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Monthly Archives: December 2014

“King of the Mutants” by Samantha Verant


I took a mini break this weekend to read the middle grade novel King of the Mutants by Samantha Verant. It’s about Maverick Mercury, an alligator-like boy trapped in a wretched life as a sideshow circus act. He’s got gashing teeth, glowing red eyes and oh yeah, a tail.

Maverick’s only friend is his three legged dog, Snaggletooth, until the day he meets Freddie, a run away foster kid who thought life at the circus sounded like a good idea. But when Freddie and Maverick overhear the circus owner plotting to kill Maverick, both boys decide to quickly run away.

With smarts, creativity, and a tricked out motorcycle and sidecar, Maverick, Freddie and Snaggletooth escape to the unknown. They’re on the hunt for anyone who can give them information on Maverick’s deformities–even if it means venturing deep into the New Orleans bayou and meeting a real life Hoodoo queen.

King of the Mutants is wonderfully paced, full of action, and a super fun read. The only concern I had about it was the use of the word “midget”, which I believe is now considered a bad word. In the context of an evil circus, using a slur against people with dwarfism makes sense. But later in the book it would have been nice if three of the hero dwarfs, Darling, Mr. Black, or Mr. White, had given Maverick a gentle correction about this.

Word choice aside, the message of King of the Mutants, that every human being has worth no matter what they look like, is wonderful and delivered in a truly entertaining way.

 

Gluten Free at Walt Disney World: Sunshine Seasons

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My family visited Walt Disney World in December of 2014. I am gluten intolerant and allergic to soy, but do not have Celiac disease. Near the end of our vacation my son and I stopped for a quick breakfast at Sunshine Seasons in EPCOT. I knew that if I spoke up, somebody from the kitchen would bring out the big allergy book and figure out exactly what I could eat that was safe. However, we were in a rush, and frankly, I was sick of all the hassle.

So I looked in the ready-made section and found this Antipasta salad that looked like it was okay. I paired it with coffee and an Enjoy Life bar, and paid for it with a quick service credit. Otherwise the total price was close to $17 as I recall.

I took a big risk with the prosciutto because often times pork products contain gluten, but luckily I didn’t get sick.  Any boy was that salad yummy!

Gluten Free at Walt Disney World: Tokyo Dining

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My family visited Walt Disney World in December of 2014. I am gluten intolerant and allergic to soy, but do not have Celiac disease. Everywhere we went at WDW I found safe places to eat. At Tokyo Dining at Epcot, the manager came to our table to help me choose things from the menu.

Salad.

Salad.

Sashimi.

Sashimi.

My meal also included green tea ice cream for dessert. Everything was excellent!

Gluten Free at Walt Disney World: Cinderella’s Royal Table

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My family visited Walt Disney World in December of 2014. I am gluten intolerant and allergic to soy, but do not have Celiac disease. Everywhere we went at WDW I found safe places to eat. Cinderella’s Royal Table was no exception. The chef came to our table to personally go over the menu with me and offered lots of options.

Fresh g-free bread and my own butter.

Fresh g-free bread and my own butter.

Salad.

Salad.

Salmon.

Salmon.

Cheesecake!

Cheesecake!

I would whole heartedly recommend Cinderella’s Royal Table to the g-free guest. Please note, I made our reservations 180 days in advance in order to secure us a spot!

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Gluten Free at Disney World: The Liberty Tavern

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My family visited Walt Disney World in December of 2014. I am gluten intolerant and allergic to soy, but do not have Celiac disease. The first table service restaurant we visited was Liberty Tavern in The Magic Kingdom. The chef came out to speak to me before I placed my order. This was my first encounter to how amazing WDW is at handling food issues.

I ordered the gluten-free pilgrim’s platter with a cappuccino. It was outstanding! The chef whipped me up a special gluten free brownie alamode sundae for dessert, that I devoured before I thought to take a picture. You’ll just have to trust me on this one, it was pure heaven.

I would definitely recommend The Liberty Tavern and hope to visit there again someday.

“The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong” by L. Tam Holland

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I’ve been excited to read The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, by debut author L. Tam Holland, ever since I saw it listed in the Stanford alumni magazine. You might even say I had outrageously high expectations for the book. Luckily, Holland did not disappoint! The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong is hysterically funny, tense in all of the right moments, and poignant, especially at the end.

Vee Crawford-Wong is half Texan, half Chinese, and that’s about as much as he knows about his personal identity. His mom and dad refuse to tell him one tidbit of information about where they come from. On the rare occasions when his dad does say something about China, it’s usually something about American Chinese food. Vee’s mom tells him more about their 2005 Toyota named Fanny, then about her aging parents in Ding Dong Texas.

When Vee’s history teacher makes the class write a five page paper about their ancestry, Vee makes a bunch of stuff up. One lie leads to another and soon the Crawford-Wong family is headed towards China and a truth that nobody wants to reveal.

This book is rich enough for a ninth grade English class–if the parents don’t complain about all the almost-sex scene. The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong also has something missing from a lot of YA bookshelves these days, a non-white main character.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks!

Review: Walt Disney World’s Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

My family went to Walt Disney World in December of 2014 and stayed at the Beach Club Resort. We booked through AAA which gave us an upgrade to a waterside view.

The absolute best part of The Beach Club was it’s close proximity to EPCOT. It was only a 5-10 minute walk away from The International Gateway entering the World Showcase between France and England.

The second best part of The Beach Club is the pool, Stormalong Bay. In addition to a lazy river, two water slides, multiple hot-tubs and a real sand beach, it also had lifeguards. The pool is designed in such a way that mom and dad can kick back and still watch their kids play at a variety of locations. It’s the only pool I’ve ever seen with a sand bottom, which was super cool.

Since we visited WDW in December, we got to see The Beach Club decorated for Christmas. The had some sort of scent piped in that made the whole lobby smell like gingerbread. There was also a huge gingerbread carousel that was motorized.

One amenity not pictured is The Sandcastle Club, which is the onsite childcare service. On the last night of our trip my husband and I dropped our kids off at the Sandcastle Club and walked over to Epcot for dinner. We used a AAA discount, and the total cost of almost 5 hours of childcare was $105. The kids had a blast, and my husband and I did the wine tasting walk through EPCOT.

The second closest park to The Beach Club is Hollywood Studios, which is about a one mile walk or a fifteen minute boat ride. The Magic Kingdom was about a twenty minute bus ride away, and the Animal Kingdom was slightly shorter.

This is the third Walt Disney World resort I’ve stayed in, and is by far my favorite. When I was a kid I stayed at The Polynesian and The Swan.

Drawbacks to The Beach Club are the price. Also, some of the interior decorating shows wear and tear. There was a small rip in our sofa. One of the beds had clearly been jumped on and the springs were shot.

But all in all, I would definitely stay at The Beach Club again, or perhaps its sister hotel, The Yacht Club.

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

Wine tasting without needing to drive home. Perfect!

The Beach Club lobby's most famous Christmas decoration.

The Beach Club lobby’s most famous Christmas decoration.

Our room

Our room

Our view

Our view

Fake Canada

Fake Canada in EPCOT

The ginormous pool with real sand

The ginormous pool with real sand

The Beach Club at night

The Beach Club at night

“Rebels” by Jill Williamson

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Rebels is book three of The Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson. (You can read my review of Outcasts, here.) The novels take place in a dystopian future where pleasure is promoted at the expense of real relationships and ethics. The heroes of the story are religious people from a patriarchal family where the men are always in charge and the women stay home to do laundry and homeschool children. The few instances where women step out on their own, something bad happens like they get captured. It’s like the antithesis of girl-power.

Instead of a central protagonist, Rebels jumps around between three brothers: Levi, Mason and Omar, as well as two sisters: Jemma and Shaylinn. There are also a bunch of kids, kindred folk, city people, bad guys, criminals, medics and other characters to keep track of. Even though I was already familiar with the series, it was really hard to remember who everyone was. To add to the confusion, a few of the characters have two different names.

On the plus side, Jill Williamson deserves a lot of credit for managing a very complex plot and tying up the threads neatly together at the end. At the two thirds mark of Rebels, I was wondering how the heck she was going to pull it off, and yet she did. The ending answers all questions, and provides a satisfactory conclusion. The only lingering concern I have is the book’s message that husbands are usually right and wives should do almost all of the housework. That type of future truly qualifies as dystopian!

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

Is Walt Disney World worth the money?

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Hello friends! It’s been quiet here on Teaching My Baby to Read because my family took off for Walt Disney World the first week of December. I’m channeling all of my thoughts into a future “I Brake for Moms” column.

Was a trip to Walt Disney World worth the money? YES! Last week goes down in my top three vacations of all time.

Here are some pictures so you can arm-chair travel with us.

P.S. I owe a special thanks to Kristen from Teaching Stars because I texted her a bunch of pictures of Florida birds that she ID’d for us on the spot! Sweet!

 

The Jungle Boat

The Jungle Boat

Elsa freezes Cinderella's castle.

Elsa freezes Cinderella’s castle.

 

The Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest--My five-year-old loved it.

Expedition Everest–My five-year-old loved it.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Behind the Seeds tour in the Land pavilion at Epcot.

Dessert at Cinderella's Royal Table

Dessert at Cinderella’s Royal Table

 

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Where we stayed: The Beach Club Resort

Fantasmic

Fantasmic