bake. In fact, dough will last double-wrapped in the freezer for more than a month, and can be kept in the fridge for three to four days. “I go ahead and portion the dough into little balls and chill them on a cookie sheet, then put the chilled cookie balls in a bag in the freezer to use later,” says Sarah Rich, pastry chef at Rich Table in San Francisco, Calif. When you’re ready to bake, let the dough thaw slightly, then roll between two sheets of parchment paper to just under a quarter-inch thick, says Jen Yee, head of the pastry program at Lafayette in New York City. The chilling process also gives the gluten in the dough time to relax, which makes for a more tender cookie.
2.) Take Your Time Rolling the Dough
That said, trying to roll just-out-of-the-fridge dough can be super frustrating. Even with all your weight and good intentions focused on the rolling pin, the dough can crack from the edges inward. Instead of battling the fissures, pull the dough out about 15 minutes before you’re ready to roll. Unwrap the dough, place it on a lightly floured surface, and give it a few whacks with your rolling pin to encourage the dough to soften. Then, roll on. If at any point the dough gets super soft (i.e., holds an indent when pressed with your finger) transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stick it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Repeat as often as necessary until all your cut outs are cut out.
3.) Don't Overwork the Dough
There are a few ways to prevent your cookies from ballooning in the oven. For starters, be gentle when mixing your ingredients together. “Over-creaming your butter can aerate the dough, which will cause your cookies to expand in the oven and collapse upon cooling,” Yee says. “Be sure to just work the butter enough to homogenize with the rest of the ingredients.”
4.) Use a Bench Scraper
A bench scraper or great big spatula is a dough-rollers best friend. Use it to gently get under and lift up the dough so you can keep it from sticking to the surface. This allows you to use a lot less flour on the surface (excess can make for tough cookies), and moving the dough as you roll makes an evenly rolled sheet of dough more accessible. Chances are you’re consistently putting more pressure on one area of the dough (it’s OK, we all do it). Rotating as you roll helps you compensate for any irregularity—or super strength—in your rolling.
5.) Chill Again After the Cookies Are Formed
Once you’ve cut the dough into shapes, put the cookies back into the refrigerator before baking, says Chris Hanmer, chef and owner of CH Patisserie in Sioux Falls, S.D., and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts. Why? Whether you’re making simple snowball cookies or plan to decorate cut out shapes, a quick chill in the freezer after your cookies are formed or punched out will help your cookies hold a well-defined edge even after baking. Cold dough means cold butter. The colder the butter, the slower it melts helping cookies of all shapes—especially ones with more intricate details (looking at you, Rudolph)—hold their edge.
6.) Set a Timer While Baking (and Watch It)
A friendly reminder that all ovens are not created equal. Neither are all cookie sheets, or eggs, or cups of flour. All those little variations can mean big differences in your finished product. Those are just a few of the reasons we give you a range for the finished cooking or baking time. For the best odds, set your timer at the low end of the range, say 12 minutes for a 12 to 15 minute cookie. Take a look at the cookies. Now look at the recipe. What are you looking for? Golden Brown? Dry and firm to the touch? Remember, you’re baking to the indicator, not the time. If you have to add a few more minutes (even if it's longer than the recipe says), keep going. Your cookies will thank you for it.
7.) Embrace Royal Icing
Royal icing (a mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites) is what gives bakery-made cookies their professional sheen. The best part? You don’t have to follow an exact recipe, Hanmer says: “The icing will tell you what it’s doing. If it’s too liquidy, add powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, add milk or water.” Add acid (in the form of lemon juice or cream of tartar) to help the icing dry more quickly, and experiment with different colors using gel paste coloring.
8.) Work Quickly When Decorating
The first step in decorating is to apply the icing, which involves piping the border with a piping bag, then filling in the center. Yee recommends making two consistencies of royal icing, one for each step. “You want a firm icing for the border, and a looser one to fill or ’flood’ in the border, which can be done by adding a touch of water to your ’flooding’ icing,” she says. You can use a piping bag, an offset spatula, or a paring knife to frost the center, and toothpicks can help to make designs, spread icing into detailed corners, and pick up mistakes.
Quickly add the sprinkles while the icing is still wet and tacky—within two minutes of frosting. Though the surface of the icing will feel dry after about 10 minutes, it’s important to let it fully harden for about four hours. And don’t stress too much about achieving perfection, she says: “Be patient and have fun! They’re cookies, so do yourself a favor and don’t take the icing too seriously.”
9.) Get Creative With Your Tools
You can still whip up picture-perfect cookies without professional-grade equipment. If you don’t have a piping bag (though they can be easily found in craft stores), use a squeeze bottle or create a “cornet,” which involves rolling parchment paper into a cone and snipping the tip to the size of your liking. And don’t fret if you’re lacking in the cookie cutter department. “Some cutters can be turned upside down or sideways to [make] a new creation,” says Summer Bailey, pastry chef at The Dutch in New York City.
10.) Be Strategic With Transportation
If you’re planning on transporting or packing the finished cookies for shipping, choose to bake rounder, less complicated shapes. “Snowmen will ship a lot better than snowflakes,” Hanmer says. In terms of packing them up, place the cookies in flattened paper muffin cups to keep them separated, and use tissue or crinkle paper as padding, Yee suggests. And though it may seem counterintuitive, load in as many as you can. “The more you can carefully pack into a container and the less that they move, the better,” Hanmer says.
11.) Store Sugar Cookies Correctly
Once you've made the perfect batch, you'll need to know how to store sugar cookies so they stay fresh for as long as possible. If you like your holiday cookies soft and chewy, head to the bread box. “A slice of white or potato bread helps prevent soft cookies from drying out,” says cookbook author Jessie Sheehan. Place the cookies in an airtight plastic container, separating layers with parchment paper, then drop in a slice of bread. The cookies will draw moisture from the bread, which will help keep them from getting stale (and harder than a lump of coal). If you’re on Team Crispy Cookie, reach for a glass container—or better yet, reheat them in a 300°F oven for no more than five minutes. And remember that cookies play by bagel rules: Store flavors separately, or they’ll all taste like everything.
Source: Real Simple Magazine By Betty Gold and Grace Elkus
Updated November 23, 2020
The holiday season is upon us, and this is good news for folks who have all of the holiday spirit and can’t watch those Hallmark movies fast enough. We too especially love this time of the year. Our holiday playlist has been on repeat for weeks and we've already put up our Christmas trees. We love this time of year! That being said, here's a list of holiday themed YA books for readers of all ages to enjoy. And no, you don't have to be a young adult/teen to read them! So get in the holiday spirit with us and read one of these holiday themed YA books. They're sure to bring the romance and remind readers of their favorite Hallmark movies.
#ALLIWANTFORCHRISTMAS: A SWEET YA CHRISTMAS ROMANCE BY YESENIA VARGAS
Christmas Eve is right around the corner, but enjoying the perfect Christmas is looking more impossible than ever for these five friends. Ella’s Prince Charming is caught in a snowstorm. Lena is just over the holidays in general. Harper needs another $100 for a family in need. Tori is more concerned with balloon colors than her boyfriend, and Rey just feels forever alone. Will their first Christmas together as friends be a flop?
CAROLS AND CHAOS BY CINDY ANSTEY
For fans of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, and of course, Hallmark movies comes this companion novel to Suitors and Sabotage set during the Yuletide season of 1817. Lady’s maid Kate Darby has her hands full between performing her household duties at the Shackleford Park country estate and caring for her ailing mother. Matt Harlow is also busy acting as valet for the Steeple brothers, two of the estate’s holiday guests. Falling in love would be a disaster for both of them, but resisting their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when Kate and Matt unwittingly become swept up in a devious counterfeiting scheme.
DECKED WITH HOLLY BY MARNI BATES
A Christmas cruise with her two cousins is not Holly’s idea of a good time. The trip doesn’t get better when she gets seasick and then pepper-sprayed by a cute guy named Nick who is actually Dominic Wyatt, a drummer from one of the hottest boy bands. Soon, Holly’s face is plastered all over the internet, and rumors are flying. The band can’t risk destroying their family-friendly image, so Dominic convinces Holly to be his fake girlfriend for the next two weeks.
EX-MAS: A LOVE/HATE STORY BY KATE BRIAN
Lila Beckwith is ready to throw an epic holiday party while her parents are out of town. Lila’s big plans are soon spoiled when her Christmas-obsessed little brother Cooper takes off with his best friend Tyler to save Santa. Lila has to bring Cooper back home safely before her parents return on Christmas Eve, but the only person who can help is Tyler’s older brother Beau, who also happens to be Lila’s ex-boyfriend. It may take more than a Christmas miracle for Lila and Beau to overcome their differences and find their brothers.
FRENCH KISSMAS BY CATHY HAPKA
Christmas in Paris is like a homecoming for Nicole Larson. A year ago, Nic studied abroad in Paris and is now back with her friend Annike to spend the holiday season in the City of Light. Almost instantly, Nic is once again rekindling her romance with Parisian hottie Luc, but what is the point of reigniting something that will only last for a few weeks? Instead, Nic prefers spending her time with new friend Mike…until it becomes clear Mike is also interested in being more than just friends.
LET IT SNOW: THREE HOLIDAY ROMANCES BY JOHN GREEN, MAUREEN JOHNSON, AND LAUREN MYRACLE
Comprised of three separate but intertwined stories, Let It Snow follows three Gracetown teenagers during a huge snow storm on Christmas Eve. The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson follows Jubilee Dougal who is forced to spend Christmas Eve with her grandparents instead of her boyfriend Noah. A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green begins with Tobin and his friends, the Duke and JP, being lured to the local Waffle House by their friend Keun. In The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle, Addie deals with a recent breakup.
After reading Let It Snow, stream the Netflix adaptation!
MY NEW CRUSH GAVE TO ME BY SHANI PETROFF
The only thing Charlie Donovan wants for Christmas is Teo Ortiz. He barely knows she exists, but Charlie is determined to be Teo’s date to the Christmas Ball. All Charlie has to do is rig the school paper’s Secret Santa and win Teo’s heart with the perfect gift. To succeed, Charlie needs the help of J.D. Ortiz, Teo’s cousin. He is the most annoying person Charlie’s ever met, but J.D. is willing to give Charlie insight into what Teo wants. Yet, as Charlie spends more time with J.D., she begins to wonder if she knows what (or who) she really wants for Christmas after all.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU BY LAURA SILVERMAN
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets You’ve Got Mail in this YA holiday romcom about rival teen booksellers. Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at her favorite local bookstore Once Upon. When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the employee who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to make enough money to fix her car. The only person standing in her way is the store’s new hire Jake Kaplan. Jake doesn’t even read, but his sales soon begin to rival Shoshanna’s. Jake may be handsome, single, and Jewish, which is hard to find in Atlanta, but to Shoshanna, Jake is the enemy. She is ready to take him down, but the competition seems to bring them closer.
SECRET SANTA BY SABRINA JAMES
Hopeless romantic Noelle just knows her Secret Santa gift is from her crush Charlie. Froggy the super geek likes the super popular Celia and plans to use being her Secret Santa to reveal his feelings, but Celia has a crush on resident bad boy Jake. Celia thinks her presents are from him. Lily just wants to give Connor a great gift because she loves Christmas, but her gifts are making Connor’s girlfriend jealous. All will be revealed at the Winter Dance, and there’s more than one surprise waiting under the mistletoe.
SNOW IN LOVE BY MELISSA DE LA CRUZ, NIC STONE, AIMEE FRIEDMAN, AND KASIE WEST
What’s better than one cozy holiday story? Four stories written by some of the bestselling YA authors. Kasie West shares a snowy road trip taking an unexpected detour when secrets (and crushes) are revealed. From Aimee Friedman comes a story about a young Jewish woman who finds love while working as a department store elf. Melissa de la Cruz gives Christmas Eve a plot twist when a high school couple exchanges presents. Nic Stone’s story is about a scavenger hunt amid holiday crowds at the airport.
SNOWED IN BY RACHEL HAWTHORNE
If you’re looking for Christmas YA books that provide cozy winter vibes without all the Christmas, then Snowed In is the must-read book for you.
At 17 years old, Ashleigh is about to experience a lot of things for the first time. The first thing is snow, because she and her mom are moving from sunny Texas to icy Michigan. Living on the completely snowbound and tiny Mackinac Island means experiencing small-town life for the first time. The scariest new experience of them all is boys. Of course, there were boys in Texas, but Ashleigh has never met a boy as cute or irresistible as Josh Wynter.
TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT BY JENNIFER CASTLE
Kendall, who just returned home from a life-altering semester abroad in Europe, and Max, who is going through a gap year, witness a tragic accident during the holiday season. Racked with guilt from the incident, the two decide to perform random acts of kindness for strangers around New York City. Max and Kendall can’t deny their growing bond as the challenge brings them closer together. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will their other romantic entanglements keep them apart or will Kendall and Max be together at midnight?
Source: Katisha Smith for Book Riot. Originally posted Oct 23, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe. Following are some safety considerations to keep in mind for small gatherings.
Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends
Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you. People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.
Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.
Holiday celebrations will likely need to be different this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Avoid activities that are higher risk for spread. Consider fun alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading COVID-19. The holidays are a time when many families travel long distances to celebrate together. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.
Lower risk activities
Moderate risk activities
Higher risk activities
Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:
We hope you enjoy the holidays and take steps to protect yourself and your family from getting or spreading COVID-19 during small events & gatherings.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updated Nov. 27, 2020
If you're looking for a relaxing and enjoyable pastime, try virtually watching animals frolic in their natural habitats. There are now live animal webcams in places all around the world, as well as several types of virtual experiences that allow you to interact with all kinds of creatures at zoos and aquariums. In addition, animal lovers can view a plethora of free, appealing animal videos anytime on YouTube. Viewing animals online is safe as well as entertaining, and also provides a window into different species and habitats that we would not be able to see otherwise.
Here, we have rounded up a selection of interesting animal cams, online videos, and live virtual animal experiences to allow you to find some joy watching adorable animals at play. Not all of the cams operate around the clock, so be sure to check the details. Also, while many of the experiences listed here are free, some of the virtual ones cost a fee and require registration.
Monterey Bay Aquarium live cams
This renowned aquarium in California has a number of web cams where visitors can experience the wonders of the ocean from the comfort of home. Each video stream is accompanied by soothing music, which can help you relax as you watch sea creatures glide and float through the water. Highlights include a sea otter cam and the coral reef cam. There is also a jellyfish cam, which is especially peaceful and soothing. Each of the live cameras operates on a different schedule.
Wolong Grove Panda Yard
The Wolong National Nature Reserve in central China protects giant pandas and encourages these endangered animals to breed. The live cam provides views into 11 different yards in the park, and you can watch adult and baby pandas as they play, eat bamboo, climb trees, and more. This cam is part of the explore.org network, which provides wilderness livestreams in locales all over the world.
The Hippo cam at San Diego Zoo
This large zoo in San Diego stepped up its online and virtual offerings during the pandemic. One of its newest additions is a hippo cam where viewers can watch these gentle giant bobs in the water and munch on grass. The zoo has a number of other animal cams, including an ape cam, where you can watch orangutans and siamangs, as well as a tiger cam and a giraffe cam.
Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa is a remote park that is home to some of the largest elephants on the planet. A wide range of other animals, including lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos, and an array of birds also live there. Many of these other animals can be seen from time to time on the live cam. This cam is also part of the explore.org network.
Audubon Bird Cams
Bird lovers will enjoy exploring the National Audubon Society's many live bird cams. These livestreams follow Atlantic puffins in Maine, osprey nests in Connecticut, and sandhill cranes in Nebraska, among others. Some of these cams are more active during certain seasons and migration periods.
Virtual Animal Experiences at the Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo now offers visitors the chance to watch different animals through live virtual experiences. These 20-minute encounters cost between $50 and $100, and only a small number of people are able to join at one time, giving them an intimate feel. Participants watch animals as they get fed and go through training exercises, and listen to a zookeeper explain how to care for the animals. Among the animals available for these types of virtual experiences are flamingos, alligators, gorillas, lions, tigers and cheetahs.
Penguins at the Shedd Aquarium
Penguin lovers can register for a 45-minute small group virtual experience with these unusual birds. For a fee of about $50, you will get to virtually see the aquarium’s penguins up close, learn about their anatomy and grooming, and go behind the scenes of their home at the aquarium, which is located in Chicago, IL. You can also ask the zoo staff any questions you have about penguins.
Virtual Wild Encounters at the Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo has started offering virtual encounters with its animals for a fee. These 15-minute sessions take place on Zoom for, and participants can view different zoo animals up close, and learn about how to take care of them. The virtual encounters are available with many interesting and unusual creatures, including porcupines, a warthog, a camel, and an armadillo.
Baby Animal Videos at the Smithsonian's National Zoo
The Smithsonian's National Zoo has an array of free animal videos available for on-demand viewing on its YouTube channel. Highlights here include a playlist of baby animal videos, where you can tune in to watch short, adorable videos of the zoo’s panda cubs, baby gorillas, cheetah cubs, a newborn gazelle, and even naked mole-rat pups. One of our favorite baby animal videos shows a kiwi chick emerging from its shell.
Source: Melanie Kletter curated this list for Library Journal. It appeared Nov 13, 2020
November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is also referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month is a time to celebrate and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. This month is also a good time to educate the general public about tribes and raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced. This includes both historically and in the present. So let's celebrate Native American heritage by reading Indigenous authors all month long. Here’s a list of books by Indigenous authors to get you started.
American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
In her latest collection, Joy Harjo returns to the Southeast where her ancestors, the Mvskoke people, were forcibly removed under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to west of the Mississippi. The book opens with a map, one of many trails of tears. Harjo is extremely skilled at using short, deceptively simple lines and stanzas to create imagery that swells with emotion. As Harjo explores the grief and mourning of this forced exile, she also tells a story of erasure and survival, of personal and intergenerational loss, and of a new beginning.
Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb, and Tania Carter
This book is a collaboration between a celebrated poet, novelist, nonfiction writer and editor. This mix makes for a poetry collection that's a pleasure to read. Joyful and sad, charting colonial and familial beginnings, it sings with hope and reconciliation in its verse. Hope Matters is a welcome addition to Native American literature.
Eyes Bottle Dark With A Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets
This debut collection from Skeets (Diné) is remarkable in every way. The photograph on the cover is an image of the author's uncle, who was killed not long after it was taken. Eyes Bottle Dark With a Mouthful of Flowers is brimming with poetic imagery and gripping prose. In content and in form, Skeets brings both queer and Indigenous ways of thinking and being to living. This book shines and glitters on every page. It marks the emergence of a major new poetic voice in Native American literature.
The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote
This debut collection of contemporary writing from writer and scholar Dr. Beth Piatote (Colville Confederated Tribes) ranges in form from short stories to poetry to plays. Some of the stories even include historical fiction narratives. No matter what form Piatote takes in her storytelling, the fiction here is gripping and totally readable. The stories here are wide-ranging, but include many perspectives of Indigenous people in North America.
Living on the Borderlines by Melissa Michal
Melissa Michal’s debut short story collection centers on people of Seneca descent. The stories and characters here differ widely and as the title implies, they dance along the borderlines of a colonialist and racist society. The familial relationships in these stories are strong and touching. Melissa Michal has created potent stories with disturbing and beautiful elements both. All of the characters here are full of depth and are complex. This book is one of the more underrated short story collections of the year.
Black Indian by Shonda Buchanan
Shonda Buchanan dives deep into her identity and inheritance with this shining memoir. The author was raised as a black girl, but told stories of her multiracial heritage throughout her childhood. This book shows readers how her life experience informed her sense of self. Told in stunning and poetic prose her story takes readers across landscapes and cultural sagas. The result is both a poignant personal narrative and a broader cultural one. Buchanan has truly gifted us with this beautiful and totally engrossing memoir that touches on the meanings of family, legacy, and self-identity.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s by Tiffany Midge
In this collection of short essays, the author uses humor to examine identity, feminism, privilege, and politics. All of this is done through her stories that span the personal (losing her mother) to the seemingly inane (the existence of pumpkin spice everything). The essays here mark a good balance between insight and an intuitive sense of humor. This book is full of writing that'll make you laugh, think, and feel deeply, no matter what your identity is.
Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod
This book is a true story narrated in the first person by the author. It's told from his perspective, but includes many other characters. The narrative begins with a story of his mother and her escape from a Canadian residential school. The author writes about Catholicism throughout, first finding meaning in it, then rejecting it as white washing. He grows from a curious, loyal, and happy child and his life starts and stops in cycles. He writes touchingly about how whiteness and Catholicism negatively changed how gender nonconforming, trans, and sexually fluid people are viewed. Also, how they're treated in Indigenous communities, even within modern times.
Shapes of Native Nonfiction, edited by Elissa Washuta & Theresa Warburton
This collection of essays from established and new contemporary Indigenous writers simply sparkles. It includes pieces from well-known writers such as Terese Marie Mailhot, Tiffany Midge (whose Bury My Heart at Chuck E Cheese’s is on this list), Eden Robinson, Alicia Elliott, Laura Da´, Ernestine Hayes, and Deborah A. Miranda. This book is a must for fans of Indigenous authors. The editors named the four sections of the book after basket weaving craft: technique, coiling, plaiting and twining. This is a unique way to use literary pieces to form an experimental, innovative, lyrical and world-building narrative. In these pages, we witness storytelling as a way of developing new roads in Native nonfiction writing.
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Dina Gilio-Whitaker is the co-author of this book along with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. In this short but dense story, Gilio-Whitaker brings her vast knowledge and experience to the page. The book opens with a detailed account of Standing Rock and moves outward, highlighting the ways in which western colonial expansion, the Industrial Revolution and the mainstream EJ movement continue to exclude, marginalize and harm First Nations people. Making connections between Indigenous health, sacred sites, and the leadership of Indigenous women, Gilio-Whitaker makes a complete and compelling argument to open the doors for indigenous people in the EJ movement.
Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing by Suzanne Methot
Suzanne Methot (Nehiyawak) is the author of this beautifully written book that highlights healing from intergenerational trauma. Indigenous communities have higher rates of depression, addiction, and other chronic illnesses than other North Americans. The first sentence of the book reads, “Indigenous people do funerals really, really well.” Methot discusses damaging, toxic patterns of behavior, thought, and physical illness as a direct result of unresolved grief and loss. She points out the importance of storytelling in healing from trauma. These twisting stories have a transformational and emotional narrative that can facilitate healing. In clear and driven prose, the author has written a book that is both easy to follow and crucial to read.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States won the 2015 American Book Award. It remains a pillar text in telling the true indigenous history - without whitewashing. It's been recently adapted for YA and middle grade readers by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza. This adaptation is a wonderful approach to writing history in a way that is accessible to young readers. It opens with a straightforward explanation about bias to Indigenous languages. It also uses images to great effect, from maps to photographs of Indigenous art and Indigenous resistance and activism. The book as a whole illustrates the history of colonialism and Indigenous communities, including mentioning that the democracy within Indigenous communities inspired key parts of the US Constitution. It includes “Did You Know” boxes and exercise questions. Overall, it reads like a very accessible textbook and a strong introduction to Indigenous history of North America for young readers.
Every year on November 11, our country has been honoring United States veterans. This annual day of observance may leave children wondering why they don't have school, or why mom or dad has the day off from work. This list of picture books is a great opportunity to share why we observe Veterans Day with the kids in your life.
The Poppy Lady, by Barbara Walsh, illustrated by Layne Johnson
This picture book follows Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia who was determined to find a way to honor and remember soldiers. Moina wanted to make the poppy a symbol of remembrance. Her determination paid off and the poppy is now a familiar symbol of Veterans Day. After reading this book, your child will be spotting red poppies everywhere they go.
The Wall, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
This picture book is about a young boy who travels to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall with his father, in search of his grandfather’s name. As the boy looks for the name, he encounters a wheelchair-bound veteran visiting the wall too. The boy’s curiosity is overshadowed by his dad’s somber reason for visiting. Reading this book together, you can explore the historical significance of the Vietnam War and pay tribute to its veterans.
America’s White Table, by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny
This picture book helps to explore the significance of military service from the perspective of a family. When service members have fallen, are missing, or are held captive in the line of duty, a white table is set up in remembrance. Every item placed on the table is a symbol for understanding and appreciating the service these men and women have provided for the United States. This book offers a great way to explain to children the importance of remembering those who have died in service, and the sacrifices they have made for their country.
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog, by Luis Carlos Montalvan and Bret Witter, photographs by Dan Dion
This story is about a service dog by the name of Tuesday who helps a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Based on a true story and told through the eyes of Tuesday, this picture book helps children understand the true day to day life of a returning veteran. The adorable pictures of Tuesday will be sure to please, while also providing an example of how service dogs can help veterans.
Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day, by Grace Houser
With this informative picture book children will discover the history of Veterans Day complete with facts and definitions. What better way to honor those who have served than by teaching children about the sacrifices they made for their country?
H is for Honor, by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Victor Juhasz
This alphabet picture book delves into everything military—from history, to the meaning of ranks and divisions, to what it is like to be a military child. Navy SEALS, Green Berets, and Army Rangers are written about in more detail, and pictures reveal what life on base is really like. Your child will discover the meaning of patriotism and have an opportunity to discuss courage and commitment. After reading this book, your little one may be interested in sending off a care package to a soldier overseas.
Hero Dad and Hero Mom, by Melinda Hardin ; illustrations by Bryan Langdo
These two picture books tell the story of a boy who compares his father, a U.S. soldier, to a superhero. However, these superhero soldiers can be moms too. These books are presented as a pair to highlight the fact that moms can be soldiers too. Kids will be able to recognize that military families come in many different forms.
Rags: Hero Dog of WWII, by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Petra Brown
This true story shows us how canines have been used as soldiers of war since World War I. Found on the streets of Paris by Private James Donovan, Rags was brought back to base and put to work. He learned to help clear trenches, deliver messages, and even salute! The muted illustrations show the dark time of war, but spare the reader from grim details. Dog lovers will enjoy learning about this furry war veteran and the capacity of one dog to be loyal to a country, as well as to the solder who took him in.
America The Beautiful, by Katharine Lee Bates ; illustrated by Chris Gall
This book features four verses of the classic nineteenth-century poem. Written from his unique perspective as the great, great grandnephew of “America the Beautiful” writer, Katharine Lee Bates, Chris Gall transforms this beloved patriotic song into monumental works of art–from purple mountain majesties to gleaming alabaster cities.
F is for Flag, by Wendy Cheyette Lewison ; illustrated by Barbara Duke
F Is for Flag shows children in simple terms how one flag can mean many things: a symbol of unity, a sign of welcome, and a reminder that-in good times and in bad-everyone in our country is part of one great big family.
Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 1. As you prepare to set your clocks back one hour, remember to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide (CO) detector. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO alarm, now is a great time to buy one. More than 400 people die each year in the United States from unintentional, non-fire related CO poisoning.
CO is found in fumes produced by furnaces, vehicles, generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or burning charcoal or wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.
When power outages occur during emergencies such as severe winter storms, the use of alternative sources of power for heating or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.
You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure
CO poisoning is entirely preventable. You can protect yourself and your family by learning the symptoms of CO poisoning and acting wisely during a power outage.
Now that we’re midway through October, Halloween is just around the corner. Although, if we’re being honest, we’ve been ready for Halloween since September 1st. We've gathered up a list of some spooky books to get you in the Halloween spirit (e-book links are included in the headings). So enjoy one of these frightful reads while getting cozy under the blankets. Though you might want to keep the lights on while reading…
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic is about two sister-witches trying to escape a long-standing curse on their family. Sisterhood, love, tragedy and magic — what’s not to love? This is an all time favorite movie and book! If you haven’t seen the movie, we recommend adding it to your watch list.
IT by Stephen King
With the success of the movies based on this story, you probably know what this book is about. A group of children try to defeat a scary clown that feeds on kids… and fear. This is a great psychological thriller, and it has us spooked every time we pick it up. It’s a long read, but well worth it — it's considered one of the best Halloween books for adults. Plus, it’ll give you further insight into the characters in the movie that you might not have picked up on otherwise.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
If you’ve watched the series on Netflix, you’re going to love the book!
The Haunting of Hill House is about four people who come to stay in an unfriendly, poltergeist-ridden house. Naturally, chaos ensues. This book is genuinely scary — we refused to read it at night, and most of the reviews say the same! If supernatural horror stories are your jam, this haunted tale is right up your alley.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
A classic ghost story! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, his hapless attempts to win over a woman and his eerie encounter with the headless horseman. This classic gothic tale is full of heavy description and lore behind the legendary headless soldier. We think it's still a good Halloween classic and should be read every year.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Here’s another one of the best Halloween books for adults. If you like spooky mystery novels, consider this a must-read. Ten strangers are lured to a mysterious island mansion for a dinner party, during which they are accused of guilty secrets. At the end of the night… one of the guests is found dead. It’s a little gothic and a lot spooky. Perfect for your next night in.
Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A.W Jantha
If Hocus Pocus isn’t on your must-watch list this Halloween, you’re doing it wrong! That said, have you considered trying the book version too? This classic story is about a boy named Max, who accidentally unleashes the sinister Sanderson Sisters from the afterlife and has to stop them from carrying out their evil plans. The sequel takes place 25 years later when Max’s daughter finds herself in a similar situation… Try this book for a fun and more lighthearted read.
The Shining by Stephen King
Although he's already appeared once on our list, you can't blame us for including another great spooky read by the master of horror. The story of Jack Torrance and his family, who are off-season caretakers of the Overlook Hotel, is truly terrifying. You'll feel as if you too are walking the empty halls of the atmospheric old hotel. This book is a uniquely horrifying read that just screams Halloween. It's about as perfect a haunted house story as can be.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This classic spooky read is for the whole family and brilliantly spun by Gaiman's signature imagination. This book is suitable for all ages, there is not the weird menace or dark element of a lot of Gaiman's material (certainly his adult reads) and it is brilliantly illustrated including characters and elements from tales and fables many will be familiar with.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Another family friendly read is this Roald Dahl classic. This chapter book tells a story of a grandma, a grandson, and their journey together is ridding the world of 'real' witches and saving the world's children. It's a delightful and delicious Halloween fodder from a master of children's literature.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A blood-curdling (and draining) Halloween essential. This has it all: the castle high on a mountain, the bats, the Count sleeping in his coffin. Famously the Count arrives in Whitby, but most of the action is around London and his home turf in Transylvania. And quite a lot of action there is. It's written as a collection of diary entries so you get the perspective of each of the main characters. Although it's fairly long, it's a compelling read!
It's getting close to Halloween time and with COVID-19 still around we need to be cautious and celebrate safely. Here's some Halloween safety tips from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
Steps to Take when Trick or Treating: Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza. Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.
Make trick-or-treating safer
Wear a mask
Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you
Wash your hands
Steps to Take for Other Halloween Activities: Enjoy Halloween activities and take steps to protect yourself from getting or spreading COVID-19.
Remember to always
Decorate and carve pumpkins
Visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. Attend a scavenger hunt.
For young readers, picture books are an important part of learning how to read. Usually this type of format marks the first step in introducing a child to reading and is often the start of language development for many children. Libraries that include picture books to promote literacy to young readers are boosting beginner-level vocabulary skills, introducing sentence structure and developing story analysis. Read the benefits of picture books for young readers below.
Building Language Skills – When reading through picture books during story time, at home or in the classroom, children can practice sounding out the language while adults introduce and explain new and interesting words. The rhythm and rhyme of picture books makes them easy to understand and fun to read aloud, allowing children to learn words quickly. In addition, reading the same story repeatedly increases vocabulary by 12%.
Inspiring Visual Thinking - Illustrations in a picture book help children understand what they are reading, allowing new readers to analyze the story. If children are having difficulty with the words, the illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which can increase their comprehension.
Increasing Engagement – Picture books allow teachers and parents to spend time discussing the story, pictures and words. This gives young readers confidence and allows them to talk about what they see on the page, what happened in the story, what the characters are doing and which events have unfolded. Another good activity to try in the library or classroom is working in a small groups by placing children into groups of three with a picture book. Have one child concentrate on reading the text aloud; have another concentrate on the illustrations (pointing out details as the book is read); and have the third highlight what they see in the story that might differ from the others.
Delivering Fun – Picture books should always make the reading experience fun. If a child’s first experience with reading is a negative one, and looked at as a chore, it may make reading appear to be work rather than fun, which might hinder a child’s progress from picture books to chapter books.
Like any experience for children, it’s important that they like what they’re doing in order to succeed. Teachers and parents should encourage children to read whatever they’re interested in, including graphic novels, comics, magazines and poems. Check out these picture e-books picked out from the CLAMS OverDrive e-book collection.
September is self-improvement month, a time to focus on improving yourself to achieve desired goals. We have compiled a list of books—from timeless classics such as James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh to recent bestsellers like Nike swoosh creator Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog—that provide insights on maximizing potential, overcoming fears and recognizing the pivotal moments that can have the greatest impact on your life.
1. Acres of Diamonds: All Good Things Are Possible, Right Where You Are, and Now!
Opportunities for success, wealth and happiness often lie under foot and yet go unnoticed. This little book, originally a speech by Russell Conwell, serves as a reminder not to overlook the abundance right on our doorstep. This timeless work addresses the myth that fame and fortune are waiting somewhere “out there.” Conwell also dispels the notion that men and women of integrity shouldn’t desire money or wealth. He advises readers to begin searching for the diamonds in their lives… at home.
2. As a Man Thinketh
“This little volume” as James Allen refers to it, has been a source of inspiration for millions and has influenced the work of many respected personal-development leaders. And with statements such as, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors, that which it loves, and also that which it fears,” Allen paved the way for many contemporary philosophers. At its core is the belief that “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
3. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!
Within each person is a sleeping giant of greatness. With this book, motivational coach Anthony Robbins seeks to help you “take immediate control of mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny.” This personal-development classic delves into the specifics of goal setting, achieving success in relationships, talking to yourself and discovering your true potential.
4. Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
The phenomenal success of Chicken Soup for the Soul offers inspiration on many levels. From the tenacity it took to get the first Chicken Soup for the Soul published (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected by 140 publishers and their book agent before finding a publisher willing to take a chance on their idea) to the thousands of touching and thought-provoking stories, these books will warm your heart and may help you view life from a new perspective.
5. Grit: The Power of Passion a Perseverance
Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes or businesspeople—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” Duckworth mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance.
6. How To Win Friends and Influence People
First published in 1937, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was an overnight success with staying power. Today, this book is regarded as one of the all-time best for its lessons on dealing with people. It is packed with anecdotes from historical leaders and lessons learned or taught by some of history’s greatest businessmen, making the read as interesting as it is enlightening. And the methods—calling a person by his or her name or looking at the situation from the other’s point of view—work in business and in personal life with family and friends.
7. Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace
Change is so rapid today that leaders must do much more than stay the course to be successful. If they are not nimble and ready to adapt, they won’t survive. The key is to learn how to leadershift. In this book, John C. Maxwell helps leaders gain the ability and willingness to make leadership changes that will positively enhance their organizational and personal growth.
8. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable
In bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers show to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is about you—your choices, your future and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.
9. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
Phil Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he tells his story at last. At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. Knight details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs.
10. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
In this book, Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment but may actually jeopardize success.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with these flicks featuring your favorite Spanish-speaking actors. From Mexico to Spain, Latinx actors portray a wide range of characters set in different times and worlds, giving viewers from all around the globe new and exciting perspectives. Luckily, the best Spanish-language movies on Netflix are only a click away and give viewers the option of watching with English subtitles. Whether you’re in the mood for a daunting mystery, a mind-alerting thriller, or a new romance gone wrong, there’s a flick for everyone on the streaming service. We’ve rounded up the best Spanish-language movies on Netflix, so it's time to take your pick!
Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest) Wealthy businessman Adrián Doria is accused of murder after he wakes up next to the corpse of his lover in a hotel room. To prove his innocence, Adrián works with lawyers Felix Leiva and Virginia Goodman to come up with a credible defense. But in order to do so, Adrián must open up about everything that led him to that moment in time.
Durante la tormenta (Mirage) In this mystery drama, protagonist Vera Roy finds herself between two parallel universes. On November 9, 1989, 12-year-old Nico witnesses a murder and dies trying to escape the scene. He leaves behind a videotape he was recording during a 72-hour electric storm. Twenty-five years later, Vera moves into Nico's former home and discovers the tape. She crosses timelines to warn Inspector Leyra about the deaths and he works to stop them before the storm rolls through.
El hombre de las mil caras (Smoke and Mirrors) The thriller tells the real life story of former Spanish spy and businessman Francisco Paesa. After being instrumental in a government operation against a terrorist group, he's framed and forced to leave Spain. When he's finally able to return, Francisco has nothing left except a revenge plan against the former commissioner of police.
El hoyo (The Platform) A standard jail is reimagined as vertical with one cell on each level, holding two people. At meal time, a slab of food descends from floor to floor to feed everyone. The inmates at the top eat well, leaving those at the bottom starving. The endless nightmare comes to a head when a rebellion happens.
El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this fantasy drama takes place in Spain in 1944. A girl fascinated with fairy tales meets an old faun who tells her that she's the princess of the underworld. But she must first go through three gruesome tasks to prove herself. If she fails, she'll never receive her title and reunite with her father, the king.
La llamada (Holy Camp!) In this musical comedy, two rebellious teens, Maria and Susana, spend their summer at a Catholic camp run by nuns. On their first night, the girls sneak out and go partying. As expected, the camp doesn't plan on tolerating this behavior and discourages their love of music. Slowly but surely, the teens start showing the nuns the power of song.
Nuestros amantes (Our Lovers) Carlos and Irene meet at a bookshop bar and begin dating, but there's a catch. The two can't share personal information about themselves, not even their real names. Instead, the new couple focuses on enjoying their time together walking around the city. That is, until Irene discovers that Carlos is married to Maria, who is the woman her boyfriend, Jorge, recently left her for.
Palmeras en la nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow) Based on the historical novela by Luz Gabás, this romantic drama follows a young Spanish woman named Clarence who discovers a partial letter after her father dies. The film jumps between the past and present as the protagonist searches for answers. She travels to Africa where she discovers her family's secrets on a cacao plantation and begins to right wrongs.
Roma At the 91st Academy Awards, this powerful Mexican drama won Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Foreign Language Film. Set in the early '70s, the black-and-white movie follows the life of a live-in housekeeper taking care of a middle-class family in Mexico City. Her personal life intertwines with theirs as a marriage falls apart and a baby is born.
Tarde para la ira (The Fury of a Patient Man) For the past eight years, Ana has raised her son all on her own, making ends meet working as a bartender at a café. She's patiently waited for her criminal boyfriend, Curro, to be released from jail but upon his return, his violent behavior and resentment threatens her peace. Ana is falsely led to believe that she's found an escape with Jose, a regular at the café, but he has other motives.
Todos lo saben (Everybody Knows) Actress Penélope Cruz stars as Laura, a woman who lives in Buenos Aires with her two children. After her sister's wedding brings her back to their Spanish hometown, Laura is thrown into chaos when her daughter is kidnapped. While trying to deal with the ransom, she discovers that unexpected people are involved.
Verónica In 1991, Verónica and two classmates hold a séance at their school in Madrid. After trying to contact her recently deceased father, Verónica begins to feel a strange presence inside her home. Despite her attempt to escape the evil spirits, she suffers from hallucinations and violent visions that only get worse.
Y tu mamá también (And Your Mother Too) Actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna portray two teenage friends in search of adventure. While their girlfriends are away in Europe, the teens meet an older woman named Luisa at a family wedding. After finding out about her husband's latest martial affair, Luisa decides to join them on a road trip they initially made up to entice her. The trio embark on a journey where they learn about life, friendship, and sex.
7 Años (7 Years) The four founders of a successful company are being investigated by the government, who will inevitably discover that they've committed massive tax fraud. The group comes to the conclusion that one of them needs to take the fall and go to jail for seven years, sparing the others. But after everyone refuses to be the scapegoat, a mediator is hired to help out.
100 metros (100 Meters) Based on a true story, a Spanish man named Ramón Arroyo is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The CEO decides to train for an Ironman Triathlon, despite being told that he won't make it past 100 meters. In the process, he gets help from his father-in-law, Manolo, a former professional athlete, who is battling his own demons.
Several of this month’s book selections will remind readers of what’s at stake during the upcoming election, from racial equality to governmental transparency — and that includes the fiction.
“The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War — A Tragedy in Three Acts,” by Scott Anderson (Sept. 1)
Many stories about spies are also stories of derring-do, something Anderson (“Lawrence in Arabia”) also incorporates into his new history of Cold War intelligence. Anderson’s look at four men who ran covert operations around the globe after World War II is as thrilling as it is tragic, as each man confronts the moral compromises he made in the name of democracy.
“The Lying Life of Adults: A Novel,” by Elena Ferrante (Sept. 1)
Meet Giovanna, an awkward adolescent like her foremothers in Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — except that Giovanna lives in an upper-middle-class milieu and knows nothing of her home city’s blue-collar district until an overheard comment spurs her to seek out her Aunt Vittoria. Thereby hangs a tale of awakening and change that will delight both old and new fans of the elusive Italian writer.
“We Germans: A Novel,” by Alexander Starritt (Sept. 1)
Meissner, who as a young college student was drafted into the German army and sent to the Eastern Front, in his old age writes a letter to his grandson. At first an account of action and adventure, the letter turns to Meissner’s quest to live a life of atonement. Can an individual explain his country’s complicity? This novel may be more relevant now than we’d like.
“Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for Us All,” by Martha S. Jones (Sept. 8)
We all know that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured the vote for White women. In her important new book “Vanguard,” Jones shows how African American women waged their own fight for the vote, and why their achievements speak mightily to our present moment as voters, regardless of gender or race.
“Just Us: An American Conversation,” by Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8)
Read the first two title words again, and you’ll get a glimmer of what Rankine (“Citizen”) has in mind for her new book of essays, poems and images that confront White privilege and White silence. But the subtitle provides an opening to disrupt the old talk and make space for new ideas.
“The Awkward Black Man: Stories,” by Walter Mosley (Sept. 15)
Mosley might be best known for his mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, but in these short stories, we see the prolific author as a chronicler of Black life in America. As he overturns stereotypes and focuses on individual characters, Mosley asks us not to look away from men who are isolated and awkward, but to see them as human beings in full.
“Rage,” by Bob Woodward (Sept. 15)
President Trump didn’t speak on the record for Woodward’s 2018 bestseller, “Fear.” This time around, the Pulitzer Prize-winning associate editor of The Washington Post landed several exclusive interviews with the president and managed to obtain personal letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This may be the clearest portrait we’ll get of a chaotic mind.
“Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America,” by Laila Lalami (Sept. 22)
The Pulitzer Prize finalist, who was born in Morocco and moved to the United States in the 1990s, explores the benefits and limitations of American citizenship. Her poignant reckoning looks at a country that keeps privileged White men in power while holding at arm’s length the “conditional citizens” whose race or gender doesn’t conform to the elite’s.
“Jack: A Novel,” by Marilynne Robinson (Sept. 29)
The latest novel in Robinson’s series about Gilead, Iowa — which also includes Pulitzer winner “Gilead,” “Home” and “Lila” — follows Jack Boughton, the black sheep of his family, who wound up an aimless, homeless alcoholic in St. Louis. There he meets Della, a Black teacher, and they embark on a complicated, poignant romance.
We're not supposed to play favorites, but there's just something about fall dinner recipes that makes autumn our favorite season of the year (hello, comfort food!). Don't get us wrong, we love summer grilling recipes and spring's bounty of bright and beautiful greens — but hearty fall soups, harvest salads, and cozy pasta recipes really warm our hearts (and fill our bellies!). Not to mention the overflow of apples, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and winter squash popping up. With so many fall fruits and vegetables to cook with, the family dinner ideas are endless this season.
Chicken, Sausage, and White Bean Stew Slow cooked chicken and beans make for a protein-packed stew. Get cozy and get cooking.
Get the recipe for Chicken, Sausage, and White Bean Stew »
French Onion Soup Onions, slowly cooked until deep brown and caramelized, give this classic its distinctive flavor. Great for a party, this recipe is easily doubled; simply cook the onions in two skillets.
Get the recipe for French Onion Soup »
Instant Pot Risotto A comforting bowl of this Italian classic now requires zero effort with the help from a multi-cooker. Top with any flavors you fancy: Pesto, lemon zest, peas, or a fried egg will all do the trick.
Get the recipe for Instant Pot Risotto »
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Tahini Vinaigrette Butternut squash and a rich nutty dressing will convince you to introduce this vegetarian dinner to your fall meal routine.
Get the recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Tahini Vinaigrette »
Coq Au Vin Rosé A twist on classic coq au vin made with pink wine, this crowd-pleaser is loaded with mushrooms and bacon too.
Get the recipe for Coq Au Vin Rosé »
Winter Squash and Lentil Stew Reason no. 765 to invest in an Instant Pot: A bowl of this cozy, hearty stew will be ready in 35 minutes flat.
Get the recipe for Winter Squash and Lentil Stew »
Short Ribs With Creamy Polenta These tender braised Instant Pot short ribs are the newest star of weeknight dinner: No effort required.
Get the recipe for Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta »
Patty Melts Step aside, cheeseburgers, and grilled cheese. Meet the epic mashup of these two nostalgic diner meals.
Get the recipe for Patty Melts »
Moroccan Meatballs Skip the spaghetti! These jazzed-up meatballs are served over a bed of roasted tomatoes, feta, and herby couscous.
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Pork Chops With Bok Choy and Coconut Rice Creamy rice cooked in coconut milk is the perfect rich partner to a golden-brown pork chop.
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With most schools partially open or following a hybrid schedule parents are now the ones who have to guide their children throughout their academics, which is a lot of added responsibility in the midst of an already anxiety-ridden pandemic. Luckily, if you're having difficulty keeping your kids on task and engaged with their work, there are some strategies straight from teachers that can help make virtual schooling easier for them.
Establish a Schedule
If your child's teacher has not already provided one, DeDe Alexander, an elementary school Spanish immersion teacher, says that creating a schedule can help kids stay on track. "Kids like a routine even if you aren't a routine person," she says, explaining that schedules are especially great if you want your child to work more independently. Plus, this takes some of the stress off of you by setting a specific structure for your kids to follow.
For those with multiple children at home, Ms. Alexander says you can also try breaking up your kids' days by class, so that everyone is working on the same subject at once (math, history, science, etc). This will help you stay in the know, and you can even add fun breaks and rewards for additional incentive, especially if your child is feeling unmotivated.
Let Your Child Explore
Although it can be tempting to step in whenever your child has a question, Kirsten Tobin, a third-grade teacher from Arizona, says that sometimes it's better to give young students a moment to work the problem out themselves. "Kids learn best by exploring," she says. "It might take them a bit longer, but chances are they will figure it out without direct parental interference."
The other great thing about encouraging your kids to try things themselves is establishing that you're not going to do everything for them (which would be exhausting). If they're still having difficulty with the material after a few honest tries, that's when you can get more involved.
Repeat After Me
If after trying their hardest your child is still struggling with an assignment, Ms. Alexander suggests doing a practice problem together and then having your child repeat it by themselves afterwards. This helps them engage with what they're learning and these kinds of exercises can also help you identify the places where your child is getting stuck. Once they've successfully completed the problem on their own, they can then move on and try other problems without as much assistance.
Do Some Check-Ins
When it comes to online learning, Ms. Tobin says that it's a good idea to schedule check-ins halfway through the week, so that your child doesn't accidentally fall behind and have to cram last minute. She says these check-ins can also be "a great opportunity to talk to kids about procrastination and advocating for themselves when they feel stuck."
Ms. Alexander agrees, saying, "Very rarely do you have a kid who's going to be able to do this on their own without check-ins." This is another way to encourage your child to do their own work, while still keeping them focused and teaching them the skills they'll actually need for their next year of schooling.
Be Real About Managing Stress
In these chaotic times, parents and kids alike are dealing with a lot of stress, but emphasizing that your child is not alone can help them feel better about any obstacles they may encounter during online schooling. In fact, it could even be a good mantra to repeat to yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed. Ms. Tobin and Ms. Alexander also stress that teachers are great partners to turn to if your family needs extra support. After all, sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to just take a deep breath yourself.
Try to Keep Up With the Texts and Emails
Should you ever feel completely lost about what your child is supposed to be doing, Ms. Alexander suggests double checking the texts and emails sent from school faculty. It can be a pain, but for quick clarification and information about assignments, this kind of communication can be useful.
Texts and emails from your child's teacher may also contain details about any special programs or software that the class has been using, since you may not be familiar with everything yourself. After that, the only hard part will be getting your child to remember their username and password.
Have Them Read Their Writing Aloud
For reading and writing assignments, Ms. Alexander says that having your children read aloud to you can help them edit their work and become stronger writers. This is also a great chance for you to hear what their reading and writing skills sound like, and they'll be so excited to get to share their work with an attentive audience. Try this at night time or whenever you like to read together to help your kids feel proud of what they've accomplished.
Remember You Both Can Do This
At the end of the day, most assignments should still be doable, even from a virtual classroom. If your child is consistently struggling with the material, or you're having to intervene an excessive amount, it's a good idea to turn to the professionals. And if motivation is the bigger issue, here's a list of ways to motivate your child at home.
Most importantly, know that your family is not alone in all the recent schooling confusion, and that there are plenty of resources available if you need them. According to Ms. Tobin, the best lesson kids could learn right now is how to roll with the punches. "I'd take this as an opportunity to watch my kid develop some grit, teach them some strategies for managing stress, and let it all ride out," she says. And that's something everyone should take notes on.
The podcast universe was having a relatively quiet start to the year before, well, the coronavirus threw everything into a tizzy. Before then, the one ambiguous head-turner was a viral standalone episode from an already popular podcast about a song that may or may not exist. Since then, after the lockdowns started kicking in, a good deal of podcast output reorganized itself around that reality — there were a great many podcasts about, inspired, or catalyzed by COVID-19, and then there was everyone else, who had to figure out how to push through and get by somehow.
Now, it feels like podcasting is leveling back out a bit, even as the actual pandemic is far from resolved. For now, though, let’s take a look at some of the year’s best podcasts that have come out so far across this strange and harrowing time.
Articles of Interest season 2
Avery Trufelman’s deep dive into fashion returns, and her trademark genuinely loving but interrogative approach has never been sharper. This season trains its focus on objects of luxury — perfume, high fashion, diamonds, suits — subjects that sit squarely within the force that seems to most drive Trufelman’s critical eye: the tension between beauty and capitalism. The episodes are fun, curious, and filled with fascinating detail, but they also carry the burden of a melancholic question: how do you love something that can be hard to love?
The Cam Chronicles (The Ringer)
A sports documentary that’s well worth your time. Cam Newton, the former Carolina Panther quarterback and newly minted Patriot, is an almost mythologically interesting star athlete. He’s prodigiously talented, but has never won a championship. He aspires to be an icon, but repeatedly courts controversy. The Cam Chronicles is a shrewd and empathetic account of Newton’s legend, closely tracking the QB’s journey from his Atlanta roots to his murky present, ultimately telling a story about the burdens of being an intensely public, wealthy, and prominent Black athlete in America. The series is also noteworthy for the talents of its host, Tyler R. Tynes, who breathes electric life into the work of narration. Energetic, opinionated, funny, and free, Tynes’ approach offers an appealing window into what podcast narration can, and should, be.
Around the turn of the millennium, Connor Ratliff was cast on the critically acclaimed HBO drama Band of Brothers. It was a small role, but for a working actor, all roles are valuable. But before Ratliff could make it to the set, he was called back to re-audition for Tom Hanks, who was an executive producer on the project. He ended up losing the part — later, he would be told Hanks thought he had “dead eyes.” Decades later, Ratliff would create a podcast about the experience. He had pulled together a decent performing career by then, and in the podcast, which he calls Dead Eyes, he sets out to revisit, unpack, and explore that early-career incident, which had left a big impression. The podcast is fascinating and excellent, essentially functioning as a vessel that explores the emotional experience of building a life in show business. Part interview show, part memoir, Dead Eyes is an innovative take on a familiar genre.
Written and hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic’s revisiting of Hurricane Katrina and the botched federal response that followed is a genuinely illuminating piece that holds extra weight and resonance in the current pandemic context. Beautifully written, deeply reported, and further elevated by outstanding music and sound design, Floodlines is the best audio documentary to come out this year so far, hands down. It can be a really hard time for many to pick up this particular story, but it remains a worthwhile exercise, if one is able, to stare into the abyss, as it can serve as a guide for what’s to come.
When life gives you lemons (or pandemic-induced quarantine), make lemonade (or a podcast about quarantine cooking). Life under lockdown has predictably inspired a considerable number of new COVID-19-related podcasts. Many are news-oriented, dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest developments. Some, meanwhile, are more unexpected … and perhaps, more welcome. One of the finest from this latter batch is Home Cooking, a quarantine-cooking advice show hosted by Samin Nosrat, the chef and famed food writer, and Hrishikesh Hirway, indie-podcast-producer extraordinaire. Breezy, playful, and rich with puns, Home Cooking is a delightful companion to figure out the puzzle of your pantry. It’s really short, though, playing out across four hour-long episodes that wrapped up in early May, but it’s jammed packed with genuinely helpful tips and ideas that are evergreen.
My Year in Mensa (Independent)
Let’s say you have an exclusive, insular, and somewhat known group whose membership is defined by “unnatural intelligence.” What would you expect from the group’s internal social dynamics? From the way it views itself? You’ll get those answers from My Year in Mensa, an endlessly fascinating four-part podcast from comedian and writer Jamie Loftus. A semi-adaptation of a sporadic column series, Loftus uses the podcast to recount her year-long experience successfully gaining admission into Mensa, the largest “High IQ society” in the world, and skeptically moving through the community. What results is a vibrant critique of what can be described as “intellectual supremacy,” and the kinds of thinking that can foster. “My Year In Mensa” is ultimately an unsettling story, but it’s told in such a gloriously bold, funny and personal way that you just can't forget.
Oh, Hello: The P’dcast
Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland continue to be at large. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s geriatric testaments to failed New York creative ambition reached true heights with its Broadway iteration a few years ago, which was also distributed as a Netflix special. Now, under quarantine, they’ve reprised the characters for a new podcast that gives you basically everything you’d want from the act: mis-emphasized pronunciations, delusions of grandeur, dense rapid-fire joke delivery, tuna — and then some. It’s exponentially more enjoyable for podcast fans, since, as with the Broadway show, the duo mischievously plays with some of the medium’s most common tropes.
Planet Money has many distinctions: arguably the first “true” NPR podcast, longtime stalwart of accessible stories about complex economies, a truly sustainable operation that’s been able to maintain a consistently high quality level even as its actual stable of talent has changed over the years. It also has fascinating roots, originally coming into being off a joint This American Life–NPR reporting venture that covered the 2008 economic crisis. These days, of course, we found ourselves in the depths of another economic calamity — quite possibly the worst ever experienced by this country. And Planet Money has stepped up to cover this new crisis with reliable gusto, in result producing some of the best work that the show’s ever done, almost twelve years into its existence.
Reply All’s “The Case of the Missing Hit”
Obsession runs rampant in this instantly legendary episode of Reply All, already a show with quite a few of them. In “The Case of the Missing Hit,” the team is contacted by a filmmaker looking for help to track down a song that may or may not exist. That song is thought to be a distinct artifact of the late ’90s and early 2000s, a sugary mix of U2 and the Barenaked Ladies, but it simply couldn’t be found in the infinite repositories of the internet. What transpires is a glorious and unexpectedly thrilling caper, one that brings listeners along a wild ride as the filmmaker, supported by Reply All co-host P.J. Vogt, tries their very best to figure out the truth behind the spectral single … all as the song turns into an earworm that deepens its hold in their brains.
Staying In With Emily and Kumail
Staying In is kind of a classic hangout podcast, albeit one with added gravity given how we’re all mostly forced to keep indoors as much as possible under quarantine conditions. All that said, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are lovely hangs, and the podcast is a pure pleasure. As they note at the outset, Gordon and Nanjiani are no strangers to isolation, or the feeling of being trapped and helpless. You might know this already if you’ve seen The Big Sick, the semi-autobiographical 2017 film that the couple wrote and Nanjiani starred in, which is in part based on Gordon’s experience with a rare disease that nearly killed her and left her immunocompromised. The situation is such that they’ve occasionally had to self-isolate for her health, even before all this. All that background is baked into the feel of Staying In, which comes with a relaxed semi-diaristic quality — there’s a lot of processing in real time — that’s reminiscent of older styles of podcasting. Indeed, it’s actually a return to podcast form for Gordon and Nanjiani, as the two had previously hosted a video game–ish podcast called The Indoor Kids. Some things have carried over. Like The Indoor Kids, Staying In is charming and funny, and it’s reminds us that we’re all in this together.
By the time mid-summer rolls around, us gardeners are looking to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We put in those long hours in early spring to prep, shop, and plant, and now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the season. The veggie patch yield is increasing daily, containers of annuals are established and thriving, and the perennial garden is… well, yikes, it looks kind of tired and needs some help!
With hot, harsh sunlight and dry conditions, mid- to late summer can be tough on our gardens. Many plants suffer from heat stress and struggle without adequate moisture. To avoid the late season, colorless doldrums, choose from our list of the best perennials to add vibrant shades to the late summer garden. Many of these plants are North American natives, and others come from around globe – but all seem to flourish when the heat is on!
ANISE HYSSOP (AGASTACHEFOENICULUM) Anise hyssop, also known as butterfly mint, is a fragrant perennial with upright flower spikes that bloom from June to September. Traditional varieties have blue, lavender, or purple blooms, but new ones include bold colors such as orange and red. Native to the plains and prairies of North America, anise hyssop is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. As a perennial, it spreads by rhizomes, and in colder climates it can be grown as a self-seeding annual. It grows easily in soil of average fertility, full sun, and medium to dry moisture conditions. Drought tolerant once established, it’s also deer and rabbit resistant – but very attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. You can use cut flowers in fresh and dried arrangements, and the plants make attractive additions to beds and borders, butterfly, herb, and cottage gardens, or in naturalized settings like meadows or wildflower gardens.
AUTUMN JOY STONECROP (HYLOTELEPHIUM ‘HERBSTFREUDE’/SEDUM SPECTABILE ‘AUTUMN JOY’) Blooming from August to October, ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with large, flat heads of tiny, rosy red flowers. Upright stems grow 18 inches to 2 feet tall with succulent, fleshy leaves. Buds first appear pink, change to red as they open, and finally turn a coppery shade as they die. Stonecrop are drought-tolerant natives to Asia, Europe, and North America, hardy in Zones 3-8, and get their name from their habit of growing in stony ledges and rocky outcrops. ‘Autumn Joy’ prefers soil of average to poor fertility, dry to medium moisture, excellent drainage, and full sun. Attractive to bees and butterflies, ‘Autumn Joy’ can be used in the front of beds and borders, grown in alpine or rock gardens, planted en masse, or grown in containers. Left in place, they also add interest to fall and winter gardens.
BALLOON FLOWER (PLATYCODON GRANDIFLORUS) Balloon flower is an eye-catching, clump-forming perennial that gives a cheerful display of color to the late summer garden. Mature clumps grow from 1 to 2.5 feet tall, and young buds swell like balloons before bursting into bell-shaped flowers. Eye-catching in shades of blue, pale pink, and white, they flower from June to August. A native to the slopes and meadows of East Asia, balloon flower is hardy in Zones 3-8 and enjoys a full to partial sun location. Aside from average soil and medium moisture requirements, it’s largely self-sufficient and requires little maintenance. Balloon flower also makes addition to the cutting garden, and it’s deer resistant as well. Use it to best effect in borders, containers, edging, and rockeries.
BEE BALM (MONARDA DIDYMA) Bee balm, or wild bergamot, is a tall, attractive perennial with whorls of tubular flowers that add a bold punch of color to the late summer garden. Fragrant plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall with sassy, mop-top blossoms in colors of burgundy, lavender, pink, red, and white that bloom in July and August. Hardy in Zones 3-9, it’s endemic to moist bottomlands, woods, and streambanks of eastern North America. Bee balm prefers humus-rich, well-draining soil with medium to wet moisture levels in a full to partial sun location. Deer and rabbit resistant, it’s attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Striking when massed in drifts, plant in borders, cottage and rain gardens, and in naturalized plantings.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN (RUDBECKIA HIRTA) Black-eyed Susan is a cheerful wildflower renowned for its showy, daisy-like flowers in shades of orange, red, or sunshine yellow. Floret petals are anchored with a chocolate-brown center disk, and flowers bloom from June to September. Indigenous to central and eastern North America, black-eyed Susans grow best in well-draining or sandy soil enriched with organic compost, medium moisture levels, and a full sun location. Drought resistant once established, they’re hardy in Zones 3-7 and grow from 1 to 3 feet tall. Perfect for the cutting garden, they’re deer resistant, attractive to butterflies, and small songbirds enjoy the seeds in fall. Use their bright color to best effect in beds and borders, cottage or wildflower gardens, large containers, or in mass plantings.
BLUE CARDINAL FLOWER (LOBELIA SIPHILITICA) Blue cardinal flower is a clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with stiff, unbranched stems 2 to 3 feet in height. The stems are topped with terminal racemes of tubular flowers in shades of light to dark blue that bloom from July to September. Native to moist low meadows, woodlands, and stream and spring banks of central and eastern North America, it’s hardy in Zones 4-9. It requires a full sun to part shade site, humus-rich soil, and medium to wet moisture conditions. Deer resistant, blue cardinal flower is well-suited to beds and borders, rain gardens, perennial beds, native and woodland settings, and moist areas, like beside ponds or streams.
CHRYSANTHEMUM (CHRYSANTHEMUM) For reliable late season performance, chrysanthemums are available in a huge selection of colors, forms, and sizes. Blooming from August to November, flowers have ray florets, with numerous cultivars bred for multiple rows of florets in different shapes – from tubular to fringed. Colors are almost unlimited and come in shades of lavender, orange, red, white, and yellow. A native of China, this herbaceous perennial has been cultivated for millennia. It grows best in fertile, humus-rich and well-draining soil, with consistent moisture and full sun exposure. Hardy in Zones 5-9, mums appreciate a winter mulch in colder regions. Chrysanthemums attract butterflies, and are deer and rabbit resistant. They are most effective in mass plantings, at the front of mixed and perennial beds and borders, and in containers or windowboxes.
DAHLIA (DAHLIA) Dahlias are tuberous rooted perennials with a large variety of colors, shapes, and sizes ranging from 1 to 6 feet tall. They flower from July to September. The pinwheel-shaped blossoms are categorized into 10 different groups to distinguish among the many flower types, such as cactus, decorative, pompon, and waterlily. Sizes vary greatly as well, from compact patio cultivars to ones with huge, dinner-plate-sized blooms. Native to Mexico and Central America, dahlias are hardy in Zones 8-11. In colder regions, the tubers need to be dug up in the fall and stored, then planted in the spring and grown as annuals. Dahlias enjoy full sun with some afternoon shade in hot regions. Plant in well-draining, compost-rich soil, with a medium moisture level. Dahlias make an outstanding option for cut arrangements, and are well-suited for beds, borders, containers, and window boxes.
ECHINACEA / CONEFLOWER (ECHINACEA PURPUREA)Echinacea, also called coneflower, is a clump-forming perennial with purple, daisy-like flowers that put on a showy display from June to September. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall and reblooms readily, with blossoms forming on stiff, multi-branched stems clad with broad, dark green leaves. Indigenous to eastern North America, echinacea is hardy in Zones 3-9 and easily grown in well-draining soil of average fertility, dry to medium moisture, and a full to part sun location. However, this plant is wonderfully adaptable and tolerant of harsh conditions, including drought, heat, humidity, and poor soil. Echinacea is a good choice for freshly cut or dried flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant, it’s also attractive to butterflies and other beneficial creepy-crawlies, and migrating songbirds will visit seedheads in fall and winter. It makes an attractive addition in mixed and perennial beds and borders as well as native or naturalized areas, and is stunning when planted in masses with yellow black-eyed Susans.
HELENIUM (HELENIUM AUTUMNALE)If it’s vibrant, warm colors you want, helenium produces masses of daisy-like blooms in rich shades of orange, red, and yellow. Sun lovers, these erect, clump-forming plants that are also known as sneezeweed grow 3 to 4 feet tall, adding terrific interest from August to October. Native to Central and North America, helenium grows best in soil of average fertility amended with organic material, medium to wet moisture, and full sun. Hardy in Zones 3-8, it is intolerant of dry soils. It also benefits from being cut back in late spring to encourage branching and more flowers. Helenium attracts butterflies, and winter birds enjoy the seedheads, but deer avoid it. Use it in mixed and perennial beds and borders, cottage gardens, naturalized areas, and in areas with moist soil.
It's no surprise that kids are always begging to play a game on their parents' tablets or cell phones — adults are always on them! That's why tablets for kids exist: so you don't have to worry about handing them your precious iPad, only to find that it breaks the second they drop it. These kid-friendly tablets are often similar to regular versions, except they're often more durable and come with educational apps for kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding digital media for kids under 18 to 24 months. If you let kiddos watch videos or play games, be sure to do it with them so that they can learn from you. As for kids ages 2 to 5, the AAP recommends limiting their screen time to one hour per day.
The best option for toddlers ages 1 to 3 is Fisher-Price's Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet, because it has three different levels so it can grow with your child. It's not a real tech "tablet" since you can't download more apps, but it does the trick for the little ones. Our top pick, the Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet, is best for kids ages 3+.
Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet
With a Fire Kids Edition Tablet, your child can play games and watch videos without the need to worry about it breaking the 10-inch display since it comes with a durable case in either pink, yellow, or blue. If you're looking for something similar but with a smaller screen, you can opt for the Fire HD 8.
One of the best part about these tablets is access to all of the content on FreeTime Unlimited. With it, parents can also set goals and limits — you can even choose to allow specific content down to the episode. It normally costs $3 per month, but you get a year for free with this tablet.
Storage: 32 GB
Battery life: up to 12 hours
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet
PSA: You can get the seven-inch version of the Fire tablet for half the price of our top pick. It has a slightly smaller screen size, lower battery life, and lessened storage capabilities, but this version of the kids tablet still has many of the same features we love about the Fire HD 10 tablet. Plus, you'll still get the free year-long subscription to FreeTime Unlimited. With these Amazon tablets, your kids can also access audiobooks and over a thousand pieces of content in Spanish.
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
LeapPad Academy - LeapFrog
This LeapFrog tablet is a great option if you want to make sure your kids are ready for their next year of school. The educational device comes pre-installed with over 20 apps for kids, with subjects ranging from reading and writing to math and coding -- you can also download more games and apps since this tablet has an Android operating system.
You also get a three-month free trial of the brand's learning program called LeapPad Academy, which features tons of other content. It's built to be super kid-friendly, so you don't have to worry about the screen shattering (especially since it has a bumper and kickstand).
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
Galaxy Tab E Lite 7
This 7-inch Samsung tablet is another great option for little ones since it's lightweight and comes with a protective case. It comes pre-installed with kid-friendly content (over 20 apps with STEM lessons and Sesame Street content). There's also the option for parental controls, so mom or dad can monitor learning progress and set limitations on what their kids can access. Bonus: it automatically blocks ads and in-app purchases.
Storage: 8 GB
Battery life: up to 9 hours
iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB)
There are two situations where an iPad might be the best tablet for your kids: 1) you want a device that can be used by the entire family, or 2) you already have an iPad in your household and want to give it to your child as a hand-me-down.
This iPad equipped with Touch ID and you can enable parental controls by using a passcode for certain apps. Just note that iPads don't come with a protective case, so you'll want to purchase one to make it more kid-friendly.
Storage: 32 GB or 128 GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet - Fischer Price
This "tablet" is more of a toy, so choose it as your child's first tablet and it can stay with them until they're 3. It's equipped with the brand's Smart Stages technology, meaning parents can switch between three different levels of play as your child grows. Each app is actually a button that plays phrases, songs, and other sounds to introduce a variety of concepts, like the alphabet, animals, and colors.
Battery life: uses three AAA batteries
Pixel Slate Tablet - Google
For older kids in high school or college, the Google Pixel Slate is like a mini computer so it's great for homework. It has a 12.3-inch screen and weighs less than two pounds, so it won't feel too heavy in their backpack. Plus, it comes built-in with Google Assistant, so they can ask questions and get answers. For even more computer-like capabilities, you can add on a keyboard and stylus.
Storage: 8GB or 16GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet - Boogie Board
Although this isn't your typical tablet, the eWriter is a great tool to help your kids practice writing letters, numbers, and shapes. You can't store anything on it, and LCD screen erases with the press of a button so kids can start over with a blank canvas whenever they want. It also comes with a stylus, but if you lose it you can still use a similar object — or even your finger!
Battery life: up to 50,000 erase cycles with the included watch battery
There are so many great books coming out through the fall, including a number from big-name authors. This month’s selections include a few of those along with books by writers you likely haven’t heard of before. It would be difficult to decide which group is better. Best not to try; just read them all.
“Life of A Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy,” by Edward Ball (Aug. 4)
Ball’s latest memoir is about his great-great-grandfather Constant Lecorgne, a white French Creole who became a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Ball approached descendants of the African American people who were victims of Lecorgne and his cohort to share their narratives. A powerful, relevant and personal story about how we look at the word “heritage.”
“Luster: A Novel,” by Raven Leilani (Aug. 4)
“You are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing,” the protagonist of this novel tells herself early in this strange, hilarious, important debut. Edie wants to be a painter, but she’s young, black and depressive, with no clue how to get what she wants. After falling for the much-older Eric, Edie finds herself part of his open marriage and an unwilling role model for his daughter. But what happens when their family flailing inspires her art?
“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson (Aug. 4) In “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, explained how the Great Migration changed our country forever. In “Caste,” Wilkerson shows the distinctions between race, class and caste, the latter a means of ensuring that there is always a “bottom rung” for humans to supposedly rise above. Yet that deep rut has many costs, and not just for those consigned to remain there.
“On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake,” by Sarah Chayes (Aug. 11)
Chayes, whose “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security” won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, once worked as a special assistant on corruption to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She understands the corrosive nature of malfeasance, and she has examples from plenty of presidential administrations to remind us what absolute power does.
“The New Wilderness: A Novel,” by Diane Cook (Aug. 11)
In a near-future America, the only natural area that remains is called the Wilderness State. When the government asks for volunteers to live there without any modern tools or amenities, a family of three agrees despite the rigid rules — no staying in one place longer than seven days, for example — and the rangers who enforce them. More than a version of “Survivor: Woodlands,” this novel asks tough questions about love and sustainability.
“Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980,” by Rick Perlstein (Aug. 18)
The author of “Nixonland” and “The Invisible Bridge” returns with the finale of his trilogy about American conservatism. Readers can decide for themselves whether Perlstein deserves to be called “the hypercaffeinated Herodotus of the American century,” as the Nation magazine dubbed him, but there’s no doubt his energetic writing takes his topic to an engaging level.
“Black Bottom Saints: A Novel,” by Alice Randall (Aug. 18)
In Detroit’s celebrated Black Bottom neighborhood, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson writes about gossip, emcees a night club, runs a theater school and keeps tabs on the city’s elite, including Count Basie and Ethel Waters. As he lies in a hospital dying, he curates a list of “52 Saints” and tells their stories — oh, and he provides cocktail recipes, too.
“Winter Counts: A Novel,” by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Aug. 25)
The first in a planned series set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, “Winter Counts” is a first-rate thriller that also delivers first-rate commentary on our nation’s colonial crimes. Virgil Wounded Horse, Rosebud’s local enforcer, needs to stop the flow of heroin into his community, and into his nephew’s veins. That quest will take him on the road, with his ex-girlfriend, to confront terrifying enemies.
“Squeeze Me: A Novel,” by Carl Hiaasen (Aug. 25) Leave it to Hiaasen to lampoon what is going on in Washington with a socialite’s murder in Palm Beach. Kiki Pew, a founding member of the POTUSSIES, women dedicated to the president, disappears from a charity gala and is found in a concrete grave. The president declares she’s been killed by “immigrant hordes,” but wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong senses something closer to the White House is responsible.
“Vesper Flights: Essays,” by Helen MacDonald (Aug. 25)
If you haven’t read “H Is for Hawk,” MacDonald’s splendid 2015 memoir about raising a goshawk while grieving her father’s death, please put that title on top of your TBR pile, with this one directly beneath it. The essays in “Vesper Flights” prove that the author is a nature writer on par with Annie Dillard, one whose keen observations about everything from migrations to mushrooms intertwine with a compassionate perspective on her fellow humans.