Mulberry Madness

I always wanted to have fruit trees in my garden. Growing up, we had a wonderful garden. It had a pool, a fishpond, a forest behind and, thanks to hard work and planning by my Mum, lots of interesting shade plants. But no fruit trees. In my own adult life, I’ve always had a garden, mostly flowers but with some veg. When we moved to our current home we discovered there was a mulberry tree in the backyard. Not one of the little, ornamental, “weeping” mulberries that are so popular in landscaping but a full sized mulberry.

The first few years the berry crop wasn’t overwhelming but obviously as the tree matures, and the fact that it is super healthy, means it is now producing lots of berries. Lots and lots and LOTS of berries. Thousands of ripe berries fall from this beautiful tree daily. We can’t keep up. The birds can’t keep up. And the sweet, juicy berries make a mess underfoot, staining anything that touches them.

This year we looked into tenting the whole tree and harvesting the berries but, (1) it’s expensive and (2) we’d need to set up a market to get rid of them! Instead, we created a homemade hammock to catch at least some of the fruit. At the height of mulberry season we were gathering c 2 large mixing bowls full…per day. Yes. Per day. But what to do with it? Mulberries don’t freeze well so it was time to get baking and, as luck would have it, I had a few cookbooks at home from WPL’s wonderful collection to help me out.

81UEg6RbkjLDecadent Fruit Desserts by Jackie Bruchez looked just the thing although my results ended up being mixed. The Blueberry (substitute Mulberry) Pound Cake had a light batter and rose beautifully. I successfully administered the toothpick test and tapped the top. All good…or not. When I removed it from the oven it held its shape for a while then very slowly started to sink. And sink. The very middle was semi-baked. The sides and ends and bottom, about 2” around, were baked beautifully. We ate the baked part and it was lovely but how disappointing.

Next up was Blue/Mulberry Mousse. Only 6 ingredients and very simple instructions. The colour of the resulting mousse was amazing and it was as light as air. This recipe will definitely be used again with other berries in the future. I also made the Fresh Rasp/Mulberry Lime Cake. Once again, the ingredient list was simple as were the instructions. I opted to make cupcakes instead of a triple-layer cake and, while they were good, I felt there was a distinct lack of flavour. The cream cheese frosting helped save them but again, this recipe is not one I’d be revisiting.

91kc8YeRdoLThe other book I had borrowed was Bake the Seasons by photographer and baker Marcella DiLonardo from Fonthill, Ontario. As you might imagine, the recipes are divided by the seasons. Soooo many tempting recipes. In the end I tried 4. Two were good, and used up more mulberries, but weren’t ones I’d make again. After that I needed some mulberry-free baking (there’s just so many you can eat) so I tried the Lemon Lavender Shortbread. The end product was good, but I needed quite a bit less flour than called for (and even then the dough needed a little ice water to make it pliable for rolling out) and some lemon essence for more “zing” as the only “lemon” in the recipe was zest. If I’m eating something with lemon in it, I want to know it!

My final test recipe was Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts and they were, well, awesome. The recipe made 24 medium-sized donuts (about ½ the size of Timmie’s), perfect for sharing with family over the weekend. Apple and cinnamon, classic flavour combo and so moist. I used a Pampered Chef donut pan and piped the dough into the pan which is the best way to get even donuts and no mess. I will definitely be revisiting this book in the dead of winter to try things like “Pumpkin Ginger Waffles” and “Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese” but let’s not think of winter. Let’s savour summer and all that comes with it, including mulberries. Goal for next summer: mulberry gin. Stay tuned!

— Sandi H.

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

1 c butter, melted
1 ½ c granulated sugar
½ c packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c sweet apple cider
¼ c whole milk
2 ½ c all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ c. + 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fine salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 6 or 12 mould doughnut pan. Set aside.

In large bowl combine ½ c of the melted butter, ½ c of the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add cider and milk and beat until incorporated.

Stir in flour, powder, 1 tsp of cinnamon and salt. Stir until smooth.

Spoon batter into moulds, filling ¾ full. Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean of crumbs.

Cool in the pan for 2 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely. Repeat to make more doughnuts.

When cool, stir together the remaining 1 c of sugar with ¼ c of cinnamon (or less, depending on taste). *Dip each side of the dough in the remaining melted butter then roll in cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately or store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*I only dipped the top of the donuts as I felt dipping the entire doughnut in butter and sugar was too rich and sweet for my personal taste

Commander in Cheat

I know, I know, you’ve heard/read/seen enough about Donald Trump. I hear you. Who wants to read another book about him? But Commander in Cheat is different. Long-time golf player, golf observer and award-winning sports writer Rick Reilly examines the character of Donald Trump by looking at his golf game (and yes, the author has played golf with Trump).

Rick Reilly is a funny and engaging writer. He gets in a few sharp jabs too, like the book opening: “This book is dedicated to the truth. It’s still a thing.”

Reilly’s message is that if Trump is playing golf, he’s cheating. Or as the author says, his nose is so long “he could putt with it.” He moves his ball (or his opponent’s), he lies about his score, he lies about the number of championships he’s won. Same thing off the course. Trump has a solid record of stiffing his golf contractors. And bragging (ie. lying) about the worth of his properties, while at the same time suing cities for overvaluing them. And on and on and on.

I rolled my eyes (a lot) when I read the chapter on Barack Obama. You may recall that Trump repeatedly criticized Obama for the amount of golf he played while president and said that he, Trump, would be too busy working his great deals to leave the White House. And the reality? To date Trump has played almost triple the amount of golf that Obama did. And BTW, Obama is a real stickler for the rules and does not cheat at golf says the author.

But so what, you might be wondering. Who cares? Does it really matter if the president cheats at golf? At the end of the book, Reilly poses this very question. Here, for your consideration, is his answer:

If you’ll lie about every aspect of the game, is it that much further to lie about your taxes, your relationship with Russians, your groping of women?

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Or check out this similarly-themed DVD, You’ve been Trumped (from 2011). Ten odd years ago Donald Trump arrived in Scotland with grand schemes for a mega golf project (on environmentally-sensitive land, no less). He proceeded to bamboozle politicians with hugely-inflated job creation numbers. He rode roughshod over the local inhabitants, grossly insulting them along the way (you know, typical Trump). Gritty local inhabitants rallied together and fought back the best they could. Have a look at the trailer.

— Penny D.

Postscript. I don’t know if a reading blog is the place to say this, but I’m saying it. American politicians from both parties and the American people as a whole need to stand up and denounce the president’s recent racist tweets and comments. Such comments—and this should not need saying– are unacceptable. — P.D.

We Have Always Been Here

We Have Always Been Here is an honest and revealing coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim woman’s struggle with identity, faith and family. Beginning with her childhood as a young Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan and continuing into her adult life as a successful photo journalist in Toronto, Samra Habib describes how her experiences, beliefs and relationships have shaped the woman she has become.

After her family moves to Canada to flee religious persecution, Habib struggles to claim her identity as a strong and successful artist/journalist/activist, daughter and queer Muslim woman who wants to be recognized by her faith and society at large. Habib shines a light on Pakistani culture, Muslim faith and Canada’s ‘multiculturalism’ that has given Canadians a false sense of inclusion while continuing to marginalize groups of people by promoting our passivity for queer rights, particularly LGBTQ people of colour.

9780735235007This book will promote good discussion, making it a clear choice for book clubs. By sharing her story as a queer Muslim woman who loves her faith and wants to be her authentic self, Habib has opened a dialogue that will hopefully validate those who have similar struggles and encourage those of us without similar experiences to sympathize with people who continue to feel unseen and underrepresented in our society.

— Laurie P.

Staff Picks for Summer

WPL staff love sharing what they’re reading…or looking forward to reading! If you’re looking for a new great read, why not check out our Staff Picks List for Summer 2019. This list of fiction and non-fiction is for adult readers.

We’re also sharing our top picks for kids and teens. We hope you have a summer full of sunshine, good times and great reads.

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WPL Book Club Picks for August

Join us for book club conversation at any meeting. No need to sign up. No need to clean your house. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” membership, so you can drop in once in a while, or come faithfully every month.

Monday, August 12, 2019 – Monday Evening Book Club
Title: The Outsider by Stephen King
Location: Main Library, Auditorium, 35 Albert Street

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when his brand has never been stronger, Stephen King has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

Goodreads rating = 4.02 and reviews
Place a hold on a WPL copy of the (print) book, the eBook or the recorded book (audiobook on CD)
Consider the discussion questions found on Goodreads

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 – Thursday, Afternoon Book Club
Title: The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Location: Main Library, Boardroom, 35 Albert Street

A historical novel about an early 19th-century Englishman transported to Australia for theft, The Secret River explores what might have happened when Europeans colonized land already inhabited by Aboriginal people.

Goodreads rating = 3.97 and reviews
Place a hold on a WPL copy of the (print) book or the eBook
Consider these discussion questions found on LitLovers

Failure Is Not An Option

In the library we see publishers responding quickly to events in the hope that they will capitalize on reader interest and sell more books. In some cases their rush to get a book on the shelves can result in books that meet a need but won’t find their way into your top ten list. With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing publishers, authors, illustrators, scientists and astronauts had ample time to pull together every resource to make their products top-notch and it has been an absolute thrill to see these book treasures arrive on our shelves. It seems like I have been taking home a book or two a month to read or share with my space-loving family and we have learned some wonderful new facts, sneaky behind-the-scenes tidbits or relived the details we already read.

coderWhen we look back at those blurry images on the moon it’s hard to comprehend that it was only fifty years ago that engineers and technicians (almost entirely men) huddled over the desks to wait and see if decades of work would pay off. It seems like much more than fifty years because advances in technology have reached an absolutely dizzying pace. The computers used to provide guidance for the Apollo mission were so big that they took up entire rooms but are known to have been no more powerful than a calculator used by today’s high school student. It’s astounding to realize that the code was fed into the guidance computer using punch cards. You can actually see the code listing on the Caltech archive and imagine the incredible amount of work that went into just one part of the mission. Or you don’t have to imagine it. Here is a photograph of Margaret Hamilton, an MIT computer programmer working at NASA during the Apollo missions, standing next to a stack of some of the Apollo guidance computer source code.

Landing on the moon is the anniversary being celebrated on July 20th but there could have been hundreds of thousands of individual anniversaries celebrated before that day. An estimated number of about 400,000 people worked to make it possible for three men to safely travel to the moon and two men to walk upon it. The dedication, the incredible risks, the scientific advances and the decades of research and development since the Apollo mission have culminated in a publishing surge and it’s making for some fabulous reading.

In 1961 John F. Kennedy shared his goal that the United States put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and put into motion his plan to conquer space and the world at the same time. Historian Douglas Brinkley (a professor at Rice University where Kennedy gave his famous “we choose to go to the moon speech”) has done well in tying together the story of Kennedy’s family, that of engineer Wernher von Braun, NASA’s role in American politics and the space program’s future following the president’s assassination. He successfully blends politics, history and the thrill of the space race into one compelling narrative in American Moonshot : John F. Kennedy and the great space race. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the Kennedy story or someone who wants to get a feel for all of the forces that came together to make Apollo 11 happen.

Another 2019 book that has far fewer pages but held me captivated for hours was a gorgeous picture book by Dean Robbins and Sean Rubin. The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon is not about the Apollo 11 mission but about the mission that follows and the images are so beautiful. It’s a sweet choice to take home to read aloud but a reader of any age could learn from this one. Alan Bean was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 12 and was the fourth person to walk on the moon but is also known as the only artist to have ever seen the moon up close. What a perfect chance to use your art to communicate a unique experience! This picture book is a wonderful opportunity to learn a little more about his life as a navy pilot and his work at NASA but focuses more on his work as an artist. The author was able to collaborate on this story with the astronaut before his death and the illustrations share some of Bean’s own bold use of line and shape. It’s a little more STEAM than STEM and it’s perfect. Read more about Alan Bean on his own website or through the NASA website.

Alan Bean was a part of the group known as Astronaut Group 3 which included Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins. But in the early days at NASA all of the astronauts worked closely together by backing each other up at mission control, training together, testing equipment, flying together and helping each other to learn the dense material required to make each mission a success. We have so many fantastic books on the shelves about these fascinating days – some old and some new – but Neil Armstrong’s authorized biography (the one that the Ryan Gosling biopic was based on) is one that stands out in my mind because it is so clearly written. It reads like a textbook because it is free of extra emotion but filled with incredible fly-on-the-wall detail. The chapters that cover his time as a test pilot are so explicit that I am sure I will remember the types of the planes he flew longer than I will remember the names of the people in his family or the town he was born in (Wapaknoeta, Ohio). If you read one book about the Apollo 11 mission then I suggest you set aside a few evenings and spend some time with First Man : the life of Neil A. Armstrong. It’s the closest you will ever get to feeling like you have experienced the life of an astronaut.

For another perspective on the Apollo 11 mission we have a newly reissued copy of Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire here on the shelves. As a member of the crew, he followed a similar astronaut career path to many of the other pilots with a graduation from West Point, time spent as a test pilot and a spacewalk on Gemini 10. Where his story becomes interesting is that with Apollo 11 he had the unique worry of being the man who might have to fly home and leave Buzz and Neil behind. He was concerned that they might crash on the moon, that there might be a failure to launch from the moon or any one of a number of other catastrophes. He writes about this weighty knowledge in his memoir. Mike had time to think about this as he piloted the command module and listened to his crewmates make their historic first steps onto the lunar surface. So much of the spotlight has focused on their actions in those days on the moon but his story – and his feeling of being truly alone out there – make this a fascinating memoir.

We have also been experiencing an increase in other material focusing on the Apollo 11 anniversary so if you haven’t satisfied your curiosity through shiny, new books you can view a documentary like the one that features newly discovered 65mm footage of mission control and the astronauts on the moon. It’s a truly unbelievable viewing experience. You can also check out one of the many magazines that have featured the moon landing – Make, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics and Sky & Telescope are a few of the periodicals that I’ve been reading lately – the photographs and features have been a great way to augment my reading about the anniversary.

We have some of the classic books about space flight on the shelves like NASA flight director Gene Kranz’s Failure is Not an Option and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (many contemporary astronauts say that this book was an early inspiration for their career choice) and your options for fiction about astronauts are endless. We have so many great books to suggest that you could be reading until we return to the moon. I know I’ll be on the holds list for the book about that mission.

— Penny M.

NOTE: if your children are into space, check out the Moon Lander (see below) in the Children’s Department at the Main Library. And don’t forget to register for the super-fun, space-themed Summer Reading Club. Activities, events, challenges and prizes all summer long.

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If You Want To Make God Laugh

After recently reading an advanced copy of If You Want To Make God Laugh, I can now say that South African-Canadian author Bianca Marais has officially secured a spot in my “must read” author list.

I first came across Marais in 2017 after reading and loving her previous book, Hum If You Don’t Know The Words which was a beautifully written story that tackled big topics with compelling characters, heart and compassion.

With her new book, If You Want To Make God Laugh, Marais has once again written an engaging story but this time there is a personal connection as she draws from her own experiences as a volunteer with HIV-infected children in her native South Africa. These experiences bring a depth, authenticity and emotion to her writing as she describes life in 1990’s South Africa as Apartheid is ending and the AIDS epidemic is firmly taking hold.

I appreciate that Marais doesn’t shy away from the big issues – such as the stigma of HIV, racism, homophobia, religious corruption and abuse of power. She sets these issues within a touching story that follows the lives of three women and the little boy who brings them together. These women learn to find strength in each other during a time of much suffering, rampant bigotry and ignorance. (Note: fans of Hum If You Don’t Know The Words will also enjoy the brief cameo of two of its characters within this story.)

I highly recommend this well-written, powerful and poignant story that focuses on the resiliency and tenacity of women, from different backgrounds, as South Africa experiences its turbulent transition to democracy.

— Laurie P.

Bring on the Dishes!

I have never had a dishwasher. Growing up, my sister and I WERE the dishwasher in our house. When I flew the nest, I opted for extra storage space in my little kitchen over having another large appliance in the room. And to be honest, I don’t mind washing dishes. I’m not a huge fan of drying (usually my husband does that chore) but washing dishes, not a big deal at all.

Having a small kitchen, you learn to be efficient and organized in meal prep. An “A type” personality, I can quite happily make a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings and bake a dessert at the same time without my limited counter space and single sink teeming with cookware, bowls etc.

I don’t know if it’s because of being able to neatly “juggle” or something else entirely but I’ve just never been drawn to crockpots, instant-pots or one-pan meals. I know they are super popular all year round and must be quite handy in the hot days of summer, especially with those who do not have a/c at home. Perhaps if I had a big family to feed I’d be more welcoming to anything that is dish-saving and time-saving but I don’t, so while instant-pots seem to be in every home, there isn’t one in mine which means I’m unable to review any of those specific cookbooks at WPL. On the heels of the Instant-pot craze, though, it seems that one-dish cookbooks have regained their popularity. That I can do.

The first one I borrowed was One Pan, Whole Family : more than 70 complete weeknight meals by Carla Snyder. There were a number of interesting recipes between the covers and for the most part the instructions looked straight forward. The majority of the recipes take 45 minutes or less to prepare. The down side, the recipes I was most intrigued by would require me to make a return trip to the grocery store for key ingredients. So, I made a few “notes to self” and may revisit this book at a future date.

The second was 13 x 9 The Pan That Can : 150 fabulous recipes by Better Homes & Gardens.  As they describe it, the 13 x 9 (or 9 x 13) pan is “… the star of the kitchen, able to produce just about any dish from one-pan dinners to an easy big-batch dessert.” and the cookbook reflects this with recipes for all sorts of dinners, pizzas, breakfast bakes, bars and more. Nutritional information is provided for each recipe as well as ideas on making the recipes more healthy plus make ahead tips and “flex it” advice which is practical suggestions on how to make the recipe meatless, incorporate leftovers and more.

I tried two recipes from “13 x 9 The Pan That Can”. First up, Lemon Chicken With Potatoes. One of my favourite recipes of all time is the “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten’s roast chicken with lemon and lots of garlic. It’s a winner…always delicious and juicy. So, this seemed similar but different. The only change I made to the recipe was eliminating the olives (my husband is decidedly anti-olive) and it turned out quite good. Not as good as Ina’s if I’m honest, but tasty enough to make again. For dessert I tried the Bananas Foster Bake. Bananas, rum, oat streusel topping. What’s not to like? Wellll…we had a mixed result here. My husband absolutely loved it and went back for seconds. Me, I wasn’t impressed with the flavour or the mixture of textures and didn’t even finish my portion.

Odd as it may sound, in the end I’d be more likely to recommend One Pan, Whole Family with its many mouthwatering-sounding recipes over 13 x 9. The recipes in 13 x 9 just didn’t wow me and the results of my test recipes were mixed. But you borrow them from the library and be the judge.

— Sandi H.

Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

4 chicken breast halves, fresh or thawed
1 lb fingerling or baby Yukon potatoes
3 lemons, halves crosswise
1/3 c. pitted green and/or black olives
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp honey
6 c arugula or mixed salad greens

Preheat oven to 450F.

Place chicken, potatoes, lemons and olives in ungreased 9 x 13/3 quart casserole. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and toss to coat.

Rearrange chicken in a single layer, skin side up, and lemons cut-side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rose uncovered for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove from oven. Remove lemons from casserole. Cover chicken/potatoes/olives with foil to keep warm.

When lemons are cool enough to handle, squeeze juice in to small bowl. Remove any seeds. Whisk in 4 tbsp olive oil and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve chicken and potatoes over greens. Drizzle with lemon dressing.

We have a great summer read for you!

Summer is upon us and that means a double edition of Featured Titles! With 14 Non-Fiction and 14 Fiction titles to choose from, we’re sure you will find a book (or two or … ) to sit back, relax, and enjoy the summer sun with.

Looking for even more great reads? Check out our Staff Picks List for Summer 2019 too.

We hope you have a wonderful summer full of beautiful weather, happy times with family and friends and, of course, great reads!

Summer Reading for Kids

Summer is here! That means sunshine, vacations and being outdoors. While you are enjoying the warm weather, continue to make time to read with your kids. Summer reading is critical for students to retain the skills they learned in the previous school year.

Every year WPL has summer reading fun activities to help keep children engaged in reading. The activities are free to join, just drop in to any WPL location to sign up, then check out some great titles to keep your child reading all summer:

Picturebooks

How to Catch a Unicorn by Adam Wallace

Rainbows, glitter and unicorns, oh my! This is a beautiful book. It is about a group of children who set up a series of clever traps hoping to catch the elusive unicorn. The brightly coloured illustrations are enough to keep young ones engaged all through the story.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt

Three warriors seek to find an opponent worthy of their fighting skills. Rock, Paper and Scissor finally meet and the legendary game is born.  I loved the narration style in this book.  It makes for a great read out loud story that will entertain parents and children.

Junior Fiction

Song For a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Iris is the only deaf student at her school. Communication with others is difficult and this often leaves her isolated. Blue 55 is a whale who sings at a different frequency than other whales. Communication with other whales is impossible and it leaves Blue 55 isolated. Iris is determined to create a song for Blue 55 to let him know he is not alone. Iris is a bright, spirited young girl and I admired her tenacity. This story taught me so much about deaf culture and the deaf community. It is a beautifully written story full of emotion and adventure.

The Almost Epic Squad: Mucus Mayhem by Kevin Sylvester

This book is gross, disgusting and completely revolting. Kids absolutely LOVE it. It’s about snot, phlegm, goobers and farts.  The main character Jessica Flem has allergies. I mean really bad, tissue devouring, allergies. It turns out that she was exposed to an element at birth that made her develop super allergic reactions to just about everything. But once she hits the age of 13, she also starts developing super powers. Now some malevolent forces want her power for their own gain.

Chase by Linwood Barclay

The Institute has successfully integrated computer software into canine bodies.  Chipper is a dog with enhanced intelligence and a USB port implanted into his body.  He escapes from the Institute and is found by a young boy named Jeff. Now both Chipper and Jeff must run before the Institute captures them. Author Linwood Barclay puts every bit of suspense and anticipation into his young adult books as he does with his adult fiction novels.

Junior Graphic Novel

Breaking Cat News by Georgia Dunn

Three cats make up the Breaking Cat News team:  lead anchor Lupin and field reporters Puck and Elvis. They report on news that matters to cats. This includes hard news stories such as: when a bee infiltrated the bathroom and the time the kibble dish was left empty. This is a great book for reluctant readers. The story doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover. You can open the book at random and start reading.

  • Lesley L.