What We Are Reading Right Now… #34

So here we are in the heart of winter… and just like any other season of the year, it is a good season to be reading. We thought we would bring you the latest and greatest family friendly reads from PanMacmillan South Africa.


The Galactic List of Latest and Greatest Reads

I know, I know… this looks like a cook book, and it has recipes… but it is so much more than that. This book is a year in the life of a farm called Fern Verrow, situated in the Welsh countryside between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye. Jane Scotter and Harry Astley are biodynamic farmers, where biodynamic farming is a holistic view of organic farming. The book is divided into four sections, one for each season and it is packed with incredibly beautiful photographs. Reading it actually feels like a walk in the countryside and in invitation into someones home… quiet afternoons of food preparation next to the aga in the heart of winter and outside in the country garden in the summer.

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I loved how the recipes were true to the farm and the book is filled with things that you would naturally want to make at certain times of the year: roast root vegetables in the heart of winter; gathering wild food from the hedgerow in Spring and creating herb teas and herb butters with their discoveries; Summer recipes included whole section on edible flowers, and we loved the fresh pea and mint soup, pure loveliness; and then Autumn, lovely rich recipes and our favourite baked apples.


This book is set in a part of the world that we really wanted to live in for a long while and we will definitely visit again. It is really a coffee table book: a mix of beautiful countryside; organic, sustainable farming tips even for small scale urban farmers and tons of lovely rustic recipes. You can take a look at the farm, Fern Verrow on their website.

Family Food by Pete Evans: The first step to reviewing, this book was to leave it out on the coffee table for a little while and see exactly which recipes our kids marked as potential recipes to try out. The next step was to check out exactly what a Paleo diet is, I could possibly be the last person on earth to know. Anyhow, it turns out that a Paleo diet as one that takes you back to first principles, leaving the highly processed and sugary foods of modern man out of the diet and focusing on heaps of healthy fresh vegetables. This type of diet without grains and dairy is one that so many of our friends, with very allergic kids, follow. Well this is a book that will solve all those problems of what to feed folk that only eat this and that… turns out it is totally not about what you don’t eat and a whole lot of about what you can eat. The book begins with a small section of tips on how to change your diet… and then it is followed by dozens of recipes. To be honest we didn’t notice the difference between what we normally eat and a paleo diet, over a period of a couple of days while we reviewed this book I have to say the recipes we tried were delicious and I am so glad that we got try them.

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  1. Sweet Potato Rosti: This was a complete hit over here and my kids have asked for it daily ever since.
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  3. Ham, Egg and Mayo Lettuce Wraps: My kids love creating their own food at the table and we just made a wrap buffet at the lunch table and we were good to go, and the kids are so easy, ours quickly morphed into lettuce boats, the idea is the same… good fun with healthy food, I am all for it.
  4. Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon: Delicious of course and exactly how I would normally cook a roast chicken.
  5. Roast Beef and Gravy: Again this is exactly how we would nornally cook a roast, and I love this for having visitors over because we like to go for an amble on the beach while the dinner cooks itself… works for me. I did like that even with all the constraints of paleo there was a gravy solution… because there are folk around here that have to have their gravy. It turned out once again, pretty much what we do for gravy and so was an easy option for us.
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  7. Simple Garden Salad: I confess that our salads are very much, lettuce from the garden and tomatoes… most times and I was a bit like, “Who needs a recipe for a salad?” but everyone loved all the different tastes and flavours in here and it is definitely time to up my salad game!!!
  8. Sweet Potato Mash: My kids could live on sweet potatoes alone, but “just keeping it real” sweet potato mash was totally not a hit over here… not at all. And there are so many delicious ways to eat sweet potatoes… and this was just not one of them for us. I think it may have been the coconut milk – not really something we pop into recipes a lot and it was just an unexpected and unfamiliar flavour for them.
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  10. Fruit Salad Popsicles: What can I say, galactic hit. And how easy was this, yummy chopped fruit in coconut water… and frozen in our popsicle cubes overnight… couldn’t be easier. couldn’t be lovelier…

Overall this was a great cook book for plenty of healthy eating meals. Paleo diets are particularly noticeable for their “no wheat and dairy,” and so many of our friends follow this, so this book is perfect for preparing feasts for guests. This is one of those cookbooks that sits on your recipe book shelf and you will refer to again and again, whenever you are in a slump and looking for some crisp and fresh, family friendly, meal inspiration.

The Hoods Are Reading…


Hood #4:

Predators, the Whole Tooth and Claw Story by Glenn Murphy: Science Sorted just happens to be a great series of books for kids who love and adore facts and books that require interaction in order for them to keep on reading. This book is literally packed with predator facts, not just dinosaurs… don’t be misled, this book is about all predators. Presented in a question and answer format, there are lots of engaging pictures and factoid bubbles and there are activities and things to do through out the book. In fact there is so much going on in this book that “never a dull moment” comes to mind… it is perfect for the emerging reader who would be overwhelmed by a great big fat chapter book.


Hood #5:

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate Dicamillo: This book is one of our favourite family reads ever. It is packed with sweetness and adventure. The hero is the most darling, brave little mouse… and there is unrequited love. Other fabulous characters are brought to life in the book: the beautiful Princess Pea; and the not very bright peasant girl, Miggery Sow; and of course a rat… Rescuro, who loves soup and searches for the light. The four characters are each on a journey… their quests are difficult and the stakes are high. There are endless twists and turns in true DiCamillo Style. This book is written for kids that are reading chapter books, but actually we prefer it as a read aloud so that everyone can listen together. If you are looking for a heroic tale that works across all ages, then you have found it. You can take a look at Kate DiCamillo’s website over here.


Hood #6:

Princess Mirror-Belle and Princess Mirror-Belle and the Party Hoppers, by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Lydia Monks: Many folk are surprised to discover that Julia Donaldson has written chapter books… we are all so delighted with the Grufflo and Room on the Broom and all her other picture books that we look no further. Well Princess Mirror-Belle is perfect for your easy chapter book reader. Ellen is an ordinary gal, as ordinary goes, but she has an extraordinary double in the mirror, Princess Mirror-Belle. This princess is rather a mischievous one and manages to get Ellen in to all sorts of scrapes. Each book contains three self contained stories: Dragon’s Pox, Ellen’s Castle, Snow White and the Eight Dwarfs, Party Hoppers, Wobblesday and Love Potion Crisps. You can read a little more about Princess Mirror-Belle on the Julia Donaldson website.


Hood #7:

Sophie in the Saddle by Dick King Smith: We have introduced Sophie before, we love her. Sophie is six and is quite set on being a farmer when she grows up. This is a “first chapter book” that you really want to settle in and read to your child, just so that you can catch all the jokes that are hidden in there for you and that may fly over the heads of your little ones… “You are going to drive a hard bargain when you grow up.” … and Sophie replies, “I shall drive a Land Rover.” Sophie is a determined young lady and is beyond thrilled that her family will be going on holiday and staying on a farm. This is her dream come true, and of course there are some minor little “hiccups” in her perfect plan, “her dream,” and therein lies the story. Sweet chapters about a sweet gal, who never means to be funny, but she is delightfully funny. We all love Sophie, she is the six year old sister everyone would love to have. You can meet her at the stunning Dick King Smith Website.

Judy Moody and Stink and the Big Bad Blackout: I confess we love and adore Judy Moody’s younger brother, Stink. We thought we had read them all and were delighted discover we hadn’t. There is a terrible storm brewing and the Moody family are preparing for a night without power… this books seems terribly appropriate for us living in the land of load shedding. School is out, so are the lights, grandma comes to stay and the family resorts to a whole lot of “non-electric” activities, including storytelling in the dark… just good fun and making memories. Not to mention glossy and full colour illustrations… this is a great book for reading together.

And the se7en + 1th Books:


Hood #8:

Shaun the Sheep: On the Ball written by Martin Howard and illustrated by Andy James: Well Hood #8 has discovered a series of books that no-one has read before him… and he loves it. Shaun the Sheep, for those of you like us who have not seen the TV series, is about a sheep, called Shaun and a gang of farmyard animals that live at Mossy Bottom Farm. This particular story begins, on a sweltering summers day and it is a sporty story, a game invented as they play along. This book will appeal to a beginner reader just out of the easy reader level: short, easy to read chapters, large print and the pages are packed with funny illustrations. That’s exactly what makes it a great book for reading to little people too. You can meet Shaun the Sheep on his website here.

The Giant of Jum by Elli Willard and Benji Davies: Oh the sweetness of a fine picture book. This about a terribly hungry and very appealing giant that is on the hunt for a lad called Jack, because he thinks Jack might make a delightful snack. Of course the children in the book endear themselves to the giant and find a much more appealing feast for the giant… There is rhythm, there is rhyme, there is a lovely giant chant to learn, delightful illustrations… really this book has everything required for a cuddly read in a sunny spot. You might find yourself having to make a chocolate cake

We would really like to thank PanMacMillan Books South Africa for providing us with the books to review for this post. We would like to declare that this is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!

5 Replies to “What We Are Reading Right Now… #34”

  1. Love all of your choices – but I’ll definitely have to check out Fern Varrow. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hay Christi, I love creating these posts… I think you would love Fern Varrow and a wander through the countryside!!! Hope you have fabulous week!!!

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