Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffin Recipe—Great to Serve at a Book Club Meeting

My kids love these muffins and so does everyone else I’ve cooked them for. They’re great to serve at your book club meeting, to have for breakfast, or to eat as an after-school snack. And they’re easy to make too, since everything mixes together in one bowl. Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1-2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tblsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add pumpkin, eggs and melted butter. Mix together and spoon into muffin tins lined with baking cups. Fill cups about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes.

A Youth Librarian Comments on The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Here’s a guest posting about The Higher Power of Lucky from the youth librarian at my local library:

As Cindy has described, over the past few weeks, the blog-o-sphere has been abuzz over The Higher Power of Lucky, this year’s winner of the prestigious 2007 Newbery Award. You may know the John Newbery Medal, the “Oscar” of juvenile fiction, is awarded “…to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” by a committee of librarians in the American Library Association (ALA). Shortly after the medal winner was announced, a few school librarians objected to the book’s use of the word ‘scrotum’ and the brouhaha was on.

As someone who HAS read the book, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. This is a sweet, humorous, and loving story about a young girl’s search for her place in the world. Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California, a small desert community of ramshackle buildings and eccentric neighbors. Since her mother died, she’s been cared for by her father’s former wife who came all the way from France to be her temporary guardian. But all Lucky wants is to find a permanent home. After eavesdropping on the community AA meetings, Lucky wonders if a “higher power,” whatever that is, could help her find a home. With the help of her dog, a good friend, and her neighbors, Lucky’s questions get answered.

So, what does this story have to do with the word scrotum? Not much. It’s a word, an anatomically correct word, which apparently pushes some people’s buttons. But in the grand scheme of this book, it was used in a humorous way to catch a child’s interest—kind of like the title of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series.

If you want to know more, Susan Patron, author of the book and a librarian with the LA Public Library, wrote a beautiful explanation, “‘Scrotum’ as a children’s literary tool,” published on Feb. 27, 2007 in the Los Angeles Times, of why she used the word scrotum.

And just so you know, I’m a youth librarian, employed by one of the best—Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, Oregon. Although I know that many of my colleagues share my feelings about this book, the comments above are just that…MY feelings and should not be construed as representing the opinion of my employers. That said, I am proud to say that MCL has a long history in support of Intellectual Freedom, the right of everyone to choose what to read, including books that use the word scrotum. MCL currently owns 65 copies of the book, all of which are checked out, and as of this moment, has 71 people waiting for a chance to read it. — susansm

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The Higher Power of Lucky cover imageThe buzz at mother daughter book club with my high school daughter a couple of weeks ago was about The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. A middle school brother of one of the girls has been assigned to read it in class. Several moms heard it was controversial, but none of us has read it. It’s a Newbery Honor Book that School Library Journal lists as appropriate for 4th through 6th graders.

As I understand it, much of the controversy centers around the use of the word “scrotum” in the first page of the book. There is also mention of 12-step programs and a higher power. Even the New York Times weighed in on the controversy, with an article (click here for link) about the uproar the book has created among school librarians who decide whether or not to shelve it at their schools.

Our girls are obviously older than the target audience, and they have certainly learned appropriate anatomical vocabulary in health class by now. But we’re considering reading it along with The Crucible for our April meeting and discussing what’s considered questionable for younger audiences. Stay tuned.

The Crucible and Other Intense Reads

thecrucible.jpegThe Crucible by Arthur Miller will continue the run of heavy-discussion-topic books we’ve been reading in my book club with Madeleine. In the last year we’ve read Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, and Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. We’ve discussed moral issues covering everything from friendship to revolutionary resistance to the corrupting influence of money. And now we’re tackling witchcraft and socially sanctioned violence. Whew, it’s been exhausting!

But it’s also been a great outlet to talk about issues the girls are covering in school, and to find out about how their perspectives differ from those of their moms. For instance, when we read In the Time of the Butterflies the girls were mostly in favor of the Mirabal sisters’ revolutionary resistance to the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The moms on the other hand had a hard time believing they would willingly endanger their children in pursuit of a cause.

It challenged all of us to think about the most important things in our lives and what we’re willing to sacrifice to achieve a higher cause.

Book Club Discussion: Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger

harold-square.jpgLast night twelve moms and daughters gathered for our February book club meeting. This is my book club with my younger daughter, Catherine, who is in 7th grade.

Our hostesses planned a lively evening with activity ideas from the book. Remember Me to Harold Square is about a high school boy from Wisconsin who spends six weeks one summer in New York City with friends of his parents, who have a high school daughter and a middle school son. The four parents have devised a six-week-long scavenger hunt for the kids to help them experience the best of the city and stay busy for the entire visit.

We started off with a mom-devised scavenger hunt that had all the girls working together to find the clues they needed to put together a message about their prize: a special English trifle for dessert. The game was quite a hit. When it was over we all enjoyed bagels with cream cheese, lox, and veggies—one of the many meals the book’s characters tried during their adventure.

This book generated lots of great discussion. We talked about whether it’s an advantage for girls to be friends with boys before they start to date them and the difficulties of getting seriously romantically involved with someone when you’re still young. None of the daughters are dating yet, or even plan to, so it was a good way to talk about dating issues theoretically.

We all liked the idea of creating a summer scavenger hunt for museums, parks, food, etc. in our city. The moms voted to put together a list for the girls by the end of school so they can plan summer time together.

Our next selection: Stolen Voices by Zlata Filipovic. We’ve been to two separate readings in Portland with Zlata and are excited to dive into her newest book.


Easy Recipe—Only Three Ingredients for These Peanut Butter Cookies

If you like peanut butter, you’ll probably like these cookies. And this has to be the easiest cookie recipe I’ve ever made. I got if from a vice-principal at my daughter’s middle school and tried it out on my writer’s group last night. It was a universal hit.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Mix all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Roll into small balls and place on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 – 9 minutes.

These are really yummy, and I even had a couple with my coffee this morning.

Mother-Daughter Book Club Discussion: Driver’s Ed by Caroline Cooney

Drivers Ed cover image

Mother Daughter Book Club with my oldest daughter, Madeleine, was last night. It was a bit chaotic, with girls and moms arriving late and leaving early because of sports and homework commitments, but none of us wants to miss a meeting unless there’s no other option. Our group has been together for more than six years, and we often don’t see each other outside of book club.

Our selection this month was Driver’s Ed by Caroline B. Cooney. All the girls have either recently gotten their licenses or drive with a permit, so they had strong opinions about both the teens and adults in the book.

One mom described the book as having a storyline perfect for “an after-school special.” It involves a senator’s son, a girl from an unconventional household, teen love, a burned-out teacher, death, a horrible secret and facing the consequences of one’s actions.

Most of our book club members thought the characters in Driver’s Ed were two dimensional, and everyone agreed that both moms in the book were unrealistically portrayed. But we had a good discussion about actions that turn out to have dire consequences even though they seem harmless when you choose to do them. And we all got a chance to talk about our current experiences, with moms weighing in on frightening times in the passenger seat and daughters talking about parents “freaking them out” and making them nervous behind the wheel. It was fun to realize that most of our stories were similar.

I would recommend reading Driver’s Ed for the discussion it prompts rather than for the book itself.

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