March (of the) Books, 2009

British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History by Colin Spencer. Yes, I know what you're thinking because every damn person who saw this book on my shelf had some stupid joke about English food. But guess what? English food was really cool and interesting until, I dunno, the Reformation or something. The reason that I only know about the cool and interesting part, and not how it ended, is that this book, while packed with information, was a bit dry, and in the end I gave up on it.

If you want or need to know what the British ate, and why, (and how they got it, prepared it and served it) this is the book for you, but if you're looking for a juicy read I would hold out for Eating for England by Nigel Slater, which I will write up as soon as I read it.

Between Ishmael and British Food, that was two books in a row I abandoned, making me doubt my ability to, I dunno, read, so I lobbed myself a nice easy ball with Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. My brother recommended Diana Wynne Jones, and you know I have this thing about reading books instead of watching movies that are based on them, so this was a shoo-in. And it was a lovely read, light and refreshing and escapist, like a grapefruit sorbet. Nice characters, good story, very satisfying. We'll probably get the movie for the girls sometime.

The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards" by Alfie Kohn. I continue my romp through the Alfie Kohn canon with a book which makes me think that Cordelia is currently experiencing the high point of her education. This is a book about how education ought to be, with Kohn's usual rigorous research and wry, readable style.

I'm glad I read it because I think it's important to know how things are when they're at their best, but I think it will cause me some grief to realize how far the TDSB is from the ideal. Although we're a damn sight closer than some of the lunatic school boards in America! Someone on Twitter posted about her kindergartener failing the entrance test for a gifted public school. Kindergartener, entrance test, and gifted public school are words that should never appear in the same sentence. (Except that one.) In fact the phrase "gifted public school" shouldn't exist all by itself. But anyway. If you have a kid in school, you should read this. If you're a teacher, you should read this. I think that pretty much covers everyone who reads this blog, some people twice.

Also I think it might be the only book I've ever read with scare quotes in the title.

How to Make a Garden: The 7 Essential Steps for the Canadian Gardener by Marjorie Harris. If there's any Canadian gardener who needs essential steps, it's me. I have 60 by 20 feet of garden (that's just the backyard) which I have been staring vacantly at for two years now, and I have yet to pluck up the courage to do anything more major than pluck a few weeds and plant a few bulbs. Fortunately Marjorie Harris knows what to do, and further she knows how to tell me how to figure out what to do for myself. This book is incredibly packed with information: how to design your garden, prepare and care for your soil, how to choose plants, how to plant them and how to care for them once they're planted. It's larded with lots of great plant recommendations, and it closes with a description of what tasks you should do in your garden in each season. I need to own this book.

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