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Baked to Perfection: Delicious Gluten-Free Recipes, with a Pinch of Science

Katarina Cermelj. Bloomsbury, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5266-1348-6

The Loopy Whisk blogger Cermelj debuts with a winning guide that draws on her scientific background—she has a PhD in inorganic chemistry—to develop “gluten-free recipes that are simple and give mouth-watering results.” She asserts one of the key factors of gluten-free baking is creating an ideal texture by blending starch gluten-free flours (which give baked items a crumbly texture) with protein gluten-free flours (that provide the elasticity that prevents goods from becoming too crumbly). She shares examples of store-bought and DIY flour blends, which are used in sweet recipes, such as hazelnut and milk chocolate cake and raspberry frangipane tart, as well as savory ones, including zucchini and feta muffins and rosemary focaccia. Unfortunately, the supplementary information that precedes each chapter will overwhelm those who aren’t scientifically savvy, as with a chart of mathematical formulas used to calculate the scaling of cakes sizes. Thankfully, the recipes are straightforward and loaded with plenty of accessible notes in the margins (“the extra egg whites make the cupcakes especially fluffy,” she explains for her vanilla cupcakes). Bakers who want to expand their gluten-free baking repertoire and really get into what’s happening in the baking process won’t want to miss this. Agent: Tessa David, Peters Fraser + Dunlop Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad

Jordan Shapiro. Little, Brown Spark, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-45996-9

Shapiro (The New Childhood), former Forbes education columnist, invites cisgender male parents to dive deep into concepts of masculinity, identity, and fatherhood in this thorough guide. He identifies four foundational principles to becoming a feminist dad: cultivating critical consciousness that interrogates problematic narratives; practicing responsive fathering that gives up narcissistic paternal authority in favor of valuing others’ perspectives; fighting locker-room gender essentialism and biological determinism with explicit antisexism; and practicing and modeling rigorous inclusivity in the home and in the world. Shapiro highlights how media properties such as Star Wars codify the father-child role and establish rugged individualism as something to be admired, and takes on tropes of “good dad” masculinity—such as monopolizing dinner conversations with well-meant advice or indulging in the notion that fathers should be the model against which a child models future romantic partners— to show how such thinking is grounded in outdated models of authority. Shapiro’s narrative style is collegial and extraordinarily approachable considering the well-entrenched ideas he aims to dislodge; readers turned off by other man-to-man treatises on discarding toxic masculinity will find this to be nonjudgmental while still unrelenting in reinforcing the necessity of doing “self-intervention” work. Urgent and intellectually rigorous, this survey comes at a perfect moment. Agent: Bonnie Solow, Solow Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Come On Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family that Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together

Jeff Mauro. Morrow, $29.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06299-708-1

When Mauro, host of Food Network’s Sandwich King, was growing up, he writes, “come on over” meant two things: family and food. In this charming and utterly scrumptious collection, he shares recipes and humorous anecdotes that will entertain as well as sustain, offering an eclectic array of dishes suitable for brunch, game days, and holidays, and—naturally—a variety of intriguing and tasty sandwiches. Conventionality isn’t what Mauro strives for, which is why readers will find suggestions for pork chops for breakfast and combining pancetta and parmesan with popcorn. He cranks up the yum factor with his citrus-honey tequila shrimp, grilled pineapple guacamole, and cranberry-walnut Irish soda bread muffins with whipped maple-cinnamon cream cheese—all excellent options when feeding a crowd. There’s also a kid-focused chapter with killer recipes for burgers and The Most Perfect Grilled Cheese (for which home cooks are told to “get the good American cheese, sliced to order from the deli”) that will certainly have crossover appeal for adults. At heart, Mauro remains a sandwich devotee, and his General Tso’s crispy chicken sandwich, mortadella and fig melts, and The Greatest American Patty Melt in the Country of All Time make a strong case for his Sandwich King title. The author’s upbeat tone and smart mix of fare make this collection sing. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Raised in the Kitchen: Making Memories from Scratch One Recipe at a Time

Carrian Cheney. Shadow Mountain, $21.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-62972-845-2

Ohsweetbasil blogger Cheney offers a practical and appetizing collection designed to get families into the kitchen together to build culinary skills and create memories. Recipes are assigned skill levels to help parents match dishes with a child’s capabilities, and Cheney includes a wealth of handy tips such as using frozen blueberries instead of fresh in waffles and making cheese bread doodles pull double duty by turning them into a dessert option using Nutella. Recipes allow for technique development as well, so that kids can learn how to flip banana buttermilk pancakes, roast vegetables for pasta Bolognese, and make broccoli cheddar soup in a slow cooker. Family-friendly sausage–hash brown casserole, banana bread, and garlic butter steak are among the pleasing savory options, but the stars of the collection are the desserts, which include a berry-laden frozen yogurt bark, decadent chocolate cake, mini Twix cheesecakes, and a luscious strawberry pie. Throughout, Cheney offers pointers on topics such as cooking meat, handling picky eaters, and baking bread. Fun, educational, and full of appealing options, this work is sure to inspire a new generation of cooks. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More

Zoë François. Ten Speed, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-984857-36-1

Pastry chef François (coauthor, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day) delivers in this solid recipe collection more than 100 recipes aimed at taking the guess work out of cake making. The author’s professional background shines through in the book’s opening section, which features a user-friendly and lavishly photographed guide to the fundamentals of baking, covering ingredients, tools, and cake-baking basics from measuring ingredients to frosting the finished product. Recipes are organized by type (pound cakes, soaked cakes, layered cakes, etc.) and range from classics (angel food cake and Boston cream pie) to more inventive offerings (a tempting orange-juice-and-liqueur-infused Greek orange phyllo cake and a decadent meringue-topped Blackberry Diva Cake). The projects grow more complex as the volume proceeds, culminating in a section of “rolled and fancy cakes” that includes a bûche de noël with halva buttercream and a wedding cake. The recipes themselves are clearly written, with measurements in volume and weight, though home bakers may find they need to flip through the book more than they’d like to locate subrecipes (the hazelnut torte has five, for instance). Still, this is an excellent guide, and the tutorial alone is worth the price of admission. (Mar.) Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Worlds of Care: The Emotional Lives of Fathers Caring for Children with Disabilities

Aaron J. Jackson. Univ. of California, $29.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-520-37985-5

Anthropologist Jackson sheds light on the lives of “men caring for children with major cognitive and physical disabilities” in his vulnerable and edifying debut. Studies of fatherhood are uncommon, he writes, and “ones that deal with fathers as caregivers even less so.” Through a mix of anecdote, reported stories, and research, Jackson examines such ideas as how a child’s diagnosis leaves parents without a framework for moving forward, how hands-on caregiving can result in emotionally strong relationships, how the contemporary culture of masculinity tends to exclude men from child-rearing, and how societal shaming can erase the humanity of a disabled child. Jackson also movingly traces his experience with his son’s disability, and, indeed, the work’s strength is in the author’s ability to lay bare moving narratives that are seldom told about disability and fatherhood. (Though when he veers into the philosophical, which he often does, the transition can be jarring and the writing can be jargon-heavy.) Heavier on observations than strict guidance, this study is deeply insightful: “Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for parents is learning how to comfortably inhabit this space between things... between their meaning-rich perceptions of their children and the devaluating gaze of the other,” he muses. Parents—especially fathers—caring for disabled children will find Jackson’s survey moving. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Psychology of Parenting Teenagers: Thriving Throughout The Teenage Years

Kairen Cullen. Icon, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78578-699-0

Psychologist Cullen (A Practical Guide to Child Psychology) breaks down “normal” adolescent behavior in this studied if uneven guide to navigating the often-trying teenage years. Cullen writes that teenagers should be embraced and guided, and, in a textbookish tone, introduces such basic terms as positive psychology, behaviorist theory, and cognitive theory. Her survey is strongest in the sections covering “major issues” and “particular challenges,” wherein she applies these concepts to case studies and examines how parents might respond to teen behavior: a case study on teen pregnancy, for example, is a jumping-off point for Cullen to cover “the communicative and open parenting approach” in which no conversation is off-limits and TV shows spark important discussions; another on a boy who won’t help with chores sees Cullen recommending a reward and sanction system. Summaries, quizzes, and exercises round things out. On the downside, the advice often comes in the form of clunky and tough-to-remember acronyms, and Cullen’s academic tone might leave readers awishing for more accessible explanations. Still, those who stay the course will find Cullen’s stance that adolescence is a time of growth and possibility to be a welcome relief. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parent’s Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground

Chris Tompkins. Rowman & Littlefield, $22 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5381-3626-3

Tompkins, a spiritual life coach and TEDx speaker, debuts with a thoughtful guide to creating LGBTQ allies with “open and authentic conversations within families and classrooms.” Using the metaphor of a playground for society-at-large, Tompkins asks parents and teachers to join together and recognize their biases, shift the conversations around gender and relationships, and talk openly about homophobia, transphobia, and bullying. Then, he offers concrete steps for ways to “build new playgrounds for all children.” When dealing with a child who is a bully, for example, he recommends a process of acknowledging their behavior, challenging their negative messages, and helping them forgive themselves. He encourages incorporating same-sex couple examples in lessons and conversations, stocking classrooms with LGBTQ-affirming books and resources, and having open, vulnerable conversations with children that involve asking questions about their relationships and interests. Along the way, Tompkins writes movingly of his closeted teen years, history of substance abuse, and how he made peace with who he is, adding a trenchant personal framework to the well-reasoned advice. Complete with discussion questions, meditations, and practical actions, this guide is a powerful treatise on creating a more accepting world. (May)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Floret Farm’s Discovering Dahlias: A Guide to Growing and Arranging Magnificent Blooms

Erin Benzakein. Chronicle, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4521-8175-2

Benzakein (Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers), founder of the Floret flower seed company and farm, delivers a comprehensive and enthusiastic guide to planting, growing, harvesting, and displaying dahlias. She begins with a detailed overview of the flowers and provides a size-based classification system that ranges from the “cutest variety” of pompons at two inches in diameter, to the giants measuring more than 10 inches. She also breaks down the plants’ varying shapes (peony, ball, and orchette) and colors (pink, orange, white, and red). Among growing and care advice, Benzakein offers tips on sunlight (direct sun six hours a day is a must), space (three feet on either side), and soil maintenance (soil tests are well worth the trouble, she advises). As for harvesting, the flowers should be cut when they’re almost fully open, and gardeners interested in selling their plants should cut long stems, which are better for arranging. Experienced gardeners will appreciate Benzakein’s rundown of such advanced techniques as propagation and hybridizing. Anyone in search of a guide to dahlias need look no further. Agent: Leslie Stoker, Stoker Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/12/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Healing Your Child’s Brain: A Proven Approach to Helping Your Child Thrive

Matthew and Carol Newell. BenBella, $17.95 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-950665-43-3

Parents should focus on their child’s neurology to help them thrive, advise Matthew and Carol Newell, married founders of the Family Home Center, in this unorthodox guide. They take the perspective that treating ADHD, autism, and dyslexia with a pathology-driven approach obscures the root of the problem, and instead suggest a program based on neuroplasticity. The authors present a simple overview of neurology, breaking down each area of the brain, and provide a chart to help parents evaluate skills associated with seven areas of brain function (a child should be able to recognize shapes by two months, for example). Activities are based on the idea that brain growth comes from sensory stimulation: light and dark training sessions strengthen the light reflex in blind children who lack it, while crawling exercises can help with focus and attention (even for older children). The authors also make a variety of standard holistic parenting suggestions, such as eating a diet free of processed foods, getting sufficient sleep, and using toxin-free cleaning products. “Family Success Story” sidebars serve mostly as testimonials for the Newells’ in-person program. Still, parents frustrated with discouraging prognoses and traditional approaches will find this guide clear enough to understand the philosophy, and straightforward enough to give some of the ideas a try. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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