each kindnessWe don’t all come out the box as kind, compassionate little Buddhas. It can be a tough road, instilling character traits such as empathy and forgiveness. Thank you to the wonderful picture book authors who are able bring these concepts to children in a discussable and enjoyable format, and to the artist/illustrators who make these books a joy to share with both the children and adults in our lives

Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. White’s collaborative reflection on kindness and missed opportunities is both harsh and beautiful. New girl to the school, Maya, tried very hard to make friends with the girls in her class. Chloe and her friends wanted nothing to do with the ragged, poor girl, deliberately leaving her out. The teacher leads an exercise in kindness, throwing a pebble in a bowl of water and watching the ripples move out, asking the class to recount acts of kindness they have shown. Chloe’s realization that she has never been kind to Maya is coupled with Maya’s never returning to the school, having moved away. Chloe’s sorrow and remorse are real, as is the feeling that Chloe has learned a valuable lesson.

Income disparity is even more apparent in this season of giving. What a great message, reminding us to seize the opportunity in front of us to be a little kinder.

forgiveness gardenBased on the Garden of Forgiveness that was built in Beirut after the Lebanese Civil War that ended in 1990, two fictional villages are separated by a stream and years of argument. Using the Sanskrit words for Us and Them as village names, Lauren Thompson tells of a child who throws a stone, and a child who chooses not to throw it back. Instead they build a Forgiveness Garden, between the two villages. It is not an easy task, and Thompson does not make light of how hard it is to forgive. When the garden is complete, Sama and Karune sit together and talk. “What do you think they said?” asks the author.

There is no better gift than that of forgiveness. It enriches both the recipient and the giver. You never even have to tell the person you have forgiven them; it will still powerfully impact both of your lives for the better.

invisible boyWith all the kids who “take up a lot of space,” it is easy to see how quiet Brian can be overlooked in the classroom, on the playground, and in the lunch room. Drawn in grey tones, when everything else is in color, Brian’s “invisibility” and exclusion are apparent to the youngest reader. When a new boy, Justin, is made fun of for eating bulgogi, Brian slips an illustrated note to make him feel better. Justin sees the wonderful comics and cartoons that Brian has been drawing. The more Brian is “seen,” the more color is added, until others notice Brian’s talents and he becomes full color. This Black Eyed Susan picture book nominee for 2014-2015 provides a lesson in how one person can make a difference in the life of another by giving them the precious gift of time and attention. The back matter, containing discussion questions and a well chosen reading list, make this the complete package for teaching empathy.

Supertramp was right all those years ago: “Give a Little Bit…send a smile and show you care.”

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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animal madnessShe called him “beast.”

He was a noble Bernese Mountain Dog, and next to her new husband, the love of Laurel Braitman’s life.

But after only a few months, the big dog she named Oliver, began to exhibit a series of profound behaviors: snapping at invisible flies, licking his paws into sodden masses, and eventually jumping out a third-story window – his unknown demons chasing close behind.

Serious medication and intense intervention were stepped up, but in the end Oliver succumbed to both emotional and physical trauma. Braitman, unlike her husband, was inconsolable, and soon his curious lack of empathy signaled a tipping point in the marriage.

Alone, Braitman now sought serious closure and catharsis: What exactly did Oliver feel or perceive that impaired his ability to function normally? And why the heck was it so eerily close to what humans feel? Braitman, a doctor of medical history, began to buttonhole the experts – animal psychologists, ethologists — even an animal trainer or two. Do we share an underlying brain structure that not only “exists across animal species,” but can similarly malfunction when an emotional state is compromised? More importantly, can understanding animal behavior benefit our own – even if we don’t speak the same language? The answers, Braitman found, were in the nine phyla of the animal kingdom.

From the adrenaline-charged cervidae for example. When pursued by predators, deer experience a blood-pressure spike not dissimilar to the white-coat hypertension I know I feel in a doctor’s office.

To the laws of attraction: Who knew bees were as picky about the flowers they pollinate as humans browsing online dating profiles? And then there are the giggling rats, the embarrassed octopus, and the bullied bonobo with PTSD. What, you might ask, was 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes thinking when he arrogantly pronounced all beasts as “nothing more than automatons”?

Generous and engaging, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves will have readers looking in the mirror more than once.

Curious George would give this one two opposable thumbs up.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.

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blueberry muffinsI love breakfast. Sundays are really the only morning my vegan husband and I can prepare and enjoy a long, lazy breakfast together. As the non-vegan, I have two strict rules of our vegan breakfast: it must be tasty, and it must not be recognizably vegan.

Most of the books I check out from the library are cookbooks. I like to flip through them and find recipes that we can both enjoy. Usually, I’ll need to convert baking recipes to a vegan format. Replace eggs with Ener-G. Substitute soy milk for regular milk. Create my own vegan buttermilk with soy milk and vinegar.

flour tooMy friend and colleague, Debbie, brought to my attention the cookbook Flour, Too by Joanne Chang. Ms. Chang is an accomplished pastry chef and owner of Flour Bakery in Boston, MA. She has quite of a number of recipes that are vegan, but not labeled as such. One recipe labeled as vegan, the Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffin comes with a short personalized story about how this muffin was created to serve her vegan customers- and that it has many fans who are not vegan. The beautiful photograph of the muffins in their tarnished silver muffin tin is gorgeous. Now, I love vanilla. (I even tried it plain once, straight out of the bottle, because I loved it so much. I never did that again.) I love blueberries. I love raspberries. Although my own garden grown blueberries and raspberries were exhausted (I wish I had found this book earlier in the summer when they were abundant), I knew this was one recipe that I had to share.

“Honey? Let’s go to the grocery store. I need to get some fresh blueberries and raspberries.”

Now, I did forget to add a few things to the recipe. I forgot to add salt, and I didn’t add the sprinkling of sugar on top of the muffin.

My hubby really liked the muffins. I added a few extra berri es to the batter because I love berries and because I thought the recipe could have used more berries. Next time, I think I’ll just plop extra berries on the top of the muffins. These muffins were not dense at all, but rather on the light side (probably because of the mixture of the vinegar and the baking soda).

The next time I’m in Boston, I’ll be heading to Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery and possibly enroll in one of her baking classes.

Oh, I’m almost forgot! I had some leftover blueberries and raspberries (even after using more than called for in this recipe) and made myself a chocolate raspberry sandwich.
I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the leftover blueberries.

Anyhow, here’s how you can make your own chocolate raspberry sandwich snack:
Cut the raspberries in half so they’re flattened. Spread vegan bread with vegan chocolate spread. I used Dark Choco Dream spread because it’s vegan.
Place flattened raspberries on top of the chocolate spread and finish with another plain slice of vegan bread. Yum!

Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.

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Howard County Library System has so many good books on all kinds of subjects; I was sure that I would find lots of help researching how to eat for good health. Sure enough, the cookbook shelves are full of wonderful new books on how to cook healthful foods for all kinds of conditions.

Diabetes is the elephant in the middle of the room as far as special diets are concerned. If you need to cook for a person with diabetes you will find many trustworthy sources. The Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook (2008) by chef Jennifer Bucko and nurse Lara Rondinelli, is published by the American Diabetes Association. It teaches what constitutes healthy complex carbohydrates and promises “favorite foods to fit your meal plan.”

Another helpful book is Diabetes Meal Planner (2010) from the American Diabetes Association’s “Month of Meals” series. The result is over 500 meals, over 600 recipes and snacks giving you unlimited menu combinations. There are 167 meal suggestions with accompanying recipes in each of the sections—breakfast, lunch, and dinner, followed by snack suggestions and recipes grouped by calorie count. Special meals follow, including picnics, holiday meals, and vegetarian meals. The nutrition information will be invaluable for diabetes patients, but it does make the pages look “busy” and rather daunting.

The Betty Crocker Diabetes Cookbook is a team effort with the International Diabetes Center. This 2012 revision is an update of the 2003 edition, with USDA’s MyPlate food symbol instead of the pyramid in the opening pages. There is much wise advice here, followed by eight chapters taking us from breakfast to desserts. The new edition includes 40 new recipes with all new photos.

Another choice, America’s Best Cookbook for Kids with Diabetes (2005) by Colleen Bartley, doesn’t carry the same institutional support as the previous titles, but each recipe has nutritional information and most are followed by a “Dietitian’s Message.” There are a few photos scattered rather randomly throughout the book. And to be frank, nothing about this book yells “kids will love these recipes!” However, it does offer well-thought-out nutrition for a child with diabetes.

Nutrition for a person undergoing cancer treatment is a daily struggle. The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook (2012) by Jean LaMantia, RD with Dr. Neil Berinstein, MD, begins with over 100 pages on the ways cancer therapies can affect ones nutrition and how to manage side effects. The recipes are one-to-a-page and easy to follow, if not colorfully illustrated. Tips, survivor wisdom, and make-ahead advice are included where appropriate as well as notes on what symptoms each recipe is recommended to help.

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen (2009) by Rebecca Katz, features “150 science-based, nutrient-rich recipes” that stimulate appetite and address treatment side effects. The nutrition information is there but unobtrusive and the photos alone will speed recovery!

And once treatment is done? Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig offer a beautiful book to celebrate recovery after treatment for breast cancer. In their 2012 Back in the Swing Cookbook 150 healthful recipes are interspersed with segments like “Who knew” (followed by a quick Q & A) and “Did you hear the news?” offering quick factoids, and “Professor Positive’s” affirmations. The book itself is just beautiful and uplifting and would make a wonderful gift for a friend in recovery.

Allergies are the biggest health challenge for many families. Try Cybele Pascal’s 2012 Allergy-free and Easy Cooking, “recipes for 75 everyday favorites…30-minute meals without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame.” Yes, you will have to be careful to purchase ingredients that don’t contain your specific allergen, and search for special ingredients, but the recipes look easy and appetizing. Nutrition information is not included.

For those who need to eat for a “healthy heart” (and who doesn’t?) there’s the American Medical Association Healthy Heart Cookbook. Complete nutrient analysis and fat count is included for each of the 60 well-photographed recipes.

The American Heart Association’s Diabetes & Heart Healthy Cookbook (2nd edition 2014) looks plain vanilla and no-nonsense, inside and out—even the beautiful heart-shaped white bowl on the cover—but
the recipes are planned to tackle diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease and they don’t need embellishment.

The many books at Howard County Library System should keep you supplied with healthy ideas for whatever your cooking challenges, but do be sure to choose information that is backed by credible research.

  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.


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overwhelmed work love and playMy son called me from college this past Sunday to ask me how he was going to find the time to take his bike to the shop to get fixed. He was already overwhelmed with classes, work, and applying to graduate school. How was he supposed to find the time to do everything that he needed to do? I did not have any easy answer for him, and I most certainly did not have an answer he wanted to hear at the time. About an hour later my son called again, and said he no longer needed to take the bike to the shop because while he was driving around campus, trying to find a free place to park, he drove into a parking garage with the bike on top of the car! He had forgotten that the broken bike, the same one we had talked about less than an hour ago, was still on top of the car! I think we can all relate to this story. I am sure most of us feel like there is never enough time to do everything we need to do. We try to do more than one thing at a time, and we wind up not doing anything well. Our to-do lists are never-ending. How can we live saner lives?

The first thing we all need to do is to take time for life. The world is not going to stop so we can finish our to-do lists. When my four children were younger my mantra was “we can only do our best and our best is not the same as someone else’s best, but as long as it is our best it is good enough.” Yes, sometimes my kids had to hand in papers printed in blue or even pink ink because our black ink cartridge had run out and all the stores were closed, but what was important was that the assignment was done and printed. We did our best with what we had at the time. At home and at work, we need to give ourselves permission not to have to do it all. We can start doing this by setting realistic expectations and be willing to realign those expectations, as needed.

It is not easy to find time in the day for ourselves. Advances in technology have made our lives easier, but those same advances have also made our lives more stressful. We are now “available” 24/7 to answer questions from work, school, family, and friends. Brigid Schulte in her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time says in chapter 7 there are three questions that drive much of the unending overwhelmedness: How much is enough? When is it good enough? How will I know? These questions are addressed in her book. “Great,” you are thinking, “but when am I going to have time to read a book?” Luckily for you Brigid Schulte will be at HCLS’s Miller Branch on Friday, November 7 at 7pm.

my age of anxietyScott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, and author of 2014 New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind will also be there. Together they will discuss their most recent works. You can register for Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation online at hclibrary.org, by phone at 410-313-1950, or in person at any branch. Their books are availablefor borrowing at the library. Books will also be available for purchase and signing at the event.

We all need to make time for ourselves and what is important to us, which is why I am going to put attending this event on the top of my to-do list. I made a choice to find the time to read Brigid’s book and now I am making the choice to find the time to read Scott’s book this week. It will take courage to make the tough choices needed so we can be healthier both physically and psychologically. I do not want to wait until it is too late to live a good life. Do you?

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

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I want to be healthier, I want to make healthful choices, and, doggone it, I will eat nutritious foods! Okay, all Stuart Smalley affirmations aside (does anyone remember Stuart?), I do not always eat the best foods for me. I try to feed my family well, but when I’m on the go, like many people, I often go for the quick and easy. In fact, when my hubby travels for work, I’ll often make dinner for my kids and then eat something quick (often while standing over the sink like a stereotypical bachelor or college student) after the kids have gone to bed.

I know, I know, this is not good. My doctor has been brutally honest, “Eat better, exercise more, lose weight because now that you are {AGE MYSTERIOUSLY DELETED}, it’s only going to get harder to keep the pounds off.” Darn it, I hate her! (Okay, not really, but the truth is not a pretty one and it makes me cranky and want a candy bar.)

See what I’m up against? I am my own worst enemy and resort to comfort eating too often. So, maybe the first baby step I need to take is to change the foods I associate with comfort. I am trying to take a page from my dear and wonderful colleague who recently wrote about her coming around to Brussels sprouts. I do happen to like a lot of vegetables, but I’m not always as creative or varied.

Again, this is where working for the library comes in super-handy. (Have I mentioned recently how I have the best job?) I did have to leave my comfort zones of Fiction and Teen and venture upstairs to the Nonfiction books. There are a ton of books in the recipe section focused on healthful foods.

the sprouted kitchenThe one that happened to catch my eye this time was The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte, in part because Hugh Forte (Sara’s husband and the book’s photographer) has captured how gorgeous his wife’s recipes turn out, a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The other reason, I’m ashamed to say, is that any book that promises to be a “tastier take on whole foods” and has chapters entitled “Snacks to Share,” “The Happy Hour,”(!)and “Treats”(!!) can’t be all bad. And it certainly is not. The directions are simple to follow, there is a nice balance of recipes with easy-to-find ingredients and a few on the exotic side (although with the abundance of organic and fresh markets, exotic is not that hard to find these days), and the recipes seem to celebrate the taste of the whose-food ingredients (not try to hide healthful foods in “fun” recipes some like books. In short, this seems to be a “health cookbook” for people who actually like food.

At my home, we tried the mango guacamole with baked corn chips, and it was a huge hit. It felt like a much naughtier and more indulgent snack than it was. Next on our “to try list” are: heirloom tomato stacks with bocconcini and kale pesto, beer bean-and cotija-stuffed poblanos, polenta squares with raw corn and blueberry relish, two-bite grilled cheese (brilliant!), and cocoa hazelnut cupcakes. There is not a lot in this book I wouldn’t be willing to try, and I’m happy to report that Sara Forte has an award-winning blog, so I can keep trying her wholesome-yet-satisfying creations. The Sprouted Kitchen has really given me hope for adopting a completely new approach to comfort food. I may never be a health-food expert, but at least I can feel better about using the best ingredients to make slightly more healthful yet still delicious meals and snacks. (Take that, candy bar!)

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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