How Much I Love Children’s Books, Why I Burned the Pilaf, and What I Did to Save Dinner

A quick story to illustrate how much I love kids’ books, why I burned the pilaf, and what I did to save dinner.

Yesterday, I was browsing around, again looking at reviews of Newbery Award winners. Snow was falling outside and my husband and son were out purchasing a new snowblower to replace our fatally-wounded Toro. At one point, Dan (son) called and asked if I needed anything. He commented that the roads were getting bad and he was worried about them making it back to the house. His concern prompted me to ask for little, just some milk from Stewart’s, which actually deserves the name of quick store. I figured I could manage to come up with something for dinner and went back to my web surfing.

About 15 minutes later I saw Elizabeth Bird’s predictions about possible winners of the 2009 Newbery Awards. They included Chainsby Laurie Halse Anderson.

I met Anderson at a local SCBWI conference a couple years ago. She was a fabulous keynote speaker, very inspiring, and later I was lucky enough to have dinner with her and Kelly Going (Fat Kid Rules the World) and others. Going and Anderson compared notes about the downside of having a hugely successful first book, (Fat Kid Rules the World and Speak respectively.) They commented on the frustration of favorable reviews which commented that their new book is good, but “not AS good as their first book.”

So I was excited for Anderson that her latest is getting such critical acclaim. When my husband and son arrived home safe and sound, I started dinner in a great mood. I opened the fridge, hmm… out of onions. I changed to dinner option number two. Ouch, out of rice. I knew hubby would ask why I didn’t SAY we needed this when they called. Ah…. an unused box of rice pilaf. I could use that with the chicken, instead of rice. I tossed it onto the stove to brown the pilaf.

My mind tuned back to the 2009 Newbery predictions. I wondered it Chains was available on audio and walked back to the computer to check.

It IS available on CD, but the price showed $22 one place, and over $50 another. I puzzled it out and considered downloading from Audible.com. I walked out to the kitchen.

Holy overdone PILAF! Had I been checking the price and availability THAT long? Yikes! My pilaf was dark, dark brown. Even if it tasted okay, my family would never believe it was safe for consumption. I checked in the cabinet for another box. None. I looked in the pantry, nothing.

This was when I thought about how much I love children’s books. I have to confess, at times, I can get a bit consumed with stories and characters and plots. The land of make-believe. Hence, my fixation on how soon I could be listening to Anderson’s latest tale.

Meanwhile there was the burned pilaf. And then I saw a box of Orzo, a pasta that looks a lot like the pilaf. If I added it to the way-too-dark pilaf, would the overall color, texture and taste be good? Quickly, before anyone walked into the kitchen and saw my mistake, I tossed the orzo into the pan, added the water and seasonings and smiled. It looked the color I remembered for Rice-a-Roni. In another 5 minutes, I took a taste and knew I’d been saved.

I cooked the chicken to add to the pilaf, this time staying IN the kitchen and after dinner I ordered a copy of Chains on CD as well as adding Shooting the Moon and Waiting for Normal, other 2009 Newbery contenders (according to Bird) to my wish list.

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