Review: AFTER THE FALL by Dan Santat

This one punched and then karate chopped and then maybe pile drove me right in the feels. AFTER THE FALL by Dan Santat is incredible. The beautiful arc for Humpty Dumpty plays out with ease, as he battles his fear of heights from the infamous “Great Fall.” I don’t even want to go too much into the book, because I don’t want to ruin the ending accidentally. And, let me tell you, I’ve ruined an ending or two. (My husband won’t let me live down my blurting out the results of the Mayweather vs. McGregor match, although, of course, Mayweather won. But this isn’t a boxing blog.) What I love most about this book is the ending and its message. The message is clear and apparent, but not didactic. No preachy preachy here. No smacking you with “a message” across the face. It’s powerful and inspirational, and one kids need to hear, again and again. Heck, adults, too!

You may have seen the video of Dan Santat explaining the reason behind creating this book and dedicating it to his wife, Leah. If not, please watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8K1ZvNlEeg. You might need a tissue.

Like his wife and like many others, I, too, have suffered from a debilitating depression riddled with anxiety. It came to a point where I had a full-blown doom-and-gloom panic attack in my car (one of many to come). A panic attack so extreme, I called EMS. I thought, this was the end, and I didn’t know why. It took me about two years to figure out what was going on to finally get back to a state of normal. (PSA: don’t take Zyrtec over long periods of time.) During those two years, the car was my nemesis. It had grown into a trigger. It was my wall. I had to climb back into my car and face my fear over and over again, until the panic dissolved into minor flutters and then nothing. I had to reset myself. It was a long, long road (oh, that was a bad pun), but I made it. And that is why I am so passionate about this book. Because what is the option? A smaller and smaller world that loses its color and zest. A world where you can’t sleep in the top bunk (Read AFTER THE FALL!) or drive to your parents’ home in Dallas. That was not OK to me. I don’t think it should be OK for anyone. All in all, we’ve all had falls. It’s what you do afterward that determines your course. And it’s your course to take, so keep fighting. You have to Get. Back. Up.

Now on to: IF THIS BOOK WERE A PIE! Drum roll, please! My son was adamant that this book deserved to be a cinnamon, honey, and mascarpone pie with a lemon curd glaze. He felt those pie flavors were bold and brave and just right. I also happen to think those flavors are very healing. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

THERAPEUTIC PIE

Mascarpone Filling

1/2 heavy cream

1 container mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a mixing bowl, beat all the ingredients together until soft peaks form.

Lemon Curd

4 lemons

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature

4 large eggs

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch salt

Zest the lemons and then squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice. Set the juice aside. Beat the zest and sugar for one minute. Add the butter and cream until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice, salt and nutmeg. Mixed until combined.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken and become clear at just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill a cooled, pre-baked crust with the mascarpone filling. (Use the crust recipe in my previous blog post.) Top the mascarpone filling with the lemon curd. Chill. Then enjoy.

 

Review: WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE by Jason Gallaher

Who, who is ready for a who, who-dun-it? Mystery solved–you are! Go grab a copy of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE (Margaret K. McElderry Books) by Jason Gallaher and illustrated flawlessly by Jess Pauwels. Whobert Whover is a charming and slightly oblivious (OK, a lot oblivious) owl detective on the lookout for his next case. And that is when he spots Perry the possum. The subtle humor from the play on words and whimsical visuals will keep the kids giggling and trying to help Whobert who, who seeks to solve the mystery of what happened to poor ol’ Perry. I mean seriously, poor Perry.

WHOBERT WHOVER is super funny, endearing, and clever, and so is its author. Can we talk about the name Whobert Whover? I mean, come on! Just the best name ever for this owl, who, who is more like Inspector Gadget than Sherlock. And could Whobert look any more perfect? Nope. Just nope. Enjoy this read with your kiddos or find a class to read to. It’s a joy! Speaking of class, Jason is offering a school visit give-away. For more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3h-nHIeb3c

Now, if this book were a pie, what would it be? Hmmmm. I’m inspired by the illustrations to go more fall-like, more earthy with this pie. Also, I think I need some complex flavors to keep the palate guessing. See what I did there? It’s a pie mystery, folks! OK, it can’t really be a mystery, because I have to tell you what’s in it. So, the grand unveiling…(DRUM ROLL!)…I’m making a spicy apple fig pie with a nutty crumble topping. YUM YUM! Go bake it and bring yer forks!


Pardon the photo, folks. I’m a writer and a baker, not a photographer. 🙂

SPICY APPLE FIG PIE

Ingredients

Fig Compote

8 oz dried figs, stemmed and sliced

1/4 cup cinnamon imperials (yep, the little candies)

Juice from 1 orange

1 1/2 cups of water

Apple Filling

4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin

3 large Fuji apples, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp clove

1/2 tsp orange zest

pinch of salt

1 tbsp flour

Crumble

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup almond slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

For fig compote, combine figs, cinnamon imperials, orange juice and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until figs are softened and the consistency is syrupy. Set aside.

For the apple filling, combine apples, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, orange zest, and salt in a saute pan. Cook down the apples until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid into a clean saucepan and set aside apples. On medium-low heat, whisk in one tablespoon of flour into the reserved liquid to make a roux. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat.

Combine the fig mixture with the apple filling in the saute pan. Pour the roux on the fig/apple mixture and combine. Pour the combined mixture into a pre-made crust. (Click here for my crust recipe.)

For the crumble, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour and almond slices into a food processor. Mix on high until combined. Sprinkle on top of filling.

Put the pie in the oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes (to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom). Then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Feel free to serve warm with some vanilla ice cream…droooool.