Review: GO TO SLEEP, MONSTER! by Kevin Cornell

img_1944 Well, there went Halloween! But I am still going to review a Halloweenish book. More specifically, the boys and I read GO TO SLEEP, MONSTER! by author/illustrator Kevin Cornell.

A young boy named George won’t turn off his light and go to sleep. His sister Anna tells him it’s time. But George can’t go to sleep. He’s afraid of the monster under the you-know-where. Anna tells the monster to stop scaring her brother as it’s time to go to sleep. But the monster under the bed can’t sleep either, because there is a monster under the floor. And, the adventure starts for George and Anna.

First, the illustrations put you in the mood for a spooky story. The protagonists’ eyes are big and round. The setting is dark with dashes of light from a small lamp, a chandelier, and lava. Yes, lava. The house, the furniture, the doors are all drawn slightly curved and crooked. You get the feel that you should be scared.

Then you start giggling, because the story is anything but, really. The layers of Sesame-Street-like monsters underneath the bed and then under the floor and then under the room, etc., had my 6 y/o captivated and laughing. Page after page, there is monster after monster after monster, until the final scaly monster the kids find at the center of the Earth who has its own fear. When I think of a monster-under-the-bed story, I used to not even go there with my kiddos. I didn’t even want to plant that seed, because they wouldn’t go to bed…ever. (Or at least it felt like ever.) But that was then. Now it’s time to scare them. Seriously, though, this book takes the monster-under-the-bed concept and flips it on its head. Monsters under the bed are now silly!

img_1948Because of the layers of monsters, my boys and I decided the book was a lot like a pie with a bunch of layers. So, we’ve made a . . . I don’t even know what to call this, so I will make up a name. We’ve made a Is There a Monster at the Center of the Earth? Pie. Yeah, that’s it.

Enjoy this tasty recipe…



Crust (I told you I’d give you my recipe. It’s the bomb and easy as, well, pie. Which isn’t that easy, but this crust recipe makes it easier.)

3 cups King Arthur

1 stick of frozen butter (cut into small slices)

1/2 cup shortening

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tspn of salt

9 tablespoons of ice water

Red Velvet Cake

Big cheat here! I used cake out of a box. Doh! You will need:

Vegetable oil



I cheated again and bought jarred caramel. (Do you see a pattern here?)

Chocolate Pudding (I didn’t cheat here. Shocker! This is my mom’s recipe. Yummmm.)

1/2 plus 1/8 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups milk

2 slightly beaten eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 oz squares unsweetened chocolate (add to milk)

Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

1 oz block of semi-sweet chocolate (shavings)




Using a food processor, combine the flour, butter, shortening, sugar and salt. Pulse 10 times. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water, mix on high for a count of 10. Add 3 more tablespoons of ice water. Mix on high for a count of 10. Add the last 3 tablespoons and mix on high until the dough clumps together. Remove the dough, pat into a loose ball, and wrap in aluminum foil or cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (I sometimes skip this step, but for novices, the colder the dough, the easier it is to work with.)

For one pie crust, take half of the dough (Save the rest for another pie! It freezes well.) and pat into a disk. Place on a lightly floured, smooth surface and add a little flour to the top of the dough, so the rolling pin won’t stick. Roll out the dough evenly into a large circle. Roll out the dough so it is larger than the circumference of the pie pan by about an inch. To get the dough in a pie pan, I roll the dough around a floured rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Press the dough firmly into the pie pan. I like to tuck the extra inch of dough hanging over the edge of the pie pan under, so I can make a fluted edge.

Parbake the crust. Be sure to prick the crust thoroughly on the bottom and the inside edges with a fork, so the crust doesn’t bubble up. Cook at 475 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Red Velvet Cake

Follow the instructions on the box. Pour about an inch of batter into the parbaked crust. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the cake is thoroughly baked and the crust is flaky. Remove.


Pour 1/4 cup of caramel over the hot red velvet cake. Set aside to cool.

Chocolate Pudding

Mix sugar, flour, salt; slowly stir in milk with chocolate. Cook and continue to stir over medium-low heat until mixture boils and thickens; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir 1/2 cup of hot mixture into eggs; stir into remaining hot mixture. Stirring continuously, bring just to boiling. Add vanilla. Pour on top of caramel layer. Let cool.

Whipped Cream

Once the pudding is cooled and shortly before serving, combine cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form, 3-4 minutes. Spoon over pie. Garnish with semi-sweet chocolate shavings.

Cornered — Halloweensie 2016 Entry

img_20161030_140917789_hdrNope, this isn’t a review and there is no pie either. Booo, hisssssss. Not so quick! Halloweensie is an annual writing contest hosted by children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill, and I couldn’t pass up writing a little Halloween ditty for the kiddos. The contest rules are:

1) The story must be appropriate for kids and no longer than 100 words. Keep it brief, people.

2) It must be a story — beginning, middle, end. Make it arc, people.

3 ) The story must include the words ghost, spider, and moon. Let’s do this, people. ENJOY!



“I don’t like Halloween,” Dot said.

“Me neither,” York agreed.

“Here they come!” Junior shouted. “HIDE!”

“Where? There’s no place to go,” Reese said. “Stay still.”

A ghost and spider hovered over them and stared for what seemed like hours. The ghost reached out and grabbed Junior and Dot.

“AAAAH!” they screamed.

The spider wrapped one of its legs around York and Reese.

“NOOOO!” they yelled.

“Kids? Say ‘Trick or Treat.’ Say ‘thank you.’”

“Trick or Treat! Thank you!” The ghost and spider dropped the candy in their bags, ran to their parents, and disappeared down the moonlit street.




Review: THE DARKEST DARK by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion

img_1937I’m a bit of a science geek. Maybe more of a space nerd. I just adore anything I read about space, the universe, the possibilities. So, I was drawn to the recently published THE DARKEST DARK by astronaut Chris Hadfield with Kate Fillion and illustrated so perfectly by The Fan Brothers. (THOSE DRAWINGS!!!)

The theme is fear . . . better yet, fear of the dark, which will always get a visceral response from children. They will sit at the edge of the bed connecting with the protagonist, a young Chris Hadfield, wondering what is going to happen to him in the dark, especially since he dreams of being a brave astronaut who throttles through the vastness of space. So, young Chris needs to find his brave and battle his feelings about the dark.

He does this in many ways — pulling up his covers, finding solace with his parents, making his parents search his room for the things that go bump in the night. This tension is coupled with artwork of shadowy “aliens” lurking around in Chris’s bedroom. Nothing seems to work besides being so overtired he can’t help but fall asleep and slip into his favorite dream about space exploration with his sidekick Albert the pug (OH MY GOSH, I LOVE PUGS!).

His sleepless nights dovetail into the evening of July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 lands on the moon. And what stands out to Chris as he watches (huddled around a TV with all his neighbors and family) is the thorough darkness of space — the space of his dreams. Because of his passion, Chris decides that night to face his fear and see if what he believes about the dark is true or all in his head.

The take-away from this inspiring picture book is your dreams are the ultimate companion and security blanket to face your fears, although having a pug doesn’t hurt. 😉 The discussion I had with my son after reading this book was one I will not forget. He shared his passions and what he dreams of becoming, and in that moment he felt nothing could hold him back. Don’t we need more of those moments in life?

If this book were a pie? Well, this one was a no-brainer. I’ve made a Moon Pie Pie. Yep! With all its marshmallowy, chocolately, graham cracker crumby goodness. This one is for all those I’m-an-astronauts-in-my-dreams kind of kiddos. Have your mom or dad make this for you! Unfortunately, moms and dads, there is absolutely nothing healthy about this pie. Nada. Zilch.



Graham Cracker Crust

3 cups finely crushed graham crackers

2/3 cup butter, melted

Marshmallow Fluff (or you can cheat and use the premade kind…no judgment here, folks)

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

4 egg whites from 4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

Crust: Heat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, stir in graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until well mixed. Reserve half of the mixture for later. Press half of the mixture firmly and evenly against the bottom and side of a pie plate. Save the other half. Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool on cooling rack.

Fluff: Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium to high heat until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer, typically 10 to 15 minutes.

While the sugar is heating, place the egg whites in a bowl and use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat the eggs on high until foamy. Add the cream tartar and salt. Continue beating eggs on high until soft peaks form.

Once the sugar mixture reaches 240°F, remove from heat and let rest for 20 seconds. With the mixer on high, slowly stream the sugar mixture into the egg whites. Add in the vanilla. Continue to mix for 8 minutes or until the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature. Mix until medium to stiff peaks form. Put aside the marshmallow fluff.

Chocolate ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals (stirring each time) until the chocolate is melted, the cream is hot, and the ganache has a dark brown/glossy look. Let cool to barely warm.

Spread a third of the chocolate into the graham cracker crust to just cover the bottom. Place in the refrigerator to cool for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, take out the crust and spoon the marshmallow fluff on top. Smooth the top of the fluff with a spatula. Take the remainder of the graham cracker mixture and sprinkle it on top of the fluff. Finally, pour the rest of the chocolate ganache on top of the graham cracker mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Place in the refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes to an hour or until chocolate ganache hardens.

Blast off!

2 hours (45 minutes active); serves 8 (depending on how big your slices are)

Review: 88 INSTRUMENTS by Chris Barton and illustrated by Louis Thomas

img_1924This book struck a chord with me. Obviously, that pun was intended. Chris Barton’s 88 INSTRUMENTS follows a young boy at a music store who is told by his parents he can pick only one instrument. In most situations when a child needs to pick something . . . anything, really . . . the choices can be overwhelming. I wanna try this one. That one’s cool. What about this? Can I have more than one? Can I have them all? More often than not, that is the experience for kids on up through adulthood. (Recently, I’ve wanted to have all the different flavors of ice cream. Yes, I have. Choices are hard people. Feel free to judge me.)

What I love about this beautifully illustrated book is, well, many things. I love that it’s about music and to see the love and curiosity of the main character as he plunks, thomps, toots his way through each instrument in the music store. The word-play is fun — honkiest, twangiest, bashiest — and delighted my kids’ ears. And, I appreciated the tie-in with the 88 instruments — it seems there are that many to try — and the 88 keys on the piano. Can the main character learn them all? Yes . . . slow and steady, one at a time.

My 8 y/o son plays the violin, and he didn’t go through this experience of choosing an instrument. He knew he wanted to play the violin, but playing it was a different story. He wanted to be a virtuoso straight away. Instead, just like everyone else, he needed to learn one string at a time, one bow at a time, take your time, which is the message I get and hope my kiddos get when reading 88 INSTRUMENTS.

This book is certainly read-againiest.

img_1890Now, if this book were a pie, which one would it be? I thought coming up with a pie for this book would be difficult. What pie tastes like an instrument? Kidding. Anyway, my 8 y/o came up with a flavor that made sense to me, and it is based on the brassy illustrations. He said, “Make a mango pie, Mom.” Why, yes, indeed. And I did. It’s delightful and different, if you like mango. (Full disclosure: I don’t like mango. Sorry, mango, it’s me, not you.) But if you like mango, this pie is right for you. A summery pie, so not the best to offer as we start the dive into the fall, but I live in Austin, so it truly feels like summer here until always.

Here’s the link to the recipe I used:  Mango Pudding Recipe. All you need to do is bake off a pre-made pie shell and let it cool. Then pour the pudding batter into the cooled shell and let the pudding set in the refrigerator for two hours. Bon Apetoot! (I had to sneak in one more instrument pun.)

Review: THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY By Varsha Bajaj

IMG_1881 Our first review. Here we go! First book up is THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY by Varsha Bajaj and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Many of the Austin members of SCBWI were anticipating the born-day of this picture book, and I can see why. I read this to my two littles, who are 6 and 9 years old, and our collective feedback is, “what a sweet story!” This Is Our Baby, Born Today, celebrates the first day of an elephant’s life with a cast of loving characters — from mama to aunts to cousins to the moon. My six-year-old (and, no, I did not prompt him to say this) enjoyed the repetition, which gave the book a rise-and-fall rhythm, kind of like riding an elephant as it sways from side to side. My nine-year-old thought the book was beautiful, especially the warm illustrations, but he felt it was too young for him. Fair enough. It is, but he appreciated it none-the-less. For parents, a heartfelt message comes through. A message about what inspires and carries you through your own childhood to adulthood and the honoring of the great creatures — BIG and small — that ride along on this earth with us. We must take care.

I certainly look forward to reading this sun-shiny book of an elephant’s born day to my son’s first grade class.

OK, now on to the other portion of the review. I asked the boys, “If this book were a pie, what kind of pie would it be?” Such an odd question, but good things come from odd questions. My youngest said, “a chocolate pie with elephant cut-outs to make it look like they are playing in the mud.” My oldest said, “star anise and cinnamon pumpkin pie.” (He is my foodie, mind you.) And I made the pie recommended by the kiddo who would actually participate with me in the kitchen; therefore, the foodie won out. Here’s his take (with my help) on a pumpkin pie…



1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground star anise
1/4 tsp ground clove
2 large eggs
1 can pureed pumpkin
12 fl. oz. heavy cream
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell (I will provide my dough recipe soon. It is without fail and delicious!)

Mix brown sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon, star anise and clove in small bowl. In a separate larger bowl, beat the eggs. Add the honey, pumpkin and dry ingredients mixture and stir. Slowly stir in the heavy cream. Pour the mixture in a pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 2 hours and serve or refrigerate.

UPDATE: The pie was DELICIOUS! Even my picky eater honked down a slice and begged for another. 

Books and Pie and Books and Pie

Hi folks! Welcome to my mash-up blog of two of the things I adore in life — children’s books and pie. Yes, I also adore my husband and my children, etc., etc., but that type of content might put you to sleep. So, welcome to my inaugural blog post of what the heck A Book and A Pie will be.

IMG_20160811_165822154So why children’s books? Well, I write them. And as I travel down the path to (knock-on-wood) publication, I will post about children’s books I have read and my children have read here and let you know what we think of them. I’ll cover picture books on up to middle grade. Anything beyond that, well, I might sneak in a few that are for adults, because sometimes I have to adult.

Now for the pies. My kids and I will select a pie we think best represents the book we just reviewed. We’ll bake it, provide the recipe and then most likely eat it. We would share, but Willy Wonka’s Television Chocolate camera never came to fruition.

SO why pies? Well, I love them, as I’ve mentioned before, and I can vividly remember tasting my mom’s chocolate meringue pie for the first time and becoming obsessed with its scrumptiousness. That led me to open a pie company many years back. That business has since shuttered, but my passion for pies lives on.

I hope you find this blog fun, informative, silly and tasty (because you tried the recipes, not because you licked the screen). Please feel free to share your thoughts on books and pie, because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s what makes the world go round. Read and nosh, read and nosh!